Choosing the right rainwater system

Yeoman Rainguard’s Sally Moores discusses the variety of options available when it comes to rainwater systems, and how to choose the right one for your project

With an abundant choice of rainwater systems on the market, there is certainly no problem in finding the right, aesthetically pleasing products for your self-build project. With an array of materials, profiles, sizes and colours, there will certainly be a style to match the design of your property.

Tick all the boxes

Aesthetics, though important, should not be the only thing considered when selecting gutters and downpipes however. The environment the system is going to be fitted in (e.g. conservation or heritage area), water flow from the roof, rainwater harvesting, snow load and lifecycles are just some of the considerations which should be taken seriously to ensure you have a rainwater system which will work efficiently, and last for many years.

Guarding against the elements

After all the hard work, decision making and expense that will go into a self-build project, it would be wrong to cut corners when it comes to installing a rainwater system. This important kit will protect your property from the ingress of water, guarding the structure against damp and water damage.

Procuring a durable rainwater system that will withstand the great fluctuations of weather that come with living on the British Isles, yet which adds to the design of the exterior of the premises, is paramount.

It’s also an important to find a system that will not crack or discolour when the temperature rises, one that can withstand a heavy snow load if required without becoming misshapen, and one which is also the right size to take the water flow from your roof.

Systems choices

One extremely durable option is a metal rainwater system, which can easily overcome the issues mentioned above. With an assortment of materials to pick from, metal gutters and downpipes allow style and function to collaborate nicely.


Available in an attractive paint or mill (raw) finish, aluminium rainwater systems complement both the traditional or modern house. The range of gutter profiles, pipe shapes and sizes, along with a choice of colours and ornate accessories such as ear bands, will help
to tailor this product to the character of your dwelling.

A deep flow gutter is able to cope with high volumes of water flow from the roof, avoiding overflow and splashing. Online guides are available to calculate flow rates from roofs, or a reputable supplier will be able to advise you.

The gutters will also be strong enough to accommodate heavy snow loads – though the addition of extra fixing brackets in areas of concern
is recommended.

Look for an aluminium product which offers a joint clip fixing method on the gutters. Meaning it does not require mechanical fixings or welding joints, this will make it both quicker and easier to install. Credentials such as 30 years maintenance free service can be combined with UV stability and 100 per cent recyclablity.

Cast iron

This classical rainwater system type has been popular since the 1700s, and is perfect for use on listed and heritage buildings. A heavier material than aluminium, cast iron offers the same durable properties with a 40 year (or more) life expectancy, however a small amount of maintenance such as repainting can further extend this.

A range of traditional gutter profiles, decorative ear bands and stylish rainwater hoppers can ensure that the feel of old and historical buildings are reflected, using a cast iron rainwater system.

Oxidising cast iron is completely recyclable, producing iron ashes which, being carbon based, aid the growth of green and planktonic life, helping to counteract the effects of global warming.

Copper, zinc & stainless steel

These materials are chameleon-like, changing patina over time and adding depth and colour to the rainwater system. They’re a great choice for structures that are timber clad, oak framed, or indeed garden houses whose exteriors also change colour as the wood ages, adding to their beauty.

The attractive patina caused by oxidisation also functions as an exceptional natural defence against the elements, making them a good choice of material to be used on coastal properties where erosion by the salt in the local atmosphere can be a concern.

Copper gutters and downpipes have proven durability, having been used successfully for many generations, offering an almost unlimited life. A natural, truly sustainable and 100 per cent recyclable material, copper also acts as an algaecide and fungicide helping to keep moss and lichen growth to a minimum, proving to be a maintenance free system. It’s also a great choice for harvesting rainwater.

A zinc or stainless steel rainwater system will bring a contemporary feel to self-build projects, again having outstanding durability and requiring minimal maintenance. These rainwater systems are made from lightweight materials and do require a little more care to be taken when delivering and installing, with the use of gloves a necessity at all stages.

Seek advice

Sometimes there is more to selecting a rainwater system than meets the eye, and, to ensure your gutters and downpipes don’t let you down, take time to do a bit of investigation into what’s available.

There are plenty of shows and exhibitions specifically for the self-build and renovation market around the country throughout the year, which showcase the latest in building materials. Experts will also be on hand at these events to offer advice. Blogs and websites can be a great tool as people share successes and pitfalls, and the rights and wrongs of their own projects.

However, for ‘foolproof’ advice and information on the right rainwater system for your particular project, seek out a reputable manufacturer and supplier. They will have an experienced team on hand who will be able to discuss options with you and let you have samples of products, materials and colours.

Some of these companies offer free site surveys or take offs from architect drawings that they can then turn into an itemised, easy to understand quotation. Take advantage as these helpful services will help to ensure that you get the rainwater system that is befitting of your prized home.

Sally Moores is marketing manager at Yeoman Rainguard