A good installation is important with any rainwater system; but even the best installation cannot save a poor-quality product. Here, Brian Bell, Head of Technical Services at Marley Alutec discusses the use of aluminium in guttering solutions and how it can help to ensure a successful and simple installation that will perform as intended in the long-term.
The durability of a guttering installation is predominantly determined by the material used and its respective properties. In the last half a century, there has been a progressive shift towards PVC, where previously timber or cast iron materials would have been used.
However, the industry has continued to develop with products such as aluminium rainwater systems. Aluminium can provide such a wealth of benefits that when compared to other commonly used materials, it is simply out performing them. For example, while manufacturers of PVC rainwater systems state a life expectancy of approximately 20 years, the 50+ year functional lifespan that comes with high-quality aluminium systems is clearly a factor behind its growth in popularity.
When carrying out an installation, the initial appeal of PVC gutters is that they ‘snap’ together at the joints and are extremely lightweight. Yet, while easy to install, the use of PVC products can compromise a system’s durability as they are prone to becoming brittle and cracking during their lifespan on a building. In addition, PVC systems are renowned for their poor colour stability, leading to faded, unattractive gutters.
While cast iron gutters will last much longer than PVC alternatives, they are maintenance intensive and in order to prevent rust or corrosion, require regular inspections and repainting using corrosive resistant primers. Furthermore, both cast iron and steel guttering systems are considerably heavier and inflexible onsite, and may often require multiple installers and specialist tools to fit correctly.
In contrast to this, marine-grade aluminium is a material that is durable and corrosion-resistant, making it ideal for external applications such as guttering. Aluminium naturally generates a protective oxide coating, which means that if its surface should ever be damaged, the material oxides again to protect itself. A polyester power coating can be added to enhance the colour stability of the aluminium system, leaving a low maintenance and attractive finish. This coating can also be used to accurately replicate the aesthetic of traditional cast iron gutters and downpipes, while providing the greater durability that comes from using an aluminium solution instead.
Aluminium guttering is also incredibly easy to install – the ideal ‘fit and forget’ solution. The specification of lightweight products is always important as an injury could cause an installer to be out of work for months at a time. With a very high strength to weight ratio, aluminium is approximately 65% lighter than cast iron – meaning it is easier to work with onsite but does not compromise on the guttering system’s durability. Furthermore, aluminium systems only require standard carpentry tools to fit and adapt on site. As a result, any issues presented when fitting the system can easily be overcome, with the opportunity to create bespoke solutions in order to deliver a successful installation.
It is important to note that, as with most products, cheaper non marine-grade aluminium products with higher impurities are of course available. However, any initial cost savings through installing these lower-quality products will be greatly outweighed by the need for maintenance or even replacing the rainwater system in comparison with investing in marine-grade aluminium products in the first place. In all areas of a build, the devil is in the detail and this is certainly true when it comes to a rainwater solution. Any issues with poor-quality will give cause for complaint, which can damage a developer’s reputation. Therefore, it is highly recommended that only high-quality materials, supported by the associated ISO and British Standard compliance, are used.
By selecting aluminium rainwater systems, housebuilders and developers can ensure they are installing a durable and corrosion-resistant rainwater system that is highly reliable in comparison with the alternatives available. In addition, aluminium’s very high strength to weight ratio and light weight enables a simple, safe installation onsite for contractors. With a functional life expectancy of 50+ years, the specification of a marine-grade aluminium system, from trusted manufacturers like Marley Alutec, provides the assurance that the guttering solution is built to last.