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The complete window guide 2024

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When it comes to home improvement or construction projects, selecting the right types of windows is an essential step that can significantly impact your home’s energy efficiency, aesthetics, and your overall living experience. With countless window styles and materials available on the market, it can be daunting to determine which windows best fit your needs. This comprehensive guide provides all the information you need to make an informed decision about your home’s windows. 

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Looking for new windows: Where to start?

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand what you want from your new windows. Are you seeking better insulation with double glazed windows, improved ventilation, more natural light, or enhanced aesthetics? Your specific needs will significantly influence the type of windows that are best for you.

Next, familiarise yourself with the different window styles available. Each style carries unique features and aesthetic qualities that could make them more suitable for your needs, compared with others.

The material the window frames are constructed from is another significant consideration; popular options include uPVC, aluminium and wood. Weigh up the pros and cons of each material in terms of durability, maintenance, insulation and style. 

Modern windows also offer various features, such as double glazing or triple glazing for better insulation low emissivity (low-E) coated glass for improved energy efficiency, and impact-resistant windows for added safety. Evaluate which features align with your requirements.

Lastly, seeking professional advice can be invaluable. Window suppliers can provide guidance based on your situation, offering advice on window prices to suit your budget, aesthetic preferences, and functional needs. They can also help you navigate the technical aspects of window selection and installation.

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Window materials: Which types will last the longest?

Window frames are the structural components of a window that hold the glass in place and fit the window into the wall. They provide a barrier between the interior and exterior of a building and play a crucial role in the window’s ability to prevent heat loss and resist wind and weather.

Window frames are available in a variety of materials, including uPVC, wood, and aluminium, with differing maintenance requirements, insulating properties and aesthetic appeal. If properly cared for, uPVC windows should last 25 to 30 years, aluminium windows for more than 45 years, and wooden window frames for upwards of 60 years. 

When selecting a window frame, it’s essential to consider factors such as the building’s architectural style, as well as your budget, and level of maintenance you’re willing to perform.

The table below provides an overview of frame material costs.

Casement window material600mm x 900mm900mm x 1,200mm1,200mm x 1,200mm
uPVC£150 – £450£400 – £600£650 – £900
Aluminium£500 – £700£650 – £900£750 – £1,100
Wood£800 – £1,050£1,200 – £1,400£1,350 – £1,600

uPVC framed windows

uPVC window frames, made from unplasticised polyvinyl chloride, are popular due to their low-maintenance requirements. They’re often less expensive than timber or aluminium options, but uPVC window prices vary depending on size, design, glazing type, and installation costs.

When it comes to maintenance, uPVC requires very little. They can be kept clean with a simple wipe-down a couple of times a year and have an average lifespan of between 25 and 30 years, although some higher-quality options can last up to 35 years or longer.

uPVC frames have excellent thermal properties, which keep the heat in during winter and out during summer, and contribute to energy efficiency in the home. They also provide impressive sound insulation, reducing noise from outside, making them particularly beneficial in noisy, urban areas.

uPVC window frames are also an excellent choice for security. They often incorporate multi-locking systems, providing a high level of security for homes. 

Aesthetically, uPVC window frames offer a clean, modern look. Although usually white, many manufacturers now offer coloured uPVC and other finishes to match different architectural styles. 

From an environmental perspective, uPVC window frames present a mixed picture. On one hand, their excellent insulating properties can contribute to reducing energy use and carbon emissions. They are also recyclable, which can help reduce landfill waste. However, they are made from non-renewable petroleum products, and not all regions have the necessary facilities to recycle uPVC. So, while they have certain environmental benefits, there are also considerations around their production and end-of-life disposal.

Overall, uPVC window frames offer a combination of low maintenance, good insulation, security, and aesthetic flexibility. However, their environmental impact is a complex issue that requires careful consideration.

Aluminium windows

Aluminium windows are known for their strength, durability, and modern aesthetic appeal. They are very strong, which allows for thinner frames and a larger area of glass, thereby providing more natural light inside the building. 

One of the significant benefits of aluminium windows is their longevity. They are rust-resistant, do not warp or flex under normal conditions, and can last as long as 45 years or more. 

Aluminium windows also require very little maintenance. They do not need painting or staining like wooden frames, just occasional cleaning to keep them looking their best.

However, aluminium frames have some disadvantages. One of the main drawbacks is their thermal performance. Aluminium is a good conductor of heat, which lets heat in during the summer and allows heat to escape during the winter. Modern aluminium windows often incorporate a “thermal break” in the frame – a layer of insulating material placed between the inside and outside of the frame to improve insulation.

In terms of cost, aluminium windows are generally cheaper than wooden options but more expensive than uPVC, so they may not be the best choice for those on a tight budget.

From an aesthetic perspective, while aluminium windows offer a sleek, modern look, they may not suit traditional-style homes. Many manufacturers offer different colours and finishes, which can provide an individualistic appeal to the exterior of your home. 

Regarding their environmental impact, aluminium windows can be recycled, making them a relatively eco-friendly choice. However, the extraction and production of aluminium can be energy-intensive. It’s important to check whether recycled materials have been used in the production of the windows.

Timber windows

Timber windows have a classic and timeless appeal that suits a wide range of architectural styles, from traditional homes to ultra-modern designs. The natural aesthetic of wood adds warmth and character to a building, and it can be painted or stained to match the home’s decor.

One of the major advantages of timber windows is their excellent insulation properties. Wood is a natural insulator, meaning timber windows can help keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer. 

Timber windows can also be incredibly durable if they are correctly maintained. High-quality timber windows that are well looked after can last upwards of 60 years – think about the hardwood windows still seen in old cottages after more than 100 years.

However, timber windows do come with several disadvantages; namely, they have a high maintenance level. Wood can be susceptible to rot, warping and insect damage. To keep timber windows in good condition, they must be regularly painted or stained to protect the wood from the elements.

Concerning cost, timber windows are generally more expensive than uPVC or aluminium windows. The exact cost can depend on the type of wood used and the quality of the windows.

Composite windows

Composite windows combine different materials to offer enhanced performance and durability. Typically, composite frames are composed of a combination of materials such as wood and uPVC or aluminium, often with the wood on the interior, with the more robust material on the outside.  

Using multiple materials allows for the advantages of each material to be utilised. For example, the presence of wood can provide a natural and attractive appearance, while the addition of uPVC or aluminium offers durability, weather resistance and low maintenance.

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Different types of windows

Choosing the right style of window for your home depends on a variety of factors, including the architectural style of your home, the purpose of the window, your budget and your personal preferences.

Casement windows

Casement windows are attached to their frame by one or more hinges. They typically hinge at the side and open outward, much like a door, although some designs are top or bottom hung. The opening mechanism usually involves a crank or lever, which makes them easy to operate, even in hard-to-reach areas, such as over a kitchen sink.

One of the main advantages of casement windows is their excellent ventilation. Because they open fully, breezes can be directed into the home, making them a great choice for areas where airflow is desired. However, opening outward can make casements less suitable for areas with heavy foot traffic outside, such as patios, paths, or decks.

Aesthetically, casement windows offer a clean, modern look and can be customised to fit the style of almost any home. 

Bay windows

Bay windows protrude outward from the main walls of a building, forming a recessed area inside the room. They typically combine three windows – a large picture window in the centre and two smaller casement windows at an angle on either side.

One of the main features of bay windows is that they can create additional space inside a room, as the protrusion can form a cosy alcove. This space can be used in various ways, such as a window seat or a spot for a small table.

Bay windows also allow a significant amount of natural light in from multiple directions, making a room feel brighter and more spacious. The angled placement of the windows also provides a wider view of the outdoors than a flat window.

Regarding aesthetics, bay windows can add architectural interest to a home’s interior and exterior. They can suit a variety of home styles, from traditional to contemporary.

Sash windows

A sash window is a type of window that features one or more movable panels, called “sashes”. These panels slide vertically or, less commonly, horizontally to open or close the window. This design is characteristic of many historical architectures, particularly from the Georgian and Victorian periods, and is appreciated for its timeless aesthetic and functional design.

Bow windows

A bow window is a curved, protruding window structure that extends from the wall of a building. It’s similar to a bay but, instead of having three panels or sections, a bow window usually has four or more to create a rounded appearance. The design allows more light to enter the room and provides more expansive views of the outdoors. 

Bow windows can also add extra interior space that can be used for seating, storage, or as a display area. They contribute to a home’s interior and exterior aesthetics, often creating a visually striking architectural feature.

Tilt and turn windows

Tilt and turn windows are opened in two ways, hence their name. When the handle of the window is turned 90 degrees, the window swings open inward, like a door. This full opening allows for maximum ventilation and easy cleaning of the outer pane. It can also serve as an emergency exit. However, turn the handle a further 90 degrees, so it is upside down, and the window tilts inwards at an angle from the top. This function provides ventilation with a level of security, as the opening is too small for a person to pass through, and also prevents rain from coming in.

Velux windows

Velux is a brand name synonymous with a specific type of roof window or skylight. 

Velux windows are typically installed in line with the roof’s slope rather than vertically like traditional windows. They are designed to allow natural light and ventilation into spaces that might otherwise be dark or poorly ventilated, such as attics or loft conversions. Velux windows come in various styles, including centre-pivot, and top-hung, and often include features like built-in blinds.

Dormer windows

Dormer windows are set vertically on a sloping roof. They project from the roof, creating additional headroom and usable space inside the building, typically in an upper-level room or attic.

These windows come in several shapes and styles, including gable, hipped, and eyebrow dormers. Each has a different aesthetic appeal and might be more suitable for certain types of architecture.

French windows

French windows consist of two panels or sashes hinged on the sides and swing open like a door. They typically open outward but can also open inward, depending on the specific design and preference.

French windows are known for their classic and elegant appearance and are commonly used to connect interior spaces with outdoor areas like balconies, patios or gardens. They provide a wide opening, allowing for easy access and creating a sense of openness between indoor and outdoor spaces.

When is the best time to buy windows?

The best time to buy windows can depend on various factors, including seasonal sales, personal circumstances, and availability. 

  • End-of-season sales: Window suppliers may offer discounts and promotions during off-season periods or at the end of the season, when demand is lower. It’s worth checking for sales during these times, typically in the late autumn or winter months
  • Home improvement seasons: Spring and summer are popular times for home improvements, including window replacements. If you plan to undertake a project during these months, it might be beneficial to start shopping for windows a few months in advance to allow for order processing and installation scheduling
  • Consider your personal circumstances: Evaluate your own situation and determine when it makes the most sense for you to purchase windows. This could include factors such as budget, availability of contractors or installers, and your preferred timeline for the project. You might be able to qualify for double glazed windows grant depending on your circumstances.
  • Research and planning: Regardless of the specific time of year, it’s crucial to invest time in research and planning. Research different window types, brands and features to determine the most suitable options. Obtain quotes from multiple double glazing companies or contractors, to compare prices and services.

Frequently asked questions about types of windows

The notion of “best” windows can vary depending on individual preferences, needs and regional factors. While UK windows offer a range of advantages, it’s essential to consider various aspects when determining what is best for your situation.

Windows manufactured in the UK should adhere to stringent building regulations and standards, ensuring high-quality materials, energy efficiency, and security. They typically feature double or even triple glazing, which enhances insulation and reduces heat loss, leading to potential energy savings. The market also offers a wide selection of window types, materials and styles to suit different architectural designs and personal preferences.

Choosing the right window frame depends on various factors, including personal preferences, budget, desired aesthetic, energy efficiency requirements and maintenance considerations.

Consider consulting with window professionals or contractors who can assess your specific needs, and provide recommendations based on your requirements.

Windows cost calculator

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This calculator works using pricing data sourced directly from UK windows manufacturers. Prices are subject to fluctuations, however, so please use the results as a guide and contact suppliers for an exact price for your property.

Katharine Allison

Energy Saving Writer

As Independent Advisor’s energy saving expert, Katharine, a keen advocate for sustainability, is an authority on solar panels, double glazing, and cutting-edge renewable energy technologies. Her dedication merges with a commitment to enlighten and steer readers toward embracing eco-friendly solutions and the latest trends in sustainability.

With over 10 years of experience, she has worked with some of the UK’s leading companies and publications, including the Federation of Master Builders, Architectural Digest, and Denon Construction. 

Katharine is particularly passionate about consumer causes and animal welfare and has art, philosophy, and psychology degrees. She lives with her sled dogs in East Sussex.

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.