UPVC - How Long Will it Last?
None of us here in the UK can have failed to notice the increasing use of uPVC in construction and manufacturing. It’s on and in our homes, it’s in our gardens, in our shops, in schools, libraries, council offices – in fact it’s just about everywhere and has been hailed as a maintenance free alternative to wood and metal. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the third most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer on the planet and comes in two basic forms – rigid and flexible. The rigid form is used in construction for pipes, doors and windows and is also used to make bottles, non-food packaging and cards (bank cards, membership cards, etc.). Adding plasticizers makes PVC more flexible so that it can be used in plumbing, electrical cable insulation, fake leather, inflatable products and it’s often used to replace rubber.
uPVC is a rigid PVC that’s been eagerly adopted by the building industry as a low maintenance material and it comes in a wide range of colours and finishes, allowing it to be tailored to a variety of applications. uPVC can be manufactured with a photo-effect wood finish, enabling it to offer an aesthetically pleasing substitute for timber in many cases – it’s used for doors, window frames and sills, fascia, siding and weatherboarding. It’s also used to replace the use of cast iron for plumbing and drainage work and is used for waste pipes, plastic drainpipes, plastic gutters and downspouts.
uPVC has a strong resistance to chemical, sunlight and oxidation from water, which is why this material has increased in popularity so rapidly in recent years. It doesn’t fade in the sun, doesn’t rot or corrode and appears to need no maintenance other than regular cleaning.
PVC is made from petroleum and can be recycled up to seven times, giving it a lifespan of about 140 years. In the recycling process, PVC is ground into small chips, the impurities are removed and the product is then refined to make pure white PVC. Here in the UK, we recycle around 400 tons of PVC every month through a network of nationwide collection depots. This means that uPVC is a great choice when it comes to sustainability – when a product fabricated from PVC reaches the end of its life, it can be recycled into something new and useful. This is becoming an increasingly important issue as we try to address the problem of global warming and the effect that has on our planet.
When it comes to uPVC being used in construction for window frames, gutters, doors, pipes, etc., there are PVC window frames that were installed as long as 40 years ago which are still going strong and looking good. Timber frames installed at the same time may still be in service, but they will have required constant and regular maintenance over the years – sanding and repainting on a regular basis and, in some cases, replacement or partial replacement.
This means that having uPVC windows and doors installed will offer the householder a long term solution that requires very little in the way of upkeep, just a regular clean with soap and water a couple of times a year.