Gutters perform an important job: They channel water away from your house. Although gutters are a given for preventing flooded basements, landscape erosion, and damaged siding, there are many to choose from. Here’s a guide to different kinds of gutters along with their strengths and weaknesses.
4 Basic Kinds of Gutters
There are four basic types of gutters:
1. K-Style Gutter
The most common type of gutter is the K-style gutter. They are popular for several reasons: K-style gutters handle impressive water flow, look sharp, and are easily the strongest design.
These gutters have a flat bottom and flat back while the front usually bears a decorative cut, such as a curve or ogee, making them resemble a K. They are designed to complement home exteriors with their curvier style. K-style gutters are easy to install, too. You only need nails to attach their flat backs on the top edge of your home – the fascia board trim – without brackets.
This gutter style fits close to the wall, ensuring that no water runs down the side of the house. They come in different sizes, but the two most common ones include an industry standard 5-inch gutter and a 6-inch one for high volumes of water.
- Easy to install
- Highly durable
- Ideal for areas with frequent downpours
- Affordable and modern-looking
- Hold more rainwater than any other type of gutter
- Prone to erosion
- Clog easily
- Inner angles make gutter cleaning challenging
2. Half-Round Gutter
Half-round gutters are traditional-looking rather than decorative, especially in comparison to K-style gutters, but they look great on architectural, historic, brick, or older homes. They have a semicircle trough with a curved lip.
The open gutter shape might require gutter guards to prevent leaves and debris from piling up and clogging the gutter. This type of rain gutter doesn’t sit flush against the wall or fascia board, and generally, you need brackets to secure them in place.
Just like K-style gutters, they come in 5 and 6-inch widths but half-round gutters do not have the same capacity to hold rainwater. They’re usually made from copper to complement rustic homes, which will also form a patina over time.
- Easy to maintain
- Rust and corrosion resistant
- Less likely to clog
- More difficult to install for the average homeowner
- Heavy, yet handle less water than K-style
- Not good for heavy rainfall
3. Custom Fascia Gutters
If you’re fond of a seamless, contemporary look for the exterior of your house, this is your pick! Fascia gutters are created and installed by a professional because they aren’t sold in sections that will fit together to form a gutter.
The professional will devise a custom system from a single, long piece of aluminum. This aluminum piece is tailored to your roof’s pitch and other measurements of the house. This design also minimizes leaks or rust since there are no seams. Fascia gutters are also larger than half-round or K-style gutters, which is why they work great for homes with large roofs. Their large size is designed to handle more rainwater and sudden rushes of water.
- Highly durable and secure
- Great for extreme weather conditions, including storms
- Leak and rust-proof
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Cannot be installed by yourself
- High maintenance
4. Box-Style Gutters
Box-style gutters are oversized and primarily used in industrial or commercial structures. Nonetheless, you can hire a professional to tailor them for residential homes, too. They’re appropriate for handling large amounts of gushing water from larger roofs. The standard sizes include 7-inch and 8-inch widths, but you can also go for larger sizes like 10-inch.
This gutter style differs from traditional rain gutters in that it isn’t hung at the edge of your roof. Instead, box-style gutters feature a high back section that tucks securely under the shingles. And due to this, box-style gutters can only be installed when the house is under construction.
- Ideal for big homes
- Highly customizable
- Easy to clean
- Seamless and leak-proof
- Handle high volumes of water
- High maintenance
Different Kinds of Materials Used for Gutters
The longevity and durability of your gutters mainly depend on what they’re made of. Here are a few common materials used in gutters:
The most common and popular material for gutters is aluminum. It’s rightly favored because it resists rust and lasts longer than steel or copper. It is also lightweight, making it easy to install and work with.
Aluminum is the best gutter material to work with if you are a DIYer. You can paint it a variety of colors to match your home’s exterior. Aluminum is a reliable material used both for commercial and residential properties. It can last up to 25 years if it’s cared for adequately.
- Lightweight and easy to handle
- Available in a variety of color options
- Cannot withstand extreme temperature fluctuations; will warp
- Prone to dents and bends because the material is thin
Copper is easily the most expensive gutter material, but the extreme durability and strength justify the price. This material does not warp, bend or rust even under extreme weather conditions. It’s perfect if you want to add a traditional touch and a beautiful shine to your home’s exterior.
Like wine, you will find copper gutters only get better with age. They develop beautifully distinctive patinas as they oxidize and age, and there’s no need to paint them or worry about mold or mildew growing on them. Copper gutters can even last up to 100 years if installed properly.
You will mostly see half-round gutters made out of this gutter material. They are perfect for complementing old houses or adding a traditional touch to new homes.
- Unfazed by extreme temperature fluctuations
- Very long-lasting
- Won’t warp or rust
- Does not require painting
- Not DIY-friendly
A great choice for DIYers, vinyl is a rather easy material to work with for rain gutters. They’re super easy to install, and the PVC and plastic composition ensures they have a long lifespan. The best thing about this material is that you never have to worry about rust or corrosion affecting it, even with minimal care.
Vinyl is inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to work with. This material is not affected by salty air, which makes it perfect for beach homes. The only caveat is that in case of improper installation, you may get water pooling in certain sections of a vinyl gutter.
- Easy to install and handle
- Great for DIY projects
- Waterproof and long-lasting
- Prone to bending or cracking in cold climates
- Limited color options (only white)
Although steel comes with a heftier price tag, it makes the sturdiest gutters out of all gutter materials. Steel holds up to all weather conditions very well and can also be customized and painted to match your home’s exterior.
Galvanized steel gutters are covered with zinc for additional protection. They require professional installation because they need soldering and are pretty heavy to handle. They’re perfect for homes that experience wet weather and heavy rainfall. You can expect steel gutters to easily last you 20 to 30 years. However, galvanized steel needs regular maintenance as it’s prone to rust and water damage, too.
Stainless steel gutters don’t rust and are costlier than galvanized steel ones. This material is heavy and will not only make the installation process harder but will also come loose more easily due to the extra weight on the gutter hangers.
- Extremely strong
- Can be customized
- Withstands all weather types
- Prone to rusting
- Requires regular maintenance
- Very heavy
Zinc makes one of the most low-maintenance gutters and is a perfect choice if you’re looking for a blend of durability and affordability. Pre-weathered zinc gutters don’t rust or get nasty scratches because they develop a self-sealing patina to prevent it. Zinc gutters are made with a mix of titanium and copper that increase their strength further.
They’re very durable and long-lasting, and a good-looking zinc gutter may last you for 50-80 years. This material also requires professional gutter installation as the ends and joints must be properly welded.
- Won’t rust or crack
- Resist warping
- Very long-lasting
- Attractive patina
- Not suitable for DIY gutter installations
- Won’t do great in salty or acidic climates
Gutter systems can be complicated too! Especially if you don’t know what half of the terms and phrases mean. Some of these terms may also be confusing and hard to remember, which is why we’ve put together the most important ones for you here.
- End caps: End caps fit at the end of each gutter to seal the opening.
- Downspouts: These tubes connect with the gutter and carry water down to a collection vessel or simply the ground.
- Downspout elbow: The angled piece at the bottom of a downspout is called its elbow. It performs the same function – directs water away from the foundation of your house.
- Mitered Corner: This is a piece of your gutter that fits on the corner of your roof.
- Hangers: The metal strips that support the gutter from the bottom and prevent it from sagging or separating from the structure.
- Section: A section is a unit of measurement for each gutter piece.
- Splash guard: An additional piece of gutter material that extends above the gutter wall to prevent water splashes up and over the gutters.
- Slip joint: It is used to cover the seam where two sectional gutters join together on a straight wall.
Frequently Asked Questions About Gutter Options
Zinc and aluminum gutters may last for a good 25-50 years. But if you’re looking for a more high-end option, then copper gutters are your pick. They can last for 80-100 years.
For an average home, a 5-inch width for gutters works the best. Houses with larger roofs and more expected volume of rainfall may require 6-inch gutters.
If you have large trees around your property and/or windy conditions, you definitely need gutter guards to keep any kind of gutter from clogging.
All gutters perform the same basic function. But choosing the right gutter style will prolong its life, let it perform better, and reduce your headache. And if you feel like you need a specialist at any point, you can always reach out to a gutter pro for help.