How long do timber windows, PVC windows and aluminum windows last? And what about maintenance? Some considerations beyond myths and clichés

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Timber, PVC or aluminum windows? How long do these different materials last?

In recent years there has been a myth that aluminum or PVC windows are more resistant than timber windows: but is this notion actually grounded in reality? How long do the different materials last? And what about maintenance? As is often the case, the truth is not as clear cut as we might think and in fact, timber windows often last longer and perform better as well.

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Timber, aluminum and PVC windows: how long do different materials last?

How much do we actually know about all the options available to us? What at first glance may seem a more modern, somehow more technological choice designed to last a lifetime, might actually be less cost-effective and/or hide problems that become apparent

When we choose new windows we certainly don't think about changing them anytime soon. This task should involve careful research as it is an important investment - not only financially, but because windows are a fundamental part of how our home looks and feels (after all, they are viewed both inside and out), and we want them to be beautiful, functional and sturdy. In recent years, the idea that PVC or aluminum windows are more versatile and durable than timber windows has become widespread. But is it true or is it just a myth? How long do the different materials last?

If we look at how windows in timber or other materials react to exposure to the sun and atmospheric agents for several years, you will find that PVC and even aluminum tend to become discoloured and brittle. Yet it's only the faces of timber windows that get weathered, but - unlike other materials - they can be easily repaired and restored with specific treatments

These same findings can also be observed during specific testing, which we also performed ourselves - that simulates the aging process of the materials over several years: not only timber windows systematically outperform other materials and PVC in particular over the long haul (even in the absence of any maintenance) but the weathered or damaged parts can also be effectively repaired and restored. Once PVC turns yellow or discolours, however, it must be replaced; while some attempts can be made to restore aluminum, damaged PVC windows cannot be treated or repaired.

Maintaining and repairing windows in timber and other materials

If timber windows outclass other materials in durability, how do they compare when evaluating maintenance and repair options? Again, how do the different materials perform?

We have seen how, having the quality of the window frame as a benchmark, timber windows are more reliable over the long haul than the  PVC or aluminum ones . When choosing the right type of windows, however, durability is not the only factor, as we also look at the amount of time, money and effort that they need during the year to be kept in good condition.

While it is true that PVC and aluminum do not require any maintenance, it is equally true that new-generation timber windows treated with water-based paints, need very little attention: just a light sand down, wipe clean and one or two top coats twice a year with a tonic - a very simple task that anyone can do - and their lifespan starts all over again.

Also when it comes to possible repairs, timber windows can undergo interventions that are simply unthinkable with other materials: e.g. if a PVC window breaks, cracks, blemishes, or discolors it must necessarily be replaced (and this often also requires building works), while a timber window can be safely repaired and restored.

Timber windows: the ability to age with style

Durability, functionality, maintenance, but also beauty: no window frames in other materials are more aesthetically pleasing than timber windows, or able to adapt to any property or area, or stand the test of time

When we talk about windows, functionality, durability and maintenance are only three factors of an equation that also includes a fourth element, of fundamental importance: beauty. And in this case, needless to say, timber windows undoubtedly have another ace up their sleeve: just look at how PVC and aluminum windows and doors are often sold with finishes that (at first sight and from afar) are made to look like wood, this makes you understand how this living material never loses its charm.

Only wood is truly capable of aging with style: it is a living, versatile material that can easily adapt to all types of settings, from the most classic to modern or even futuristic. Wood is inherently beautiful both to the sight and to the touch, as over time it takes on a personality of its own. And don't forget the value that beautiful wood windows can add to your house.