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Is Cast Iron Guttering Better Than Plastic?

Making a decision about what kind of guttering you want to install on your home can be difficult, especially if you’re torn between two different types. It’s a common problem to be confused about the differences between plastic and metal gutters, as many homeowners don’t know enough about guttering to make an informed decision. In this blog, we’ll help you to understand how cast iron gutters measure up to plastic, allowing you to make the right decision for your renovation project and see the kinds of results you’re hoping for.

The Problem with Plastic Gutters

While plastic (PVC) gutters might initially seem like a convenient and cost-effective choice for rainwater management, several significant drawbacks become apparent over time. These issues can affect not only the functionality and appearance of the guttering system but also its overall impact on the environment and the long-term value it offers to homeowners.

Durability Concerns

One of the primary issues with plastic gutters is their lack of durability compared to materials like cast iron. Plastic is susceptible to damage from exposure to the sun/UV rays, which can cause the material to become brittle and crack over time, but temperature fluctuations can also compromise the integrity of plastic gutters at the joins due to thermal expansion, which affects coloured gutters more than white ones and plastic more than metal.

Aesthetic Limitations

While plastic gutters are cheap and widely available, they lack the authentic charm and depth of character offered by cast iron. Over time, the colour of plastic gutters can fade due to continuous exposure to sunlight, diminishing the curb appeal of your home. The standard styles also tend to look cheaper and less substantial, which can detract from the overall aesthetic value of a property.

Environmental Impact

Plastic gutters are made from non-renewable petroleum products, the extraction of which leads to climate change. Although plastic is technically recyclable, the reality is that recycling rates for PVC are low, and the process is complex and energy-intensive. As a result, many plastic gutters end up in landfills at the end of their relatively short service lives, where they can take centuries to decompose, releasing harmful chemicals into the soil and environment.

Maintenance and Performance Issues

The lightweight nature of plastic means it can sometimes sag or become dislodged in high winds or under the weight of accumulated debris. Cleaning and unclogging plastic gutters can be challenging when they become brittle, increasing the risk of damage during routine maintenance tasks. What’s more, the joints and seams in plastic guttering systems are potential points of failure, where leaks can develop and compromise the system’s effectiveness due to the higher thermal expansion properties of PVC vs metals.

Should You Choose Cast Iron Gutters?

Now that you understand why plastic gutters aren’t necessarily the bargain they appear to be, it’s time to delve into why cast iron gutters could serve you much better.

Unparalleled Durability

Cast iron gutters are built to last, often enduring for decades or even a century with proper maintenance, as this material’s robust nature means it can withstand the rigours of the weather. Unlike plastic, cast iron is not prone to warping or fading over time (although the layers of paint will need to be renewed every 5 years), ensuring that your guttering remains effective and aesthetically pleasing year after year.

Aesthetic Appeal

Cast iron’s classic appearance can enhance the architectural beauty of any property, from historic buildings to heritage-style homes. Cast iron comes in various styles and finishes, allowing for a degree of customisation that can complement your home’s exterior design. They can be painted to match or contrast your home’s colour scheme, meaning cast iron gutters add a level of character and authenticity that plastic simply cannot match.

Environmental Sustainability

Cast iron is a fully recyclable material and its long lifespan means that it never contributes to landfill waste. Furthermore cast iron can be melted down and reused, reducing the need for new raw materials to be extracted. 

Maintenance

Cast iron requires regular painting every 5-10 years and regular inspections to spot and prevent rust. The initial effort put into maintaining cast iron gutters pays off with years of reliable performance and unrivalled aesthetics, reducing the need for repairs or replacement parts.

Cost-Effectiveness

While the upfront cost of cast iron guttering may be higher than plastic, its longevity and durability (and necessity in conservation areas) make it a cost-effective choice in the long run. Investing in cast iron can save homeowners money over time as the need for replacements and repairs is significantly reduced, although this isn’t its primary benefit as its character is. When considering the full lifecycle of the guttering, cast iron offers excellent value for money.

What Other Types of Gutters Are Available?

If cast iron guttering isn’t the perfect fit for your home due to budget, style, or preferences, there are other metal guttering options that blend durability with aesthetic appeal. Aluminium gutters in heritage or contemporary ranges are a great alternative, offering a lighter-weight alternative and a huge variety of colours to match any architectural design. They’re durable and their recyclability adds an eco-friendly advantage over plastic. Galvanised steel gutters, with their weather resistance, can provide a more industrial look when plain galvanised without the additional robust colour coating. They are suitable for modern designs and can be colour coated in 7 colours to suit your home’s exterior and work on any property without an additional surcharge.

For those seeking the ultimate in luxury and resilience, copper gutters and zinc are unparalleled. They boast exceptional corrosion resistance and minimal maintenance, and over time, develop a stunning patina that enhances the beauty of your property.

Final Thoughts: Plastic vs Cast Iron Gutters

When it comes down to choosing between plastic and cast iron gutters, the decision hinges on what you value most for your home. Plastic gutters might tempt you with their lower initial cost and ease of installation, but their lack of traditional character to match a period property,  lack of longevity and durability, as well as their questionable green credentials, fall short when compared to metal options. Cast iron gutters, on the other hand, stand the test of time, offering unmatched durability, a timeless aesthetic, and an environmentally friendly choice due to their recyclability and long lifespan.

For those exploring guttering options, whether you’re leaning towards the traditional charm of cast iron or considering other metal alternatives, Rainclear Systems is here to help. With a wide selection of high-quality guttering solutions, including cast iron, heritage and modern aluminium, galvanised steel, zinc and copper, we can assist you in finding the perfect match for your home’s needs and aesthetic.

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