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Gutter Machines 101: Everything Contractors Should Know
Gutter machines are excellent investments for general contractors, roofing specialists, and companies in various other trades. Learning all you can about gutter machines, including care, maintenance, and even transportation, can have a positive impact on your company’s overall profitability by creating a significant return on your investment. Below, you can read about the best ways to choose (and care for) the right gutter machine, tools, accessories, and materials to ensure that your new investment works like new for many, many years to come.
Profile & Sizes of Available Gutter Machines
The first thing you should consider before you purchase a gutter machine is the gutter sizes and profiles you are most likely to install for your clients. Typically, you will find gutter machines in 5”, 5.5”, 6”, and even 7” sizes, and you can even find 5” and 6” combination machines. Most contractors will benefit the most from 5”/6” combo gutter machines as they offer the most versatility, but there are some exceptions. If you work in an area where rainfall is scarce – or where rainfall rates are typically low – you may not need to produce anything above 5”. On the other hand, if you work in an area were torrential rainfall is common, or if you have numerous industrial clients, a 7” machine may benefit you.
Gutter machines also allow you to make gutters in different profiles, and the most common include half-round, K-style, and fascia gutter profiles. Each of these offers up its own unique set of benefits for home and business owners in your local area, so be sure that you find out which gutter styles is most common among your clientele. When you decide which sizes you will provide in your area, be sure that you purchase the materials and accessories recommended for those particular sizes.
Gutter machines are investments, especially for smaller contractors and roofing companies, so it is important that you have all the best information available if you really want to utilize your gutter machine to help your company grow. Some of the best ways to do just that include:
· Offering more value to your clients. If there’s one thing that home and business owners appreciate more than anything else, it’s the ability to get multiple projects done quickly and affordably. That’s exactly what a gutter machine will allow you to do. Rather than having to scour the local area for gutters, call multiple companies, and wait a long time for someone to install their new gutters, you can do the job for them. This saves your clients time, money, and trouble, which is always a good thing.
· Buying raw materials rather than finished products. Whether your company already installs gutters or you’re considering the idea of adding it as a service, you will save money over time by buying the raw materials rather than buying finished gutters. In fact, with a bulk discount and a gutter machine, you can generate significant revenue by adding gutter installation to your services list.
· Building your reputation. The more services you can offer, and the more affordably you can offer them versus your competition, the better your reputation will be over time. After all, people are more likely to recommend professionals who do quick, great work for an excellent and competitive price.
The Different Gutter Machine Manufacturers
Like other types of machinery, numerous companies manufacture gutter machines and accessories, and each one of these companies is different in its own way. Two of the most popular manufacturers are:
· Ironman – Ironman gutter machines are some of the most popular in the industry, and they come in a wide variety of sizes, profiles, and types. Whether you need 5”, 6”, 7”, or a combination of these – or even a next-generation smart gutter machine – Ironman offers it all.
· New Tech – Another of the biggest names in gutter machines, New Tech also offers a variety of options that will help you provide value to your clients. Their Mach II series comes in 5”, 6”, and 5”/6” combo sizes to suit all your needs, and they also make a 7” commercial gutter machine, as well.
Each of these companies will also allow you to “build your own” gutter machine from various parts and accessories. If you need something very specific, this may be the best choice.
The Various Options that are Available for Your Gutter Machine
Before you decide based on size, profile, and manufacturer alone, there are a few other important considerations. Size and style are important, but you should also consider the drive roll material, shipping and delivery options, accessory options, and whether the machine is new or used.
· Drive roll material – The two most common options are polyurethane and steel, and polyurethane is by far the better option in almost every case. They are far lighter, they create less material waste, and they are free-floating, so you don’t have to carry them from one project to the next. You can also create gutters with 24-gauge steel with polyurethane, and this is simply not an option with a steel drive roll. Just keep in mind that the polyurethane options will cost more upfront.
· Shipping and delivery – Gutter machines are heavy and quite large, which can present some unique challenges for shipment and delivery. Most of the time, it can take as long as a month for the machine to arrive. Many purchases qualify for free shipping, but you may be able to upgrade to express delivery for an extra fee.
· Accessory options – The accessories available for your gutter machine depend on the manufacturer as well as the machine size and style. Some of the things you will need to run your machine efficiently include spools and a guillotine, and in some cases, these come along with the gutter machine as a bundled package. However, you may need to buy them separately. Other options include things like run-out stands as well as both machine-mounted and floor cradles.
· New or used gutter machine – Last, you may be tempted to buy your first gutter machine used if you want to save money, but this is typically best reserved for those who are familiar with them. These machines must remain perfectly aligned (adjusted) to operate correctly, and older machines tend to be a bit more finicky in this regard. If you choose to add a second gutter machine later down the line after you’ve familiarized yourself with adjusting them, a used machine is a great choice. Otherwise, it is often best to make certain that your first gutter machine is a brand new one.
Maintaining a Gutter Machine
Like any other investment, you will need to make sure that you take the time to maintain your gutter machine in order to keep it up and running like new for as long as possible. After all, the more use you can get from your new machine, the more profit you can generate. Here are some tips for maintaining your gutter machine to extend its useful life and avoid major repairs.
· Clean and lubricate regularly. These are by far the most important things you can do to keep your gutter machine looking and running like new. Dust and debris will accumulate quickly, so it is best to get in the habit of wiping the machine down at the end of each day. Lubricating moving parts like sprockets, chains, cranks, blades, and guides. Remember that the gears require axle grease and the bearings inside most gutter machines are sealed and self-lubricating, so they require no additional lubrication.
· Inspect your machine regularly – especially the electrical components. Looking over your machine now and then will help you spot any potential problems early on, which can save you a great deal of money in terms of repairs. If you find any loose or bare wires or connections, stop using your machine until you can get these repaired.
· Store your gutter machine as recommended by the manufacturer. You should never leave a gutter machine out in the open where it can be subject to rain, snow, and other precipitation. Invest in a gutter machine cover at the very least, or better still, keep it inside in a climate-controlled environment. If you will not use the machine for more than a few weeks, apply a thin layer of wax to the rollers to help prevent any buildup or corrosion.
Various Trucks and Trailers Available for Transporting Your New Gutter Machine
After your gutter machine arrives, you will need to find the best way to transport it from one jobsite to the next. It is crucial that you do everything you can to reduce the effect of typical movement and shock that comes from transporting your machine. This includes putting material between the gutter roll formers, ensuring that the entire machine is secure, and performing a thorough inspection after each trip. Most companies tend to use box trucks to move their gutter machines as they provide an enclosed, safe environment that will help to extend their lives. It is also possible to utilize an enclosed trailer, though these tend to create a great deal of vibration.
Open trailers are not ideal, though they can be used to transport your machine relatively short distances on smooth pavement. When utilizing the latter method, be sure to use a gutter cover that has been properly secured to prevent any dust or debris from getting inside the various parts of the machine.
Other Tools & Equipment Necessary to Run Your Gutter Machine
Your gutter machine may or may not come with the various other tools and equipment you need to operate it safely and efficiently. Some of the most common accessories include:
· Coil Cradles – Cradles fit behind your gutter machine where the material enters and hold your gutter coil. This is an absolute must for making gutter machines simpler and safer to operate. You may also be able to buy more permanent machine-mounted cradles, but these are not available for all manufacturers.
· Gutter Machine Covers – A gutter machine cover is an important investment. It fits over the machine to prevent dust, dirt, debris, rain, snowfall, and more from getting into the machine itself where it can cause serious issues. Though a gutter machine cover should never take the place of proper storage, it is a great option for temporary protection while on a jobsite.
· Run-Out Stands – Run-out stands are designed to hold the gutter in place as it exits the machine to prevent any bending or bowing. You should use one stand for every 15 feet of metal at the very least, though many companies prefer to use one stand for every 10 or 12 feet.
· Guillotine – A guillotine may or may not be included with your gutter machine purchase, and while many manufacturers claim it is optional, contractors find it essential. Its purpose is to cut the gutters to length as they exit the machine. It is beneficial because it creates a much cleaner cut than hand trimming, and it is also much quicker, which improves productivity.
· Spools – Coil spools are another must-have. They are sometimes referred to as spindles, and as the name would suggest, they are designed to act as gutter material spools, which make it easier and safer to feed the material into the machine. Spools also protect your gutter material by ensuring a proper feed, which allows you to produce perfect gutters every time.
Different Metals You Can Run Through Your Gutter Machine and What You Need to Know
Your gutter machine is only profitable when you have a wide selection of material for your clientele to choose from. Depending on where in the country or world you work, gutter material popularity will vary a great deal. Some of the most popular options – and the ones you should always keep in stock – include:
· Aluminum – Across the US, aluminum is by and large the most popular gutter material for many different reasons. They are available at a very low cost to homeowners and they have an average life expectancy of 30 years. Aluminum comes in various colors and finishes, including mill finish aluminum, designer copper aluminum, and even copper penny aluminum. Each of these has its own unique look and finish, so no matter what sort of outdoor aesthetic your clients want to create, aluminum has something to offer.
· Copper – Whereas aluminum is one of the most affordable gutter materials on the market, copper is one of the costliest. It is commonly used in historic renovations and on large homes with a very luxurious aesthetic appeal. Copper lasts for generations, and while it may look like a brand-new penny for a short while after installation, it will gradually develop the green patina that is popular and loved by many. It is not only attractive, but it is also highly beneficial. As the sulfate builds on the copper due to oxygen exposure, the thicker it becomes, the more it protects the metal from corrosion. It is this patina that makes copper gutters last for centuries.
· Galvalume – Galvalume is an aluminum- and zinc-coated steel product that allows home and business owners to reap all the benefits associated with all three of the metals. Galvalume has the strength and durability of steel with the corrosion and rust resistance of both aluminum and zinc. The steel is hot-dipped in a coating consisting of 45% zinc and 55% aluminum. The material has a bit of architectural sheen, and as it weathers, it does so more evenly than other materials. It has been tested in every imaginable environment and climate since 1975 and remains a favorite today.
· Galvanized Steel – Galvanized steel differs from Galvalume in that there is no aluminum used in the process; sheets of steel are hot-dipped in zinc which provides them with unsurpassed corrosion resistance. The zinc creates a barrier between the steel, which is strong but known for its susceptibility to corrosion and rust, and the air and moisture in the outdoor environment. The result is a longer-lasting and more aesthetically pleasing steel gutter system that is perfect for homes, businesses, and industrial centers.
· Pre-Weathered Zinc – Zinc, much like copper, builds a patina over time that not only looks amazing, but also provides outstanding protection from the elements. Pre-weathered zinc is essentially zinc that has already been patinaed, so it is anti-corrosive and beautiful right away. Zinc gutters are not as popular as aluminum, vinyl, or even steel, but they are growing in popularity in many places due to their low-maintenance design.
· Vinyl – Finally, when it comes to affordability, vinyl is by far the best option. You will want to use a vinyl made from premium resin with a strong urethane seal. Vinyl is among the simplest material to install, it will never rust or corrode, and you will need no special tools or sealants to install it. In fact, vinyl is one of the most popular choices among homeowners, so be sure to stock up in white and dark neutrals, such as browns. Keep in mind, though, that exposure to the sun as well as the freeze and thaw cycle can make all types of vinyl more brittle over time, and it can also cause the coloring to fade. At this price point, though, the functionality and look can’t be beat.
Making Adjustments to Your Gutter Machine
Last, but most certainly not least, be sure that you have a plan in place for adjusting your gutter machine as necessary. Gutter machines are wonderful pieces of equipment and can provide you with a significant return on your investment, but they can only do this when they create beautiful, functional gutters without any problems due to alignment or adjustment issues. As such, consider the three following options.
· Take an adjustment course yourself. The manufacturers of gutter machines understand that there is a learning curve when it comes to adjustments. As such, many of these manufacturers have complete courses in various places across the country where professionals and experts will teach you how to make those adjustments on your own. Before you go this route, keep in mind that you will need to pay for the travel costs and the course, and you will also need to be able to set aside time as necessary to adjust the machine.
· Have an employee take the course and train others. Some contractors have benefitted significantly from sending one or two of their employees to take the course, then come back and train the other employees – including the company owners. If you have employees who are mechanically-inclined (or who have a degree in a mechanics field) and who you can trust, this may be the best course of action. The more people onsite who know how to make the adjustments correctly, the better.
· Hire a professional to make any necessary adjustments. If your company is still quite small, but growing, you may choose to hire an expert in your local area to make the adjustments as needed. Adjusting your machine is a part of its routine maintenance, so if you go this route, you may want to consider hiring someone to clean, lubricate, and adjust your machine all at the same time.
For the latter option, gutter machine experts sometimes travel across the country providing service to various contractors, and while this may be more convenient for you when it comes to regular maintenance and adjustment, it can be problematic if you need an adjustment right away but you don’t know how to do it. As you can see, it is important to weigh your choices carefully.
If you have been thinking of purchasing a gutter machine, or if you have already purchased one and you’re curious about the best way to turn a profit, these tips can certainly help. To sum up, choose a machine that produces the gutters your target demographic prefers in terms of size, style, and material; maintain, transport, and store your machine as per the manufacturer’s guidelines; and have a plan in place for making any necessary adjustments both during maintenance and on the fly.