If it’s time to update your gutters, you’ll have the option of several materials to choose from
Gutters may not be the most glamorous part of your home, but they are crucial for keeping it free from structural and foundational damage. If your gutters aren’t functioning as well as they should be or are starting to look damaged, it’s time for an update. These are the most common gutter materials and design choices you’ll have to consider.
What Are Gutters Made Of?
Although aluminum gutters are the most common choice when it comes to gutter materials, you actually have a good amount of choices available, including copper, steel, and even zinc. Here’s a look at the top gutter materials, so you can decide what’s right for your home.
With options of seamed seamless, aluminum gutters have long been the rain gutters of choice for their low price and long life. These gutters come in three different thicknesses, 0.025 inch, 0.027 inch, and 0.032 inch. Though the thinner material is the less costly option, it also dents and bends much more easily.
"Aluminum gutters are the most popular option because of the quality of materials and overall affordability. Homeowners also like them because they can choose from a wide range of color options,” said Olivia McCartney of Artisan Quality Roofing.
You can find 10-foot pieces of aluminum gutters at home improvement stores for between $2 and $3 per linear foot, and they cost about $4 to $6 per linear foot to have them professionally installed. Aluminum gutters are weatherproof, rust-proof, and come in a wide variety of colors. They can last up to 25 years, but are also prone to bending or denting.
With their beautiful glow and long life, copper gutters can be a gorgeous addition to any home. However, they are a pricier option, coming in at $15 to $25 per linear foot for material alone. These gutters can’t be DIY installed, which contributes to their higher price.
On the positive side, they are resistant to high heat and the coldest temperatures, and can last more than 50 years once they’re on.
Galvanized steel gutters are super strong, but they are prone to rust and very heavy. Although they’re designed not to rust, they usually start to show signs of oxidation in 10 to 15 years. The alternative to galvanized steel is stainless steel, which won’t rust, but is significantly more expensive than the galvanized alternative. One thing to keep in mind—steel gutters can be noisy in the rain.
Steel gutters are very heavy, so hiring a professional is the way to go. Professionally installed galvanized steel gutters cost $8 to $10 per linear foot, and professionally installed stainless steel gutters run $16 to $20 per linear foot. Both types are on the most costly end of the spectrum, but they do well in all types of weather and are very sturdy.
If you’re looking for gutters that you can DIY, vinyl is your best option. Vinyl gutters are very lightweight, snap together, and are easy to cut. They’re also the most inexpensive gutter option at $1 to $2 per linear foot if you’re DIY-ing and up to $5 per linear foot for a professional installation.
On the negative side, vinyl tends to fade and become brittle in the sunlight, making it a less durable product than the others. If you live in a milder climate, you may get a good amount of time out of vinyl gutters, but for areas that see a lot of wind, rain, snow, or dry heat, you probably want to opt for a sturdier material. The good news is that you can paint your gutters if they’re made from vinyl (the same is true for metal gutters, too) to give them a fresh look.
While the most expensive gutter material at $10 to $22 per linear foot, zinc gutters can also last up to 50 years. They start off in a dull gray, but with oxidation, the severe appearance lightens up over time.
You have to get zinc gutters professionally installed because they have to be welded together, and they’re usually seen on historical or very expensive homes. Zinc doesn’t rust, fade, or warp in the way some other materials do, so if you have the budget and are looking for a long-lasting option, it’s a good choice. If you live in a coastal area, though, Zinc is not a good option, as it’s vulnerable to acidic rain and runoff.
Another rare option, wood gutters are usually made from cedar, fir, redwood, or other long-lasting woods. They cost $20 to $30 per linear foot. They give homes a rustic look, but their lack of longevity, very specific style, and high price means homeowners tend to go a different direction.
If you’re interested in bypassing gutters altogether, sets of angled louvers that break up sheets of water so they scatter to the ground are an alternative.
Gutter Styles and Terminology
The bent pieces, end caps, and each little piece of the gutter have different names, including:
Speed screw hangers
30 degree elbow
In addition to these different pieces, there are three styles of gutter you have to choose from.
The most popular style of gutters, these resemble the appearance of crown molding. They allow for their mounting materials to be put on the inside, so the outside has a clean, smooth look.
Fascia gutters have a flat exterior design meant to look like fascia boards. They’re generally the most expensive style because they’re rarer than the others.
These look like a pipe cut in half and have either one or both upper lips rounded. They’re like K-style gutters, but can handle a smaller volume of water, which is why they’re less popular than their alternatives.
"When selecting the best gutter type and material for your house, you'll want to consider your budget, average rainfall, style, and roof size,” said McCartney.
Seamless or Sectional?
Sectional gutters are long pieces that are fastened together as they’re installed. Seamless gutters have become more popular recently as a bespoke option, coming in long sheets of metal that are custom-fit to your home.
Since gutter wear and damage occur mostly at the joints, seamless gutters will last longer than sectional ones. Because of their custom design, seamless gutters are a more expensive option than their sectional counterparts.