Gutters or troughs collect rainwater from the roof edge and carry it through downspouts, to run-offs which direct the water away from the foundation. The term gutter refers to a separate unit that is attached to the eaves, while the term eaves trough applies to a waterway built into the roof surface over the cornice. Because eaves troughs require careful design and installation, gutters are normally found in most residential construction.
Gutters are available fabricated from steel, aluminum, vinyl, copper or wood they come in standard 10 foot lengths. Each material will have its good and bad features. You will also need downspouts for every 35 feet and run-offs (concrete or rolled up plastic) for each downspout to drain rainwater well away from the foundation. Failure to provide these is one of the most common causes of leaky basements.
Most of the gutter systems used in residential construction today are prefinished vinyl and aluminum. They consist of a series of modular pieces that are assembled to fit each different situation.
Parts slip together easily and are helped with either POP-rivets or sheet metal screws. New vinyl gutters with snap-on joints make installation much easier.
Gutters and downspouts are sized to correspond to the roof areas from which they receive water.
Gutter and Downspout Sizing
if you are replacing parts of an existing system, don’t mix metals. Copper, steel, and aluminum are compatible with each other. Also,
Some materials, such as vinyl, are especially sensitive to expansion and contraction. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s joining instructions carefully.
Gutters are attached to the fascia by one of three methods. Strap hangers work only with flexible roof materials such as asphalt shingles. If your roof has rigid wood shingles or slate, use fascia brackets or Spike-and-feral hangers. Spikes are the easiest of all to install, but they’re more likely to sag under loads of heavy ice and snow.
Gutter Materials Selection Guide
steel – galvanized guttering usually comes in 4 inches, 5 inches and is 6 inches box sizes. Generally unpainted but enameled steel is available.
Steel is a heavy material. All standard accessories are available. It still must be painted for protection. Do not attach with aluminum and spikes. Steel has a tendency to rust so it must be wire brushed and repainted or it will not for last many years. It is inexpensive.
Copper – comes in 4 inch and 5 inch sizes. Copper is a specialty item of interest to remodelers and architects. It requires all joints be soldered. Copper will develop an attractive patina. Copper joints may require re-soldering. It is sometimes seen on many 50 year old houses. It is durable and very expensive.
Wood – contains a flow area equivalent to 4 inch and 5 inch gutters. Wood is thick, heavy, and subject to rot and decay. Only use wood for an artistic effect or in authentic remodeling of historic homes. Very few accessories are available.
Wood must be painted. It also must be cleaned and treated inside and painted every year. Wood has been known to warp. The lifetime depends on maintenance. It is moderately expensive.
Vinyl –comes in standard 4 inch and 5 inch gutters. It is available in white, brown and gray with color – matched components. Snap together units require a silicone lubricant, other type is solvent welded. Most attach with special molded fittings to accommodate expansion and contraction of as much as 1/4 inch in 10 foot. Vinyl cannot be directly nailed.
For draining large roof areas requesting new high velocity drop outlet fittings— this is less expensive than going to a larger sized gutter. New spillover outlet sluices leaves, keeping downspout clear and reducing maintenance. Can be painted but this is not necessary.
Vinyl is available with 20 year warranties and is very durable with a little maintenance other than cleaning out shingle gravel and leaves. It can withstand hail. It is relatively expensive.
Aluminum – is available in 4 inch, five inch and 6 inch gutter sizes. Variety of white and colored plastic – coded and enamel finishes. A wide variety of prefinished accessories is available. Parts are joined with blind rivets and downspouts are secured with straps and, on brick or masonry walls, nylon pin anchors.
Aluminum is a lighter weight than galvanized. Because of expansion and contraction, it is better to attach it with aluminum spikes through slots instead of holes or use straps.
Aluminum is easily damaged by ladders and branches. It should last 10 to 20 years but may need repainting. It is moderately expensive. If cheap, they may be made with too light of a gauge and be subject to twisting.
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