Blending the old with the new

Giving your property a touch of old charm can stretch your budget, but the secret’s in the guttering, says Hayley Lowry of Brett Martin Plumbing and Drainage

The sheer range of products on the market can make buying materials for a self-build project a formidable challenge. Moreover, a higher specification more often than not equates to a higher price rather than better performance. For self-builders renovating or building in a classic style, it’s vital to strike the right balance between traditional aesthetics, performance and keeping the project on time and on budget.

When you are looking to give a new-build project a touch of old-style detail without the price tag or for the sympathetic renovation of a historical building, the solution could lie in gutters and downpipes that combine the authentic cast iron aesthetics with all the benefits of modern plastic manufacture.

The inherent challenge in creating a heritage style or reflecting local architectural vernacular is that when you get the specification wrong, it could not only spoil the build’s appearance but have a serious impact on the planning process and efficiency of the overall construction programme. As with all specialist products and materials, it is crucial that self-builders utilise the knowledge of industry experts to get the right product first time, every time.

An integral element of the architectural landscape for over 150 years, cast iron has a highly distinctive appearance due to the texture of the material, its thickness, and the quality of the components. However, cast iron drainage systems can be heavy and difficult to install.

With significant additional weight, self-builders must also be extra vigilant regarding health and safety and systems will require more time to lift and fix – leading to increased costs and potential delays in the installation process. Almost every job will require both gutter and pipe lengths to be cut onsite using specialist tools and, to ensure long-lasting durability, they need to be fully finished on site, using a primer, undercoat and topcoat to ward off corrosion.

A cast iron case for plastic

Alternative products manufactured using lightweight plastic can provide the ideal solution. One such product is Cascade, which makes installation at height safer, quicker and easier. The system also benefits from external fixing lugs, enabling easy power tool access and aiding in speeding up installation. All gutter fitting joints have integral seals and flexible retaining clips, allowing gutter lengths to simply click into place. No extra-cost fixing kits or nuts and bolts are required to make gutter joints, as with most traditional systems.

To ensure rainwater systems can be designed to meet a self-builder’s requirements, there are an expansive choice of options and gutter profiles available for both new build and refurbishments. From the domestic style of gutter to high capacity systems for larger scale projects, plastic rainwater systems are also compatible with existing cast iron systems and are designed to replicate original features, dimensions and detailing.

A range of options

There are three styles of domestic gutter (106 mm Profiled Ogee, 112 mm Half Round and, for larger or steeper roofs, a 115 mm Deep Profile) which utilise 68 mm round or 65 mm square downpipes. For larger scale projects there is a high capacity 160 mm roundstyle gutter with 105 mm round and 4” x 3” rectangular downpipe choice.

The long-term performance of systems can be protected relatively easily as, unlike cast iron, plastic systems are usually UV stabilised and not vulnerable to rusting or corrosion.

When a traditional aesthetic is a prerequisite, the right drainage system can be the difference between design success and failure. As budgets are increasingly stretched and tight deadlines constrain product specification, self-builders need to be aware of products’ costs – in terms of both materials and labour. With a price tag that fits modern construction and an appearance that blends the past with the present, plastic rainwater and soil systems fit the bill.

Hayley Lowry is marketing manager at Brett Martin