Who needs paint?

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For your customers, they collect rain in a beautiful and stylish manner. For you, they can collect the kind of margins that will keep you going back for more.

We’re talking about unpainted gutters — manufactured from natural metals or exotic metals like copper and zinc. From homes to historical buildings, unpainted gutters are definitely the “make-a-statement” touch when it comes to rain handling systems.

According to the most recent survey conducted by Metal Roofing Magazine and Gutter Opportunities, almost 42 percent of readers who install gutters, install copper gutters. Terne or stainless steel gutters, as well as zinc gutters, are installed by 8.2 percent of readers.

Generally, painted gutters — steel or aluminum — are supposed to blend in or match colors on the building. Unpainted gutters provide the customer or architect with a unique aesthetic that stands out.

A little bit of everything
Frank Heneghan of Connecticut Gutter likes working with unpainted gutters — copper, zinc and even galvanized steel.

“We’ve done some work with one architect who likes the look of galvanized steel,” Heneghan says. “It’s cheaper than aluminum and it’s got a good look. He uses it like an accent, but a flamboyant accent that stands out. Most architects try to make the gutters blend in.”

Heneghan says it’s a little heavier than aluminum at its .032-inch thickness and more rigid. He says it can be sealed of soldered, but soldering reduces the life expectancy (anywhere from 12-20 years) of the material because the bead will begin rusting in as little as 2-3 weeks.

Heneghan’s company also installs zinc and copper gutters and has found there is almost no limit to the application possibilities. “We’ve been installing quite a bit of zinc for residential lately,” he says. “The zinc products, from RHEINZINK, are superior products. People that come over from Europe or who do their research know what they want. They like the look and they know it’s going to last a long time. They want it because it’s robust.”

Connecticut Gutter’s installations of copper run the gamut as well, including jobs at the University of Connecticut, a private high school with a brick façade and several homes with cedar shake roofing. “Those homes just call for copper,” Heneghan says. “Even the small 200-year-old cottages get copper because they want to keep the traditional look. If they can afford it, they want it.”

Copper beauty
“They come to us looking for copper, we don’t usually have to sell them on it,” says Laura Tucker, a sales representative at The Copper Gutter Shop of Orleans, Mass. The Copper Gutter Shop offers copper gutters and copper gutter parts like elbows, end caps, outlets, miters, hangers, downspouts, eave boxes, conductor heads, step flashing, hangers, rivets, nails and dozens of other copper gutter accessories. “Copper upgrades everything you have. It all adds huge value to your home.”

Tucker says occasionally there will some objection to the cost of copper, as compared to aluminum, “but 99.9 percent of the time, they recognize the value and go with copper.”

The Copper Gutter Shop serves as a regional distributor of copper gutters and accessories, with offices around the United States. “Copper gutters are used a lot on residential projects and on historic buildings, churches, museums,” Tucker says. “People like the traditional look and they like to have gutters that don’t look like everyone else’s painted aluminum gutters. It adds a lot to a home.”

Sometimes, homeowners choose to install copper gutters on the “show side” or front of their home and go with painted aluminum on the backside to save some money.

Tucker says customers of The Copper Gutter Shop are mostly installers and some do-it-yourselfers. She says there are staffers who will assist with technical issues like installation and selecting the proper gutter size for a specific square footage of roofing, as well as working with dissimilar metals. “We’re always careful to talk about any galvanic reaction with copper,” she says. “It’s part of the education.”

The Copper Gutter Shop also offers any accessory help — number of downspouts, hanger spacing, etc. Tucker says most of the copper gutters she sells are half-round gutters. The one question she hears most is, “Do I really have to solder copper?” She says it’s the preferred method, but copper gutters can be overlapped and sealed.

On The Copper Gutter Shop website (www.copperguttershop.com), it says. “Copper gutters leave the realm of utility and enter the arena of architectural detail. In the right hands, downspouts and catches take the look of sculpture. With each passing year, copper reaches new levels of patina. With a quality installation, foot traffic passing a home will stop and note the detail. Whether a Victorian, brick-faced town home or a colonial from the 1700’s, we know, that copper guttering is a small touch that will make a big improvement to your home’s exterior. If historic renovations are in order, then copper guttering may be a requirement.”

Chris Industries of Northbrook, Ill., offers contractors onsite roll forming of copper gutters and custom downspouts, as well as technical services and advice — for those who work mostly with aluminum gutters. “We’ll even talk to homeowners who want to talk to a higher authority on copper,” says Ryan Hill of Chris Industries. And that’s important because copper will cost upwards of twice as much as aluminum gutters for materials — and more for installation because of the need for soldering. “Still, when you take into account that copper is maintenance free and will last at least 70 years, it’s the least expensive gutter to install if you divide it by years of service,” Hill says.

That lengthy service is why Chris Industries highly recommends soldering copper gutters in all instances. “There are situations when you can’t, but when you’re using a sealant, you’re limiting the lifespan of the gutters to the life expectancy of the sealant, not the copper,” he says.

Chris Industries (www.chrisind.com) is a fabricator distributor of gutters and accessories. Most of the unpainted gutters Chris sells are copper, though they offer zinc and stainless steel gutters as well. “Primarily copper is being installed on higher end new construction residential projects,” Hill says. “We’re installing it everywhere in the Chicago area, mostly in the big money suburbs, North Shore.”

Hill, who presents a CEU program on architectural copper for architects, says 70 percent of those gutters are half-round gutters and the rest are K-style gutters.

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