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There has been some tit-for-tat knocking going on between the proponents of timber windows and those in support of PVC-U that hasn’t been seen for many years and which many believe was a thing of the past. Perhaps the question we should be asking is ‘Is it doing anyone any good and indeed, is the industry overall going to suffer?’ Or does it all miss the point anyway?
Recent reports (such as that published in Glass & Glazing Products http://www.ggpmag.com/news/wood-window-alliance-calls-time-plastic-promises) quote the Wood Window Alliance ‘calling out’ companies that are ‘dressing up’ facts in order to sell more plastic windows. The report cites ‘fake facts’ and says ‘we cannot stand by and watch people installing PVC-U lookalikes in the belief that wood is a poor alternative to PVC-U….’ Naturally this has drawn a response from the British Plastics Federation which has challenged the ‘baffling and misguided’ WWA campaign (http://www.ggpmag.com/news/bpf-challenges-baffling-misguided-wwa-campaign). But where does this leave both camps, and what does the outside world think when looking in? Having said that, what do people on the inside really think?
Mike Derham, Chairman of Mighton Products Ltd, takes a conciliatory view saying “Why I believe it all to be pointless, is that whilst PVC-U windows might be styled to look like timber, they are not competing directly with timber-framed windows. “Valid comparisons cannot be made between the two: PVC-U and timber windows are different products manufactured to appeal to two entirely different market sub-sectors and for which demographics display completely different priorities. Simply, PVC-U windows are designed to appeal at a completely different price point.”
Mike Derham’s company – Mighton Products Ltd – has been supplying hardware for the window industry, predominantly for box sash frames and for those produced in timber but also for companies manufacturing windows using PVC-U, so is ideally placed to see both sides of the debate. He points out: “How I began in the industry and my continuing passion, is in the refurbishment of original and manufacture of new timber-framed box sash windows. I enjoy the craftsmanship that goes into producing such products and the fact that they are produced using craft skills that have been honed over centuries. However, I also understand why PVC-U not only gained a foothold in the market but actually came to dominate.”
He adds: “Timber frames, whether casements or box sashes, are these days inevitably produced using treated softwoods, sustainable hardwoods and modified wood such as Accoya (which has a typical lifespan of up to 50 years), and for which the production processes are (or should be!) more dependent upon the skill of the operatives even in larger factories. By definition such materials and processes put them at a price point that is significantly higher than PVC-U frames. In the case of box sash replacements, they can be five to ten times the cost. Other drivers are regulation, with buildings being listed or defined by heritage status; and of course, there is the issue of emotion: owners of heritage properties inevitably are passionate about maintaining the original fittings and appearance of their properties. Authenticity is an important factor in the choice of genuine timber frames, not just in appearance but also in the use of real timber.”
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