The best of all worlds

Since homeowners are spending twice as much time on home improvements than they did before lockdown, Russell Hand, head of product management and technical at Rehau Windows, says it is vital installers educate homeowners on frame materials available, and adapt their portfolios to best suit their demands.

Following disruption caused by the pandemic, the fenestration industry is experiencing something of a boom: householders are using their lockdown savings to improve their property, with windows key to their renovation plans.

But with customers spending more time indoors than ever before, added scrutiny is being paid to their fixtures and fittings. As such, installers need to adapt to this changing situation if they are to take advantage.

Homeowners have a number of common priorities when sourcing window frames, including aesthetics, security and durability, while also wanting to get the most for their money.

Those with period-style houses, or who live in conservation areas, may gravitate toward wooden frames due to their traditional look, and because they are perceived to be of high quality. Similarly, householders seeking a modern look for their property may select aluminium frames, due to their sleek appearance and the material’s strength, allowing for larger glass panes and slimmer frames. With that in mind, when it comes to selecting new windows, it is logical homeowners might consider replacing like with like.

However, with increased demand for windows comes increased product scrutiny and now, more than ever, customers expect a fit-and-forget solution that ticks as many boxes as possible on their own personal checklists, including high levels of performance, visual appeal and a reasonable price.

For all their benefits, it must be noted that both timber and aluminium windows require ongoing maintenance, which can prove expensive in the long-term. Exposed to the traditionally damp British weather, and without an effective preservation regimen, aluminium may begin to corrode, and both hardwood and softwood frames will begin to rot. In turn, these frames will become less efficient and less visually attractive. Taking this into account, customers may not wish to find themselves locked into a costly and time-consuming cycle of maintenance work.

Therefore, installers need adapt their window portfolios to suit these growing trends. Specifically, they need to source efficient products that provide exceptional visual appeal, without the disruption of ongoing upkeep. In such a situation, PVCU frames may provide a solution.

Polymer windows, such as Rehau’s Heritage range, for instance, benefit from built-in thermal efficiency and interior protection, whereas single-glazed timber windows do not. These PVCU solutions can also be double or even triple-glazed to provide further comfort and lower energy bills, as well as levels of sound attenuation not possible with traditional period property windows – yet increasingly vital to modern life – where working from home is fast becoming the norm.

On top of this, advances in foil ranges means homeowners can now opt for polymer frames that convincingly mimic wooden materials both in look and feel. Foils such as Rehau’s Turner Oak, with its deeply embossed surface and matt top layer, have been developed to be indistinguishable from the real thing, providing an authentic look without the demanding, ongoing maintenance requirements.

New developments in PVCU profile have resulted in polymer frames that are as strong as those made of aluminium. Rehau’s Geneo AluTop is a good example of this innovation in action. Consisting of a powder-coated and weather-proofed aluminium surface clipped over the company’s Raufipro-X profile, the strength of the window’s core allows for the slimmer sightlines and larger glass panes associated with its metal counterpart.

As a result, homeowners can enjoy the sleek, modern look of aluminium, alongside the performance benefits of PVCU. Polymer profiles also allow homeowners to avoid issues that arise from aluminium being an effective conductor of heat, which can cause condensation to form. Though thermal breaks can be installed to resolve this disadvantage, heat may be lost through the frame if the thermal breaks are not fitted properly, leading to lower energy efficiency ratings.

This is not a concern with PVCU frames, enabling homeowners to enjoy excellent curb appeal, high levels of thermal efficiency, and a low-maintenance solution, without compromise.

In conclusion, stay-at-home orders have unleashed a wave of pent-up demand for home improvement, but householders are savvier than ever with their purchases. As such, installers need to ensure they can provide window solutions to meet an increasingly demanding market.

By stocking polymer frames that can mimic the appearance of other materials, these installers can offer the best of all worlds: the attractive look of wood or aluminium, alongside the performance levels and low maintenance requirements associated with PVCU.