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uPVC windows guide 2024: Types, styles and benefits explained

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uPVC windows have come a long way since they began soaring in popularity in the 1980s for their budget-friendly price tag and easy maintenance levels. Choosing the right windows depends on your home’s needs, your budget and you style preferences. Although some may have turned their nose up at uPVC windows in the past in favour of heritage timber or stylish aluminium, good-quality uPVC windows are now well designed, so they can enhance most home styles, whether you have a new build or a Victorian terrace.

If beautiful windows that are low-maintenance, secure and thermally efficient enough to reduce household bills sound appealing, uPVC could be the window frame material of choice for you.

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What are uPVC windows?

uPVC windows are manufactured from unplasticised polyvinyl chloride and they are a hugely popular choice for homeowners who want durable, well-insulated and reasonably priced windows.

uPVC is a type of rigid plastic that is weatherproof, low maintenance, robust and that can increase the energy performance of old windows when fitted with double or triple glazing. Most types of windows are readily available with uPVC frames in different colours, textures and configurations, and can be fitted with triple glazing or double glazing.

uPVC window types explained

There isn’t really a frame style you can’t find in uPVC nowadays, and they are usually available to fit either double or triple glazing and in a range of colourways, so you can choose which suits your home best. Plus, with different window furniture and handles, there are lots of variations to complement your home’s interior design. 

uPVC windows prices are among the lowest on the market – around 25 per cent less than aluminium windows and 50 per cent less than wooden window frames.

Window type Window size Average cost (per window)
uPVC casement 900mm x 1,200mm £400 – £600
uPVC sash 1,200mm x 1,200mm £750 – £850
uPVC tilt and turn 1,000mm x 1,000mm £500 – £550
uPVC bay 3,000mm x 12,000mm (three-panes) £1,200 – £1,300

uPVC flush vs stormproof windows

Stormproof windows include a lip on the sash, which means the openable window section sits slightly out of the frame, to break strong winds and stormy weather. They’re typically seen on modern properties. If you experience particularly harsh exposure, for instance if your home is by the coast, some uPVC window manufacturers specify hours of salt-spray resistance testing. 

Alternatively, you’ll see flush windows, without a lip, on period properties to replicate the traditional look of timber frames. As the name implies, the opening sash sits inset within the outer frame. You’ll find plenty of authentic design options available to suit your local area, with smooth wood-grain looks, a range of colours and foil finishes. uPVC flush windows means you’ll get all the charm, security and thermal efficiency you’d expect from timber for less money and maintenance.

uPVC casement windows

White uPVC casement window with red curtains draped around it.
uPVC casement windows come in a variety of sizes and colours to suit modern and traditional homes alike (Adobe)

Arguably the most popular type of window, casement windows come in lots of different configurations and profiles to suit modern and more-classic home styles alike. They are usually side hung and open outwards, but you can find inward-opening casements, and ones that are bottom and top hung (usually found in bathrooms). French casements (also known as double framed) open without a centre pillar, creating a bigger aperture when opened, just like French patio doors. Whichever type you choose, uPVC makes a sound option for the frame itself and you’ll find plenty of colours available. Most include a multi-point lock system, reinforced frames and secure, lockable handles.

uPVC sash windows

White uPVC sash window
uPVC sash windows can be a viable choice for Victorian homes, if you don’t want to lose their period character, but also don’t want the maintenance of timber frames (Adobe)

Sash windows are fitted with two vertically sliding glass panels (called sashes), but you can also find horizontal sliding sash windows. Replacing sash windows with uPVC frames tends to be made-to-measure, due to the inconsistencies of period builds. If you live in a conservation area with strict regulations about swapping windows like-for-like, there are suppliers that can mimic Victorian and Georgian styles to be sympathetic to your property. Look out for precision on frame joints, beading, the opening mechanisms, sash horns and other window furniture that will add to the overall finish. Typically you’ll need hardware, such as lift hooks, sash restrictors, fitch locks and latches. Unlike timber framed sash windows, with uPVC you can choose from a classic cord and weight closure, or a more modern spiral balance, which includes a rod that connects to a spring within a tube to hold windows open.

The coloured uPVC options available depends on the supplier, but some have a minimum of five to choose from, including dual colour options, so the frame colour outside can be different from the interior. The supplier should also be able to recommend a finish that will be sympathetic to your home’s style, such as a specific wood grain to mimic the look of timber.

Most suppliers offer double glazing as standard with sliding sash windows, with the option to choose obscured or another type of specialist glass. As with other types, uPVC sash windows cost less than their more traditional wooden counterparts.

uPVC tilt and turn windows

Hand opening a white uPVC tilt and turn window
uPVC tilt and turn windows make a good choice for better ventilation and security (Adobe)

uPVC tilt and turn windows allow you to open the pane fully, like a casement, with the handle rotated 180 degrees, but also tilted at an angle for partial opening when the handle is turned 90 degrees. Most designs open inwards, which is different to simple casements. They are very versatile windows and make good additions to homes with small children, because of their secure build and opening options. As they are suited to more modern homes, you’ll find lots of colour options and finishes to suit your style preferences.

uPVC bay and bow windows

White uPVC bay window
Modern uPVC white frames can enhance the aesthetic of a bay window (Adobe)

Even bay windows come in modern uPVC frames that don’t take anything away from their inherent charm and character. This type of window is very distinctive, with three panes of glass that are fitted at different angles to create a protrusion from the house’s exterior wall. Bay window formations include circular, splay and square, among others. Older bay windows are notorious for letting in draughts because they have a higher chance of air leaks between ill-fitting frames, so new uPVC units offer a more sealed finish.

Bow windows are similar to bay formations, but with a slightly more curved shape, and can also be made with uPVC.

uPVC cottage-style windows

White uPVC cottage-style windows
Astragal bars can give uPVC windows a charming finish on more traditional homes (Adobe)

Some suppliers offer uPVC windows with internal glazing (astragal) bars to give the illusion of multiple panes, similar to traditional cottage styles. To match the original openings of older properties, cottage windows will often be supplied with an arch above. Choosing uPVC cottage windows can give a lovely alternative to old timber frames, with the added benefit of low-maintenance that uPVC offers.

Slimline uPVC windows

Those looking for the modern elegance that comes with slimline aluminium windows will be pleased to know you can find a similar style in uPVC, to give an aesthetically pleasing finish. Some designs let in 12 per cent more light than other uPVC window frame options.

Are modern uPVC windows better than other types?

When comparing uPVC windows with timber, aluminium and composite frames, modern uPVC designs have come a long way and now fare very well in terms of energy efficiency, security and in appearance. 

Timber windows can be up to 50 per cent more expensive than uPVC windows, but uPVC frames may produce more CO2 emissions. Higher-end uPVC frames to replicate timber should be a more budget-friendly choice than timber itself, with easier cleaning and maintenance.  

Aluminium frames are the most resilient to poor weather and UV damage, compared with wood and uPVC, but are roughly 25 per cent more expensive than uPVC and come with a higher carbon footprint, due to manufacture. 

Composite windows, which consist of timber frames clad in aluminium externally, are an interesting competitor to simple uPVC, as they can outperform uPVC in terms of energy efficiency and lifespan. They offer the charm of timber internally, with the ease of aluminium maintenance externally, but they are generally the most expensive type of window frame.

What are the benefits of coloured uPVC windows?

One of the major benefits of modern uPVC windows is the amount of colours and finishes you can choose from. Most suppliers offer single and dual colour options, so you can match the indoor frame to your home’s interior design. 

For properties that want or need to mimic authentic timber windows, you can find replications of different wood grain, but the quality will vary depending on price. A coloured uPVC window will more likely replicate the look of painted timber than a simple white, but will not really be able to truly compare with real timber upon close inspection.

When it comes to costs, white uPVC frames are the cheapest choice, with grey and other colours costing around 10 per cent more. A quality wood grain or custom-made finish may cost up to 20 per cent more than plain white. However, when considering how much kerb appeal perks house value, the style and colour of your windows will make a significant difference, so it’s definitely worth putting some thought into your choice.

White uPVC windows

White uPVC windows are a classic option that will suit most properties. Some may be hesitant towards white uPVC windows because of how older frames have aged, yellowed and shown signs of wear and tear, but suppliers of modern uPVC windows offer a warranty specifically for white frames to cover any discolouration. Routine maintenance (wiping down the windows with a damp cloth) should also solve any perceived weathering. If white is too stark for your home, a cream finish can give a softer, yet equally modern, polished look.

Grey uPVC windows

Grey uPVC windows
Grey uPVC windows can give a modern edge to homes and boost kerb appeal, offering a cheaper alternative to aluminium frames or painted timber (Adobe)

Grey uPVC windows are a popular choice, due to their cool aesthetic and easy maintenance – hiding any lichen or moss that might show more readily on white frames. Specifically, anthracite-coloured windows have become the most popular, overtaking white windows, in recent years. This style gives dated home exteriors an uplift by mimicking more expensive aluminium frames. 

Black uPVC windows

Black uPVC windows are striking and can define a home’s exterior design. Much like grey, black has become a go-to colour for uPVC windows in recent years and can mimic an industrial look without the price-tag. Black uPVC windows can be susceptible to fading with UV, so might be best installed somewhere that doesn’t receive too much direct sunlight. Cleaning frames regularly will help keep them in good condition.

Colourful uPVC windows

Windows aren’t just available in monochrome hues, as many suppliers now offer more daring colourways. For homes that want a dose of energy, choosing a dark blue or light green colour for your uPVC windows could give your property the facelift it needs. This can work wonders on 1980s semis and period cottages alike. 

The colour you choose depends on your home style and personal preferences, but take inspiration from similar homes in the surrounding area to see what works best with the local materials, such as yellow Cotswolds stone or grey flint. If in doubt, talk to your window supplier or an architect to make sure your windows match your desired aesthetic for design consistency.

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Best uPVC window styles

The best style of uPVC window ultimately depends on your property and preferences. If it’s energy-efficiency and lowering household bills that’s an absolute priority, you might want a uPVC frame that can take the most energy-efficient triple or double glazing, whereas if you need to be particularly sympathetic to your home’s traditional style, choosing a sliding sash or a cottage-style uPVC frame that comes in a suitable colour will be important. If budget is a concern, casement windows will be the cheapest option.

Frequently asked questions about uPVC windows

The best way to find new uPVC windows for your home is to contact both local and nationwide suppliers. The initial site visit and assessment shouldn’t cost anything, but do check. Having someone come to your home is important, as they will evaluate your current windows and assess which style of uPVC frames you will need. They should also take you through installation, rates and any other applicable costs. If you live in a conservation area or period home, going with a local window supplier and installer with experience on fitting windows in other homes in the area is a wise decision, as they should have more information on styles and applying for planning permission, if needed.

Whether you choose double or triple glazed uPVC windows really depends on what’s important to you as a homeowner. Most suppliers will quote double glazing as standard, with an option for triple glazing. Triple glazing is more expensive, often by around 10 to 20 per cent, but offers superior insulation and energy efficiency. Double glazing still keeps a home warm (although not quite as well as triple) and has good soundproofing benefits – a double glazed uPVC casement window could reduce noise by up to 70 per cent in some cases. The best way to determine what will work best for your property and budget is to speak with the supplier and technician when they assess your home.

You can find and buy most types of uPVC windows online and off the shelf. This includes uPVC casement, flush or sliding or vertical sliding door sash windows. The fitting will need to be completed by a FENSA (the government-authorised scheme that monitors building regulation compliance) accredited installer, however. If you have a period property, it could be best to go with a supplier who will take precise measurements of your window openings, as they are likely not to fit modern standard sizes. If you do choose to buy uPVC windows off the shelf, always check reviews of the website and the specific windows you’re choosing, to see how they fare against the specs, images and descriptions. It could be worth checking if you are eligible for a new windows grant before you make your choice too.

If you have chosen a FENSA approved and GGF (Glass and Glazing Federation) accredited window installer, in theory, you shouldn’t have to adjust your uPVC windows after installation. Before adjusting older uPVC windows, carefully consider why they need modifying. Are they rattling or are you getting more condensation or draughts than usual? If that’s the case, check whether they are still under warranty and contact the supplier. Otherwise, it’s best to reach out to a professional to understand whether an adjustment is needed and how to go about it without damaging the window or the frame, or whether you’re better off replacing them. 

Warranties for uPVC windows are competitive and you typically find the best suppliers offer a minimum of 10 years on windows and installation. A guarantee against discoloration of white uPVC windows and even a guarantee against fog and condensation between the panes of glass (called “blow-out”) might be included in the cost. Upon researching quotes, look for a generous warranty to make sure your uPVC windows stand the test of time.

As uPVC is a plastic, it’s easy to assume it’s not very environmentally friendly. However, the “U” in uPVC is significant and represents a finished product that is, in fact, unplasticised, which means uPVC frames do not actually contain plasticiser additives (which are toxic to the environment). 

If you keep your windows in good condition and only replace them when they are at the end of their lifespan (recycling where possible upon removal), the environmental impacts of uPVC will be minimised. uPVC won’t last quite as long as timber – 20-35 years vs 60 years for timber – but the lower cost and easier maintenance can make a lot of sense for homeowners who need to replace windows on a tighter budget, without compromising on style or security.

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Cam is an experienced writer and editor who has been creating content for more than 10 years. She studied English Language and Italian at The University of Manchester, where she started out blogging and copywriting on fashion and travel.

She’s worked for Groupon and its partnerships – including <em>The Guardian</em> UK and US, the <em>HuffPost</em>, and Today.com</i> – and has covered a plethora of topics, from kitchen design trends to the best ways to score a good deal on home insurance. S

Swifty tapping into her love for everything home decor-related, she moved into the interior design space and edited realhomes.com, part of Future plc, for three years, where she worked with a tonne of DIY and renovation experts.

She currently lives in North London and is passionate about helping others perfect their surroundings with stunning interiors and functional home additions, whether they own or rent.

amy

Amy Reeves

Editor

Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.