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Aluminium, PVC or Wood Windows and Doors? Which to Choose

08 November 2023

Aluminium, wood and PVC are the most commonly used materials for windows and doors.
But what are the differences, and which to choose between the three? In this article, we briefly look at the pros and cons of each material, and consider the main features of a quality window and door in order to understand which materials best meet the different requirements.

Choosing a window and door is not a trivial matter; it is often a major investment that can also greatly affect the living comfort of the home. When choosing, there are several important elements to consider:

  • the glass to use for glazed surfaces: double or triple glazing? Which type? We have dedicated a guide to the choice of glass to this topic.
  • the type of opening (casement or sliding);
  • aesthetics and colour;
  • the material from which the window frame is made.

This last point almost always leads to a comparison of aluminium, wood and PVC. You can read more about the comparison between aluminium and PVC here, while this article considers all three materials for a more comprehensive overview.

An important aspect to consider is that each material can have advantages and disadvantages; it all depends on the needs of the customer, the type of house and the lifestyle of the person living there.

A final thing to consider concerns installation; no window and door of any material will be able to guarantee the promised performance if the window is not properly anchored to the masonry.

 

Comparison of aluminium, PVC and wood: the main features

 

First of all, it is important to have a clear picture of the typical features of these materials.

Aluminium windows and doors

 

In previous articles, we have already seen how aluminium has exceptional advantages for the production of windows and doors, also in comparison with other commonly used materials. This is mainly due to its extraordinary natural features, which make it ideal for the production of a key building industry element such as windows and doors.

Aluminium is a naturally available, totally recyclable material. It is resistant, light, ductile and adaptable to any requirement, both in terms of the location of the house – with exposure to intense sun, salt, the most violent atmospheric agents… – and in terms of stylistic customisation. It allows for very long-lasting windows because it is very difficult to damage. It requires no special maintenance or intensive cleaning.

The only disadvantage of aluminium in its use for windows and doors is that, being a metal, it possesses good thermal transmittance, i.e. high heat conductivity. But this gap has been largely closed with excellent results thanks to the thermal break, with which METRA Building windows and doors are equipped. The thermal break is an insulating material that is inserted into the thickness between the internal and external profiles of the window, thus also providing aluminium with excellent thermic insulation.

 

PVC windows and doors

 

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is the most recently used material for window and door construction; it is a plastic, weather-resistant material that does not require special maintenance and can be customised with films of different colours and finishes.

The inexpensiveness of the material makes the initial investment for the installation of PVC windows and doors quite affordable, although, as its durability is less than that of aluminium, it is not necessarily the cheapest window and door in the long term. Furthermore, the plastic quality of this material gives the window and door a less than refined appearance, especially if you decide for its lesser quality versions.

 

Wooden windows and doors

 

In terms of aesthetics, warmth and a feeling of comfort, wood is one of the most popular materials for windows and doors. Its elegance is complemented by excellent performance in terms of thermic insulation and acoustic insulation. It also has good natural mechanical resistance.

Unfortunately, wood requires proper cleaning and frequent maintenance to prevent its features of strength and water resistance from being lost over time.
Moreover, it is not the best material in terms of protection against weathering and strong sunlight. In order to maximise the performance of wood, a particular type of wood and treatment should be chosen, thus strongly affecting the final price.

 

Mixed material windows and doors

 

To overcome the cons of each material, innovation in the field of windows and doors has led to the creation of dual-material windows and doors, so as to maximise the advantages of both. In general, wood is used as an internal coating over aluminium or, less commonly, PVC.

The supporting frame of the window is made of aluminium and is visible from the outside, while on the inside it is covered with wooden profiles. This provides a particularly solid frame with significant resistance to atmospheric agents on the outside, while on the inside one enjoys the elegance and value of wood.

The aluminium-wood combination is optimal, resulting in a high-performance window and door. While wood on the inside performs its inimitable aesthetic function, aluminium on the outside offers the best protection you can get in terms of strength, safety and durability.

 

Aluminium, wood or PVC windows and doors: choosing according to different needs

 

Aluminium, PVC and wood therefore have different features that give them advantages and disadvantages. But, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, one material may work better than the other, depending on the requirements of the specific situation, in terms of:

  • latitude and altitude at which the case is located;
  • exposure and orientation of the house;
  • environment (city, sea…);
  • need for practicality and functionality;
  • preferred architectural styles;
  • available budget (now and over time).

It is therefore good to evaluate the choice of material for windows and doors on the basis of the different requirements they have to meet.

 

Thermic insulation and acoustic insulation

 

Insulating (adj.) / insulator (n.) the house from heat loss and noise from outside is perhaps one of the most important functions of windows. From this point of view, it can be said that the three materials are equal in terms of performance, provided quality windows and doors are chosen.

PVC and wood are by nature very insulating (adj.) / insulator (n.) materials, able to keep the inside temperature warm in winter and cool in summer. Thermic insulation also serves to prevent draughts and the formation of mould and condensation.

The same result is obtained with thermal break aluminium windows and doors. As we have seen, the thermal break allows these windows and doors to maintain the ideal microclimate of the house in all seasons, eliminating any presence of thermal bridges (leakage). METRA Building aluminium windows and doors are equipped with HES (High Energy Saving) technology that brings thermic insulation to the highest level with a consequent increase in living comfort.

 

Efficient energy use and respect for the environment

 

Efficient energy use is a concept linked, among many other aspects, to thermic insulation, i.e. the presence or absence of thermal bridges. The more a window and door is well insulated, the lower the dispersion of warm air in winter or cooled air in summer; this naturally leads to a reduction in consumption, resulting in energy savings. Since thermal break aluminium, PVC and wood are all well insulating materials – of the same quality – they are also equal in terms of efficient energy use.

A slightly different matter is ecology and respect for the environment. The wood used for windows and doors is to be considered an averagely ecological material, although the liquid paints with which it is treated require the disposal of the solvent, with a discrete environmental impact. It is definitely a recyclable material, but only in case it is treated with water-soluble paints.

PVC is a plastic material made from petroleum, so it is difficult to claim that its production has a low environmental impact. It is a recyclable material but, unfortunately, it tends to lose its qualities over time; it can therefore be recycled, but only for a limited number of times if we do not want it to diminish in value.

Aluminium is a naturally available material; it is non-toxic and does not release any particles into the rooms of the house that are harmful to human health and the environment. The most striking feature in ecological terms is its ability to be 100% recycled without ever losing its qualities and properties, with a very low environmental impact in terms of carbon footprint. It can therefore be reused without limit, in a potentially endless virtuous circle.

 

Resistance to external agents

 

Among its many advantages, aluminium is a virtually indestructible material, able to withstand extreme weather conditions such as rain or wind, as well as extreme sunlight and intense temperature fluctuations. It does not corrode in the presence of salt, making it the material of choice for seaside homes. Furthermore, finishing and colouring by oxidation or painting do not show any deterioration or discolouration over time. Such a result is then maximised by using high-quality accessories such as handles and hinges that resist corrosion very well.

PVC is also a rather resistant material but, in the event of violent changes in temperature, it may tend to warp or deform over time, thus negating its good insulation qualities. The colouring and finishing of PVC is also done with films that, over time, may be subjected to the action of external agents and may fade or peel off.

From the point of view of resistance to external agents, wood is probably the least preferable material; being a ‘living’ and natural material, it is more vulnerable to discolouration from the sun and possible damage from the most violent weather conditions (as well as from accidental impacts from inside the house). Finally, the treatment with which the aesthetic finishes of wood are made can deteriorate over time due to external agents.

 

Window and door durability

 

In this case, the comparison between wood, PVC and aluminium is won by the latter material without any doubt. Wood and PVC have a similar lifespan, which can range from around 25 to 40 years; this applies, of course, if the PVC is of excellent quality and has not been altered or crafted, and if the wood has been properly treated and maintained over time.

As an indestructible and unalterable material, aluminium retains its qualities even when exposed to the harshest conditions. It has a lifespan of around 50-60 years and even more; when you buy or renovate a house and choose aluminium windows and doors, in short, you can be sure that you have made the right choice for life.

 

Maintenance

 

The lifespan of aluminium, PVC or wooden windows and doors is directly proportional to the way people have taken care of them over time. But the level of maintenance of a window and door also affects the practicality with which people decide to run their homes.

Aluminium and PVC require little or no maintenance over time, and can be periodically cleaned quickly and easily with a cloth and a neutral cleaning agent. This feature fits perfectly into a modern context where people often no longer have the time for maintenance as they used to. More and more customers are choosing products that do not force them to spend time on this tedious and tiring activity.

In order to remain as pleasing to the eye and functional as it was when it was first installed, the wood needs more constant maintenance. In addition to having to be cleaned with special cleaning agents at regular intervals, every 1-5 years or so – depending on the condition – it also requires extraordinary maintenance such as sanding and repainting. The more laborious maintenance of wood should be considered not only in terms of time and energy to be spent, but also in economic terms: it constitutes a cost that should not be overlooked in the overall assessment.

 

Room luminosity / brightness and window size

 

On this point, aluminium undoubtedly wins the comparison with wood and PVC. In fact, the lightness and strength of aluminium allow windows and doors to be made with slim and thin profiles; several centimetres thinner than PVC and wood, which, since they do not enjoy extreme mechanical resistance, require profiles of a greater thickness. The thickness of the profiles may seem a minor advantage, but in reality, thinner profiles allow more natural light to enter the interior of the house, making it more pleasantly bright. Aluminium windows and doors must be combined with a type of glass that prevents heat build-up and shields solar radiation, thus achieving maximum results.

In addition, the strength of aluminium also allows the construction of panoramic windows and large glass surfaces, without the need for any reinforcement; this is not the case in other cases where, in order to ensure greater steadiness of the large window, steel bars are inserted, which, however, compromise the thermic insulation.

 

Aesthetics and customisation

 

The window is part of the home’s furnishings and, as such, must first and foremost please those who live there and reflect their tastes in terms of architectural styles; it is therefore also important to consider the aesthetic performance of a window and door.

Wood has always been appreciated because it is warm to the touch, it is an optimal match for homes furnished in a classic, rustic or country-chic style, but it can add value to any environment.

Aluminium is no different. Its strength lies in its ability to decline in any colour: following the RAL colour coding, the range of colours, shades and effects that aluminium provides is almost unlimited. Colours are applied by means of oxidation or painting and are therefore also much more resistant to the weather and the wear and tear of time. When it comes to customisation, then, the other advantage of aluminium is its ductility and flexibility; in this sense, with aluminium you can also create round, semi-round windows or any other desired shape. Finally, thin profiles allow aluminium windows and doors to perfectly adapt to the most refined, minimal and modern styles, such as industrial or new classic.

PVC windows and doors can also be customised with a wide range of colours and wood effects. However, the choice of colours is more limited and, in addition, they are applied by means of films that can lose their brightness over time. In general, PVC windows and doors are less elegant and less natural looking from a point of view, partly due to the thick profiles and the plastic nature of the material itself.

 

Burglar-proof security

 

In terms of protection against burglars, the three materials are equal in performance. What counts in this case is not so much the material of the frame itself, but more the type of glass, the quality of the installation and the presence of accessories dedicated to increased burglar-proof security, such as metal plates or reinforced closures.

In the absence of this, however, it can be said that aluminium is the best choice in this regard, because it is a material that is difficult to bend and break into. In particular, METRA Building aluminium windows and doors are equipped with class RC2 and RC3 burglar-proof systems, as well as an anti-intrusion system with up to 16 closing points, for maximum protection and peace of mind.

 

Price

 

When you have to choose between aluminium, wood and PVC for the windows and doors of your home, you usually opt for PVC if your budget is limited. All things being equal, PVC actually has a lower purchase price than wood and thermal break aluminium.

However, if we talk in terms of investment rather than cost, it is clear that wood and – to a greater extent – aluminium are better choices for a quality product that pays off in the long term. Lasting up to twice as long as other materials, requiring no maintenance and withstanding all conditions, aluminium has a higher initial cost, but offers an extremely advantageous return on investment in terms of both recurring costs and energy savings.

It is important to remember that other factors, such as the type of glass, installation by qualified professionals, and any after-sales service, must also be carefully considered in the final price estimate.

 

A final comparison of aluminium, PVC and wood windows and doors

 

All in all, the table below offers a quick comparison between aluminium, wood and PVC, taking into account the features that meet the most diverse requirements.

In general, we can recommend:

  • choose PVC if the main requirement is housing the initial budget (with the understanding that this is a temporary saving, not a long-term one);
  • choose wood if the main requirement is aesthetic, with perhaps a more classic stylistic and architectural context;
  • choose aluminium if the main requirement is protection on all levels, a special customisation of the window and door or the certainty of obtaining a return on investment over time.

 

METRA Building offers aluminium solutions because it has always believed in the extraordinary properties and potential of this material. With aluminium it is possible to produce casement or sliding French windows and doors, shading systems, entrance doors, balconies and other architectural elements with a strong personality.