UPVC is an engineered plastic. Its full name is Unplasticised Polyvinyl Chloride. The ‘Unplasticised’ part of the name means UPVC has no plasticisers, which promote flexibility and reduce brittleness in plastic. The addition of plasticisers makes PVC, a different product to UPVC, the most widely used plastic in construction.
UPVC in construction
UPVC is commonly used to manufacture windows, doors, cladding, guttering systems, conservatory roofs, and trim and fascia. It has been in use since the 1980s as a cheaper and lower maintenance alternative to timber and aluminium.
From an engineering point of view, UPVC is highly useful because it is inert to common chemicals, self-extinguishing, will not undergo combustion and is impenetrable. It is also lightweight, strong (although not as strong as aluminium) and UV resistant. These properties make UPVC suitable for a wide range of applications.
The reason uPVC is widely used in construction (in addition to the desirable properties outlined above) is because it is widely available and cheap.
Quality and manufacture
UPVC is manufactured in bulk in Europe and Asia. There’s no discernible quality difference between UPVC manufactured in either place, but there is a discernible difference between what we would call high quality and low-quality UPVC. The quality of the final product is determined by the formulation of the plastic. Low-quality formulations may use cheap fillers or unregulated chemicals in the production.
UPVC is purchased in bulk by suppliers in common sizes and these are used to make the windows, doors and conservatories you see around you. Most window manufacturers do not make their own UPVC; instead, they buy it in, cut it to length and join sections together to create products like casement windows and rafters.
Popularity and trends
Over the years, UPVC has become ever more popular as a building material and based on the information above it is easy to see why. However, it is often seen as the cheap option and is, therefore, a less desirable product if aluminium or timber can be used as an alternative, as with doors, windows and conservatories.
This is why lower-end new builds have UPVC windows, whereas high-end new builds have timber or aluminium. This ‘stigma’ if you want to call it that is fading fast however as more high-end properties choose UPVC for its durability and long life.
UPVC requires little to no maintenance. You can sponge clean it if it collects dirt, but other than that there’s no maintenance needed. It also takes to paint well, and there’re professional companies out there who spray paint UPVC, the result of which is so convincing it can appear as though the UPVC was originally installed in the new colour. Good to know if you’re not a fan of white.
Speaking of white, 90% of all UPVC used in windows, doors and conservatories today is white. Brown was big in the 90s, but it isn’t anymore. There’s a new trend for dark grey or black windows now and UPVC is available in these colours. It costs more because it’s made in smaller batches, but there’s no arguing against the way it looks – it looks like aluminium, so gives you the look for a fraction of the price.
With durability, low maintenance and low cost, UPVC is the most popular material for windows, doors and conservatories for a reason.
According to the British Plastics Federation (BPF), UPVC accounts for 80% of the global window market and accounts for 20% of ALL plastic production. Suffice to say, it is abundant and can be found in every nook of the world.
How can we help you?