The frames of a UPVC window are very important, as they are effectively the “foundation”. UPVC window frames should be chambered (or honeycombed). The more chambers the better the strength and energy efficiency. Look for 70mm profiles with 5 chambers or more.
You should check whether the frames have galvanised metal reinforcing. The internal reinforcing gives the frames rigidity and stops the opening sections from flexing & distorting.
The corner areas can typically be “welded” together. The quality of the weld needs to be good or the frames can separate. Check with your supplier how the corners are structured.
Discolouring of frames can also occur with low quality materials. Get frames that carry a guarantee of several years against discolouring. Some recycled cheap UPVC windows suffer from this.
Around the inner edge of the moving casement (window) brush seals should be fitted along with rubber gasket seals. Check for these.
Also check the main rubber gasket seals where the glass fits into the frame. Sometimes when they are being fitted they get stretched and after some time they will “de-stretch”. This will result in the rubber seal shrinking and you will see that they do not reach right into the corners any longer. You will suffer leaks and draughts as a result of this.
Good locking is essential. Choose one that engages in more than 1 point around the frame. Your handles should have key locks, even if it’s a very simple one. Poorly mounted handles can work loose very quickly.
Interlockers are blocks around the frame that keep the window seated properly and keep the seal tight. Make sure they are fitted.
Fixings, such as the screw used on the hinges. They need to be the proper length to remain seated. Stainless steel screws are best, Zinc coated screws are not so good if you live in a coastal area with sea spray.
As a minimum you should fit double glazed sealed units to your windows. The glass should be at least 4mm float glass with a gap between of 16mm giving an overall thickness of 24mm. Units can go up to 28mm.
For large window panes the glass thickness should be increased to 6mm.
The gap between the panes of glass is maintained by spacers. Metal spacers conduct heat. This means that some spacers can lower the energy efficiency of your window. Look for “warm edge” spacers.
There should also be a desiccant inside the sealed unit.
Gas filled sealed units are a lot more energy efficient and insulating than standard units, but costlier.
The use of Low emissivity glass (Low-e) is often used to improve energy saving performance, but that will also add to the cost of the windows.
The energy efficiency of the whole window (not just the double glazing) can be established by the WER label which comes with every new product.
The WER ranges from A++ to G. G is the lowest. C-rated windows are the lowest acceptable to meet current UK building regulations. B-rated units are perfectly acceptable for cheap UPVC windows.
There are a couple of them that are well worth paying attention to. Those on the product and those on the installation work.
The product itself should carry a 10-year guarantee and the installation work should come with a separate warranty.
In terms of the buying process, look for a company that offers an insurance backed deposit guarantee.
All the time & trouble you may have taken to find the best price and product for your money will be wasted if your windows are not fitted well.
Badly fitted windows will leak, let in heat, let out heat, cause damp and condensation. All expensive problems to redress.
Look for an installer that is properly accredited by a recognised trade association such as:
These trade bodies make their members undergo independent assessment for competence, quality of work and working practices.
Whilst buying cheap UPVC windows may be your goal, it is not really a good idea to base your final decision purely on price. The old saying still has a lot of truth in it because “you get what you pay for”.
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It’s more prudent to go for value for money than for the cheapest product you can find.