How To: Choose the Right Gutters
There is so much to consider when choosing new gutters, including shape, material, and cost. But don't overlook performance and quality, which will over time reward you with reduced maintenance and lasting beauty.
Gutters are a critical component of a home’s drainage system, and like many exterior features, they’re subject to wear and damage. An important item on your spring maintenance checklist should be to examine and clean out the gutters. Regular cleaning and maintenance will go a long way toward getting the maximum lifespan out of your gutters.
If, however, your gutters are showing signs of severe wear—cracks, holes, and leaks, for example—or if they’re sagging or pulling away from the house or have numerous missing, loose, or bent fasteners, it may be time to look into replacement gutters. Experts point out that water damage to the roof, fascia board, decking, or rafters is a sure sign that gutters are due for replacement. “Most ordinary gutters last about 10 to 15 years,” explains Robert Lowe, director of operations for Englert LeafGuard, originators and makers of the only one-piece, seamless gutter system with built-in hood. “Dangerous water leaks and overflows can cause tremendous damage to a home, sometimes before homeowners are even aware of the problem.”
There are many types and styles of gutters on the market today, with the primary materials being aluminum, copper, steel, galvanized steel, zinc, and vinyl. Aluminum is the most prevalent gutter material and offers several advantages over other types. Aluminum is lightweight, resistant to corrosion, and available in a wide range of colors—and it’s also often the least expensive option.
Other choices among the metals include galvanized steel gutters, which are coated with a layer of zinc; these gutters are strong but may be prone to rusting. Steel gutters also are available with a coating of aluminum and zinc, which alleviates the rust problem but is more expensive. Zinc gutters, yet another option, are also strong and durable, and normally do not require painting or finishing. Copper gutters are an extremely upscale and attractive choice, but cost substantially more than other metals.
Another inexpensive option is vinyl, which is available in a wide range of colors to match many types of vinyl siding. Vinyl gutters are not as durable as metal, however; they break down over time with exposure to sunlight and will therefore need to be replaced much more frequently. Additionally, vinyl gutters typically come in 10-foot sections, and the rubber seals used to join the sections can become brittle and leak.
Most professionals note that aluminum gutters offer the best combination of style, durability, and price. “As far as replacement gutters go, you want seamless aluminum gutters with a minimum thickness of .025 inches,” asserts Lowe. “There also are numerous options for ‘toppers’ for those gutters; the most common are solid hoods and filters. The different toppers each have their good and bad points. The solid toppers are the best, because they use the reverse curve or liquid adhesion model, which works the best. The downside to these types of covers is the installation process, which is generally handled by a subcontractor. These products install under the shingles, which can cause problems with roof warranties.”
Anyone in the market for new gutters not only has to choose a material, but also has to select among a range of shapes, or profiles. The most popular is the “K-style,” or ogee, gutter, which has a shape similar to decorative crown molding. Fascia gutters, another alternative, feature a smooth face that performs the same function as fascia boards, hiding the edges of the rafter tails from view. Half-round gutters have an open construction with the open side facing the roof. This style has fallen out of favor, because it easily clogs with debris and then overflows. European-style gutter systems are typically half-round gutters made from materials that weather naturally, such as copper.
All gutters come in either sectional or seamless constructions. Most do-it-yourself gutters are sold in 10-foot sections that must then be linked together with snap-in connectors. The drawback to sectional systems is that the joints eventually leak. Seamless gutters, on the other hand, have seams only at the corners. Seamless gutters are typically made of metal and are extruded to custom lengths by professional installers using a portable gutter machine.
LeafGuard Brand gutters combine many of the attributes recommended by professionals, according to Lowe. They also carry the Good Housekeeping Seal. “Patented LeafGuard Brand gutters allow homeowners to say goodbye forever to cleaning gutters clogged by leaves and debris, because the one-piece gutter system features a built-in hood that covers the gutter bottom and deflects leaves and other debris,” Lowe adds. “This unique, seamless design keeps debris from collecting in your gutters, which keeps rainwater running freely and safely away from your home—each and every time it rains.”
This post has been brought to you by Englert LeafGuard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.