Rain gutters sometimes do not get as much thought behind their selection as other architectural features of a home or commercial building. Customary gutters often employed on buildings might even be rather drab and sometimes an afterthought. Rather than accentuate and enhance the building’s architecture some gutter choices if not just dull may actually detract from the appearance of the home or building and be very unappealing. Yet barring wide overhangs and a steeply graded slope away from the building, gutters are essential for draining rainwater runoff from a roof away from the building protecting overhangs, eaves, walls or siding, windows, doors and assist keeping the foundation, crawl space or basement of the structure dry, thereby guarding against mold, rot and staining. Gutters also help prevent erosion of the top soil and landscaping around a building and shield people, walkways and entrances from sheets of falling water. Yes, becoming aware of all the available choices and features of guttering makes you a better wiser consumer. It also gives you an opportunity to choose a rain gutter system that doesn’t just blend nicely into your building’s architecture but actually enhances and upgrades the features, appearance and curb appeal of your real estate investment. Possibly you may start seeing guttering in a whole new light, and in planning and choosing your new gutters wisely, you are certain to be rewarded time after time again.
Rain gutters run the gamut from your run of the mill, same old – same old, aluminum K-style ogee gutters with rectangular corrugated downspouts, which are staples in some neighborhoods on those cookie-cutter homes, to the high end gutters purposefully designed to enhance a building’s architectural features such as your integrated guttering or wood box gutter and those premium, elegant half round copper gutters and zinc gutters. There are still more gutter material choices including plastic or vinyl gutters, galvanized steel, galvalume and stainless steel gutters. As you might expect there is a wide range of pricing from your low end cheap vinyl gutter on up to that pricey redwood and stainless steel guttering. Cost is definitely going to be a big factor in many people’s decision making on gutter choice. Assessment of your true cost extends beyond simply viewing a gutter system’s initial purchase price and also includes analyzing the longevity of the guttering, plus any maintenance time and cost involved during the lifespan of the gutters such as: repairs, re-caulking, re-painting and partial or total replacement of a deteriorated gutter system. Another often overlooked cost is how the guttering choice will affect your real estate value. A poor guttering choice will detract from the building appearance and value, a typically common or acceptably sensible choice will hopefully maintain and uphold the property value and a visionary or astute choice will increase the real estate attractiveness, curb appeal and property value. A final consideration is the growing number of concerned people out there who also appreciate making the most environmentally green and eco-friendly choice.
Gutter Materials and Cost
Vinyl Gutters – Frequently a choice for your do it yourself price conscious people, these plastic or vinyl gutters oftentimes in plain white and sometimes in assorted colors are rust free, easy to trim or cut to size and are relatively cheap initially. Though 10 foot gutter sections may only run $3 to $5 at discount home outlets, with all the connectors, hangers, brackets and downspouts figured in they will cost you more like $3 to $5 per foot installed. Vinyl gutters can get brittle with age and exposure to the elements and may not have the strength to stand up to large amount of snow, ice, gale force winds and weight from a ladder or person climbing on to a roof. Vinyl also expands and contracts more than metal and can be problematic. Mostly they frequently look cheap, detract from your property’s appearance and have a relatively short lifespan to boot. PVC or poly vinyl chloride gutters are not a very green or eco-friendly choice because of their short life and environmental health concerns. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) termed PVC plastic as one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created, dangerous to human health and the environment throughout it’s life cycle. When it is produced or burned PVC releases dioxins, potent synthetic chemicals that cause cancer and harm the environment.
Galvanized Steel Gutters – Steel coated with zinc to inhibit rust, was a common choice, especially before aluminum gutters appeared on the scene, as galvanized gutters are fairly strong and can stand up to ladders, fallen branches and weight unlike cheaper vinyl gutters. Galvanized gutters are also stronger and less susceptible to dents and damage than aluminum. Galvanized steel gutter pricing may run only $4 to $9 per foot installed and are seemingly a economical and practical choice. Yet even thick galvanized gutters will eventually rust through despite most of them being painted. Paint grip steel guttering is still galvanized steel that has been given a phosphate bath adding some to the corrosion protection but primarily providing a surface with better adhesion for paint. There are usually many color choices provided and different qualities of paint available. Galvanized gutters have to be maintained, inspected for cuts, metal exposure deterioration and re-painted during their practical life ranging from 7 to 20 years, depending on how corrosive their locale is and how well they are maintained.
Aluminum Gutters – The most popular choice in gutters since they appeared on the market, aluminum gutters are rust free avoiding that concern with steel, iron and galvanized gutters. Aluminum is also lightweight making it easier and cheaper to work with. Aluminum gutters typically range in price from $5 to $9 per foot installed. Exposed to the elements however, aluminum will oxidize and wear quickly so aluminum is given protective coatings and paint. Just as with galvanized gutters, aluminum gutters need to be maintained and inspected regularly. Paint coatings have improved so during aluminum gutters typical useful lifespan of 25-30 years most paint coatings usually hold up barring scratches or damage to the paint. Aluminum gutters and downspouts are not as strong as steel gutters, especially the thinner offerings and can dent easily from traffic, branches, ladders, etc. Aluminum has a high rate of thermal expansion and contraction which can sometimes present problems especially in corners and seams. Gutter sections and terminations are typically caulked and as such the caulking will also have to be inspected and re-caulked. As with galvanized steel, there are usually many standard color choices available or custom paint matching can also be done at a higher cost. To have a different look than the same old common K-style aluminum guttering with rectangular corrugated downspouts, you can also obtain aluminum gutters in a more elegant half-round gutter shape and with smooth surface versus corrugated square or round downspouts. Hidden gutter hangers can be used or better yet decorative gutter and downspout brackets and a decorative leader head will improve appearance greatly, distinguish and enhance your home. Using thicker and so called primary aluminum material will add some to the strength, better able to withstand wear and abuse but still not up to the level of copper and steel.
Galvalume Gutters – In response to some of the limitations and disadvantages of galvanized steel gutters and aluminum gutters, galvalume gutters appeared on the scene. Galvalume is steel coated with a mixture of 55/45 per cent aluminum/zinc, resulting in a metal about as strong as galvanized steel but the with long-term rust and corrosion resistance more like aluminum or 2-4 times longer than plain galvanized steel. Galvalume can also be used as is without any paint and has a bright gray metallic appearance for about a decade gradually turning a dull weathered gray for the last 2-3 decades of it’s typical lifespan. Processed galvalume can also be painted different colors just like aluminum gutters and while galvalume gutters cost a little more than either aluminum or galvanized steel gutters, galvalume not only will last longer, but is much stronger than aluminum and doesn’t have the temperature expansion rate issues as does aluminum. Unfinished galvalume additionally enjoys the more green and eco-friendly avoidance of any kind of painting or coating.
Zinc Gutters – Zinc gutters have been popular in Europe for decades but have been slow to take hold in the U.S. Zinc guttering is usually made from an alloy of 99.5 percent zinc with small amounts of copper and titanium added. Similar to copper, zinc is usually utilized in it’s raw unpainted state and will develop a protective patina that protects the zinc gutter from weathering and corrosion. Weathered zinc has an attractive matte gray look somewhat similar to pewter that eventaully turns a bluish gray and is increasingly being incorporated into architectural designs that promote that look. Zinc gutters when the natural patina forms properly can have a very long lifespan typically somewhere between 40 and 80 years depending on environment. Zinc gutters may run $15 to $20 per foot installed, which is much more than aluminum gutters initially, but zinc gutters have over twice the lifespan, require no paint and very little to no maintenance. Zinc gutters being a premium gutter usually have more care taken in the installation, including typically riveting and soldering the seams and corners, providing more reliability and often less leaks and water damage. Unpainted zinc gutters also do not have VOC’s released into the environment from any coating or painting process which some gutters require, so with that and their long lifespan, zinc guttering is considered very eco-friendly and green. Zinc gutters main issues deal with thermal expansion, restrictive gutter forming and installation, including sensitive soldering and cold temperature (below 45 degree) working restrictions. With accommodations and extra care taken, zinc gutters are not only a viable option but are one of the better ones.
Stainless Steel Gutters– Stainless steel is a steel alloy containing chromium which gives stainless steel it’s rust proof and shiny properties and is familiar to everyone as it is widely used in kitchens and for eating flatware. Stainless steel is one of the strongest guttering materials as are all the steel based types and is also one of the most durable and longest lasting with a lifespan typically between 50 to 70 years. Stainless steel gutter systems work great where the gutters and downspouts are subject to commercial, abusive and high traffic conditions. If you are not enamored of the shiny, metallic look of stainless steel or the maintenance, cleaning and polishing to keep that look, there is a copper plated stainless steel called CopperPlus having copper’s changing earth tone colors and tin plated stainless steel products such as Ugitop which replace regular stainless steel’s shiny look with a matte gray surface. Similar to zinc and copper, the durability, weathering ability, long life and elimination of painting and coatings make stainless steel very eco-friendly and a good value where stainless steel’s extra strength is needed even with it’s high initial cost of about $18-22 per foot installed. Like zinc and copper, in the long run it can be less costly than short-lived products.
Copper Gutters – Copper gutters have long been considered the ultimate in guttering and for good reason. Copper gutters have always been the most elegant and aesthetically pleasing and also the most durable and longest lasting of all gutter types. It is not uncommon for copper gutters to have a lifespan of 60 to 90 years, up to triple that for aluminum. Copper guttering like zinc gutters are mostly utilized in their natural, unfinished state as copper develops it’s own distinctive, protective patina through the years. Copper performs great in industrial cities, coastal and marine environments. Copper’s protective patina gives it the ability to ward off corrosion and it’s long wearing character. Copper patina varies by climate but generally copper starts out a bright salmon copper and gradually turns brown, then shades of reddish brown, grayish brown, greenish brown then finally a variegated light pastel green after 25 some years. The rich changing earth tone color palette is one of the prized features of copper. Like zinc gutters, copper guttering is riveted and soldered, so there are rarely any issues with leaks or repairs. Copper gutters will definitely upgrade and enhance any home or commercial building and add true curb appeal and value. While copper gutters can cost $15 to $24 per foot installed new, with copper gutter’s super long life, little to no required maintenance, no painting, no leaks and 100% recyclability while retaining up to 95 per cent of raw copper’s value, a great case can be made for choosing copper gutters. Environmentally speaking, copper is considered one of the greenest and most eco-friendly materials available and copper’s total environment cost is lower than initially cheaper materials. Total environmental cost includes the costs of raw processing, manufacturing,
installation, maintenance, re-cycling and multiple replacement costs, so
durability and longevity do factor in greatly. For people that want to enjoy the durability, longevity, value and environment friendly nature of copper but would prefer gray earth tones, lead coated copper is available with the same same attributes as copper other than color. For those that would prefer something other than a lead coated copper there is now also a zinc-tin coated copper option available called Freedom Gray, which retains all of copper’s advantages, while providing architects, designers with a gray earth tone to work with. Lead coated copper or Freedom Gray offer advantages over zinc gutters in being easier and more versatile to form, less restictive and easier to install, while being more reliable and durable in any weather situation and longer lasting. Copper gutters may typically be seen with decorative gutter hangers, smooth seamless round copper downspouts and decorative downspout brackets and oftentimes a decorative, distinctive conductor head or leader collector box. So configured copper gutters will enhance a home to where they are seen analogous to valuable jewelry and accent pieces and always at home with the finest architecture.
Integral or Wood Gutters – Gutters integrated or built into a homes eaves were more popular decades ago as are hanging wood gutters. Both integral and wood gutters have always had problematic issues such as waterproofing, weathering, leaks, rotting, maintenance, painting or staining, durability and water damage. Oftentimes, the inside of a wood gutter and downspout was lined with a metal such as copper to protect the wood, like a gutter in a gutter. Wood gutters are really not installed so much anymore outside of restorations and wood gutters pricing can easily run from $15 to $24 per foot or more depending on type of wood, lining and workmanship involved. With integral and wood gutters, frequent inspection and maintenance are definitely recommended to help prevent leaks from causing possible water damage to roof, fascia and walls.
Although stainless steel, zinc and copper gutter installed prices appear significantly higher than for galvanized steel and aluminum gutters, this is not because raw material cost for these premium metals is so much higher. The higher installed cost for these premium gutters is primarily due to the cost of additional labor and better materials used in what is a more involved and better installation. Gutter seams and joints are most always riveted and soldered in the best installations rather than merely caulked and overlapped. This much more labor intensive operation provides stronger and more leak free joints over the lifespan of the gutter. Better work and tolerances in corners, miters and seams increases cost but results in a more trouble-free and better looking installation. This is the norm and expected by customers of premium gutters. If aluminum and galvanized steel gutters were installed in a similar fashion as zinc and copper gutters, there would be a much smaller price difference. Thicker gauge aluminum gutters with a higher quality paint job such as Kynar is significantly higher quality and also higher cost than typical thin aluminum gutters with plain baked on paint finish that are much more typical. Thicker metal and better paint result in a better gutter that withstands more abuse and lasts longer. Using better materials and more meticulous aluminum gutter installations, though at much higher cost, would lessen such commonly seen occurrences as drooping gutters, buckled gutters, badly faded gutters, misshapen or bent gutters, leaking gutters, peeling or flaked off paint. True for most any product or service, you certainly get what you pay for and the same applies to rain gutters.
Rutland Gutter Supply has the largest selection of all different types and sizes of commercial and residential gutters and downspouts in the U.S.A. Rutland fabricates rain gutters and downspouts out of any gutter material and also produces custom styles and sizes of rain gutters upon request. Rutland Gutter Supply stocks all the essential gutter supplies, gutter parts and downspout accessories needed for a complete rain gutter system installation of the highest quality including decorative gutter hangers, downspout brackets and custom leader heads all provided factory direct.