Gutter Alternatives That Work Just as Well and Look Great

Gutter on side of roof with blue sky scene

Gutters play an important role in protecting your home’s foundation from water damage. However, gutters can be expensive, and they may not match the aesthetic of your home. Don’t worry, there are numerous gutter alternatives that are affordable and look better. 

Despite their advantages, traditional gutters have downsides. Gutters need to be cleaned regularly, or they can clog, form ice dams, rust, leak, and cause water damage to your home. Installing gutter guards can alleviate some of these problems, but that’s another added cost. 

For these reasons, you may want to consider something other than traditional gutters. In this article, we’ll explore the best gutter alternatives that are durable, affordable, and DIY-friendly.

In this article:

Rain Chain

Rain Chain from Gutter
Dquai / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Rain chains are installed under the overhang of your roof and direct wanted downwards from the roof. They’re typically made of metal chains or cups, which collect water and direct it to rain barrels or troughs for later use. Rain chains can be combined with traditional gutters to replace downspouts.


  • Inexpensive
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Slow water flow to minimize damage to landscaping below the roof line
  • Unlikely to clog because there’s no room for debris to get stuck
  • Makes a calming waterfall noise when water flows through
  • Come in a variety of colors and styles
  • Can be installed to guide water into a rain barrel for use later


  • Not great for regions that get heavy rain
  • May require professional installation because the chains are heavy
  • Become heavier when they freeze, which can cause roof damage
  • Large roofs will require more chains, which can become expensive
  • Puddles can form around your foundation if they’re not installed properly

Drip Edge

Often used in combination with gutters or gutter alternative, a drip edge is usually installed during the construction of your home. A drip edge is installed under your roof shingles and overhangs the edge of your roof to keep water from flowing down your fascia boards.


  • Prevents ice dams from forming
  • Inexpensive
  • Gives your shingles extra support
  • Protects fascia boards and soffits from rotting
  • Seals gaps along your roof to prevent unwanted pests from entering the attic


  • Must be installed during the initial home construction process
  • Can cause puddles underneath the roofline and damage your home’s foundation
  • Most effective when combined with another gutter system

Ground Gutters or French Drain

A french drain, or ground gutter, is a great solution for homeowners who don’t want unsightly gutters to impact their home’s curb appeal. Installed underground along the edge of your home, ground gutters collect water and move it away from your home’s foundation. This drainage system is generally made from PVC or plastic perforated pipe. Since ground gutters involve a lot of digging, it’s generally best to leave installation up to the pros.


  • Will not change the appearance of your home
  • Low maintenance
  • Long-lasting
  • Freezing is not a problem
  • Protects your home’s foundation from water damage


  • Expensive
  • Should be installed by a professional
  • If there’s not enough drainage, water can pool around your home
  • Require a lot of materials

Rain Dispersal System

A rain dispersal system is a type of louver system installed just below the edge of your roof. Unlike traditional gutters, which collect water and move it to a downspout, rain dispersal systems use curved louvers to convert water into raindrops and direct it into your yard. This system is great for DIYers and protects landscaping from water damage.


  • Prevents ground erosion below the roof line
  • Easy to install
  • Direct water away from the walls of your home
  • Will not damage landscaping below the roof line
  • Designed to prevent debris build-up 


  • Can be difficult to install on metal or roof tiles
  • Not ideal for all roofs
  • Puddles can form if installation is not well-planned

Drip Path

Commonly made from large pavers, bricks, and concrete, drip paths can easily be installed at an angle under the roof line to direct water away from your home’s foundation. Essentially, water flows off the roof and down the slope of the pavers, instead of pooling or eroding the ground near the base of your home.


  • Will not damage your roof
  • Adds curb appeal to your home
  • Made of a variety of materials
  • Doesn’t damage landscaping
  • Easy to construct


  • Must be installed with the right slope, otherwise, water can pool around your home
  • Too much landscaping nearby can prevent a drip path from working properly

Box Gutters

Man installing the Box Gutter
Ethoseo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Also known as built-in gutters and hidden gutters, box gutters are generally constructed as part of your roof. They’re most common on historic homes and commercial buildings with flat roofs. A major advantage of box gutters is that they’re hidden out of sight, so they don’t spoil the appearance of your home. Because of their boxy shape, hidden gutters are less prone to blockages.


  • Hidden gutter system
  • Requires less maintenance than regular gutters
  • Can be customized based on the amount of rain you get each year
  • Easily handles heavy rainfall


  • Since they’re concealed, homeowners often forget about them and blockages can form
  • Expensive
  • Generally built during the initial construction process
  • Require professional installation
  • Metal will expand and contract in extreme temperatures, leading to leaks and water damage

Frequently Asked Questions About Gutters

What Are the Different Types of Gutter Materials?

There are six popular gutter materials on the market. Here’s a look at each one:
Aluminum gutters are the most popular option among homeowners. They are lightweight and easy to work with, which makes them ideal for DIYers.
Copper gutters are the most expensive gutter material. They offer a unique look to homes and develop a beautiful patina over the years. A bonus? They’re practically maintenance-free and rust-proof.
Steel gutters come in two varieties — galvanized and stainless steel. While each is very durable, stainless steel gutters are much more expensive and will not rust.
Vinyl gutters are an inexpensive option for DIY homeowners. However, vinyl gutters do not hold up well in extreme weather conditions.
Wood gutters are stylish and expensive. They’re generally unavailable in stores because they are a custom option for older homes or new builds.
Zinc gutters are long-lasting, low-maintenance, and corrosion-free, but they come with a hefty price

Doesn’t My House Have Rain Gutters?

Many homes located in a dry climate without heavy rains don’t have gutter systems. They’re simply not needed. It’s also common for homes in Texas and Florida to not have gutters because they don’t have basements and sandy soil drains very well during heavy rains.

What Are Seamless Gutters?

Also known as continuous gutters, seamless gutters are manufactured from one piece of material. Seamless gutter systems require less maintenance, last longer, and are more durable than conventional gutters because they have no joints or seams. However, seamless gutters are more expensive.

Final Word

Water and foundation damage are serious problems for homeowners. If you’re in the market for new gutters and a traditional gutter system isn’t preferred, consider these gutter alternatives to protect your home. Contact one of our home improvement specialists to determine your best gutter solution.

Main Photo by: Canva Pro

Whitney Lehnecker

Whitney Lehnecker

A native of Ohio, Whitney Lehnecker is a career journalist and newspaper designer. She now lives in Central Florida with her husband and two pups, Goose and Bindi.