Kevin Wallis, category manager for eaves solutions at Marley Alutec, looks at the options available when looking to select a high-quality rainwater system which is also quick and easy to install.
When selecting a rainwater system, it can often be hard to combine a high-quality product with the desired aesthetic and a simple installation. As such, ease of installation often falls by the wayside in exchange for a particular look and feel or requirement, but that does not always have to be the case.
From the first rainwater systems brought to Britain by the Romans, guttering and downpipes have been made from a plethora of suitable and unsuitable materials, including lead, wood, iron, asbestos cement, zinc and more recently polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and aluminium.
In the present day, cast iron, aluminium and PVC rainwater systems are the most commonly installed, with cast iron being traditionally used for projects seeking a period or heritage look with an ornate finish, whilst PVC is known for being relatively cheaper and quick to install. Aluminium, however, is capable of combining durability, ease of installation and aesthetic appeal, it is even capable of replicating the look of traditional cast iron pipework if required.
One of the most important factors in a simple installation is the weight of a product, particularly when working at height – which is often the case when working with rainwater systems. According to Direct Line for Business, between 2012 and 2017, nearly 85,000 construction site injuries were as a result of handling, lifting or carrying equipment. With the worry of an injury causing a tradesperson to be out of work for months at a time, the specification of lightweight products is important.
The weight of systems
Cast iron rainwater systems are notoriously very heavy and often require multiple installers to manoeuvre and hold products in position during installation, again a difficult process when working at height. A lightweight solution like aluminium, however, can ensure that the risk of heavy lifting injuries is reduced, especially in comparison with cast iron systems. Typically, upwards of 10 kilograms per 1.8 metre length, a cast iron rain water downpipe is approximately 65 per cent heavier than an aluminium alternative, a significant difference.
While PVC is another lightweight alternative, as a cheaper solution it often lacks longevity with regards to the quality of its appearance. PVC is also lacking in durability, typically lasting no longer than 10 years. Aluminium systems, on the other hand, are very robust, capable of lasting up to 50 years or more, with minimal maintenance required. This is because aluminium, specifically high-quality marine grade, is naturally corrosion resistant due to a protective oxide layer, which reforms over the surface of the metal should it become damaged. With cast iron requiring cleaning and painting maintenance every 10 years or so to prevent degradation, aluminium provides a very low maintenance, fit-and-forget solution.
With regards to ease of install, PVC systems have always taken the lead when it comes to simplicity and time. However, there are aluminium rainwater systems on the market that can be installed just as quickly and easily as PVC and create the same aesthetic, with no specialist tools or skills required. Marley Alutec’s Evolve guttering range, for example, simply snaps into the fascia brackets, once they have been installed onto the fascia, with similar snap-on union clips for the gutter joints.
Marley Alutec offer fascia and soffit systems with H-section joints that perfectly mimic PVC fascia and soffit systems, making them just as easy to install. The Evoke range can be installed without any specialist skills or tools, providing all the installation benefits of a simple PVC system with superior quality and durability.
When looking for a quick and easy to install rainwater system, quality and longevity is often over looked in exchange for a simple PVC system. Where a traditional look and feel is desired, ease of install is side-lined for the sake of a heavy-duty cast iron system. Aluminium offers the best of both worlds. It is much lighter than cast iron, as easy as PVC to install, extremely durable and requires minimal maintenance. What is more, polyester powder coated aluminium systems can easily replicate the textured look of cast iron with all the benefits of modern performance.