Metal Guttering Types Explained Blog Image

Since the 1950s, plastic guttering has increasingly become the gutter material of choice for residential projects. However, the popularity of metal guttering is back on the rise. Largely this is driven by the lifespan challenges that plastic gutters have. Plastic guttering degrades faster, in turn meaning more replacements and waste.

When considering the best gutter system to install, metal guttering should be first on your list. But with an array of types which material is best?

There are five types of metal guttering (ranked by popularity):

  1. Aluminium Gutters
  2. Cast Iron Gutters
  3. Steel Gutters
  4. Copper Guttering
  5. Zinc Guttering

Types of Metal Guttering

Aluminium gutters

Aluminium guttering is the most popular metal guttering choice, and it is easy to see why. It is robust, weather resistant and affordable. Aluminium also offers green credentials being infinitely recyclable and the 3rd most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.

What’s more, it looks outstanding. The clean design of aluminium guttering is very versatile for a range of project styles, both modern and contemporary.

Once installed, aluminium guttering is there to stay with an excellent expected lifespan. A stark contrast to other types, like steel guttering, where rusting is a high risk. With no rust risk, only a small amount of maintenance is required on an aluminium system once in place.

Furthermore, the strength of an aluminium gutter makes it one of the most durable options. As a lightweight metal, it packs a punch and can still bear weighty loads – perfect for those heavy downpours.

Combined with the patented features of Aluflow® guttering, the inherent benefits of using aluminium as your gutter type of choice are clear.

Cast Iron Gutters

Cast Iron Guttering is the traditional choice for older and heritage buildings. As the dominant guttering material through the Victorian era, it can be seen on many older buildings and homes.

It can outlast a lot of alternative guttering types, however, cast iron does require the most regular inspection and maintenance due to the risk of corrosion. If maintained, it is a robust option that is quite durable.

Installation of cast iron gutters is more challenging than alternatives like aluminium due to its heaviness. Its weight originates from the bigger wall thickness required with it being an averagely brittle metal.

Aluminium guttering is the most popular metal guttering choice, and it is easy to see why. It is robust, weather resistant and affordable.

Finally, the cost of cast iron guttering is high which can be a major deciding factor in projects. Coupled with the extensive maintenance needed, it is primarily installed on listed buildings where there is a requirement to maintain the existing design.

Steel Gutters

Steel guttering is popular for its strength and moderate cost. Primarily used for domestic applications on outbuildings and barns, the plain metal style can be stylish in certain projects.

Steel gutters are the most susceptible to rust of any metal guttering option. They will require regular inspection and maintenance to keep them functioning properly, which can be quite labour-intensive.

Some steel guttering guarantees are limited to 10 years which is surprisingly short and similar to plastic guttering. However, if well maintained, they can last longer than this.

Steel has a similar cost to aluminium gutters so is at the more economical end of the market. Although, the lifetime cost is higher with a shorter lifespan.

Installation of a steel gutter is straightforward but outlet parts can involve a bit of cutting or snipping. In comparison, most other options are designed with push and screw fittings.

Rusted Steel Gutter

Copper Guttering

Copper Gutter systems are a ‘marmite’ choice for most installers due to their distinct colour change over time. They start shiny copper coloured and end up a matt green/brown colour over a period of twenty years.

This unique ageing process can be a winner for some people but a disadvantage for others. For older rural properties, copper guttering can offer a unique design quirk.

Due to this ageing, installation is more technical as all fittings and fixings must also be cooper to avoid galvanic corrosion.

Copper guttering is low maintenance and durable in the harshest weather conditions. However, this is offset by the high cost and investment required to install a copper gutter.

Zinc Guttering

Much like Copper, Zinc guttering is a less common metal choice. It also forms a patina covering over time meaning it slowly changes colour. However, the colour change goes from shiny grey to a black-grey colour so it isn’t as attractive a transformation.

The patina covering makes the guttering UV and corrosion resistance, so a zinc gutter has an excellent lifespan. In general, zinc guttering will tend to last longer than copper.

A zinc guttering system is on the pricier end of the market so is chiefly used commercially. It has quite an industrial appearance which reduces its residential popularity.

Metal Guttering Types Comparison

If you’re wanting a summarised comparison of the metal guttering types check the below. These properties apply to all parts of the guttering system, whether downpipe, brackets or any other item.

 Aluminium Guttering Doesn’t Rust Medium Cost Low Maintenance
Cast Iron Guttering Rusts High Cost High Maintenance
Steel Guttering Rusts Medium Cost High Maintenance
Copper Guttering Doesn’t Rust Very High Cost Low Maintenance
Zinc Guttering Doesn’t Rust Very High Cost Medium Maintenance

 

Which Metal Guttering is Best?

The best metal guttering system on the market today is aluminium guttering, primarily due to its lifespan, cost effectiveness and lack of rust risk. It strikes the right balance between performance and price.

Going to use Aluminium on your project? An excellent aluminium guttering brand to consider is Aluflow® - the sustainable, quality affordable option.

However, let’s delve into further detail as to why aluminium is the material to choose. To simplify the comparison, we have split it into the key buying factors: cost, lifespan, recyclability, rust risk and ease of installation.

Cost

Starting at the top, the most expensive metal gutter types are zinc and copper. These tend to be the costliest in both material price and installation cost, with the installation process being more specialist. For bespoke projects, the appearance can be worth the extra investment.

Coming in next at a still high price is Cast Iron Guttering, which costs less than Copper or Zinc but still significantly more than aluminium and other alternatives.

Steel gutters are a medium cost option. The costings vary based on which finish you choose. Uncoated versions offer the lowest cost, and then standard or bespoke colours increase the price accordingly.

Aluminium Guttering is a medium cost as well; however, all versions are colour coated which ensures a better lifespan and overall appearance. 

Lifespan

When weighing up the cost, you need to account for the gutter’s lifespan. To truly calculate which system is the best value for your money you should work out the lifetime cost or cost per year. For example, if you choose zinc, it costs the most but lasts the longest so it may have a better lifetime cost than steel which can rust easily.

Here is the expected lifespan for each gutter material type:

Steel: 10-15 years (depends on rust levels)

Aluminium: 30+ years

Cast Iron: 50 Years (depends on rust levels)

Copper: 50 years

Zinc: 50+ Years

Remember, some companies will advise longer or shorter lifespans than others depending on the brand they supply. These are based on good averages.

Recyclability

All types of metal guttering discussed are infinitely recyclable, which is a big advantage over plastic guttering. This means at the end of use they could, in theory, be 100% recycled.

However, rust complicates the recycling process so it can make steel and cast iron gutter versions harder to recycle than the others. For example, Aluminium doesn’t rust.

Rust Risk

Since gutters are in contact with a lot of water and weather, their ability to avoid rust is critical. Guttering systems manufactured from non-ferrous metals, like aluminium or copper, have no rust risk at all. However, there is a large risk of rust build-up on ferrous metals like cast iron and steel.

Even steel with a galvanised coating, rust can build when the galvanisation breaks down. Although modern systems have good protection, the fundamental risk of rusting remains and therefore will require a regular maintenance program.

Small things you wouldn’t think of can create a rust trap, so you should be careful during installation. For example, cutting a steel gutter breaks the protection down so it can create an area for rust build-up on the gutter ends and gutter joints.

Ease of Installation

The great news is that most metal guttering is straightforward to install. There are a few areas of difference to be aware of when installing each material:

Cast Iron – the heaviest of all options so it can be very unwieldy to install.

Steel – outlets require a lot of cutting and is quite a labour-heavy installation process.

Aluminium – modern systems like Aluflow® offer simple Rock N Lock installation: a patented system which makes installation easy.

Copper – requires all copper fixtures and fittings to install so may require specialist items. No steel or other metal fixings should be used to avoid corrosion.

Need Help with your Guttering Project?

If you are needing help building a quote for our guttering systems please get in touch. Our Team will be happy to assist on our Live Chat or you can email shop@clearamber.com where our we will provide you with all the advice and support you require for your project.

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