With cost-effective, practical rainwater goods widely available from the big DIY sheds, you’d be forgiven for not giving much thought to the aesthetic potential of your home’s guttering. But if you want to create a truly special place to live, it’s the little touches that make all the difference. Step in copper guttering, which offers all the functionality – and more – of conventional systems, as well as the bonus of a little something extra when it comes to the finish of your dream home.
There are plenty of practical reasons to consider this metal for your rainwater setup. Copper is highly durable, offering an innate resistance to corrosion thanks to the fact that it develops a distinctive blue-green protective coating over time, known as a verdigris patina. This makes it a wonderfully low-maintenance option for guttering systems.
“Copper requires no decoration, no cleaning and virtually zero upkeep other than the period removal of debris,” says Rosalie Hoare from Cuppa Gutta. As a comparison, cast iron versions tend to demand a five-year treatment schedule. Copper’s natural qualities also translate into a long service life of well over 50 years; as opposed to more like 25-30 years for PVCu and around 30 years for aluminium. To top it all off, it’s fully recyclable – so it can be a great choice for natural or sustainable builds.
Budget-wise, copper is at the top end when it comes to rainwater goods. So it’s fair to say that it’s usually reserved for high-end projects, such as barn conversions, oak frame self builds and eye-catching extensions or outbuildings. And these are exactly the kind of scenarios where the metal comes into its own, blending beautifully with timber, stone and other natural claddings. It also looks wonderful alongside a wide range of roofing materials, including clay tiles (especially handmade versions), cedar shingles and even green roofs.
Copper guttering is widely available in half-round, box and ogee sections – so you won’t have trouble tracking down a suitable profile for your project. You’ll find matching downpipes, corner sections and other accessories – but for a modern touch you could consider using rain chains rather than traditional ducts to direct the water down into the drains.
One of copper’s best qualities is that it ages gracefully over its long lifespan. From the starting point of a gleaming orange-brown it transitions through deeper reddish-brown hues over the first few years, before ultimately developing its characteristic blue-green finish over 10 or 20 years. When it’s used in conjunction with some of the materials mentioned above, you can expect your home to grow in character and value over time. But if you just can’t wait for that glorious patina to develop naturally, it is possible to have the copper aged in situ after installation (a process that takes just a few hours).
Copper doesn’t expand and contract as much as some other metal guttering products. This extra stability means that it doesn’t usually need to be fitted with expansion joints, even on long straight runs. Where connections are required – such as between sheets of copper guttering, at downpipes and at corner detailing – this malleable material can be easily formed and soldered.
Some systems make it even simpler. “Any competent tradesperson can fit copper guttering with no need for specialist tools,” says Rosalie Hoare. “With our products, the profiles are joined together with minimum effort using silicone sealant and copper pop rivets.” So a robust, leak-proof installation should be quick and easy to achieve on the majority of domestic projects.
Nevertheless, for most homeowners it’s advisable to use a professional fitter rather than go DIY – especially if there are any cuts or soldered joints to be made on site. This will also give you the reassurance of having a fallback should there be any issues with the installation.
Prices start from around £16 per linear metre for half round copper guttering. Add in the brackets, straps and other accessories – all of which will need to be copper – and you can expect a complete system to come in at around £40 per m. That puts it at around double the price of some PVCu and aluminium setups (and on a par with cast-iron). But this characterful metal offers the opportunity to give your home a unique finish that needs virtually no maintenance and will last for generations to come; so the long-term value cannot be understated.
Published: Build It magazine November 2014
Main pic: Half-round guttering starts from £20 per linear metre at Coppa Gutta
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