Rain gutters are crucial for protecting your home from the elements. They direct rainfall away from the main structure to prevent direct water damage and latent effects such as mold and mildew. However, despite being such a simple component of your home, the world of gutters features its own language. Gutters come in various styles and materials, and there is vital information the average homeowner 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 the best 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 might need them, and our expert recommendations for the best gutter guards on the market.
Why Do Houses Need Gutters?
Gutters are a core component for the day-to-day function of your home. By channeling rainwater away from the structure of the home to designated drainage areas, gutters help prevent several common, costly issues. This includes mold and mildew due to moisture penetration, siding and foundation damage, and fascia-board rot. Gutters can also keep your basement from leaking or flooding and will protect your landscaping from trenching and erosion.
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.
Understanding a Gutter System
Below, we’ve defined some of the core components and concepts of a home’s gutter system. This overview will help you better understand the gutter’s design and its role in protecting your home.
- 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 siding and 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.
- Hanger: This is a metal bracket installed on the fascia board to secure the horizontal gutter section.
- Pitch: This is the angle at which a horizontal section of the gutter is tilted. This angle forces rainwater to flow towards a downspout and is crucial to proper gutter function.
- Seams: Many gutter designs have seams where individual lengths of gutter connect. During installation and routine maintenance, you must apply a gutter sealant to prevent these seams from leaking water.
- Splash block: This plastic or concrete surface is placed under a downspout to direct water away from your home, avoiding pooling around the foundation and possible trenching during heavy downpours.
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.
Our Rating Methodology
The This Old House Reviews Team backs 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 email@example.com.