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Brief History of uPVC Windows

2nd February 2020

As we approach Valentine’s Day, what could be more romantic than a look at the history of windows? That’s a rhetorical question by the way, you don’t need to knock up a comprehensive list to email through – my bandwidth won’t take it. 

So, where do we start? Well, there was this chap called Bill Gates and back in the day, he had big ideas about the future of the home computer. He realised each computer would need its own operating system, and this could be where the money.. what’s that? Oh, not THAT sort of windows? But I’ve done all my research and everything, that was a waste of time. But if you insist… let’s look at the other kind of window. The glassy, transparent version you look through, and not the one you use to log on to emails at work. 

Fear not, I won’t be looking at the entire history of windows, as that would take far too long and you’d need the extra day we have in February this year to read all the way through it. Instead it’ll be a whiz through the last 5 decades, focussing on the far more recent subject of UPVC windows, a staple of the majority new-build houses these days. 

We can track the introduction of UPVC windows back to the rise of popularity in double glazing in the 1970s. This was originally installed as a second pane of glass inside aluminium windows and doors, creating the benefit of added warmth, increased sound insulation, and reduced energy bills. 

In the 1980s property prices began to motor upwards, and more people began focussing on property as an investment rather than solely as somewhere to live. People were keen to add value to their properties, and replacing old single-glazed windows with double glazing became an effective way to do this. When it came time to replace them though, there was a problem with the old aluminium windows. Aluminium is a cold metal and, in the absence of proper insulation creating a continuous “thermal break” between the interior and exterior of the frame, this meant that the windows were subject to increased condensation in the winter, cased by the sweating of the aluminium frames. 

The answer to this came from Germany which, as well as introducing us to Nena and her 99 Red Balloons had also seen a switch from aluminium to uPVC – a much warmer material, installed as externally glazed and creating less condensation. The windows could be produced to match different styles – leaded designs soared in popularity, and by inserting a white bar in between the window panes, a Georgian style could be reproduced. 

Along with windows, uPVC doors were also introduced to the market, again able to replicate older timber-style doors in terms of the look, but remaining more convenient, economical and hard-wearing with this marvellous new material. Even woodgrain styles were brought to the market so if you wanted to pretend you didn’t have one of those “common looking” new uPVC doors, you could do this too, although admittedly most people had bigger problems than that in the 80s, especially in our region. 

Into the 1990s, and uPVC windows became more popular than the Spice Girls, and generally lasted a lot longer too. The newer models came with the option to be internally rather than externally glazed, with a greater selection of frame designs, and with much stronger handles and security, the lack of the latter which had been a weakness in the 80s. Bars moved from being internal to external for those that wanted a true Georgian appearance – they were more difficult to clean of course, but, at times, became indistinguishable from the traditional timber windows – Hyacinth Bucket would be proud once more! 

Into the 21st Century, and the revolution continued. People continued to demand the convenience and quality of uPVC windows but without them ..well…looking like uPVC windows. The look of timber windows was demanded, but without the necessity of the painting and maintenance which came with them.  The market always adjusts to what the consumer wants and so uPVC windows evolved into a more timber-like appearance, becoming available in a variety of colours, and with advances in manufacturing meaning that neater finishes were possible to reflect the appearance of finer materials. These windows became known as the “Timber-Alternative Window” which meant all homeowners could replace their windows with uPVC models and maintain a stylish finish. 

Whereas in the past, increasing the glazing ore replacing broken panes was the main motivation for replacing windows, it is now more to do with style, as existing windows are usually already double glazed and more durable. Hence the finish is all important, and more varied designs have flooded the market for customers to choose from. Any colour you want, you can have it, and uPVC windows can even replace sash windows, meaning they can be installed in all varieties of properties, from the very modern, to the more characterful or old Victorian townhouse. 

So a bit of a different blog this month, away from locks and security, but a change is as good as a break as they say. Hope you’ve enjoyed that look through the window, and next time  the subject comes up in the pub you can impress the regulars with your authoritative knowledge before they lift you aloft their shoulders and revered you as a King or Queen. Or alternatively make their excuses and leave – I can’t promise which one will happen.

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