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Rainwater Drainage “From the Past, for the Future”

08 December 2010

The drainage and guttering market has matured considerably over the past 20 years and there are now many more product choices for consumers to consider.

Despite the influx of new materials it appears that the benchmark for rainwater systems is still cast iron.  Cast iron rainwater goods were introduced in the late 18th Century as an alternative to lead.  As well as being easier to produce, the material enabled eaves gutters to be installed more simply, since lead could only be used in this location as a lining for timber gutters.

Many modern materials focus on replicating the appearance of cast iron but those materials can vary rarely offer any of the benefits.  Cast iron gutters and pipes offer great strength and durability, a proven history of long life, low noise operation and fire resistance.  Most old buildings have cast iron rainwater systems that should be maintained and preserved however; these inherent benefits make cast iron an ideal choice for both traditional and modern installations.

It is not uncommon to see modern alternative products marketed with terms like low maintenance or easy to install and cost effective.  It has even been said that ‘plastic guttering systems provide a way of achieving a traditional look with modern convenience’.  These terms tend to refer to possible cost savings rather than any real product benefits.  It is also difficult to quantify the benefits of modern convenience over traditional build quality.

It is worth remembering that all rainwater goods will require some element of maintaining to ensure they are unblocked by debris and remain functional.  No rainwater system cleans itself.  Today most suppliers of cast iron rainwater systems offer products in both primer or pre-painted with a 10 year protective coating.  When describing modern materials, the term ‘cost effective’ is used rather than simply saying cheap.  There is no doubt that the initial cost of many modern materials is less than cast iron but you might be surprised to know that over its lifespan, cast iron will cost around a third of plastic.

It is easy to forget about your rainwater system but it does need to be maintained and inspected at least twice a year regardless of the product material.  It does not matter whether the property is hundreds of years old or brand new, the message is the same; ‘maintaining your rainwater system contributes to the external appearance of the building as well as keeping it free from damp and structural damage.

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