uPVC Windows


Hello John,

We have just bought an older style property near the coast between Moraira and Calpe and are considering replacing all our existing wooden window frames with new white plastic ones. We have received various quotes ranging from 4,000 euros to 15,000 euros. All of the companies that we have talked to assure us that their windows are the best, maintenance free and will last forever. We do not know why there is such a difference in price or what to do next, can you advise.

Ron & Barbara B.


Window replacement is an emotive subject to someone like me as over the years I have heard a great amount of rubbish spoken by so many people, usually overshadowed by their prime objective of making as much money as possible for the least work. Firstly, deterioration is not something you will hear much about from a window company, whose sales team prefers the idea that their products will last forever. Advertisements for uPVC replacement windows and cladding, for example, often give the impression that the material is "maintenance free", and for most people this must sound like an excellent idea, but unfortunately, it is not true.


The idea that any building component might survive without maintenance is a seductive one, especially for the millions of people who embarked upon home-ownership. After taking on the huge financial responsibility of a mortgage, most people would rather not be told that they should be spending between one and three percent of the value of their homes every year on keeping them in a good state of repair. From time to time most of us quite fancy the idea of splashing out on a changing room’s style makeover of a bedroom or lounge but spending money on external essentials like overhauling the roof or regularly treating the outside joinery is something we would rather not think about hence, the attraction of the maintenance free uPVC option.

 

A recent reader's letter describes a typical scenario, the reader lives in a fairly modern purpose-built block of apartments near Javea and someone on the resident’s committee has decided, that in order to reduce maintenance costs, all the wooden windows should be replaced with uPVC at an estimated cost of over 110,000 euro’s. The current annual amount they are presently spending on existing exterior maintenance is zero, because the existing wooden windows have not been treated since 2001, not to mention the outside paintwork and they can’t see the roof so that must be fine.

 

Imagine if we adopted the same approach to our clothes or teeth, didn’t bother to clean them or look after them, just let them rot away and then buy some new plastic ones later. Society would judge anyone who behaved like this as foolish or deranged or both. But when it comes to the buildings that we live in, it seems to have become socially acceptable to allow them to rot.
UPVC salesmen exploit this inertia by reassuring us that it is really alright to neglect our homes. It is not our fault that the windows have rotted, they say; it is because they were made from that pesky old-fashioned stuff called wood, it is time to get modern and use space-age materials that will last forever, only they won't. UPVC inevitably becomes discoloured and brittle and because of its high thermal expansion coefficient, it can even crack; this last problem is especially common in uPVC window replacement in Spain.


All plastics become brittle through exposure to ultra violet light (u/v light), but not at the same rate. The rate of deterioration will depend upon the type of plastic, the colour and the amount of u/v stabiliser used in manufacture. The biggest maintenance requirement for any uPVC product is simply to keep them clean (plastic surfaces seem to attract dust and pollutants)  possibly by electrostatic attraction and white uPVC can quickly become dirty and discoloured. All uPVC windows should be washed with detergent at least four times a year - more frequently in towns or coastal areas.


You will now probably be thinking by the comments that I have made that I am totally against the installation of uPVC windows but this is far from the truth. All that I am trying to point out is that they will not last forever. If you do decide to buy uPVC windows go for a well known brand, the cheaper brands tend to discolour and crack far quicker than the more expansive brands, probably due to the lack of u/v stabiliser introduced in their manufacture.


The price difference you have been quoted is ridiculous, firstly check with the various companies that the fitting and making good of the walls afterwards is included, as quite often in Spain the price is for supply only. Then ask for a sample section of each window to compare them, you will probably notice at first glance that the very cheap windows will have a very flimsy framework and this company should be disregarded. A good window section should be reinforced with a metal section and have the glazing beads on the inside of the frame, making it impossible for intruders to remove the glass from the outside. Also check that the double glazing units have a minimum gap between the sheets of glass of 12.5mm. Lastly check the quality of the handles and locking devices, the better quality windows will have a metal three bolt sliding system which secures the top, bottom and centre of the window. I think you will find that the middle to top range of windows will be pretty much the same quality and possibly have exactly the same section, one possible difference being the space between the two sheets of glass. Some double glazed units have as much as a 30mm void but paying for anything above 15mm is not cost effective and you are simply wasting your money. Lastly I would suggest that you check out aluminum windows, over the last five years the quality has come on in leaps and bounds. It is now difficult as first glance to tell them from uPVC and as aluminum is the least preferred option at the moment by most people due to the past problems, the price is generally more attractive.

John Phillips (F.I.A.S. F.A.B.E. M.I.B.C.O. F.F.B. M.R.S.H. C.M.W.O.B.O. M.B.I.M)
Construction Buena Vista

 

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