Before you replace your old gutters, brush up on what you need to know about them first. Learning how to choose the right gutters will let you figure out what went wrong with your old system as well as help you decide if you’re truly going to get your money’s worth on the next one.
Select a durable and rust-proof material
Gutters are made from a variety of materials, and many of them have their own benefits and drawbacks. You should know which one fits your needs perfectly. Here’s a short list for easy reference.
- Aluminum Gutters. These gutters are the most common type, and they’re popular for a reason. They’re rust-proof, weather-resistant, lightweight and durable. They also hold paint well enough to have a relatively large number of color choices. Some quality brands sell aluminum gutters that are thicker than the standard to increase their durability.
- Vinyl Gutters. Vinyl gutters are also lightweight and rust-proof. But what’s attractive about them is that they’re very inexpensive, making them a staple for DIY home improvement enthusiasts. However, vinyl gutters do tend to get brittle and fade in color from too much sun exposure, and they may crack from freezing weather.
- Galvanized Steel Gutters. Steel gutters are probably the only ones that can best aluminum when it comes to being sturdy without being too pricey. However, they do come with a few setbacks. They’re heavy, and their thin layer of zinc eventually wears off, causing rust to appear and spread. Without proper maintenance, these gutters can leak and stop being functional.
- Copper Gutters. These are attractive, rust-proof and durable. But installing them calls for large amounts of seams, often soldered together. The gutters are also very costly due to material cost as well as time intensive installation. Mostly high-end or historic houses have them.
- Zinc Gutters. Zinc gutters are made from a mixture of copper and titanium. They don’t rust and are extremely long-lasting, but like copper gutters, they do develop patina over time. They also rival them in price range.
The less seams, the better
When it comes to knowing how to choose the right gutters, seams are at the top of the list. They’re detrimental in the long run, so getting less of them means you’ll have a sturdier and more leak free gutter.
Most gutters are not custom-made to a home’s specific measurements. They’re cut in standard lengths and are connected together to form one continuous duct. This creates seams, one of the first components to go out when the gutter system gets old. They pull apart and create gaps, eventually letting the water escape to flood the bottom part of the house.
Seamless gutters that are made onsite and to specific lengths needed can be more expensive. But if you look at the bigger picture, you’ll actually save more money by investing in a better system right now than to buy cheap gutters and face huge repair costs later.
Skip the add-ons
Placing gutter guards or gutter protection is popular because they’re usually cheap and easy to install. However, over a few years, those add-ons may cost you more money because most of them have durability and effectiveness problems. They deteriorate quickly from too much weather exposure and can even cause clogs if not maintained regularly.
Another thing that gives add-ons a major disadvantage is the fact that they’re clipped, screwed, glued or nailed into existing gutters. This adds more seams into the gutter system, creating potential weak points for water to pass through.
So instead of adding gutter guards, invest on a one-piece seamless gutter system. This system is shaped in such a way that the gutter already comes with its own guard, eliminating the need to install add-ons.
Get bigger downspouts
Downspouts are the vertical pipes or tubes that are inconspicuously attached your exterior walls. They carry rainwater downward, away from your home’s foundations to reduce the amount of water it’s exposed to.
In choosing an effective downspout, bigger is indeed better. It should be big enough to handle heavy downpours as well as any possible debris that gets into the gutter. The usual size for this component is 2 x 3 inches, but you should get the more generous ones which are 3 x 4 inches.
Big roofs need big gutters
How often a gutter gets clogged can be dictated by its size. Standard residential rain gutters are made in two sizes, 5 and 6 inches. 5-inch gutters come with 2 x 3 inch downspouts while the 6-inch ones rely on 3 x 4s.
If you have a big roof, it’s best to choose 6-inch gutters. A wide roof has plenty of space for precipitation to land on, so you need to employ a big enough gutter to handle it. 6-inch gutters can hold as much as 2 gallons of water for every foot, so it would be perfect for the job.
Modern gutter shapes are mostly preferential
While learning how to choose the right gutters means selecting the brand with the best shape, it’s not really as important as it used to be. That’s because the shapes that are commonly used right now are not too different from each other. The U and K styles are molded to resemble letter shapes. They both have leading edges that are bent inward, facing towards the house. And they’re both popular because they have roughly the same type of effectiveness when they’re used without gutter guards.
Gutter shapes that can damage houses have mostly been discontinued. Half-circle gutters, in particular, are very harmful. Lately, they’ve been used less because their open-face profile contributes to debris clogging, overflowing, rot, decay, erosion and flooding.
Choose a safe installation process
The way your gutters are attached to your home is also important. First thing, if it’s not done right, you could void your roof’s warranty. Nails, spikes and screws can damage shingles and cause them to come loose. Most gutters today use screws with some sort of hanger to hold up the gutter and connect it to the house/fascia/roof. Don’t use a spike and ferrule, it will not last over time especially if you live in areas where it snows.
Choose gutters that are directly screwed into the fascia board instead of the roof itself, and always let professionals to do this for you. If your fascia is angled the gutters may require what’s referred to as a strap-hung installation technique where a strap holds the gutter and is fastened to the roof. A straight and plumb fascia board could be added and is the preferred method for strength. Check with the company you contact to learn what your home needs.
Look for the Good Housekeeping Seal
Finally, to spot a good gutter system from the sea of brands, look for the Good Housekeeping seal. If it has this seal, then the product was rigorously tested and evaluated for six weeks in a special laboratory by one of America’s most trusted icons, the Good Housekeeping Institute. This also means that the product truly delivers on what it promises and is guaranteed to meet consumer expectations.
Want to know more? Read this: What damages gutters?