Windows come in all shapes and sizes but buying them doesn’t have to be a confusing experience. Here at Raven, we’ll explain your options in simple terms and recommend the best products for your budget and what you want to achieve.
A quick research of the windows market will tell you there are hundreds of types and specifications.
Choosing your windows can be as simple as sizing them up and letting an experienced contractor present your options, but for those of you who want to know a bit more, you’ll find the information below most helpful.
Types of glazing
Windows are available with single glazing, double glazing or triple glazing.
Out of all these, double glazing is the most common in the United Kingdom. It’s around three times as efficient as single glazing and three times cheaper than triple glazing, making it a good middle ground for most homes.
The only time you would opt for single glazing is if you are in a listed building, and the local authority won’t let you upgrade to new double glazing. In this instance, they will likely insist on single glazing to maintain the period character of your house.
Triple glazing is the best option for maximum efficiency and noise insulation. In Canada and Scandinavia (where the temperatures drop much lower than here) triple glazing is standard-fit. If you have an eco-house, triple glazing will probably be best.
Imaged above: Triple glazing being made.
Types of window
The type of window you choose is likely to depend on what your existing windows are, or what windows other properties in your area have.
Here are the commonest types of window in the UK:
- Casement windows
- Sash windows
- Tilt and turn windows
- Fixed windows
- Bow and bay windows
The most common type of window is the casement window with a side hinge. This is the standard window you find on houses in the UK. Casement windows can also open on a hinge from the side or bottom to suit the setting.
Sash windows are popular because they are beautiful. They usually utilise two sashes which operate independently, sliding up and down with weights so they don’t tumble. Some models have a single moving sash (usually the bottom one).
Tilt and turn windows
Tilt and turn windows have a dynamic hinge which allows the window to open out at virtually any angle. This is beneficial because it allows you to maximise airflow into your home depending on which way the wind is blowing.
Fixed windows don’t have a hinge and are useful in applications where there is no desire for the window to open, such as on the ground floor. You’ll often find fixed windows installed alongside secondary glazing in older homes.
Bow and bay windows
These windows are large and composed of several panes. Pound-for-pound they are the most expensive type of window because of their scale. It is common for these windows to be fixed up to near the top where there will be an openable pane for airflow.
Imaged above: New sash windows made from hardwood.
Types of window material
Windows are commonly made from timber, aluminium or UPVC.
Timber is the romantic choice. It’s organic, extremely durable and has a unique character other materials can’t match. It’s also a sustainable choice, since timber is easily recyclable and grown specifically for this industry. Softwoods and hardwoods are used – softwoods are cheaper but not as durable as hardwoods.
UPVC is the most common material used to manufacture windows. In fact, it’s one of the most manufactured plastics on the planet. It can directly replace timber and is the preferred choice because it’s cheaper and doesn’t need working. You lose some of the character of timber, but UPVC is much lower maintenance.
Aluminium is the most expensive option but the preferred one in modern premium builds. It’s stronger than UPVC and timber so the frames can be a lot thinner, which is why you see so many bi-fold doors made from aluminium. Aluminium windows look good with a brushed finish and will last longer than timber and UPVC.
Imaged above: A timber window frame being constructed.
Windows and energy efficiency
In light of it being impossible for homeowners and installers to test the energy efficiency of windows, there’s a common standard which manufacturers use to disclose the energy efficiency of their windows. This is called the U-factor or U-value, which is determined by the manufacturer during factory tests.
Here’s a simple explanation of U-values: The U-factor and U-value is the overall heat transfer coefficient of a window. Simply put, it represents how much heat is lost through a window. A lower U-value is always better.
This is the only thing you need to know: a lower U-value is always better. So long as you stick to this rule of thumb when choosing your new windows, you can’t go wrong. But what is a good U-value? What should you look for?
With double glazing, a good U-value would be between 2.0 and 2.8. With triple glazing, a good U-value would be anything below 1.5.
Window energy ratings
To make choosing energy efficient windows even easier, there’s also an energy efficiency rating sticker system for windows. Somewhat confusingly, however, there are several rating schemes which have different stickers.
Here are the main ones:
The schemes in question are the British Fenestration Rating Council (above left), the British Standards Institute (above centre) and CERTASS (above right).
As you would suspect, A-rated windows and above are highly efficient. However, some B-rated windows are absolutely fine. At the end of the day, you pay more for a more efficient window but anything from B upwards is a good window.
Imaged above: A double glazed window with normal condensation.
New window costs
If you’ve made it this far, you might already know what we’re going to say — and that is the cost of your new windows depends on the type of window you choose, the glazing, the U-value, the material and also the quantity of units.
You can pay anywhere from £300 to £2,500 for a single double-glazed window, and custom-made windows run anywhere from £2,000 to £5,000.
To give you a ballpark figure, five A-rated double glazed UPVC windows will set you back between £2,200 and £2,800. You can add £1,000 to this price if you choose sash windows over a generic casement window or fixed window.
If you budget £500 to £600 per UPVC window, you’ll be about there. For timber, add £50 to £60 per window, and for aluminium, add £150 per window.
Imaged above: High-end sash windows and upper fixed windows.
Fancy some free advice?
At Raven Bespoke Improvements we are experts in all aspects of windows and we genuinely want to help you choose the right windows for your home.
We provide free advice and free home surveys, during which we will recommend the best products for your budget and what you want to achieve.
We have over 30 years’ experience and we’re a 5-star reviewed contractor with Rated People and My Builder.
We’re based in Carshalton and serve the south of England, but we’re happy to drive for larger projects. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0800 009 6065 / 07984 293 894 for a friendly chat. Advice is free.
Raven Bespoke Improvements.