The choice of material for window and door frames not only has implications on the cost of your build, but its overall look and functionality.
Image: Aluminium KustomSlide sliding doors, Kloeber
One of the largest purchases you will make in a self‐build or renovation project will be your doors and windows. From house design to security and energy efficiency there is a lot more to making your frame material choice than you may have first thought.
The 4 main material types used to fabricate doors and windows are plastic, timber, aluminium and alu‐clad (or composite, which is more than one material type used together, usually with timber internally an aluminium cladding on the outer face). The Grand Designs magazine team asked the bespoke glazing experts at Kloeber to explain the pros and cons of each of these options.
Plastic units are cost effective and normally available on short lead times but they are prone to expansion, contraction and warping with climatic change. The frames tend to be thick with a restricted selection of colour options, they also lack in strength therefore cannot support large panes of glass. Some people do not like the aesthetics of plastic doors or windows and feel they are less suited to period properties, however they will appeal to those whose budget is a key consideration.
Image: Flush timber casement windows, Kloeber
Timber is a naturally insulating material that keeps the heat in and the cold out. It’s also the sustainable, eco‐friendly choice if sourced responsibly (use FSC certified timber). Low U‐values and greater energy efficiency makes timber perfect for new builds and eco homes. Look for engineered timber, this is a term used to describe the manufacturing process where smaller strips of solid timber are laminated and glued together to form the larger segments that are then cut to size. This results in a more durable and stable timber that will not warp or bow.
The care of timber has improved too. There is great versatility with a choice of stains or paint finishes in any colour. With changes in modern processes such as microporous paint systems, you can expect a high quality paint finish to last for 8‐10 years without maintenance. Wood integrates nature with your home and offers a certain warmth, depth and texture that you cannot achieve with other materials, working well with both contemporary and period properties.
Image: Aluminium bi-folds, Kloeber
If you prefer a slim, sleek aesthetic and contemporary styling then aluminium frames could be your ideal choice. They are light but very strong and allow for large panes of glass so can suit bigger apertures. Slim sightlines have become increasingly popular for sliding doors offering a frameless appearance with vast expanses of glazing for unadulterated views to the garden and beyond.
Aluminium frames are often specified on modern homes; however, they can be used successfully on period properties to create an effective contrast. A powder‐coated finish offers an appealing, durable, low maintenance surface and look for thermally broken aluminium to ensure a better thermal performance. Aluminium units are at the higher end of the market and will be more expensive than plastic and softwood designs.
Image: Alu clad windows and fixed glazing, Kloeber
If you can’t decide between timber and aluminium or you want to combine the properties and benefits of both, then alu‐clad or composite frames offer the perfect solution. An engineered timber interior and a thermally broken aluminium exterior creates a strong, secure, thermally efficient frame.
These frames can represent a higher level of investment but they allow for a modern looking aluminium exterior with the option of a softer, characterful timber interior adding warmth to living rooms and bedrooms. Alu‐clad works with contemporary as well as more traditional style homes, however, they may not suit all period properties so make sure you speak to a reputable supplier to discuss the options.
An experienced, knowledgeable supplier will be able to discuss your project in‐depth and recommend frame material options that would suit. They can offer guidance to help you make the right decision for your project. Why not consider a company that can offer survey, supply and installation services to streamline the process and to ensure peace of mind?