Cast iron downspout boots are the perfect choice for protecting your downspout line in areas of heavy traffic, and thanks to popular "industrial" design craze, they are often chosen for their pure utilitarian looks, too. In many cases they are chose for a combination of the two.
What makes cast iron downspout boots different than the other kinds, such as sheet metal or even plastic, is the pure structural strength of cast iron. Unlike the lighter materials, cast iron is nearly indestructible; you can drive over it, bury it underground, drop it from tall buildings, subject it to extreme temperatures and leave it exposed to the elements, yet it will rarely "give" or "go out." (There are limitations, as I'll discuss further in this article).
Another difference is the overall appearance of the part itself. A cast iron downspout boot has that distinctive "cast iron pipe" look: Round with a texture unique to cast iron (you've undoubtedly seen this in other cast iron parts). While different companies might have slight variations regarding the appearance of their downspout boots, these differences are relatively miniscule. Why? Because the process of casting iron doesn't lend itself to anything much more "geometrically" different than round.
While other metals are easy to bend and press into shapes, iron isn't. Besides, cast iron isn't pressed into shape, that wouldn't technically qualify as "cast iron." The term "cast" is a reference to the process used to work the iron into shape - it isn't a type of iron per se.
When To Use A Cast Iron Downspout Boot
There are several reasons why cast iron downspout boots make a better choice than other materials. Here are a few:
The rigidity of casted iron is unlike any other building material. Plastic and sheet metal (including aluminum, tin and others) can't hold a candle to the abuse cast iron can take. So if your application calls for strength or rigidity, this is probably your best bet.
For instance, if you downspout system is in a high traffic area, or runs near or under an area where extra strength is needed (such as a driveway), the other materials might not hold up. The results could prove catastrophic, from leaky pipes to all-out failure. This is especially hazardous if the boot itself is placed near or against a foundation, as the leak could cause costly problems.
Designers, architects and even DIY homeowners often choose the popular "utility as style" look. This utilitarian approach to design places strategic aesthetic weight on the very same parts that previous design styles attempted to cover up. Almost any modern design book or architectural text book will include several options that feature utility pieces as center points, be it cast iron pipes, large valves, HVAC ductwork, electrical conduit and more.
This movement has gathered even more momentum in such design circles as "steam punk," where folks place an emphasis on the steam-powered mechanical parts and looks from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
How Much Do Cast Iron Downspout Boots Cost?
Because these contain more materials than their counterparts, they usually cost more. But the added cost is a result of thicker construction, so you're getting more "beef" for your dollar, if you think about it that way.
You can expect to spend more for bigger diameter downspout boots than smaller ones, naturally. And you'll probably find higher price tags on the more complex units, such as those with multiple connections (male or female), threaded ends and a longer overall length.
Or if you need an unusual size or shape (typically an odd angle), you can probably expect to spend more, as you'll need to custom order them.
Where To Buy Cast Iron Downspout Boots For Cheap
You shouldn't have much problems finding these, the general sized ones are plentiful on the market. But you might want to shop around if you're looking to find the best possible deal. Here are just a few places that sell them:
Home Improvement Stores
Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace and the other national home improvement store chains should have a pretty decent selection of these iron boots. Look for rain gutter section, and if you can't find what you're looking for, check out the plumbing isles. The nice things about these stores is the employees in each department are usually trade specialists in the specific fields, so you'll get plenty of help if you need it. Plus, if they don't have what you're looking for, custom ordering is very easy.
Building Supply Stores
These stores cater to professional builders and tradesmen (like plumbers), so they'll often have more heavy-duty "industrial strength" stuff that your average home improvement store won't. These guys usually have even more experience than a typical Home Depot employee, so they'll be able to answer even the most unusual question. The downside is that these stores usually sell on volume, so unless you need multiple cast iron downspout boots, you might end up paying a higher price-per-unit.
Irrigation Supply Stores or Pipe Yards
These places have anything and everything related to water (rain gutters and associated parts included). Not every town has one, but if yours does, go check it out. Talk to the customer service person and explain what you need and see what they've got. The only downside to these kinds of stores is that they often require some sort of membership fee, which might not be a big deal if you're working with these kinds of parts on a regular basis (perhaps you already have a membership?), but if you're only looking for one cast iron downspout boot, you might find that you're paying more for your "club dues" than the part itself, and maybe that's not a worth investment?
Most building supply and home improvement stores have websites that actually offer more products than you'll find at the store itself. Depending on which one you log on to, finding what you need might be simple or the most difficult 45 minutes you'll ever spend. Or you could check out the stock at Amazon, they don't always have cast iron boots, but when they do you can often find some pretty good deals.