I decided I should write a post about the pros and cons of Steel Windows, as I receive so many emails with questions about them. While they have been around for over one hundred years now (first used in an industrial context, then in Architecture from the post WW1 era onwards and associated heavily with Art Deco Architecture), they fell out of favour once aluminium windows were developed in the 60s/70's and have only really seen a big resurgence in their use in the past 10 years in Architectural design. I had never used them in a project before, so they were new to me and obviously I've learn a lot about them in the process of specifying and then living with them.



Steel windows do not look anything like aluminium windows for a few reason. Firstly, they give a much thinner frame profile - aluminium sections are extruded, meaning they are hollow in the centre, and this in turn means that they have a minimum thickness. You can now get sections that are fairly thin, but they still are not as thin as steel window sections.


Secondly, steel does not give as "perfect" a form as aluminium does. There are slight wobbles, slight imperfections that are inherent in the characteristic of the material. This means they complement old houses well as they have an inbuilt patina, while still looking modern and clean lined. While you can finish aluminium windows with a relatively matte finished powder coat, they are completely smooth and perfect, and the eye does pick up these subtle differences. Steel in effect has a more handmade aesthetic.


In terms of installing them, they are installed in pretty much the same manner as aluminium windows. They have a "tab" fixed to the side of the window frame that is screwed into the building frame or brickwork, and which is then covered over by plaster. This is no different to a normal window install, and any builder would be able to do this (so the builder should not load their rate for a "difficult" install). If you have a long section of windows, you'll need steel support uprights to fix sections to. While steel is strong, they do not self support, so runs over approximately 2 metres in length will need steel uprights to fix frame sections to.



Regarding thermal efficiency, they are suitable for anywhere in Australia, barring places with temps that dip into minus degrees consistently overnight or that have snow. So in Canberra, and some country areas it's not advisable to install them. The frames do heat up or feel cold transferring exactly the outside temperature to the inside of the house, and are probably the poorest performer in frame types for thermal resistance (although they are rated as medium, they are lower than aluminium or timber). The other factor to consider is that you do not get perfect seals on the door and window openings. As the frames are not perfectly straight, they don't give a perfect seal. We've overcome this to some extent with a lot of foam seals on all the openings, but if you're looking for true high energy efficiency, then they fail in that regard. We have double glazed glass panes, which has helped with thermal transference, but there's only so much it can do given the nature of the frame.


Flyscreens are the other factor to consider. In some parts of Australia this is not a big deal at all, but in rural areas this is definitely something to think about. The steel sections are extremely thin and flat, meaning they don't give any thickness in the frame to attach a flyscreen to. The window locks protrude from the window frames (as shown above), which means that you can't fix a flyscreen over the top of the frame. We looked into using some sort of removable magnetic flyscreen, but in the end decided it was too hard, as we'd need somewhere to store them when they weren't in use - to fix them permanently they'd be incredibly boxy to accommodate a window lock. French doors also have the same problem of not having anything to fix a flyscreen to on the frame. We looked into the invisible flyscreens (which retract into walls), however they were going to have to be enormous, and I was told it would be over $8000 per flyscreen. Coupled with the fact that if one of our children ran through it and damaged it it would require complete replacement, we decided to forgo flyscreens completely.


The upsides of the windows are the aesthetics. They have become popular for a few reasons, one being that the frames essentially "disappear" when you look at the windows as your eye is taken through to the view beyond. This increases the feeling of light and space in a room. The frame style, being essentially hand made also gives a pleasing subtlety of patina, which works well with an old house, as well as with modern architecture (as the windows can be much larger than traditional timber frames). Aluminium sections just don't look anything like steel - the "perfectness" is the defining difference. The frames also should last you 100 years, as they do not rot and degrade over time (providing basic maintenance by painting them is kept up), and they're incredibly strong.


As for supply in Adelaide, which is probably the question I'm most asked - there are no suppliers locally. All the manufacturers are based in Sydney and Melbourne. I used Melbourne suppliers - we used two. The first manufacturer supplied the majority of the windows in the extension and is the subject of (still ongoing) litigation, so I am still not able to go into it in detail. Yes, the legal wheels move slowly. We elected to go with a manufacturer that offered a complete supply/install package, feeling that it would be better to have one company responsible for the entire process as neither my builder nor I had ever used them in prior projects. The second steel window manufacturer that we used for the steel windows around the stair well going down to the cellar was a manufacture only situation - my builder installed them, and organised the painting and glazing of the windows. I also prefer the frame detail on the second set - they have a neat cross over banding detail on the frames, which looks nicely finished (seen in the photo below).


Our second set of windows were manufactured by Skyrange in Melbourne, and I have no hesitation in recommending them if you're interested in obtaining a quote for your own project. They have been in business for a long time, were straightforward to deal with, and supplied a good quality product in their specified time frame. Beware of any business offering a full install and claiming it's all highly specialised. It's not.

I think that sums it up and hopefully this is helpful to those looking at steel windows for their own project, however if there's anything you'd specifically like to know, please leave a comment and I'll try to answer.

All images are of the steel windows in our extension

42 comments:

  1. No steel windows around here! It can get to -35 in winter and there are tons of bugs in summer! Your post explains why there are none!

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    1. Oh goodness Wendy - you were good to read through all of this! I didn't think this was going to be an appealing post to a lot of the regular blog readers!
      But there definitely wouldn't be any in Canada - can't believe you're already getting snow!

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  2. As Wendy noted steel windows are not an option here but I've been curious about your windows as I like the look of them so much, and the fact that they are modern yet work so well with your old house...you've explained that very well. I adore the look of them!
    Our series of three single hung windows was installed over what will be the sink in our kitchen on Friday, they are stunning! We have fly screens hidden in the sills on these windows, they roll up as the window is opened, they are solid wood in and out with a factory protecting finish on the exterior, I first saw them from the exterior and they took my breath away. They replace a large picture window which was too bland looking.
    I really like the detail on those interior windows! You made a great choice with the steel, it's such an incredible feature of your house.

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    1. I can't wait to see your new windows Dani! They sound fantastic, and I really feel windows (good ones) can make such a difference to a house. I love concealed flyscreens too - you're very lucky you've been able to do them. A house I lived in once had them, and it was fantastic for so many reasons (one being that the screens didn't get so dirty as they're only out when you want a window open, rather than all the time).

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  3. Living in a old building with awful aluminium windows. would love to replace them with steel... I've never thought about steel windows before ...great article

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    1. I really don't like the old builders grade aluminium windows - they are completely depressing, and can't believe that people still put them in (yes, they're cheap but that's about all to recommend them)!

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  4. Funny bc I love your windows but couldn't have them in London unless I wanted the most gigantic heating bill. Funny enough I was at a warehouse conversion in shore ditch and it was pretty drafts. But they were old stell windows. I love how it's a great background feature in your beautiful home!

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    1. I've always been surprised that so many people put them in in London etc… it's far to cold in my opinion for them. But obviously energy efficiency only sways people so far! I do love them - they remind me of a conservatory, and really brings the garden inside.

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    2. Interesting to read background to glass windows! Wouldn't have guessed about unsuitability for Canberra. Pity, because I love them so and especially for the conservatory/garden feel. Our windows are of the loathed aluminium, but at least they're powder coated and the bigger front ones are double glazed.
      Those fly screens that zap up the window as soon as it's opened sound magical. I hate fly screens but they're so essential here in Canberra with flies from sheep country around us - also we get mozzies. Would love screens that only appear when the window is open. But we spend almost all our money on travel - so won't happen.
      Looking forward to seeing a pic of the new chandy in situ! Pammie xxx

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    3. I think you've got your priorities straight though Pammie! Nothing wrong with spending on travel rather than windows… unfortunately my life at present means no globe trotting for me, so I have a lot more time to look at my windows, and therefore they have to be nice! xx

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  5. We live in a house built in 1958 with load bearing iron windows. I love them as you do, but we don't have the energy efficiency nor do we have flyscreens. My husband made some magnetic screens up which were very clever

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    1. That's good he was able to sort out the flyscreen issue Carla - you are lucky to have them though. They're so expensive now! You could look into putting a film over the existing glass to improve the heat transference of the glass at least. You'd have the old plate glass which is the least energy efficient. If you look at 3M's website you'll find they have a bunch that try to mimic double glazing fairly effectively.

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  6. Fab informative blog post! Loved seeing more pictures of your windows and house. They are very pretty. I love the steel windows and french doors but often wonder about fly screens. Also see lots of backdoors with no screen doors and I wonder what do they do. But maybe flys aren't a problem everywhere. I LOATHE my aluminium windows. I feel so sad that someone ripped out the original lead light windows and replaced them with aluminium windows. Then installed vertical blinds to the frame and now I have holes in the frame and no way, that I know of, to fix. I want to rip them out and put wooden ones back in.
    Glad to hear that you were at least happy with the second company. I didn't realise that you needed to paint the steel.

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    1. When I moved to Melbourne I was told that no one installs flyscreens as you don't need them there. Let me tell you - you need them. If nothing more than to keep the mozzies out at night!
      It's not good when the original windows are taken out for aluminium… so expensive to change over, and often just not worth it when you look at the cost versus the capital improvement on the home (although sometimes this can be the opposite as bad windows can make a house look so dreadful that replacing them can make a massive difference, like in the case of our first home).

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  7. This is a great and comprehensive post on steel windows, thank you. I knew nothing of them before reading this post but have always admired them on the buildings I recall from my youth in England (from the 1930s I believe and there are many of them in London).

    I detest aluminum (somehow the "i" got dropped in American English) windows. They are a blight, but as you state, steel windows possess more "imperfections", which to my eye, make them a lot warmer and less sterile than aluminum.

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    1. I remember seeing the steel windows in all the beautiful 20's flats in St John's Wood when I lived there CD. Now I have them myself I suspect that a lot of the owners have put in secondary double glazing (which is so awful, but would be an absolute necessity in a building with old steel windows).
      The custom aluminium windows can work well in a modern home, but it's the very standard builder ones that I loath - the proportions are mean and the purely based on economic factors, rather than any aesthetic considerations. It's particularly depressing seeing them installed in a home where the owner is spending enough on other things that they could have obviously afforded a nicer window.

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    2. Hello Heidi,

      Those are exactly the flats I was referring to in my initial comment - you've seen them firsthand. My sister purchased her home in north London (1930s) and immediately ripped all the original steel windows and interior fixtures (including some marvelous fireplaces) out - I was horrified!

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    3. Oh no!! That's tragic! Well, she may well regret it one day… I just hope she didn't replace them with the PVC windows that are so common in the UK??

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  8. Hi I don't find your posts boring really interesting. Even though I'll never install steel windows in my 70's home. It's great to understand the design principles. Thanks for taking the time to put your choices into words. Love the new chandelier. It really makes the room.

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    1. Thanks Karen! I always worry that a post like this is just dull as it's so factually based and not of interest to any but a specific group. Thanks also re the chandelier - I'm so happy with it and keep going in to look at it!

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  9. Heidi your posts are so informative and interesting. I am about to renovate a heritage listed semi in glebe which the children have been living in while they went to uni ..now making it into a short term rental. Definitely considering steel doors ..thanks for sharing . Love all your work. Made the chicken salad for my family this weekend when they were entertaining their young friends with littlies . Thanks so much ! I am a garden tour friend of FF, Romy and Pammie x

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    1. Thanks so much! Your project sounds fantastic, and fortunately for you you'll be much closer to the source of the windows than I was. Glebe's a great spot - my sister lived there when she was at Uni too. I believe there's a good auction house there as well that she used to buy bits and pieces at and sell them for profit on ebay. So glad to hear that you made the salad, it's a good one. Yes, know who you are K, R and P got me up to speed, I just wish I'd been able to go on the tour, still so sad to have missed all those beautiful gardens!!

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  10. They look fabulous in your home so very Mies Van Der Rohe sleek and modern. I don't think they're used much up around Chicago except for those doing consecutive life terms.

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    1. I think they give the right mix of new/ old so aren't so jarring a transition from the old front of the house. Laughing at the thought of those that get to enjoy them in Chicago though!!

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  11. What a fabulous post! I adore steel windows but knew next to nothing about them, so thank you. I've been scrolling through your house renovation. What a gorgeous home you've created, I should've picked your profession.

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    1. Thank you Jane, that's very kind of you!

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  12. This is so interesting Heidi. I am loving your frames and they are perfect with the elegant eclectic, stream-lined look of your home. Gosh I keep forgetting what wonderful elements you have in your house, can't get enough of it,

    I'm trying to remember the conversation we had with our architects six year (!) ago about the window frames etc. In the end we chose Douglas fur wood by a company called Loewen which i love.
    They will age I'm sure in the bathroom but after five years they're still okay. Douglas Fur does go a bit more orangey that I like, I do prefer a lighter wood, so you have to factor that into your decisions.
    The huge problem we've had is the door handles which keep falling off but not sure if that is the company or the door handles, probably the latter.

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    1. Probably the door handle company Jody - hope they've been covered under warranty?
      Most woods tend to darken as they age, which makes it difficult as something pale will often go a bit orangey in time. I remember my parents old kitchen had beech bench tops, and after 20 years they were quite orange in colour. We were so used to it that we had a shock when they had them repolished ready to sell the house, they went back to pale beech and looked amazing!

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  13. Heidi I think your windows are absolutely stunning! In fact your whole house is! Swapsies?

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    1. Ha! When it's around 40C I'd swap with you an English house any day! Thank you for the compliment.

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  14. What a great post. We are about to embark on a big Victorian terrace reno in Sydney and are using skyrange for a about 5 windows and bi-fold doors. A big investment but hopefully will be a beautiful result, and so glad to hear that you found them good to deal with.
    Your home is beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Harriet, I'm sure you'll be very happy with your windows too - definitely worth the money in my opinion for the Wow factor!

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  15. Hi Heidi,

    would like to know if the cost is a lot more significant than a capral type framing?

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    1. It is significantly more - they're the most expensive window you could specify due to the cost of steel. I'd estimate that they were around 70% more than the price of Capral type systems, and probably 50-60% more than similar sized timber framed doors. We made some cost savings elsewhere to keep them in the design - I was very committed to them aesthetically (so we installed linoleum flooring to balance things out).

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  16. It is becoming possible to buy thermally broken steel windows which should solve most of the thermal problems.

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  17. Hi Heidi Hopefully it's not too late for another Steel window Question? I really enjoyed your post! I am wondering if steel windows leak when it rains, is it possible to have them exposed directly to weather? Hopefully you'll see this! Thanks Katharine

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    1. Hi Katharine, I have a few that face weather directly and they haven't leaked - it would depend on the detail for the window to some extent as I suspect different manufacturers would do it differently, but mine have a bit of a lip on the inside that the frame that opens out sits up against when closed. Unless you had a flood and it was a door, I think you'd find it would be perfectly ok. Hope that helps!

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  18. Hi Heidi,
    I was hoping to find a supplier of steel doors and windows in Adelaide by now, but sadly doesn't look like it. I have been speaking with Moreland Glass in Melbourne, who seem knowledgeable and helpful in quoting me so far. We need a window now, and then larger doors and windows for an additiona later in the year. They have priced to manufacture and powdercoat the window frame, and are happy for me to glaze and install locally in Adelaide. They were also happy to meet my tight deadline. Not sure if you have had any experience with them. Just a question: how did you find the cost of transport to SA? I know of someone who decided against the steel windows/doors in the end as the freight was so HUGE. Was thinking we might be able to have smaller sections welded on site when they arrive to minmise the freight costs. Love your thoughts on the the process you took. Thanks Deanne

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    1. Hi Deanne, I haven't heard of any manufacturers opening up in Adelaide as yet. I think a few people have gone down the route of having them made by local welders (or so I have heard, but don't know by whom), but they are fixed pane windows, not with opening sashes etc.
      I haven't any experience with Moreland Glass, so can't give you any feedback on them good or bad, and I don't think freight was quoted separately for the windows, it was included in the pricing, so am unsure how much it would be if done on its own. But I wouldn't think it would be too much - I got a reasonably heavy and large fountain delivered last year for $250 from Castlemaine (near Melbourne), so I wouldn't think freight for a few windows would be more? Deadlines are the trickiest - most of the manufacturers have very long lead times at the moment of 5 months in some cases... Good luck :)

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  19. is it the case of because of no local manufacturer in Adelaide hence not many steel frame windows installed here or there is no market in Adelaide hence no manufacturers setup here?

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    1. There are no steel window and door manufacturers here in Adelaide - I gather it's to do with getting the correct steel extrusions, and none of the steel fabricators here have sourced them to start making doors and windows. There's definitely a market here for them - I get a lot of enquiries about finding someone locally, but it's probably a small market and no one has started doing it yet.

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  20. Hi,
    Love your style! We too are smitten with the steel frame windows and are wondering if we could incorporate some into our upcoming Sydney renovation. We have been told they are prohibitively expensive - do you remember the approx price of one door like the one in your laundry?

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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