PVCu ‘still going strong’? Let’s keep it that way

Regular readers will have heard me talk about the importance of the housing sector getting the most out of its assets; so you may see why the following news raised a smile…

PVCu manufacturer REHAU celebrated its 50th anniversary with a competition to find the oldest working installation of its windows or doors ‘still going strong’. It was hoping for something at least 25 years old, to match the date when its Blaenau factory first began extruding profile in the UK. The results did not disappoint.

Frames stand firm

A recent bulletin announced that the winning installation was by Kayvex Windows in Bognor Regis. This fully glazed rear entrance door was installed in 1981 in managing director Ian Parrott’s house in Middleton-on-Sea. It was manufactured in the 60mm S701 single chamber profile and, aside from new gearing and new low-E glass, is still in perfect working order.

Ian Parrott commented: “Up until two or three years ago, I also had a whole houseful of windows which were fabricated and installed in 1981. These were still performing well but eventually we took the decision to replace them with more contemporary looking alternatives. What is particularly impressive though is that the original REHAU door is still the same bright white as ever.”

These REHAU results are welcome, nicely demonstrating the resilience of PVCu frames, but I would hardly call them surprising.

At Prima Service, we regularly see examples of functioning older units. I am currently working on a project for an Essex-based housing association where the installations comprise of numerous manufactured systems; some of these are 28 years old.

Not far from our Kent office, you will see Deeplas 800 and 1200 series windows which Prima installed on behalf of Ashford Borough Council during the late 80’s. The original hardware and sealed units may have little life left in them due to wear and exposure, but the frames remain durable.

The full story?
Good results, but at the moment we have no independent data for the longevity of PVCu frames to judge against.

Current guidance from manufacturers and local authorities is necessarily skewed: Let's face it, it’s not in manufacturers’ interests to show how long a product can be used without replacement when they rely on predictable and regular sales cycles.

Local authorities normally write down these assets for replacement after between 20 and 30 years, but is this calculation more about spreading the initial cost on the balance sheet than scientific facts?

Making informed decisions
In reality, our industry has yet to discover the ultimate lifespan of PVCu as there is insufficient data worldwide. Estimates are therefore conservative, and we could be selling ourselves short if we write off our installations prematurely. A pricey mistake when you consider that replacement units are extremely expensive compared to the cost of continued maintenance and repair.

To get the most out of our installations, perhaps we need to rely more on the judgement of the technical specialists in our field, those who work with these units day in day out. Then can we make an informed choice, instead of writing our assets off when their imagined time is up.

• For more on why repairing how we can extend the lifespan of existing PVCu installations, read our case study. My colleague Will Chan’s recent blog post looks further into the benefits of repair as opposed to replacement.

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