Material Pleasures: Choosing The Right Material For Conservatory Extension Framing
The addition of a conservatory extension to your home can be a great boon, adding considerable value to your property while providing you with a wonderful spot from which to enjoy sunny Australian summers. However, just like any other kind of home extension, the materials you choose will make all the difference between designer and disaster, and you have a number of choices when it comes to how you frame your conservatory glass.
When it comes to lasting value, it's hard to beat uPVC. One of the cheapest and yet most durable framing materials around, uPVC conservatory frames can endure almost anything the weather can throw at it, while its waterproof surface prevents moisture infiltration and is thoroughly immune to mould and fungal damage. uPVC frames are also invulnerable to termites and other wood boring insects, and do not degrade quickly under intense sunlight like ordinary PVC.
In terms of aesthetic choices, most uPVC conservatory extensions are made from standard white uPVC. However, if you're willing to pay a little extra, uPVC can be tinted with a wide variety of shades and colours to match the overall look of your home, and can be printed with wood-grain effects to mimic more expensive wooden frames.
Unfortunately, uPVC frames also have a few drawbacks. They tend not to be so resistant to accidental impact damage as aluminium or wooden conservatory frames, as uPVC is not flexible and tends to shatter rather than flex under strain. The lightness of uPVC frames makes them easy to fit and assemble, but can also leave small or fragile conservatories vulnerable to high winds. uPVC conservatories also tend to start springing leaks towards their ends of their service lives, as years of exposure and temperature change can cause uPVC frames to warp slightly, breaking the waterproof seals around your glass.
An excellent choice for practically any style of home, the enormous variety of woods suitable for conservatory framing makes wood tremendously aesthetically versatile. With stains and treatments, many woods can rival uPVC for weather and sunlight resistance, and wooden frames combine strength with slight flexibly to endure accidental damage well. Wooden conservatories also tend to have a more luxurious look and feel in general, a very good thing when it comes to reselling your property.
However, wooden conservatory frames cannot be fitted and forgotten about, and will require more maintenance than uPVC frames. They are more vulnerable to accumulation of mould, particularly if the conservatory is poorly ventilated, and you should have the frames treated with insecticidal compounds to avoid termite damage. Choosing pre-treated woods that have been kiln-seasoned will save you money in the long run. Pressure-treated wood is also an option, and is enormously strong and resilient—however, the treating process leaves wood with an unpleasantly dull grey hue, and you may have to paint pressure-treated frames to avoid a drab and ramshackle looking conservatory.
The last word in durability, a conservatory extension framed with aluminium will stay standing for decades barring an unexpected earthquake, and will stay looking beautiful while it does so. Aluminium does not corrode in the presence of air and moisture like other metals -- instead, it creates a natural layer of oxidisation on its surface, which serves to protect the metal itself against corrosive influences. This natural resistance can be further improved upon with galvanised or powdered coatings, which also allow you to colour your frames. It goes without saying that mould, fungus and insect damage are not problems for aluminium. This great strength and toughness also allows your frames to be thinner than uPVC or wooden frames without losing strength, allowing the maximum amount of sunlight into your extension.
Sadly, all these great advantages come at a heavy cost, and aluminium conservatory frames are likely to be considerably more expensive than uPVC or non-tropical woods. It can also have a utilitarian, functional look which can be quite jarring when attached to rustic or traditionally styled homes. If you choose a coating to maximise durability, having the coating replaced when it wears away can be expensive.