Can PVC-U ever go head-to-head with aluminium on design?

Posted On 21-03-26

“There are some very high-end glass-bonded aluminium systems out there, which deliver incredible sightlines”, says Ian Cocken, Director of Sales and Marketing, aluplast. “are PVC-U products going to have the same design appeal? The answer is ‘no’”, he says.

“Can PVC-U systems go head-to-head with the mainstream aluminium sector? ‘Absolutely’”, Cocken continues. “PVC-U is a lot of things. At one end, it is that cost-effective, commodity-type sale, at the other, a new generation of products, is moving PVC-U into a far more design-led space, and be sold against, or alongside aluminium very effectively.

“And our new product offering, is absolutely geared to supporting fabricators and installers in doing that.”

If any PVC-U system is going to counter aluminium’s resurgence in the marketplace, it is perhaps appropriate that is one that draws its very identity from both materials. ‘alu’ ‘plas’, saw rapid growth throughout 2020, capitalising on the disruption that hit many of its competitors, particularly foil supply.

“From a personal perspective, like everyone else, I’d probably like to write-off 2020 but for business, it was actually very good. We picked up a lot of new accounts”, Cocken continues.

“It was certainly no picnic, but we didn’t encounter the level of challenge that many of our competitors did, particularly on foil supply.

“The other key driver of new business is product development. We’ve continued to invest and are bringing on a number of new products, which extend the reach of PVC-U windows and doors.”

aluplast’s foil range includes more than 30 finishes and is the product of significant investment in new foiling lines and in CNC foiling technology at its new 13-hectare manufacturing facility, which means that it can also offer a high degree of flexibility on non-standard finishes.

This includes reducing the time lost in traditional, manual foiling set-up and switch over from hours to minutes. This meant it continued to keep pace with demand last year for products, while aluplast also passes on those efficiencies and cost benefits to its customers.

It has made greatest ground, however, in the launch of its next generation foil ranges.  This included the launch of woodec replicating the natural appearance of timber but also the touch.

Available in three ultra-life-like woodgrains: Turner Oak Malt, a subtle light oak finish; Sheffield Oak Alpine, a silvered oak finish; and slightly darker, Sheffield Oak Concrete, Cocken argues that it is almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

Smart-Slide patio door from aluplast

Smart-Slide from aluplast offers a genuine alternative to mainstream aluminium products – especially when combined with aludec foil

“I’m not over-exaggerating when I say that 9 out of 10 people wouldn’t spot the difference between woodec and a timber product.

“The reception from the market has been fantastic. What is genuinely very exciting, is that we are able to bring the principles which have defined it as a next generation product, aesthetic, but also textured to a new range of aluminium foils.”

Cue aludec, aluplasts next generation foil option.

It’s been designed by aluplast to deliver a step-change in PVC-U foiling technology, more accurately replicating not only the appearance but the touch of aluminium, including replicating textured powder coated options.

It includes seven aluminium-effect finishes. This includes aludec anthracite grey; jet black; aldudec DB703; basalt grey; umbra grey; window grey; and aludec traffic white.

Simpler and more cost effective to manufacture, and matched-into the most popular aluminium colour options, Cocken, argues it makes PVC-U a credible alternative to a wide range of ‘mainstream’ aluminium systems.

“The finish is incredible. You need reset what you think PVC-U aluminium foils look like. aludec and traditional foils are about as similar chalk and cheese”, he says.

“The other thing to consider is that there are a new generation of PVC-U systems that also deliver far greater design potential, offering a far more contemporary aesthetic and delivering greater design flexibility. You bring those together and you have a very compelling offer at point of retail”, Cocken adds.

aluplast’s core offer is built around the Ideal 70 system but it also offers the contemporary squareline Ideal 4000 window, both of which are available in a flush casement option. “If you take for example the Ideal 4000 flush, and you apply aludec basalt grey, you get a product that is almost indistinguishable from a premium aluminium system, that is fully tested to Part Q and delivers u-values as low as WER A+.

“Take that and the price differential to the homeowner, and you have a great sales platform.”

He argues that new generation PVC-U products like Ideal 4000 and Smart-Slide, combined with new foils, deliver new design potential and move PVC-U into new territory.

Take Smart-Slide”, Cocken continues, “you can span 4.5m with just two panes. It can accommodate individual sash weights of up to 200kg, so that with two centre sliders operating on the inside or outside of two fixed panels, you can go up to 9m wide – that’s in a PVC-U sliding door.

“There are other benefits too we’ve eliminated th

e requirement for brush seals, the operation of the doors is ultra-smooth, you can part open it and then lock it for ventilation.

“Leading PVC-U systems today occupy a different space. The finishes that we can now bring to those products, woodec and aludec, shift things again.

“Manufactured as part of their core product ranges and without the set up costs of aluminium, these high margin products, which give fabricators and installers reach into new areas of the market.”

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