Is a plastic rainwater system ever a suitable alternative to cast iron?
It is fairly commonplace to see articles produced by plastic rainwater system suppliers in which they bemoan the so called failings of cast iron. The main arguments are usually based around cast iron being heavy, requiring maintenance and price; but are these claims as straightforward as they seem?
Firstly cast iron rainwater and soil systems have a history and performance track record that is the envy of the industry. They have been in use for well over 150 years and it is not uncommon to still find original profiles in place today. If you take a closer look at these so called ‘downsides’ of cast iron you might be surprised to find out just how good a cast iron rainwater system can be and also why cast iron is still the premier choice for rainwater goods, even after all this time.
Cast iron gutters and pipes are heavy
It is certainly the case that cast iron gutters and pipes are heavier than plastic but that should not been seen as a bad thing. Cast iron rainwater goods offer unrivalled strength and durability and the product weight and thickness makes it far superior to plastic. For example, cast iron pipes are highly resistant to distortion caused by accident or vandalism. Cast iron gutters are able to withstand the weight of ladders for roof maintenance and most importantly they will not bend and sag when subjected to snow and storms.
Other benefits attributed to the thickness and weight, are the low noise levels which are enhanced by the sound deadening properties of cast iron. Unlike plastic there is very little expansion and contraction during temperature variations, therefore no noisy clicking, creaking or permanent deformation of gutters. The weight also reduces the risk of rattle in high winds.
So just because something is lighter, it does not make it better.
Due to the many beneficial properties of cast iron, only minimal maintenance is required. We would always recommend an annual inspection of rainwater, soil or drainage systems for clearance of debris and blockages. That level of maintenance should apply to any material as blockages can occur whatever product you are using. It is true that cast iron does require painting but with the once a year inspection our Premier Extra paint system can be expected to provide a 10 year life before any need to repaint.
You will often hear ‘plastic is much cheaper than cast iron’ and if taken at face value then that claim does at least appear to be true. However, what plastic gutter suppliers won’t give you is a whole life cost comparison, and that changes things quite considerably. Whilst plastic rainwater goods are cheaper when you first buy them, you are likely to be replacing all of those products 4 or more times during the lifespan of a cast iron installation. That’s 4 more lots of material and labour, so when you also factor in that the price of cast iron rainwater goods has dropped considerably over the past decade, you will find that cast iron rainwater systems actually have a whole life cost which is much lower than plastic.
But aren’t cast iron systems difficult to install?
Our cast iron gutter and pipes products are simple to install and we provide a number of ancillary products to make the process even easier. The gutters have a socket on one side and a plain end on the other and we can provide gutter jointing kits, nuts & bolts, screws and silicones to aid the installation. Gutter and pipe unions ensure that cut pieces can be reused, helping to reduce costs. We offer a wide range of fittings to complement each cast iron gutter and pipe profile and this includes a variety of fixing brackets.
Our cast iron gutter is available in 8 standard profiles in a variety of widths and depths. This is supported by a range of round, square and rectangular pipes and over 50 ornamental hopper heads all of which are available in either a grey primer or pre-painted finish. With so much choice and variety you can find something suitable for any installation.
Often imitated, never bettered
Some plastic rainwater systems are produced to try and provide a matching heritage aesthetic (cast iron effect) but the unique appearance of cast iron is quite unlike anything else. Cast iron has been tried and tested for over 150 years whereas many of these cast iron effect products have been available for less than a decade.
It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and it is clear to see why modern alternatives are so keen to try and replicate the appearance of cast iron. However, the appearance is just one benefit of cast iron and when you take into account lifespan, strength, durability, environmental benefits, whole life cost and the size of the range available, there really is nothing quite like a cast iron rainwater system.