Buying a Seamless Gutter Machine
Selecting the machinery in which you will invest for your new seamless gutter business is a major step and will be the foundation on which your future success will be based. It deserves your attention, care, research, and careful decision making.
There are about a dozen machine manufacturers in the U.S. Some machine manufacturers have been in the business for more than 40 years, others for perhaps 10. In addition to a seamless gutter machine, you may want equipment to manufacture downspouts and elbows.
What style of rain gutters?
First you must decide what kind of metal rain gutters you are going to market. Rain gutters can be produced in various shapes and sizes. Do you want to sell K-style (OGEE), box, fascia, or half-round gutters? Your choice will probably be dictated by the demands of your customers. The most common residential gutters are the K-style, but local markets can vary with differences in styles as well as different widths to accommodate different rainfall amounts. There are also special market niches that may be profitable. It is important to know the market in which you intend to compete.
Seamless Gutter Machines
A seamless gutter machine is a type of roll forming machine that shapes flat metal coil stock to form a rain gutter. Roll forming metal is a technology that dates back about 100 years, although it was not applied to the gutter industry until around 1960. A gutter machine makes sections of variable length, as required by the specific installation. Each machine is designed to create a very specific shape. A machine designed to make a K-style gutter can produce only K-style gutters.
The exact design of the gutter formed by different machines also varies. The most critical issue is the width of the gutter to be produced. Machines are available that can produce 5-, 6-, or 7-inch-wide K-style gutters. Wider gutters can carry more water, but use more material and are therefore more expensive. Which size do you want to market? What size is in most demand in your market? Is there a particular market niche that you want to try to fill?
It is possible to buy a seamless gutter machine that can make two different sizes of gutters, for instance both 5-inch and 6-inch K-style gutters. The industry refers to these machines as Combination machines and are typically more expensive than a single-size machine, but less expensive than buying two different size machines. If both sizes are in demand in your market it could be a good investment.
Other Design Features
Some models are trailer mounted, others are not. To make gutter of different colors you will need different rolls of stock material. The gutter machine should be able to hold more than one spool of material. Also, the stock can be aluminum, galvanized steel, galvalume, CopperPlus or copper, and of different gauge/thickness. What does your customer require? Does the machine run all of the different materials and all gauges? What kind of adjustments of the machine, if any, are required if you change the kind of material or gauge? How hard and time consuming is the adjustment process? How much material is normally consumed in the adjustment process?
Some machines require that material be loaded in the machine when the machine is transported to prevent damage to the drive rollers. Polyurethane drive rollers eliminate this need. This can be an advantage. Do you want hard chrome steel rollers or stainless steel rollers? What about power requirements – 110V or 220V AC, 60Hz or 50Hz? New equipment or used? There is a lot to think about, many choices to be made.
Buy from Factory, Dealer or Current Owner
Less than a dozen companies in the U.S. manufacture equipment for producing gutter machines. Will you try to buy from the factory or from a dealer? If the dealer is nearby he may be able to provide both service and parts in a timely fashion. Does the manufacturer have a reputation for good service and support? What about the dealer?
There are also foreign manufacturers. Can a foreign company provide comparable support to you in the U.S.? Will foreign exchange rates adversely affect parts and service costs?
Service, Support, and Warranty
Who will service your machine when repairs and adjustments are required? If it will be a dealer, where were they trained? What is their availability? The factory service department is probably more skilled, but what is their availability? How will waiting for service impact your job completion? What about parts? How long is the equipment warranted? What warranty applies for service and replacement parts? All these things can have an affect on your bottom line.
Competition and Market Prices
There is very strong price competition between manufacturers in this market, resulting in a relatively small spread of prices for comparable machines. Also, there is a relatively small difference between the prices for new and used equipment. As new machines have the most current technologies, and will include warranty coverage, this may weigh heavily in your selection.
Many factors are involved in selecting your seamless gutter machine, the secondary machinery for downspouts and elbows, and the source from which you decide to purchase these machines. But with good maintenance, service, and care, this equipment will provide the foundation for profitable business operations for 20 or more years. Weigh your options carefully.