Focus On: Claire Higgins

Clare Higgins, head of design at Rehau, reveals how and when to replace existing PVCu windows in a sustainable way
Articles by Build It magazine
by Build It magazine
15th September 2021

How long should PVCu windows last?

Our modern frames are manufactured to a high standard and can last up to 40 years, exceeding British Standards, which recommend that sealed units (the whole window) have a service life of at least 20 years.

PVCu is a durable, long-lasting material; the frame itself won’t degrade over that time, but the surface of the profile might deteriorate.

Typically, the other components of the window, such as the glazing itself, the beading or the hardware, will fail before a modern PVCu frame. Handles are specific to the manufacturer, so could last anywhere between 10-25 years – it’s worth checking if the company offers a robust guarantee for these.

There’s a misconception that PVCu windows break down or warp over time, this is largely due to either the way they are manufactured – lacking proper reinforcement for oversized units, for example – or installed. Choosing the right supplier and an approved installer is paramount to longevity.

When do you know it’s time to replace them?

We advise trying to repair windows, first. Most of the time, you can call out companies like The Window Doctor to diagnose and resolve the issue.

For example, if the glass breaks down, or the beading falls apart, this can normally be fixed, without having to replace the whole unit. Not only is this more sustainable, but it’s also a cheaper option, as you might only need to buy a new handle or gasket, rather than fitting brand new windows.

But if the same element is constantly failing, or you’ve got really old gearing or hardware that’s now considered obsolete, it may be time to get new windows. As an example, at Rehau, we keep profiles in stock for 10 years after decommissioning a range, so you should be able to get hold of parts to repair your units, unless the windows are very old.

Plus, you might want to get new ones in if you’re not keen on the style – for example, if you have really bulky profiles and want something more slimline or with a modern finish. That’s more common with units that were installed 30-40 years ago, though, as they may be towards the end of their life, anyway.

At Rehau, we are really keen to educate homeowners on the best ways to look after their windows. They do need some maintenance – regular cleaning with warm soapy water (try to avoid harsh solvents) and oiling the gearing and hardware will help to increase their lifespan.

We also offer a cleaning kit to installers, which can be passed on to homeowners, with tools and tips to help your windows last longer. Even something as simple as regularly cleaning and removing debris from the running strip at the bottom will ensure your windows can open and close smoothly and will make a huge difference long-term.

What happens to the old products?

When you decide it’s time to replace your windows, if you choose new PVCu units from a Rehau installer, they will ensure the old ones are recycled. If not, you should look into this with your supplier and find out what they do with the obsolete products.

We partner with PVCR to ensure your old PVCu windows are recycled – and these can be from any manufacturer. The glass, frame, hardware – everything is taken to the plant and sorted, shredded, re-ground and turned into little pellets.

These then get sent to the factory, to create brand new PVCu windows. 80% of a Rehau profile comprises recycled PVCu – whether that comes from windows, doors, cills, etc – and only the outer skin is made from virgin PVCu.

This helps to create a more sustainable cycle, reducing what we call post-consumer waste – that is, items that homeowners can’t recycle or dispose of themselves. It’s also more economical, and we can pass those savings on to customers.

How sustainable is PVCu?

As they’re so long-lasting, modern PVCu windows represent excellent value for money alongside being energy efficient; so they can boost your sustainability credentials at a lower price point than other frames.

You can get high-performance designs that come as double or triple glazed, and as they’re recyclable, you’re not contributing to the scourge of building waste heading out to landfill.

You can recycle PVCu multiple times, too, without losing its high levels of strength or design flexibility. Creating PVCu also comes with a relatively low carbon footprint, compared to the manufacture of other plastics.

You can also ask whether your supplier is part of the VinylPlus scheme, which is committed to the sustainable development of PVCu products across Europe.

For more information about Rehau’s PVCu window range on their website or call 01989 762600.

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