Rain gutters are so common you may have never stopped to wonder what they do and if they’re necessary. The short answer is yes, for reasons we’ll get into later. But the most important thing to know is that a gutter system directs water away from your home, helping prevent mold, mildew, dangerous water buildup and other water damage around your home’s foundation over time.
The This Old House Reviews Team has conducted in-depth research to understand the ins and outs of rain gutter systems and determine the best gutter guard companies. This guide explains what makes gutters necessary and how you can optimize your home’s gutter system for maximum safety and stability.
How Gutters Work
Gutters hang off your roof and catch rainwater as it streams down the surface. Your gutter system then channels that water towards the edges of your roof and into vertical sectionals called downspouts. During dry seasons, your downspouts might empty into a tank or barrel for gardening. In other circumstances, downspouts might empty into a drainage system to move water even further away from your home or into a plastic extension.
When Are Gutters Necessary?
In most cases, rain gutters are not required by law. However, there are some scenarios in which gutters are essential to keep your home in working order. Read about some of these situations below:
- Upward slopes: You’ll definitely want a gutter system if your home sits at the bottom of hills or other upward slopes. Without one, rainwater from these slopes could build up around your home’s foundation rather than moving away from it.
- Clay-rich soil: If your home is near a lot of clay-rich soil, you should also invest in rain gutters. Like red clay soil or clay loam soils, clay-rich soils absorb and retain water when wet. This issue may direct water toward your home’s foundation. Think of the clay as a pipeline that continuously delivers water to the same spot. A gutter system counteracts this problem by draining water into a ground-based gutter line.
- Basement foundation: Without gutters, water can enter your home and cause basement flooding. This could be especially bad if you have a finished basement, as there could be water damage to your belongings that could be easily avoided with a simple gutter installation.
- Little to no overhang: If your roof’s overhang fits close to your home’s siding, frequent rain will cause trenches to form where the water builds up. Often, that rainwater remains close to the foundation once it’s absorbed into the ground, causing severe and costly damage over time. Without gutters, you may also experience water damage to your siding.
When Are Gutters Optional?
Though gutters are usually required or highly encouraged, there are some situations in which gutters are optional. We’ve listed them below.
- Downward slopes: If your home sits on top of a hill, you may have to worry less about gutters. Water is more likely to naturally move away from your home if your landscaping and property feature a lot of downward slopes that point away from your home.
- Concrete: If concrete surrounds your home, you already have a protective barrier from rainwater. Examples of this are sidewalks, driveways, patios, streets, and other concrete structures.
- Climate: A dry, arid climate means less rainwater and puddling. Therefore, homes in regions with a drier climate do not require gutters as much as homes in wetter climates.
- Long overhang: If your home’s overhang is between six to 10 inches long, you may be able to avoid installing a gutter system depending on other factors, such as landscaping and your local climate.
Gutter Problems and Solutions
Though gutters help you prevent significant homeowner headaches and problems, they can also create a few problems. However, these can easily be avoided and addressed. Read over the most common gutter problems and their solutions below.
- Clogging: Because gutters feature large openings, debris like leaves, twigs, pine needles, shingle grit, and pollen can build up over time. Birds and other animals can also build nests inside your gutters. These issues cause water clogs and water damage. However, you can combat this problem with routine cleaning and maintenance or investing in a gutter guard system.
- Ice dams: Many people believe gutters cause ice dams, but this is actually because of your roof and attic. When the snow melts and gets into the eaves of a sloped roof, it can freeze there. This results in an ice dam, or a buildup of ice. Because gutters are next to your eaves, it appears that your gutters are causing the ice dam. Like clogs, routine maintenance of your attic’s ventilation and insulation helps you avoid this issue. Gutter guards with heating elements can also help you combat ice dams.
Gutters are necessary in most cases. However, if you want to know whether or not your new construction or home improvement project requires gutters, consider the property’s landscaping features, the climate, the overhang, and the foundation type. If you find that you do need gutters, we recommend that you get at least three quotes from three gutter installers to compare pricing and offerings.
We also encourage you to consider investing in a gutter guard system. Gutter guards block debris from entering your gutters and push it out. Then, you can rake up the fallen debris or knock off standing debris with a broom. We have listed some of our top gutter guard recommendations below.
LeafFilter offers a comprehensive professional installation process for gutter and guard protection systems. First, the company cleans and prepares your gutters for its stainless steel micro-mesh gutter guard. Then, it installs hidden structural hangers to your fascia board and adds a frame across your gutters to create a platform for its gutter guard to lay on.
This process maximizes stability so that your gutters stay protected for years to come. Micro-mesh gutter guards are also the most efficient type of gutter guard on the market. Their mesh is fine enough that it can combat ice dams in most weather conditions.
- Stainless steel guard material
- uPVC frame material
- Metal hanger material
- Customizable sizes
- Lifetime warranty
All American Gutter Protection
All American Gutter Protection also installs stainless steel micro-mesh gutter guards and gutter systems. All of the company’s guards are customized to your home’s existing gutters. All American offers more than 30 color options to match the color of your home. The company’s gutter covers are also entirely rustproof and backed by a lifetime warranty.
- Stainless steel guard material
- Aluminum frame material
- Customizable sizes
- Over 30 color options
- Lifetime warranty
Frequently Asked Questions About Gutters
Do gutters increase home value?
Yes, gutters increase your home’s value if the job is done right. A new gutter and gutter guard system adds to your home’s value because it increases the functionality of your home. Additionally, if the gutter or gutter guard system includes a lifetime warranty that’s transferable to new owners, you can increase your home’s sale price.
What is the life expectancy of gutters?
The lifespan of gutters depends on the type of gutter. The most common types, galvanized steel and aluminum gutters, feature an average lifespan of 20 years. More high-end options, like copper gutters, can last up to 50 years.
Can I replace gutters without replacing my roof?
Yes, you can replace gutters without replacing your roof. Gutters are often attached to your fascia board and hang beneath your roof shingles. Therefore, they are easy to remove and replace without touching your roof.
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, eco-friendly, or 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?
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