Interview with the factory’s chief engineer on the EasyFix assembly system
"People should be able to ASSEMBLE their gutter system QUICKLY, PROPERLY and CONVENIENTLY".
In order to get a handle on the finer points of the EasyFix quick-assembly system, we decided to interview the VINYLON factory’s chief engineer. Who better than the system’s creator himself to tell us all about the fascinating intricacies of his engineering marvel? Where the idea came from and how it works – that’s the main focus of our interview.
Chief Engineer, VINYLON
S.Strelov: We were trying to create a system that would be convenient to assemble before anything else – a system that could be installed in any region of the country at any temperature. We wanted to make sure that it would be just as simple to dismantle as it would be to assemble because, as we soon learned, some consumers have to dismantle their gutter system for the winter period. More generally, we were guided by the idea that the system should be convenient, reliable and durable.
Question: How did the work progress? What did you tackle first, and what did you leave for later?
S.Strelov: We conducted a satisfaction survey of the gutter systems already available on the market, and we started off designing the parts that were causing the most gripes – the brackets. Having studied the brackets of our competitors, we tried to make our brackets more reliable and easier to assemble than those offered by other manufacturers. That’s how we came up with the maximum universal number of fasteners per bracket, for example.
Question: What do you mean by the maximum universal number of fasteners?
S.Strelov: The mounting holes in our brackets are located vertically at the top and bottom, as well as horizontally to the right and left. This makes it possible to install the brackets on virtually any surface – all but on a construction board just 53 mm wide. Our task was to position the two side holes of the bracket at a distance that would fit into those 53 mm. The standard construction board measures 150 mm high by 53 mm wide. With the roof sitting on top of it, it can be cut perpendicularly to the ground, leaving a saw cut, and the plastic bracket can be fastened right there in those 53 mm.
Question: Other manufacturers don’t allow for that?
S.Strelov: Everyone does it their own way. Some manufacturers don’t have the right-left holes in the brackets, others don’t have the top-bottom holes.
Question: I’ve heard that roofing bolts can be used for installing the Vinylon gutter system. Is that true? What’s the advantage of that?
S.Strelov: Gutters are usually installed by roofers, and they tend to use the tool that’s most handy. Roofing bolts normally match the color of the roof. The roofer installs a brown roof, grabs a brown roofing bolt, mounts the gutter, and the bolt is invisible. It’s no coincidence that our gutters come in neutral shades – brown and white. Our holes have a diameter of 6 mm, while the bit diameter of a standard roofing bolt is 4.8-5.5 mm. The washer of a standard roofing bolt has a diameter of 14 mm, which is how we arrived at the distance we did between the holes and the body of the bracket. All of the fittings, including the sleeves and collars, feature special grooves so that the roofing bolt can be inserted properly without interfering with anything.
Question: Roofing bolts can’t be screwed into other systems?
S.Strelov: It’s possible in some systems, although roofing bolts don’t fit into the brackets of many systems. What’s more, other systems are often hindered by the short distance from the body of the bracket itself – when you start screwing, you find you can’t screw the bolt in completely because the head gets in the way, which ultimately prevents you from mounting the trough. There are systems with bolt holes inside the bracket, but how would you ever screw the bolt in? We put our bottom hole on the outside. You can start screwing in the top bolt, mount the whole gutter, put the bottom ones where you need them, and finish screwing them in once the entire system has been installed.
Question: Tell us, how did the interlock system for fastening the trough to the brackets and fittings come to be known as “granny’s change-purse?”
S.Strelov: As I already mentioned, we started designing the system with the bracket. We developed the shape of the trough at the same time. It was important to us to make sure that the trough would fit easily into the bracket, and that’s how we came up with our special snap-lock system. It’s that same nib-type fastening found in old-fashioned change-purses. We all remember those two nibs snapping in place. The one nib glides easily along the other precisely because both shapes are so smooth. It’s the same thing in our system – it can be easily assembled and dismantled, although once it’s installed it stays securely in place and won’t pop out on its own. For that, you need to exert some effort and use the flexibility of the trough or the bracket. Because there’s a little play there, the trough moves easily in the brackets. Once you’ve snapped a three-meter trough into the brackets, it can easily be moved left and right.
Question: It isn’t the same with other gutter systems?
S.Strelov: Many gutter systems are designed in such a way that once you’ve snapped a trough into a bracket or sleeve, you won’t be able to get it back out again. Our system can always be adjusted at any stage of work on the house. The troughs can be easily removed – or shifted without removal. When you start the installation process, you don’t always know exactly where the trough will stop. You fasten a three-meter-long gutter to all of the brackets, mount it into the sleeve, and suddenly find that you’ve got 10 cm left over. It happens. You moved the trough a bit, marked the spot, and made a straight cut right there. If the trough has been fastened in tight, in order to get into each bracket you’ll have to erect some scaffolding or set the ladder up every 60 cm for each bracket, climb up, trim off the trough, get down and climb up again. In our system, it all happens in the course of one ascent – you climb up, mount the trough once into the brackets, climb up the ladder in one spot and make the necessary adjustment.
Question: Can you tell us about the system’s reinforcement ribs? What are they used for?
S.Strelov: We tried to avoid straight lines in our reinforcement ribs. All of the bends in the trough – even the small ones – have been designed radially, so that from an engineering standpoint, there are no right-angled bends. If you look closely, even the bends that appear right-angled are slightly rounded. It’s called diffusing angle tension, and it’s intended primarily to prevent product breakage so that the ribs don’t break off over time or during shipping and installation. The reinforcement ribs give the entire system its graceful look. You place the trough at a certain angle and it doesn’t twist up every 20-30 cm.
Question: How do they help in the installation process?
S.Strelov: The reinforcement ribs for our gutter form a kind of upper ledge. As a result, we don’t have any sharp edges that have to be pressed down on. Instead, the installer presses down on a flat surface, which in our case measures roughly 10-12 mm. I spoke with some installers who do gutter-installation work. They explained that when you’ve been installing all day, you wind up pressing down on the end of the trough and start cutting your fingers by about the tenth interlocking section. The end of the trough is sharp, and you’ve got to use a lot of pressure. It’s like with hard cheese. In order to cut it, you have to press down hard on the knife from above. How much are you really going to cut like that – maybe 10 slices, and then you’ll quit. It’s the same thing with gutter systems. The people who install them have to work quickly and professionally, and for that they’ve got to have convenience. Along our flat surface it’s snap, snap, snap and presto – the job’s done.
Question: The Vinylon gutter system also features micro-supports – what are they, why have they been included, how do they make the installer’s life easier, and what effect do they have on system operation?
S.Strelov: The marks, micro-supports and other markings on all fittings are a technical element of the system. All system elements interfacing with the trough have maximum protruding marks and feature supports that prevent the trough from sliding to one side or the other. Depending on the time of year the material expands or contracts, allowing for a shift in trough position to the left or the right. If supports aren’t added – to the sleeve, for example – the trough can list too far to one side and block the sleeve opening. In order to avoid having to climb up to fix it, the sleeve features supports that the trough can rest against as necessary.
It isn’t hard to include them on the products – they don’t make the system more expensive, but they do provide great hints for the installer. In general, anyone who isn’t a professional installer can refer to our installation instruction pamphlet and, without being a genius, put the system together using these hints. All of the fittings have recommendation markings such as the “insert to here” line. It’s the line used when installation is taking place in statistically-average conditions, which we deem to be from 0 to 20 degrees.
Question: Can the VINYLON gutter system be installed at temperatures below zero?
S.Strelov: The composition of the compound and the product itself allows for installation at temperatures as cold as -20 degrees. All of the system elements that interface with the trough – corner, joint and central sleeve – feature special markings for installing the system at anywhere from 0 to -20 degrees. It’s the smallest, unendorsed marking located at the edge of the product.
Question: What do you like about the Vinylon gutter system?
S.Strelov: I like that it turned out the way we originally conceived of it. It’s attractive and easily installed. People like it, and the brackets are sturdy. It really turned out quite stylish.
Question: Could I install a Vinylon gutter system?S.Strelov: Sure – anyone can do it.