PVCu/Plastic is by far the commonest and the cheapest option around. There are dozens of manufacturers which also offer roofline materials in a variety of colours and styles, as well as different sizes. PVCu is cost effective and long lasting, a good quality system will last 25 years of more and you can even get colours and profiles to mimic cast iron. The disadvantages are that the cheaper options may need replacing in ten years and the rubber seals used to join sections are often the weak point, shrinking and cracking as they weather producing leaks. Cast iron was the main material used for guttering and rainwater pipe before the advent of plastics. It's still used, but mostly for conservation work.
Cast iron is very long lasting, with some 19th century pipes still in good working order, plus it looks great, especially on period-style homes. On the downside to keep it in good order it needs repainting at least every five years and is expensive to buy. There are also a surprising variety of other metals used for rainwater pipes and guttering, including copper, galvanised steel and aluminium. All of the these metals offer many years of maintenance free service and look great on contemporary-style homes. They cost slightly less than cast iron models, but are not quite as robust.
Guttering and drainpies should be part of the overall roof design, in modern properties PVCu is most often use, period homes, cast iron is the favourite, although copper is sometimes used on barn conversions. Guttering is available in various materials up to 3m lengths and should be fitted sloping gently downwards towards the running outlet in order to provide effective drainage. Guttering needs to be fixed at 1m intervals with a support bracket.
Gutter union brackets connect two gutter pieces and gutter angles are available to run guttering around a corner. The stop end outlet is fitted at the end of the guttering to close the pipeline, and the Hopper is the funnel shaped rainwater collector that diverts rainwater into a downpipe. The downpipe itself is available in lengths up to 2.5m and is fixed to the wall with a specially designed bracket positioned near the top of the first pipe and then every metre after that.
Fitting rainwater systems is within the scope of competent DIY enthusiasts, but you must be comfortable working at heights and possess all the safety equipment required. For those who do not have the equipment, skills, head for heights or time - roofing specialists can carry out the work for you and will often source all the goods to your specification. The usual rules apply when hiring any tradesman, go with personal recommendations wherever possible and always get at least 3 detailed written quotes to compare. Never pay for the job upfront and always check references too!
Typical costs for hiring a roofer to replace guttering in an average property are around £900 if using uPVC, £2200 for cast iron (including materials and labour). To get an exact price for your property, use the free "post your job" quote service on this site to have local recommended roofers get in touch with you to arrange a visit and provide a written quotation for the job.