When it comes to a gutter system, many homeowners think that as long as they sufficiently move water from the roof to the ground, they are in good shape. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. There are several things to consider when it comes to making sure your gutters are the best gutters for your home.
Materials and Their Benefits
One of the most important parts of ensuring your gutters are right for your home involves thinking about the material they are made of. Different materials fare better in different climates and even in different homes.
Aluminum – Aluminum is inexpensive and lightweight, which makes it very popular. Plus, the range of colors available in Aluminum is almost endless, which makes matching to the exterior of the home fairly easily. There are also typically two different gauges of aluminum used for gutters: .032 and .027. .032 is thicker than .027 and will last longer and be less susceptible to denting. An Aluminum gutter system will not rust and should last approximately 15 to 20 years. A disadvantage of an aluminum system is that it can expand and contrast at a higher rate than other metals, like Steel and Copper.
Copper – Copper is on the opposite end of the budget from aluminum. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive options out there. However, if you factor in the longevity of a Copper gutter system, the pricing over time is decreased considerably. A properly installed Copper gutter system should last anywhere from 75 to 100 years. Copper is low maintenance, does not require paint, and will not rust. The disadvantage of a copper gutter system is the initial price, as well as the need for a qualified contractor to install the job.
Stainless Steel – This is more common for industrial buildings, but it can be used on homes. It’s incredibly durable in harsh weather conditions, and they can last an entire lifetime if they are properly maintained. Homeowners tend to avoid them because they offer very little in terms of aesthetic appeal.
Vinyl – Vinyl is another popular choice, second only to aluminum. Homeowners tend to prefer them because of their ease of installation and relatively low cost. Unfortunately, they cannot withstand extreme temperatures. Freeze/thaw cycles will cause vinyl to crack, rendering your gutters useless.
Galvanized Steel – Galvanized steel is an option for homeowners who are looking for a durable system, that will not expand and contrast as much as other metals. Galvanized Steel is stronger than aluminum at the equivalent thickness and expands and contrasts about half as much. This is a popular choice for Northern climates with snow and ice conditions. The disadvantage of Galvanized Steel is that it will rust over time and if painting is required, extreme care must be taken to ensure the paint adheres correctly.
Downspout Sizing and Location
Your choice of material is important when it comes to ensuring you’re using the right gutter system for your home, but another vital consideration is the size and location of your downspouts. To determine your proper downspout sizing, you need to know your rainfall intensity, which will determine the size, number, and spacing of your downspouts. This information is available through US Weather Bureau records.
Once you know the intensity and the area of your roof, you have most of what you need to determine your downspout spacing and size. Remember that you should never use downspouts of less than 7” squared for homes, that the size of the downspout should remain constant from the top to the bottom, and that offsets of more than 10′ can have an impact on the ability to adequately move water away from your home.
Choosing the right gutters for your home can be difficult, but it’s important that you take the time to understand not only the benefits of the materials but also the methods used to size and locate your downspouts. Ultimately, these things will determine how well your gutter system will perform for many years to come – and how they look from outside your home, too.