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Are Gutters Really Necessary?

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Author Icon Written by Mike Miller Updated 04/08/2024

Gutters are necessary for most homes because they protect against potential water damage. A gutter system directs water away from your home, helping prevent mold, mildew, dangerous water buildup, and other water damage around your home’s exterior and foundation over time.

We 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 channels that water toward the edges of your roof and into vertical sectionals called downspouts. Downspouts direct water away from the home into a storage receptacle such as a tank or barrel, into an irrigation system, or onto a plastic tray called a splash block that disperses it on your lawn.
Gutters protect the following parts of your home:
Foundation: Without a gutter system, water will pool around the base of your home. Over time, this soil saturation can cause serious problems such as shifting, cracks, erosion, and flooding in your basement or crawl space.
Lawn: When water pools around your home, it affects more than just the foundation. Pooling water can increase the activity of pests such as mosquitoes, lawn grubs, and termites and lead to soil-related issues like root rot, dead grass, mold growth, and erosion.
Walls: Gutters prevent water from pouring down your walls. This system keeps your siding, internal walls, window and door frames, and utility entry points free of flowing water.

When Are Gutters Necessary?

Gutters are not required by law in most states, nor are they required in the majority of building codes. However, gutters are a vital part of your home’s drainage system.

While most homes will benefit from gutters, some require them more than others. For example, homeowners in regions with frequent rainfall, such as the Pacific Northwest, should invest in gutters. Homes that experience downpours would also benefit from wider gutters to handle the increased rainfall. Here are some situations in which gutters are essential to keep your home in working order:

  • Upward slopes: You’ll want a gutter system if your home sits at the bottom of a hill or other upward slope. Without one, rainwater from these slopes could build up around your home’s foundation rather than moving away from it.
  • Clay-rich soil: You should invest in rain gutters if your home sits on clay-rich soil. Clay-rich soil absorbs, disperses, and drains water more slowly. Because of this, soils with high concentrations of clay can be prone to standing water or heavy saturation issues. Gutters help prevent this by dispersing water more evenly throughout your lawn or draining it into a tank or underground basin.
  • 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 or 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.

A dry, arid climate means less rainwater and puddling. Therefore, homes in regions with a drier climate may not require gutters.
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.
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 prevent water damage, they can also create a few problems. 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, overflowing, and water damage. However, you can combat this problem with routine cleaning and maintenance or investing in a gutter guard system.
  • Ice dams: 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, yet this is often not the case. 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.
  • Incorrect pitch: Gutters require a gentle slope to allow water to drain toward the downspouts. Without the proper slope, water may pool and damage your home. To ensure proper drainage, gutters must have at least 1/4 inch of slope for every 10 feet of gutter run.
  • Leaks: Corrosion, improper installation, or other types of damage can cause gutters to develop leaks over time. To prevent leaks, reapply sealant at the seams or where you see cracks and holes. Check for loose fasteners and damaged downspouts and remove any clogs.

How To Improve Gutters

You can improve your gutters by adding additional structures or installing new gutters made from higher-quality materials. Additional structures can include the following: 

  • Drainage systems such as French drains, rain chains, and underground water storage tanks
  • Gutter guard system 
  • Irrigation hookups
  • Rain collection systems
  • Splash blocks

If you want to improve your gutter system by upgrading its materials, you must remove your old gutters and install new ones. The installation cost of new gutters will depend on the material you choose and the total linear feet of guttering you need. 

Installing vinyl gutters on a single-story 800-square-foot home can cost as little as $3,600. Higher-end materials, such as copper, can cost as much as $97,500 on a 3,000-square-foot home. 

Cost data in this section was sourced from HomeAdvisor.


How To Maintain Gutters

Maintaining gutters can be difficult, dirty, and dangerous. Clean your gutters twice per year at the end of spring and fall, and do general upkeep once per year. 

Gutter maintenance can require numerous tools, such as gloves, a ladder, a gutter scoop, an electric drill, and a stabilizer. You need to be experienced and comfortable working on ladders or roofs. If you don’t have the right tools or skills, we recommend hiring a professional gutter company.


Our Recommendation

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 reliable 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 two of our top gutter guard recommendations below.

LeafFilter

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.

Call for a Free Quote: 855-530-4025

Read More: LeafFilter Review


LeafGuard

LeafGuard offers homeowners a one-step gutter solution. Professionals remove the existing gutter system and install brand-new gutters and downspouts with built-in gutter protection. The reverse-curve gutter cover uses surface tension to funnel rainwater into the gutter while debris slides onto the ground.

Read More: LeafGuard Review


FAQ 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 attach to your fascia board and hang beneath your roof shingles. Therefore, they are easy to remove and replace without touching your roof.

Are gutters worth the cost?

Yes, gutters are worth the cost. While gutters are pricey, the damage that can be caused in their absence is much more expensive. Severe damage caused by a lack of gutters, such as foundation shifting, can cost thousands of dollars to repair.

What happens if you don't have gutters?

A lack of gutters can lead to serious problems for your walls, roof, lawn, and foundation. Gutters direct water away from these essential structures, protecting them and saving you from costly repairs. Without gutters, these structures will be subjected to erosion, water saturation, mold, and other issues over time.  

How often should I clean my gutters?

Clean your gutters at least twice per year. However, you’ll only need to clean them once a year if you have gutter guards in place. You can DIY gutter cleaning, but if you’re uncomfortable on ladders, hire a gutter cleaning company. 


Our Rating Methodology

We back up our gutter guard recommendations with a detailed rating methodology to objectively score each gutter guard product and provider. We conduct research by reviewing product specifications and provider website information, speaking with customer representatives, and analyzing customer reviews. We then score each provider against our review standards for gutter guard design, customer support, the quote process, services, and reviews to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.