Rain gutters are one of those things you don’t notice until they’re broken or missing. Gutters protect your home from water damage by directing water away from the walls. Sounds simple enough, yet rain gutters come in a variety of materials and designs, each with different features. We’ll help you dig through the options, so you can confidently pick a rain gutter that will work best for your home.
Why Rain Gutters Are Important
Rain gutters bring a number of benefits. Let’s break them down into concrete examples:
- Imagine exiting the house, ready to go wherever, and rain pours down the roof straight onto your head. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, does it? Well, a rain gutter system can prevent that from happening by collecting rainwater and having it pour down the spout, straight onto the ground. Basically, it controls the rain flow and keeps it away from you.
- Rain gutters also keep water away from your basement and prevent it from being flooded. The downspout, which is a curved piece that’s part of your gutter system, will divert the water onto the ground and away from your home’s base.
- If you didn’t have rain gutters, the water pouring down the roof would splash onto the ground, perhaps straight onto a garden bed. The dirt would splash all over the exterior walls of your house, drenching them in soil and water. This could also the paint to chip away, eventually putting you in a situation where you have to repair the walls.
As you see, rain gutters are essential to keeping you and your home safe, clean, and dry.
Types of Rain Gutters
There are different ways in which we can classify rain gutters, so let’s explore how the different types can be more or less suitable for your home.
1. K-Style Gutters
On homes built during the past 50 years, you’ll most likely find K-style gutters. These types of rain gutters are characterized by a flat back, meaning they are nailed straight to the fascia board. The advantage is that you won’t need any brackets with this gutter type.
What makes these gutters popular is that they are highly decorative, and, thanks to their shape, they typically have a larger water capacity compared to other types of gutters. That’s one thing that makes them really popular in rainy climates. However, one of the major drawbacks is their shape, which makes it very difficult to clean them. The inner angles collect dust and debris more easily than round gutters.
2. Half-Round Gutters
These are open half-rounded gutters. Because of their trough-like shape, they are very prone to gathering all sorts of debris, which is why homeowners usually choose to install leaf guards to protect the gutter as much as possible. This very shape, however, makes them easier to clean. Nevertheless, you’ll have to get up on a ladder to clean them on a regular basis.
Another drawback of these gutters is that they’re more difficult to attach to the fascia board. They are most likely found attached to homes that are older than 50 years. Because of their smoothness, they are less likely to corrode and they don’t trap water as much as other types of rain gutters.
3. Aluminum Gutters
Aside from different shapes, gutters also come in different materials. Aluminum gutters are the most popular choice on the market, and they are quite easy to install if you are passionate about seeing through your own home improvement DIY projects. There many benefits to turning to aluminum gutters, including rust resistance or choice of colors.
They are also amongst the most sustainable choices on the market since they can last up to 25 years before they might need replacement. However, their durability isn’t all that well-defined, since they are prone to bents and dents. Note that aluminum gutters are available in three thickness options: 025-inch, .027-inch, and .032-inch.
4. Vinyl Gutters
Vinyl gutters are the least expensive option on the market right now, but this low price comes with sacrifices that might not be all that worth it in the long run. They are the least durable option of all. While they can still last about 20 years when properly cared for, severe weather conditions can cause them to break down sooner.
When exposed to sunlight for longer periods of time, they are also likelier to fade. However, they are still popular since are inexpensive and lightweight. Much like aluminum gutters, vinyl gutter can be painted. They aren’t prone to corrosion and rust, either. However, their fragility can’t be overlooked. They tend to crack when exposed to freezing temperatures for a longer period of time, and they might even suffer damage if you lean a ladder against them.
5. Zinc Gutters
Zinc gutters are some of the best choices on the market because of their prolonged durability; they can last up to 50 years, which is twice as long as aluminum gutters. This, of course, will depend on the climate in your region (for instance, they tend to be less resistant if you live in an area with salty air, such as near the ocean. People tend to not be attracted to these gutters because they have a rather dull gray color in the beginning, but they tend to get more attractive in time.
They can’t be installed as part of a DIY project, which means that you have to call in a professional to install them and weld their ends. They are rather expensive and are typically preferred on high-end homes; you can expect to pay anywhere between $10 and $22 per linear foot. However, if you are willing to pay that much, they are definitely worth the investment.
6. Steel Gutters
You’d think that steel rain gutters are the most resistant ones of all but they fare only slightly better than aluminum gutters. Make sure that you purchase gutters made from galvanized steel, as they are designed to be more resistant to rust. Even if the importance of leaf guards can’t be contested, they’re particularly important when it comes to steel gutters. Steel gutters rust way faster when leaves start piling up inside them. Stainless steel gutters are less likely to rust but are also more expensive.
Due to the high weight of steel, they aren’t easy to install by yourself, so you will most likely have to call in a professional to help you out with that. The price of the gutters will depend a lot on whether or not you opt for galvanized steel instead of regular steel. Overall, we’re talking about really strong products, resistant to all kinds of weather conditions. They can also be painted, which is a real bonus if you want the exterior of your house to look in a certain way.
7. Copper Gutters
Copper gutters are arguably the most aesthetically pleasing choice. The shine does eventually turn into a greenish patina, but that doesn’t stop people from choosing copper because they just love the vintage look. Copper is a really durable choice as well, but it’s also the most expensive one of all.
It’s not a good idea to try and install copper rain gutters by yourself. However, it is really important to note that they can last up to 100 years with the proper installation and welding. They are very durable in all types of weather conditions, and it’s very unlikely that they will rust or warp. Even so, the price is usually a major turn off for people who fancy the idea of having copper gutters.
What About Custom Made Gutters?
Also known as fascia gutters, these particular types of gutters are designed to fit a particular house. They aren’t something that you can purchase from Amazon, as they are custom-built and require professional installation. That makes them more expensive, but also more efficient compared to other types of gutters out there. Their seamless design is what makes them stand out from the crowd. Once attached to the fascia board, they are very attractive from a design point-of-view.
Not only are these types of rain gutters expensive, but they also tend to be deep enough to collect a lot of debris, which makes regular cleaning a mandatory chore. We don’t recommend them unless you’re ready to carry the extra financial or physical burden.
Which Type of Rain Gutter Should You Get?
You can’t really go wrong when choosing a rain gutter because it mainly comes down to how much money you can invest and how much time you want to spend on maintenance. Keep in mind that rain gutter materials are just as important as the shape and style of the gutter. If you can afford it, go for zinc or copper gutters, as they are the most durable choices. Cheaper options come with their own limitations and workarounds.
Before you choose a rain gutter, consider whether you’ll need a gutter guard and which type will work best for your house. If you go with a LeafGuard gutter guard, for example, you won’t need a separate rain gutter. Have a look at our guide to the best gutter guards for more details.