Timber Windows Vs. PVC-U: Which is best and which will look right on my 1930s house?

Updated 1930s house windows - Image: BERECO

Updated 1930s house windows - Image: BERECO

Exterior image of plastic windows in 1930s cottages

OK this blog post title might not sound the most compelling if you aren't living in a 1930s semi detached house like the one we have bought to renovate, but it's a question that's been on my mind since the day we moved in and knew we had to eventually replace all of our windows. Hopefully if you are on the market to buy windows soon too this post will help you work out whether PVCU or Timber is the best option for you.

As it stands I am on the market for 1 outdoor facing window to the side of our 1930s property, and 1 internal window for our kitchen diner renovation

So, my pressing question, which I've done some research on since, was this:

If your house has all plastic windows which need replacing but you want a more traditional vibe, is it OK to get timber windows on some of them or should all of your windows match? Also, what's a better option? PVCU windows or Timber windows?

My research first began with my local tradesmen. Anyone who came over to give quotes, I asked them this question outright and 100% of their responses were: "Hmm, what windows do you have at the moment?" *walks over to windows* "yeah, you should stick with white matching PVCU throughout".

I even asked our architect which material we should have for our bifold doors which we thought we were installing until the designs changed – aluminium or plastic, and he said – plastic to match the rest of the house.

Not the response I wanted as I really want a less clunky traditional vibe that my current plastic windows and doors aren't giving me, but I gotta trust their experience.

Then, I spoke with the Wood Window Alliance who are a brotherhood of bespoke window makers in the UK, for advice on the matter. I was glad that they shared with me myth-busting information about PVCU and Timber windows which has since helped me choose the best option for our kitchen diner renovation. 

Updated traditional window frames - Image: BERECO

Updated traditional window frames - Image: BERECO

Here's some answers to common FAQs when people are unsure about timber and PVCU windows:

Is it possible to have double glazing even with wood windows? 

People often assume that double-glazed windows have to have PVC-U frames, believing wrongly that wood window frames are only for single glazed windows. This couldn’t be further from the truth. All Wood Window Alliance (WWA) members’ windows are double or triple glazed. So you can still have beautiful wood windows that are energy efficient and will keep your home warm and draught-free.

Will wood rot quickly, surely PVC-U windows will last the test of time and won’t discolour?

Plastic degrades, whereas Wood Window Alliance-standard windows have an estimated service life of around 60 years* – that’s twice the life of PVC-U windows. Plastic windows can become discoloured and brittle as a result of exposure to the sun and unlike wood framed windows, they can’t be repaired. In fact, once you maintain and repaint wood windows, their lifespan starts all over again. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that well-maintained, good quality timber windows can last a century or more.

Sash windows can be really draughty, are wood windows that energy efficient? It might be hard to save on bills

Wood has a very low thermal conductivity, which means it is a good insulator. But the energy efficiency of a window actually has little to do with the frame material and is mostly affected by the specification of the glazing unit, so well-designed windows have similar thermal efficiencies across the board, whatever material the frames are made from.

Does PVC-U add value to your property?

If you have a period home or a home in a conservation area, installing PVC-U windows could actually devalue it by as much as £20,000! A national survey of estate agents by English Heritage found unsympathetic replacement of windows and doors – particularly plastic and PVC-U – to be the single biggest threat to property values in conservation areas. Separate research also suggests PVC-U windows can decrease a house’s value and often dissuades prospective buyers from making an offer.

Are wood windows or plastic windows more affordable?

Because wood windows can last up to 60 years and can be maintained and re-painted, unlike plastic windows, they actually work out less expensive over their lifespan. Due to timber’s inherent strength, triple-glazing is more cost-effective with wood windows than with other materials. And don’t forget the value that beautiful wood windows can add to your house, particularly if you’re considering selling. Wood windows are a worthwhile investment.

Is redecorating wood windows hard work? Won't plastic be easier?

Wood Window Alliance members’ windows come ready-painted from the factory to save you time. They won’t need redecorating for 8-10 years. And even then, it’s an easy job – just a light sand down, wipe clean and one or two top coats. You won’t need to re-paint the tricky bits as it’s only the faces of the windows that get weathered.

What about if I want to change the colour of my window frames internally?

With wood windows, if you want to change the colour to complement a new design scheme, you can (unlike PVC-u). All you have to do is sand them down with a fine sandpaper and repaint – simple!

*All information provided by Wood Window Alliance*

So with these tips in tow, Neil and I have made some decisions about which type of windows and doors we would like for each part of our kitchen diner renovation. 

The windows and door we've decided to choose for our 1930s kitchen diner

I want a "Modern Farmhouse" look to the kitchen, and really don't want our internal window which will look out onto our sun room and sit above the sink, to be a plastic clunky outdoor window like the rest of our 1930s house so I will be opting for a Bereco bespoke made country-look window similar to the below. 

Country style KITCHEN WINDOW -Image: BERECO

Country style KITCHEN WINDOW -Image: BERECO

Bereco are a supplier of high quality, high specification timber windows and doors to both trade and retail sectors. They are also a member of the Wood Window Alliance, and having trawled for hours through window websites finding very little inspiration for what we need, the moment I spotted these pictures from Bereco's garden house client, I knew these were the style of windows for us. I love the way they are traditional looking with thinner frames, and come in almost any colour imaginable.

So for the internal window above our sink in the kitchen, we'll be opting for a timber window like this, and will match our back door to compliment it. Bereco will also be painting the window and door a different colour on either sides for me to save any extra fiddly decorating jobs after installation. 

Then for the window which looks out the side of the house from our new dining room, I think we will be opting for a timber window painted white on the outside to match the rest of the house. 

I know I'm going against the advice of a lot of experienced tradesmen by opting for a different material to the rest of the windows on the house, but it's the side of the house anyway and hopefully won't look too odd. 

Wish me luck!
Fi x

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