One of your home’s most crucial systems when it comes to protection against the elements is the rain gutter. The primary function of a gutter system is to collect and direct excess rainwater and melting snow away from the foundation, siding, and prevent ground level erosion. Truly, the best gutter for your home is one that accomplishes this feat quickly and efficiently. That being said, it’s important to make a well-informed decision as you peruse through available styling and materials to find which is best for your home and your budget. In this article we will take a look at the most common styles and materials.
Anatomy of a Gutter System:
Shapes: For brevity, we will focus on K-Style and Half-Round. We will also touch on Fascia and Box gutters.
Half-Round Gutters – This classic style is one that is often found on older, more historic homes and structures. Copper is a very popular choice when choosing half round gutters, but it is quite expensive, as we will touch on later. As a homeowner, it is important to note that although this gutter type is visually very appealing, it also provides a smaller capacity than K-Style Gutters. That being said, half-round gutters are known to be more efficient and drain more thoroughly than K-Style because of their curved sidewalls.
Fascia Gutters – Fascia style gutters typically are tall, narrow, and cover the entire height of the exterior fascia of the roof. Due to the above-average depth, this style may prove difficult to clean over time.
Box Gutters – Often times referred to as square gutters, these are known for their deep, wide troughs, and are void of any aesthetic value that a K-style or Half-round provides. Although an option for your home, these types of gutter systems are typically reserved for commercial builds, where function trumps form.
Now that we have grasped the basics of gutter design, we may move on to the typical materials available.
Vinyl: Vinyl is the least expensive, most DIY oriented option for gutters. They have become a favorite of homeowners because of the ease of installation (most sections simply snap together), and because they are not susceptible to rot, rust, or corrosion. Despite the positive upsides of Vinyl, they tend to be limited in color assortment, and are prone to becoming brittle in cold climates, as well as fading due to UV rays over time. Avoid placing ladders against this material.
Aluminum: This is the most preferred material amongst homeowners and contractors alike. Not only is aluminum cost efficient, it also boasts the advantages of being lightweight, rustproof, and also holds paint very well, unlike vinyl. Aluminum maintains its integrity in very cold climates as well, and as an added perk, is available in sectional or seamless models (more later). One drawback of aluminum is that it is a softer metal, and is prone to denting from storm damage and the like. Link – how do I know my home has been affected by storm damage? Denting of aluminum products may be avoided by selecting a thicker grade.
Steel: Moving to steel gutters, we will start with galvanized.
Galvanized steel gutters may be infused with zinc, zinc-aluminum alloy, or sometimes with chrome (stainless). These are also available in seamless or sectional. Galvanized are very popular because of their competitive cost, coupled with integrity. A major drawback of galvanized however, is the rust factor. Although structurally very sound, they will begin to rust typically within 8-15 years depending.
Stainless steel gutters are considered to be one of the best materials in the industry. They will not rust, and maintain their shine for years on end. The main drawback here is price. Also, steel products tend to be much heavier, and a professional install is recommended
Zinc: Known for its durability and long lasting nature, zinc is often used on higher end residences and historic builds. Professional installation is required for this material as well, due to the technical nature of bonding sections. Zinc, like copper, will develop a matte grey patina over time, which helps protect the material from corrosion. Although zinc is quite expensive, the lifespan is much longer than many of its counterparts, and is only available in Half-round shape.
Copper: Last, but certainly not least, copper rain gutters are regarded as the most beautiful material on the market, not to mention nearly indestructible. Copper gutters are offered only in half round shape, and are significantly more expensive than any other product we have discussed. Professional install is also required for this material. Just like Zinc, Copper develops a protective patina over time. Copper never needs painting, and should last upwards of 100 years in any climate.
Now that we’ve covered the shapes and materials typically used for most gutter systems, the last question you need answered is Sectional or Seamless?
Sectional: Most materials used for gutters are only available in sections. These sections are typically installed via attachment to the fascia board portion of your roof. These are obviously the most DIY friendly, with exception to some that require professional install, and are also beneficial because of usual ease of replacement. Sectional gutters are also typically more economical because they don’t require a custom fabrication job. Cons are that color schemes may be limited depending on your choice of materials. Also, with more seams come more potential for leaks other structural compromises.
Seamless: Seamless gutters offer an aesthetic smooth look, more color choices, and minimum potential for leakage. Seamless gutter jobs typically take place at the residence in question, where an on site custom fabrication job will be done then and there. Aluminum is the only option available for seamless. The only drawback here is that these may not be installed as a DIY job, which of course means that there will be more cost incurred by the homeowner.