Popular Materials for Rain Gutters

Gutters

Homeowners need to regularly maintain (and repair, if need be) their gutters and downspouts to prevent drainage problems. Good drainage around a home is important. When gutters and downspouts along the roof get clogged or have leaks, homes can sustain damage from storm water that has overflowed or backed up. Poorly maintained gutters can cause basement leaks, damage to exterior walls and even damage to the foundation. Clogged gutters are also inviting to insects and rodents. Most experts recommend inspecting and cleaning gutters twice a year. However, gutters on homes surrounded by trees may need more frequent cleaning and those far from foliage may need less.

For those who need to replace their rain gutters and downspouts because of rust, leaks, damage or a remodel, it is important to consider one’s climate, budget, house design and taste when making a decision. Before putting money into rain gutters, make sure the funds (like the gutters) will not wear away or need replacing regularly. Here are things and materials to consider when making a decision:

Plastic or vinyl gutters and downspouts are sturdy, easily cut to size and the simplest to install for do­ it­yourselfers. They are invulnerable to rot and rust, and a very affordable option initially. However, vinyl and plastic are not very durable and do not work in all climates. For example, they do not last in areas that get extreme weather, either hot or cold. If they get a lot of sunlight, plastic or vinyl gutters tend to become discolored and ultraviolet rays can even deteriorate the materials. Better quality vinyl ones generally retain color longer, but will cost more. In colder parts of the country, plastic gutters are not a good idea. They can become brittle and crack. Another longevity hazard is that tree limbs, heavy ladders and items being carried by the wind also easily damage plastic and vinyl gutters. As a result, while cheaper initially, they can cost more in the long run depending on the climate.

Aluminum is the most common material used in rain gutters today. Aluminum is lightweight, relatively easy to install, resists corroding and is less expensive than other metals. It does not rust and can be painted. These gutters are available in different thicknesses or gauges, which offers homeowners more resistance to almost any climate. For example, the thicker kind is recommended in snowy areas. But, be aware that aluminum can easily be damaged by tree branches and wind-borne debris, bent by ice or high winds, and are prone to developing seam leaks. As a result in gutter systems today. It is lightweight, easy to install, resists corroding and is less expensive than other metals. It does not rust and can be painted. Aluminum gutters come in different thicknesses or gauges, which makes it more weather resistant and suitable in almost any climate. For example, the thicker kind is recommended in snowy areas. But, be aware that aluminum can easily be damaged by tree branches and flying debris, bent out of shape from ice or high winds, and are prone to developing seam leaks. As a result, the gutters and downspouts might need repair or replacement sooner than more durable materials.

Galvanized metal and stainless steel gutters are stronger and a better choice in for homes in areas that experience harsh weather regularly. They cost more to purchase and install, but may not cost more over the long run because of reduced maintenance needs..

Galvanized metal gutters wear well and are commonly used. Galvanized metals are less aesthetically pleasing and will rust or corrode over time, if not properly maintained. They also need to periodically be painted, inside and out. That said, it is a sound option for houses in areas that get extreme climate conditions.

Gutters made out of stainless­steel gutters are the hardiest, but also one of the most costly options. They resist damage from weather conditions and from flying debris in wind storms. Stainless steel gutters generally keep their sheen and can stay rust­free for 20 years.

Wooden rain gutters made are rare and mainly used for aesthetic purposes on older homes to make restorations more authentic. Wood gutters are beautiful but not practical. They are expensive and prone to rotting when exposed to heat, water and other elements. They are also vulnerable to damage from termites. In the old days, wood gutters were made from old growth cedar, which is rarely available today. So, wood gutters being installed today use new growth cedar, fir, redwood and hemlock, which are more resistant to rotting.

Copper gutters and downspouts are also chosen for their aesthetic appeal. Copper gutters are handsome, give homes a distinct decorative flair, are durable, never rust and never needs painting. Copper rain gutters can oxidize and discolor over time if not treated periodically with a high­quality sealant. While easy to maintain, copper is the most expensive gutter material in common use.

Making a Decision

All gutter systems handle rainfall and water runoff, but the local climate should help narrow down the options available for gutter materials. The amount of snow, rainfall, ice, wind and extreme heat that can be expected make a difference in the materials that work best for gutters, how long they will last, and the size or thickness to choose.

If trying to decide between the aesthetics and weather concerns, talk with the neighbors, real estate professionals, staff at the local hardware store and others who have lived in the area for years to gather real­ life experiential information. This should help in determining the best choices of rain gutters and downspouts that are best suited for the local climate and budgetary concerns.

By Dyanne Weiss

Sources:
U.S. Raingutter Institute
This Old House
Home Advisor

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