Compare the Top Rated Gutter Materials: Best & Most Popular Types of Gutters
They're often a second thought (or even third), but gutters direct rain and melted snow runoff away from your home, protecting your foundation. They come in a wide array of styles and sizes but the gutter material may be the greatest indicator of how well it stands up against the elements.
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What Are the Gutter Styles?
When it comes to gutter styles, you have numerous options. The most common include:
- K style gutters: Also known as ogee gutters, this is the most popular gutter style in America. They don't resemble a K at all but instead have a flat base and a depth of around 5". The outer wall resembles crown molding, which is part of this style's charm.
- Half round gutters: Unlike K style gutters, this one is exactly what it sounds like. They resemble a half circle, with the open side facing up (obviously) to catch rain and roof runoff. They aren't as effective as the K style, because they aren't as deep. In addition, the hangers are visible instead of hidden.
- Fascia gutters: Popular in the Western states, this gutter style is typically reserved for homes whose rafter tails aren't covered by fascia boards. The gutter face is smooth and hides the rafter boards.
- European gutters: Known mainly for their material, such as the natural-weathering copper. They're usually in the half round style but have a bead that turns outward rather than inward.
Types of Gutter Materials
Gutter systems come in a variety of materials, as well. The most common include:
- Aluminum: Lightweight, rustproof, cost-efficient, and durable, it's no wonder aluminum is America's most common gutter material. The heavier the stock (thickness maxes out at 0.032") the better aluminum gutters withstand the weight of ice, snow, branches, and ladders. Standard colors are white and brown, but you can repaint them any color you prefer. Avoid aluminum if your roof contains copper, as it leads to corrosion over time.
- Copper: Although typically the most expensive gutter material, copper offers beautiful weathering, minimal contraction and expansion, and natural resistance to rust. With proper care, copper gutters last 100 years or more.
- Stainless steel: One of the strongest materials available, stainless steel doesn't rust and is virtually indestructible. However, you will pay significantly more for stainless steel gutters compared to galvanized steel.
- Steel: Strong but expensive, you don't see a lot of steel gutters on homes. They expand and contract the least, but unlike stainless steel, these corrode with proper care. For greater rust resistance, choose galvalume steel, which has a protective coating of aluminum-zinc.
- Vinyl: With only a few tools required and no need for sealant, vinyl gutters are popular with the do-it-yourself crowd. The most common colors are white and brown, but you also find gray gutters. Vinyl expands and contracts, so cut the piece that connects to the downspout according to the corresponding temperature marking. These gutters are easy to clean but they may become brittle over time, especially in colder areas. They also don't hold up as well as metal gutters due to the shorter screws used to attach them.
- Wood: Although once common, wood gutters today are mainly used to maintain historical homes and other buildings. The most common wooden gutters are made of cedar, fir, or redwood. Despite their relatively short lifespan, wood gutters cost significantly more than aluminum and vinyl.
- Zinc: Most zinc gutters contain trace amounts of copper and titanium, which is why they develop a patina that helps protect them from corrosion. Although zinc gutters cost more than aluminum, they last twice as long, making them less expensive over the life of the home. They're also low maintenance and do not require painting.
In addition to style and material, you have a few other options to consider when choosing gutters for your home.
Your first decision is whether you want sectional or seamless gutters. If you're going the DIY route, though, your only option is sectional, which come in lengths up to 20' but can be cut to any size. Connectors join the sections together, as well as to the downspout. However, there is the danger of leaks developing at the join. Seamless gutters have joins only at the corners and downspout. But their size requires installation by a contractor.
Gutter size refers to the width of the gutter, not the depth. The standard for most gutter systems is 5", which is ample for nearly any home. If your goal is keeping the gutter from clogging, installing leaf guards and a larger outlet are more impactful than choosing a 6" gutter.
Author: Angela Escobar