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The History of uPVC Windows

2nd February 2020

After the 76 weeks of January, it seems as if February may finally be in view. If you look closely, that is. And those 2 sentences contain not-so-subtle clues to the subject of today’s blog. Notably the phrases “in view” and “look closely”. Where can you look closely at a view? Why, through a window, of course. And there we have it, the new most convoluted segue of the year so far. 

So in a departure from locks, doors and other security issues, today we’ll have a brief look at the recent history of a particular type of window. I can sense you are all agog, impatiently waiting to discover which particular type of window the next 800 words or so will cover. I will keep you on tenterhooks no longer – it will be the uPVC variety. Bad luck to those of you who had Windows 95 or Windows XP in the sweepstake, maybe next time. 

I know that lovers of the window tax will be disappointed to hear that I won’t be covering the whole history of windows back from the start of time, but keeping it to the uPVC windows of the last half century seemed a lot more manageable, and less Tolstoy-esque in length. As Roald Dahl may have said when creating the Oompah Loompahs, let’s keep this short and sweet.

Along with glam rock, Thatcherism, and the mass popularity of the Soda Stream, the advent of uPVC windows can be traced back to the 1970s. This was when double glazing came to the fore, offering increased insulation, both in terms of sound and noise protection. In the early days, an additional pane of glass would be inserted inside existing window frames, which were habitually made from aluminium. 

Double glazing became even more popular as we moved into the 1980s, fuelled by increasing property values – people saw their homes as investments to which they could add value, as well as being simply a place to live. A common way to add value was to replace single glazed windows with the increasing popular double glazing. A problem emerged in that the existing frames, being aluminium (a cold metal) were prone to condensation in the winter months – the lack of a proper thermal break in the frame caused sweating from the aluminium material, creating unwanted moisture. 

Germany was the answer to this – in the land of David Hasselhoff, Lothar Matthaus and Helmut Kohl they had been switching their windows from aluminium to the new material of uPVC. The latter was a much warmer material than aluminium and therefore reduced the condensation problem. The additional pane of glass was externally glazed, and kept the moisture to a minimum. They also had the advantage of being able to be produced in different styles, and the 80s saw a plethora of leaded designs across the Home Counties of the UK, along with imitation Georgian styles, recreated by the insertion of a white bar between the window panes. 

Once uPVC had arrived in the UK, boy did it really arrive. Doors were the next material to change to upVC – they were more economical and hard wearing than existing timber doors, but crucially easier to maintain, not needing the painting or maintenance of timber doors.  To begin with, some consumers stayed away from uPVC because of the look, but then new woodgrain styles were introduced which had the convenience of uPVC but without compromising on the look – you could still pretend to your neighbours you had the more expensive timber style doors, should that have been a concern. 

The 1980s turned into the 1990s because that’s generally how the concept of time and dates work. As New Wave music gave way to dance and indie music, the rise of uPVC continued unabated. Though the two events were probably unrelated.  uPVC became the Blur and Oasis of window styles, soaring in popularity, and benefitting from a much wider selection of frame designs. Importantly, security was also beefed up, with stronger handles giving better protection. Windows became internally rather than externally glazed, and external bars were added for an authentic Georgian appearance, much to the annoyance of window cleaners throughout the land. 

The bell struck midnight on 31 December 1999, fears about the millennium bug were alleviated, and we entered the new millennium. Consumers continued to demand all the benefits of uPVC windows, but without obviously looking like them. Manufacturers responded with even more designs, many of which replicated the look of old style timber windows. This because so prevalent that they even acquired their own name – “Timber-Alternative Windows.” Style combined with functionality had been achieved. 

Bringing us right up to date to 2020, and it is a very different type of consumer that we had back in the 70s and 80s. Back then, the primary reason for people replacing their windows was in order to swap from single-glazed to double-glazed. Now, however, most people already have double glazing throughout their homes. The issue now is more to do with style and people replacing windows because they’re beginning to look tired or outdated. Therefore, more and more varied designs have been introduced to meet this new market. uPVC windows are now available in pretty much any colour or design you require, and can be blended in to match a whole variety of buildings – whether in a pretty country cottage, a suburban semi-detached, or even to replace a sash window in an old Victorian town house. The selection has come a long way since they were first introduced 40 years ago. 

I hope that’s made everything clear, and that this has quenched your thirst for uPVC window history. Any complaints, queries, big bundles of money etc, just send through the usual channels. For advice on anything lock-related, or to enquire about repairs or replacements, call 07990573857 for a fast speedy response. 

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