Traditionally, gutters are made from a handful of materials designed to be lightweight and strong at the same time. Today, there are well over a dozen different gutter materials from which to choose. By taking the time to understand the basic pros and cons of the most popular gutter materials – aluminum, copper, galvanized steel, zinc, and vinyl – you can make better choices about your own purchases.
Aluminum gutters are the most popular options among American homeowners. They are extremely lightweight so as not to cause damage to homes, and they come in a wide variety of colors. The biggest benefit of aluminum gutters is their rust resistance, and this makes them perfect for climates where rainfall is common. However, it should be noted that aluminum isn’t as durable as other materials, which means hailstones and even heavy snowfall can cause significant damage.
Copper is a beautiful gutter material that transforms from its iconic brilliant orange-gold to a greenish patina with time, and that makes it one of the most popular materials for historical renovations. The number one benefit of copper is its ability to last for decades without much maintenance at all, but it is not without its downfalls. Copper is very heavy, which means it isn’t ideal for all homes. It is also very expensive, so if you are on a budget, copper gutters may not be the best choice for your needs.
Hot-dipped (galvanized) steel gutters have been in use for 150 years, and they remain some of the most popular options among homeowners today. The steel’s zinc coating protects it from corrosion, and because it is heavier than aluminum (but not nearly as heavy as copper), it can stand up to more snowfall or hail. However, it can only resist the effects of rust for about 20 years. Though galvanized steel costs significantly more than either aluminum or vinyl, it still costs less than copper.
Though zinc is not as popular as the other materials on this list, it is one of the best options in terms of durability. Like galvanized steel, zinc is corrosion-resistant and strong. It comes in numerous colors, and though it does not cost quite as much as copper, it does cost more than steel, aluminum, or vinyl. Other considerations include zinc’s antifungal nature, which will prevent the growth of fungus, mold, and bacteria, and the fact that you can completely recycle zinc gutters at the end of their exceptionally long lifecycle.
If you want something that is both affordable and rust- and corrosion-resistant, there’s nothing quite like vinyl to fit that need. Vinyl is lightweight, available in numerous colors and patterns, and easy to install. In extreme cold temperatures, though, vinyl can become brittle and crack, and many types of vinyl will fade in direct sunlight over a period of months. Keep this in mind before deciding on vinyl gutters for your home.
Other gutter materials include options like Galvalume and different types of aluminum, copper, and steel that bring various other benefits. If you need help choosing the best material for your gutter projects, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts with your questions.