Why Cheap Replacement UPVC Windows Can Cost More
5 simple reasons why cheap UPVC windows can become costly.
It’s virtually second nature to want to get the lowest price or best deal you can when buying replacement windows.
However, pursuing the lowest double glazing prices to the exclusion of all else, can turn those “cheap & cheerful” UPVC windows into a “money pit”.
Having said that, there are certainly some very competitive prices in the market and some great deals to be found.
To give yourself the best chance of finding these deals, knowing beforehand what to look for (and avoid) in a replacement window is going to pay dividends.
5-point checklist for buying replacement windows.
Stick with accredited companies. If your potential installer is not registered with a proper trade body such as FENSA, CERTASS, GGF OR DGCOS, then you should ask yourself why?
These trade bodies vet their members for competence and working practices. They also provide valuable benefits such as insurance backed guarantees.
New windows have to meet building regulations. If the installer is not qualified to certify the window installation, then you will have to do so yourself. That will cost you time, effort and more money to sort out. FENSA & CERTASS members can self-certify the installation.
The corners of the frames where they join together is an important area. The corner joint on a UPVC window should be fully welded together. Mechanical joints (screwed) can allow a gap to form as the window flexes during use. Gaps can also form over time when the frames expand / contract in hot or cold weather (just like metal fatigue).
If gaps form, then it destroys the insulating performance of the window and allows wind & water to penetrate. Water ingress can cause damp patches and ruin your interior decoration. Draughts will result in higher heating bill during the winter months.
The UPVC profiles are an integral part of the energy saving performance.
Part of this comes from the fact that UPVC is a naturally good insulator, the other from hollow chambers within the profiles. In short, the more chambers, the better the insulation performance.
The chambers work by keeping still air within the frame (if the corners leak, this effect is defeated). The chambers also allow for metal reinforcing inserts.
The reinforcing prevents warping & flexing of the frames. If the frames warp the windows won’t shut properly. Cheap windows will have less chambers in the profiles.
The double glazed sealed unit provides the bulk of any insulation gained from the window. It also creates a sound deadening effect. The gap between the outer and inner panes should be from 12mm to 16mm and the glazing should be 4mm thick float glass.
The seal around the edge of the glass panes is critical. If the seals are damaged or poor quality, then you will face all kinds of problems from condensation and the insulation will be rendered ineffective.
Poor quality control during manufacture can cause excess negative pressure inside the unit which creates an inwardly curved surface – in extreme cases this can cause the sealed unit to implode.
This is even more important for gas filled units (most used is Argon). A poor quality product can allow all the gas to escape in a few years.
The panes are held apart by a spacer bar. If the spacer bars used are metal (aluminium) the window will be less effective than one with “warm edge” spacers (plastic).
The fittings used such as handles, hinges, screws, interlockers, weather-seals all have a part to play. Cheap handles fitted with short screws can come loose.
Misaligned (or missing) interlockers can allow for misalignment when closing the window.
Weak hinges can also cause misalignment. The screws fixing them should be long enough to get a good grip.
All screws should be stainless steel, not Zinc coated, in order to prevent corrosion.
Check the rubber gaskets to make sure they meet properly in the corners.
Keep it in your mind that to offer the cheapest uPVC windows, the manufacturer and installer must have also been trying to use the lowest cost materials, fitting and fixtures that they can in order to do so.
However, a higher price is not a reliable indicator of higher quality.
“Buyer Beware” is a good mantra. Take the time to understand what it is that you are paying for and always compare at least 4 or 5 quotes / offers from different installers.