Why aluminium’s end-user appeal is driving opportunities in PVC-U


Aluminium has enjoyed rapid growth and is predicted to continue to do so. Paradoxically, this may be driving opportunities in PVC-U.

If the industry is forecast for growth, it’s aluminium which is forecast to grow at the fastest rate. Forecasts from Palmer, D&G and Insight Data, without exception, highlight the exponential growth seen in aluminium products.

This is something attributed to the ‘Grand Designs factor’: Kevin McCloud has transmitted the virtue of slim sightlines alongside the aspirational appeal of products that connect indoor and outdoor ‘spaces’, into our homes and aluminium, conservatories, orangeries – but particularly bi-fold and inline sliding doors – have benefitted.

And while demand has grown across the board, its aluminium products which have benefitted the most, driving a shift in not just product sales but the very demographic of the window and door industry.

According to the latest Fabricator and Installer Market Report from Insight Data published, there continues to be a definite shift towards aluminium among fabricators and installers. This the authors of the report say has been “driven by demand for aluminium bi-folds and a renaissance in aluminium patio doors”.

They argue that this is evidenced by the growth seen by aluminium systems companies. “Smart Systems Ltd and Aluk (GB) Ltd have achieved dramatic growth in sales and profit compared with their PVC-U counterparts”, the report says.

What is clear, is that the growing appeal of aluminium, has exerted a definite influence on PVC-U systems companies.

This is manifest in the launch of an aluminium clad PVC-U system but more widely, in the growth seen in the specification of foiled PVC-U systems which emulate aluminium.

“We’re seeing significant growth in volume of foils in general but notably those finishes that match-in to aluminium”, says aluplast’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Ian Cocken.

“One of the factors driving that is that while homeowners may specify an aluminium bi-fold door or patio door, their pockets may not be deep enough to have a house full of aluminium windows or conservatory windows.

“They’re turning to PVC-U as a more affordable alternative.”

aluplast launched a rapid delivery specials foiling service last year, offering lead times of 15 days or less on special orders and no minimum order, no surcharge and no set-up costs.

The German systems house, holds one of Europe’s widest foil and colour ranges in stock offering lead times of just a few days on 27 stock foils. This includes three smooth or ‘sanded’ finish options, Basalt Grey; Anthracite Grey; and rather appropriately, Brushed Aluminium.

“It’s a very neat solution for fabricators and installers”, continues Cocken. “You could genuinely look at any of the aluplast smooth finishes and be forgiven for thinking that you’re looking at aluminium.

“We’re seeing significant growth in sales because, the match into aluminium is so much better than standard textured foils.

“Homeowners can specify an aluminium bi-folding door, orangery or conservatory and match windows to them at a significantly lower cost.”

D&G Consulting suggests that colour, will be a “key battleground” through to 2018, with systems companies currently creaking under the pressure of fabricator (and ultimately) end user demand for shorter lead times on foils.

In offering 15 working days or less on special orders, aluplast has moved its colour offer significantly forward to launch a service that is equal to or out-strips, many of the foiling services offered by leading UK extruders – this is inclusive of travel time from Europe.

This flexibility is built around the investment that aluplast has made in CNC technology. This eliminates the time lost in traditional foiling in manual set-up and switch over, cutting it from hours to just minutes. This has enabled aluplast to pass on the cost and efficiency benefits to its customers in a highly competitive service.

“aluplast also offers a choice of white, caramel or brown substrate, which again reflects the scale of investment and resource which sits behind the product”, continues Ian.

Ideal 4000 Casement
Ideal 4000 Casement

aluplasts core offer is built around the Ideal 70 system. Specifically developed and designed for the UK market, the German-engineered system, draws down on aluplast’s investment to offer one of the industry’s most energy efficient five chamber PVC-U profiles.

With a choice of 24mm to 44mm glazing options, the slim line ovolo profile, easily accommodates triple-glazed systems, with triple-glazed options achieving a low U-Value with standard components. This allows it to comfortably achieve a WERs A++ rating.

“Foils and colour are key drivers of growth in the UK window industry – as within the limitations of price-point – is aluminium”, says Cocken.

“Our smooth foil finishes provide a very effective market solution, increasing the affordability of installations by allowing installers to meet end user demand for aluminium bi-folds or conservatories but to support them in manging overall project cost by specifying smooth foiled grey or aluminium PVC-U windows to go with them.”

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