Rain gutters are crucial for your home’s security and day-to-day function. They direct water away from your siding, roof, and foundation, helping you avoid foundation settlement, mold and mildew, corrosion, basement flooding, and other water damage. However, despite being such a simple component of your home, the world of gutters features its own language, various styles and materials, and other vital information the average consumer may not know.
To better help you understand gutter systems and determine the right one for your home, the This Old House Reviews Team has analyzed customer reviews, warranties, and product specifications for various gutter options. This guide will cover the terms you need to know for gutter installation, the different styles of gutters, and the different gutter materials. In addition, it will cover what gutter guards are, why you need them, and our expert recommendations.
When it comes to gutter installation and replacement, there may be a few terms you don’t hear in your day-to-day life. To help make the process more accessible, we’ve listed some essential gutter terms with their definitions below.
- Downspout: This vertical pipe carries rainwater from the gutters down to a drain or the ground.
- Drainage: This refers to a system of gutters and drainpipes that carry rainwater away from your home’s foundation.
- Fascia Board: This flat board runs horizontally along the edge of your roof. It tends to cap the ends of your roof rafters to provide a more finished look. Fascia boards also provide a base for attaching gutters.
- Drip-Edge Extension: Sometimes called back flashing, this prevents water from running over your fascia board, an issue that may lead to rotting and mildew.
- Drop Outlet: This refers to the hole from which water travels from the horizontal section of the gutter to the downspout.
- Elbow: This prefinished angled piece directs water around a roof corner.
- End Cap: This is the flat piece placed at the end of a gutter section.
- Gauge: This term refers to the thickness of a gutter section. Gauges tend to range from .019 inches to .032 inches. In general, the thicker, the better.
- Hanger: This is a metal bracket installed on the fascia board to secure the horizontal gutter section.
- Leader: This refers to a pipe that carries water from the gutters to the ground, sewers, or wells.
- Miters: This is when a company constructs the corners used for gutters on-site using the same material as the rest of the house. This option leads to a seamless system and a cleaner look.
- Pitch: This is the angle at which a horizontal section of the gutter is tilted. This angle forces rainwater to flow towards a downspout.
- Run Height: This term refers to the height (in stories) at which each gutter run will be located, such as the first story or second story. This measurement is used to determine the length of downspout needed.
- Run Length: This term refers to the section of the gutter mounted against the fascia board in terms of linear feet.
- Splash Block: This plastic or concrete surface is placed under a downspout to direct water away from your home.
- Strap: These are flat hangers nailed into your house to hold downspouts in place.
Types of Gutters
The most popular gutter styles are K-style and half-round gutters, but there are a couple of other types of gutters to know. Let’s take a closer look at each kind below.
These gutters feature a semicircular design and a curved lip. Due to the rounded design, they feature round downspouts. Half-round gutters come in 5-inch and 6-inch widths. Many homes built before 1960 feature this style, so these gutters work well if your home is historic or brick. In fact, local ordinances may require you to have this type of gutter if your home is historic or in a historic neighborhood.
K-style gutters are the most common style of gutter, and they’re also suited for DIY installation. Like half-round gutters, K-style gutters come in 5-inch to 6-inch widths, but they tend to feature rectangular downspouts. Due to their flat backs, you can nail K-style gutters directly to your fascia boards without brackets. However, cleaning K-style gutters is more challenging than other gutters because their inner angles collect a lot of debris.
Custom Fascia Gutters
These are custom-built gutters that provide a seamless, contemporary look. Fascia gutters need to be installed by a professional who will work with you to create a custom-built system made of one long piece of aluminum. The aluminum piece is tailor-made according to your home’s measurements and roof’s pitch. Be aware that you’ll most likely pay twice as much for fascia gutters as half-round or K-style gutters.
Commercial or industrial buildings often feature box-style gutters, but a professional can tailor them to residential homes. Box gutters are oversized and designed to handle heavy rainfall. This gutter style comes in 7-inch and 8-inch widths, and some come as large as 10-inches wide. Due to their size, you will need a larger roof to install them.
Also, unlike other gutters, box gutters are not hung on your roof’s edge. Instead, they use a high back section that tucks under a roof’s shingles. Due to this, box gutters must be installed while your home is being built.
Gutters are made of various materials, with vinyl and aluminum being the two most popular options. However, each gutter material has perks and downsides. We have listed the different types of gutter materials below.
These are the most common types of gutters. Vinyl gutters are easy to install, making them a common choice for DIYers. Made from plastics and PVC, vinyl gutters are not durable and have an average lifespan of 10 to 20 years. Be aware that vinyl gutters tend to deteriorate faster in wetter climates. If your home is in a location with wet weather conditions, you may want to consider a metal gutter, such as steel or copper.
Another great option for DIYers, aluminum gutters are lightweight and rust-resistant. They have an average lifespan of 20 to 30 years, but they’re at a higher risk of cracking than other metal gutters.
Galvanized Steel Gutters
Galvanized steel gutters are more durable and sturdy than aluminum gutters, but they require professional installation due to their need for soldering. These gutters are ideal for homes that experience heavy rainfall and wet weather. They last 20 to 30 years but may rust if not correctly maintained.
Pre-weathered zinc gutters are one of the most low-maintenance gutter options. These gutters are rust-resistant and use a self-sealing patina to avoid the formation of any scratches or cracks. Because zinc gutters are so sturdy, you avoid paying for more gutter repairs or replacements during their average 80-year lifespan.
Copper gutters are very durable. They do not warp, bend, or rust in extreme weather conditions. They also give your home a unique look with a beautiful shine and traditional style. However, copper gutters tend to be the most expensive option and require professional installation.
Consider all the information above to determine which style and material of gutter are best for your home’s needs. If you’re not attempting a DIY installation, we suggest getting three quotes from three different professional installers. This will help you accurately compare offerings and prices.
We also recommend that homeowners invest in gutter guards for their gutter system. Gutter guards improve your gutters’ efficiency, reliability, and longevity by preventing clogs and debris buildup. See our top recommendations for gutter guards below.
LeafFilter features a comprehensive, three-step professional installation process. First, the company installs structural hangers to your fascia board. Then, it adds a frame across your gutters to create a platform for the gutter guard to lay on. Finally, it secures the gutter guard within this frame.
Using both a secure frame and hidden hangers ensures that your gutters stay protected for years to come. In addition, LeafFilter only uses stainless steel micro-mesh gutter guards. Micro-mesh guards are the most efficient kind available, as they catch even tiny debris such as pollen and shingle grit.
- Stainless steel guard material
- uPVC frame material
- Metal hanger material
- Customizable sizes
- Lifetime warranty
All American Gutter Protection
All American Gutter Protection installs micro-mesh gutter guards that are custom-fit to your gutters. The company also offers over 30 color options to match the color of your gutters. In addition, All American provides gutter installation and replacement services if your current gutters are in poor condition.
- Stainless steel guard material
- Aluminum frame material
- Customizable sizes
- More than 30 color options
- Lifetime warranty
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do gutters last?
The lifespan of gutters depends on the material of the gutter. Vinyl gutters last only about 10 years, but aluminum gutters last about 25 years.
Which gutter type is best?
Vinyl or aluminum gutters are often considered the best gutter type. Both are lightweight, easy to install, and never rust.
What is the best gutter size?
Gutters with 5-inch or 6-inch widths handle the rainfall on most houses in most parts of the country, making them the optimal gutter size.
Our Rating Methodology
This Old House aims to provide objective, well-researched reviews of gutter guard and gutter services companies through a transparent and detailed methodology. We rate each company on a 100-point scale to back up our findings and recommendations. Learn more about our rating methodology below:
- Customer Service (15 Points): Does the company provide ample customer support and service through phone, email, and 24/7 support?
- Reputation (14 Points): How long has the company been in business? What rating does the company maintain on the Better Business Bureau? Does it feature accreditation from the website?
- Guard Details (16 Points): What features does the gutter guard have? Does it use micromesh, which is the most efficient gutter guard style? Is it eco-friendly? Does it offer a heated element? How many colors does the gutter guard come in?
- Additional Benefits (20 Points): What additional benefits does the company offer? Does it offer a lifetime warranty, locked quotes, online discounts, or downspout services?
- Services (20 Points): In addition to gutter guard installation, what other services does the company offer? Does it offer removal of gutters, new gutter installation, gutter replacement, or gutter maintenance?
- Payment Options (15 Points): What payment methods does the company provide? Does it only accept cash, card, or both? Does it offer a financing option?
To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at email@example.com.