Like many other homeowners, you may have wondered whether a gutter system is even necessary for your home. After all, gutters tend to attract nesting birds, are prone to debris and clogging, and can eventually break or warp. If you live in a warm climate with almost no rain throughout the year, then you may not require a gutter system. But most homes do need adequate gutters to collect the rainwater and protect their structure.
In this article, I will explain the importance of gutters, their parts, materials, styles, and how to maintain them. By having a better understanding of how gutters function, your home’s foundation will be protected in the long term.
Why are Gutters Important?
– A functional gutter system diverts the rainwater away from the house. Without gutters, the rain will penetrate into the side of the house and into the foundation. It can also flood your basement or erode landscaping around the house.
– Your gutter system prevents water damage to the roof, which can eventually rot or deteriorate the shingles or masonry.
– Without an adequate gutter system, moisture can build up in windows and create condensation or damage the interior walls.
– Gutters prevent soil erosion, which is the cause of cracked exterior walls and settling foundation.
Aluminum is the most popular and affordable gutter material. It’s lightweight and available in different colors to match the home’s exterior. This material doesn’t rust and since it’s light in weight, you can easily install it yourself. However, it can be very loud when redirecting water.
Vinyl is another affordable and easy-to-install gutter material that’s even lighter in weight than aluminum. However, vinyl gutters are prone to fading and don’t come in many color options. They are also susceptible to cracking or warping. These gutters are suitable for those who aren’t worried about durability and just want a quiet gutter system for when rain or snow is running down the pipes.
Steel is the more expensive option that will eventually rust just like aluminum. Its lifespan is around 25 years, but the durability of steel is second to none. Steel gutters require more maintenance than vinyl as they need to be painted every 5 years. They also require professional installation because of their heavy weight.
Copper gutters are primarily chosen for their aesthetic appeal. They are probably the most expensive option but won’t rust. Copper gutters require professional installation as they need welds to connect the joints, hence their high cost. These types of gutters are mostly seen on Victorian and stately homes.
Sectional gutters consist of individual sections that make up the gutter system. These gutters are made up of various pieces joined in place by ferrules, screws, clips, or hidden hangers. They are easier and cheaper to install than seamless gutters, but are more likely to fall apart or sag.
Unlike sectional gutters, seamless gutters don’t have the cumbersome sections to connect together. These gutters can be custom fitted to your home and are the more reliable option. They are less likely to come apart and individually measured so you won’t have to worry about replacing any broken pieces.
This is the most popular style gutter since it’s the strongest and looks visually appealing. K-style gutters handle the most water flow and complement the home’s exterior as they resemble crown molding.
For an old-fashioned style gutter, the half-round (semi-circle shape) gutters are the best option. These style gutters are ideal for historical or rustic homes and look more elegant than their k-style counterparts.
The box-style gutters are larger in size (6 inches and higher) and mostly found on commercial buildings. These gutter styles are designed to handle more water than the standard gutters, which is why you’ll normally see them on larger roofs.
All the above mentioned gutter styles are available in high back style. This means the back part of the gutter has an additional section for tucking under the metal roofing. This prevents the water from entering the shingles. These gutter styles aren’t very popular as they need to be installed prior to roof installation.
Gutter Parts (Anatomy of a Gutter)
Gutter section: this is the gutter itself that is usually between 5 and 10 feet in length. The gutter section is attached to the home and the rainwater runs through its sections.
Downpipes: these downpipes are connected to the gutters and run along the roof’s entire length. Their job is to take the rainwater down the side of the house and out into the drainage. Downpipes are almost always found attached at the corner of the property.
Elbow: this is the bent piece of pipe located at the end of the downpipe to redivert the rainwater. An alternative place elbows can be found is at the top of the downpipe where the gutter opening is.
Stop ends or end caps: stop ends run along the eaves and can be found at the end of the gutter section. The purpose of these parts is to ensure rainwater flows from the roof through the channel instead of spilling out onto the ground. When installing end caps, make sure the gutter is completely level first. End caps come with rubber seals to ensure the joint is totally secure and watertight.
Ferrule: this cylinder-shaped small piece of metal attaches the gutter to the house. It consists of a long spike that passes through an opening at the front edge of the gutter and into the ferrule before going through the back of the gutter section.
Brackets: the gutter’s brackets function as an attachment to support the gutter and keep it secure in place. These are especially used in sectional gutters.
Hangers and hidden hangers: these pieces connect the gutter section to the house just like the brackets. However, they are installed inside the gutter and aren’t visible from below. The hidden hangers have an opening on one side and attached to the front edge of the gutter section to provide extra support.
Spikes: these are gutter nails that are fitted on the outside of the gutter and into a fascia board.
Outside miter box: on sectional gutters that come in two sections, an outside miter box is used to join the sections together. These are corner joints and slide into the sleeves.
Inside miter box: for gutter sections that meet at an inside corner, an inside miter box is used to join the two sections together. Just like the outside miter box that slides into the sleeves, the inside miter box functions the same way before it’s sealed.
Strip miter: this component performs the same task as miter boxes. The only difference is that strip miters are small strips not big boxes. They consist of a small sleeve that acts as a seal cover. Strip miters can be used for both outside and inside corners of gutters.
Pipe cleat: this is a fastener that is attached to the downpipe on the side of the building. It’s a bent piece of metal that looks identical to a clip and screwed into the siding of the home.