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Taking America by stormwater: European zinc roof drainage system offers aesthetics and effectiveness

The basic function of a roof drainage system is to collect stormwater runoff and channel it away from the building. The market now offers many gutter, downspout and accessory options that can provide this primary drainage function. In today's world market, there are many product options that offer a number of styles, profiles, materials, aesthetics and attachment methods over a wide range of price and performance levels. Over the years, the European producers have redesigned copper and zinc roof drainage as a complete "system" unlike other domestic (k-style, box or half-round) designs. Zinc gutter systems, which are an everyday commodity in many European markets, are now readily available from many North American distributors-and the price may surprise a few when compared to copper, stainless steel and some coated-metal alternatives.

The Benefits

Natural gray aesthetics, low ecological footprint and good durability are all attributes of zinc. However, it's the system design and ease of installation that helps close the deal for many first-time installers. Offering a good combination of functionality, beauty and classic German engineering, the RZ gutter system is produced using a heavier gauge material-0.03-inch (0.7-mm) -compared to the 16-ounce copper material-0.02-inch (0.549-mm)-most domestic fabricators use. The combination of high performance and full system design is what makes the European gutter system special.

Half-Round Shape

Thanks to the geometry of the half-round gutter, the dependence on slope to move water is greatly reduced compared to flat-bottom gutter designs. Even a minimal pitch toward the outlet is effective for moving water while also providing a more desirable aesthetic, as level gutters tend to look better from the street than gutters with slope. Watertight gutter connections typically are made by soft soldering though a zinc gutter adhesive soon will be available. Thanks to tight fabrication tolerances, the gutter sections nest tightly so a proper solder joint can be achieved. The half-round shape is also the most efficient use of material for a given volume.

 

Support From Below

Another fundamental difference between European gutter design and the American way is the method of gutter support or attachment. European gutters are supported from below with brackets rather than hung from above. Cradling a gutter from below is structurally preferred rather than hanging a gutter from the outside metal edge. Gutter brackets also help provide a clear and uninterrupted waterway for cleaning and maintenance. European brackets are not mechanically attached to the gutter, allowing the system to expand and contract as temperatures change, reducing many thermal stresses.

Accessories: Funnels and More

The weak link in most gutter installations is the connection between the gutter and the downspout. Traditional drop-in outlets create two problems: First, the hole must be smaller than the downspout. Second, the outlet installation creates a dam at the low point where water is directed to flow down, resulting in ponding water. The European solution to this problem is a larger hole in the gutter that sheds water to the smaller downspout opening. The simple solution that satisfies this transition problem is a funnel or gutter plug-in. Essentially, it is a friction-fit collection box that is easier to install. The result is 30 percent increased drainage flow for about the same installed cost.

Other engineered accessories include prefabricated seamless gutter corners, snap-on end caps, downspout adapters and two downspout hanger options. Finally, if you are interested in harvesting rainwater, the European system has a spliced-in rainwater diverter that collects water in your rain barrel.

Adding Sales With Better Value

The system is the key to European gutters. Improved water flow, ease of installation, stronger bracket alternatives and designer aesthetics make European zinc gutter systems a high-performance gutter value. As more contractors and architects become aware of this European option, they will understand how easy installation and happy customers translates into more sales.

Steve Shull, CSI, CDT, LEED AP, is the regional sales manager at RHEINZINK America Inc., Woburn, Mass. For more information, go to www.rheinzink.com.