Saving uPVC windows from an early grave…
At Edinburgh’s BM Cleaning Services we clean a lot of uPVC windows and conservatory frames. It is one of our specialities, where we take care to use only delicate but effective trade cleaning agents that will not damage the thin outer shell and expose the innards to the elements, which is a sure way to shorten a unit’s life.
There is a lot of heated talk about the merits and demerits of uPVC, so what (briefly) is the current state of play? Let’s first look back in time…
The historical perspective
A BBC report back in 2004 had interesting points to be made about the uPVC window phenomenon, saying:
“Current trends indicate that windows being installed now will be replaced in about 10 years. This transformation of windows into a “disposable” item contrasts with the attitude of homeowners 100 years ago when windows were carefully maintained and would last as long as the building itself.
The uPVC industry responds to criticism by arguing that its latest products can last 40 years if they are regularly cleaned with the appropriate detergent, and the mechanisms are kept well oiled. The industry also says the problem of uPVC yellowing over time in sunlight has been removed by new additives to the PVC.
On the recycling issue, the European PVC industry says it aims to recycle up to 75% of old uPVC products by 2010, although it is not clear exactly where the recycled PVC would go.”
The 2014 window outlook
So here we are ten years later, and what has changed? Well, the typical manufacturing quality of these windows has improved, and you should expect to get a 25 year or better guarantee on new uPVC units: total life expectancy should be 35-50 years if you use a high quality brand and if you clean and look after the units properly. The alternative option of wood requires regular repainting and filling and the quality of the wood being used is inferior to that of the timber used by the Victorians, so you cannot expect extended life for your very expensive wooden double-glazed frames either.
On the issue of recycling the uPVC material, this is routinely done now, by regrinding the plastic. This avoids the production of noxious chemical fumes when it is burnt, which is the biggest fear of environmentalists. In Germany, home to many of the leading uPVC profile makers, there is a legal requirement for them to use a proportion of ‘regrind’ in their production. So ask your supplier if they are using at least 10% recycled plastic. And don’t be fobbed off by talk of ‘virgin plastic’ being superior and retaining its whiteness longer – that is all down to the quality of the chemical mix and the colouring agents.
People tend to steer clear of repainting uPVC units. But the truth is if that older ones have discoloured, there are uPVC primer coats such as that made by International, which will create a key for overpainting. So try out a sill and see how it looks, before consigning your whole house’s window stock to the skip. Be sure that BM Cleaning Services, Edinburgh conservatory and window frame cleaners, will apply appropriately soft-touch but effective cleaning to the treated frames.
Whatever your position on wood versus plastic, the fact is that uPVC is the medium of choice for most private and public sector builders, and it has the most energy-efficient properties whilst it is in service.
The effect on your conservatory roof of Edinburgh weather is also a major problem if you have chosen wooden construction. But even if you have a uPVC conservatory, when it comes to maintaining that fragile roof – don’t try this at home… Leave it to the experts.