Residential Gutters vs. Commercial Gutters

Gutters for a residence or commercial building function in the same way – water drains off the roof, flowing into the gutter channel, and then into the downpipes, where it is deposited away from the house or business. If asked what the difference between the two is most people would say size and strength. And they would be right. But, surprisingly, there are several other key differences between residential and commercial gutters many consumers aren’t aware of.

Legal Implications

Commercial properties and residential buildings must comply with the BC Building Code in addition to any applicable local government bylaws. To ensure the health and safety of everyone in the vicinity, regulations for commercial buildings are usually more specific in regulating gutter type, gutter size, and where runoff can be drained.

While generally not as restrictive, gutters for residential houses stipulating, for example, colour, style, or gutter material, may be subject to bylaws and/or strata council rules and regulations.

Where the Gutters are Installed

The roofs of houses typically have a shape – gable, hipped, shed, etc. Residential gutters are installed at the edge of the roof and are generally fastened to the fascia. Downspouts guide water to a landscaped area at least seven feet away from the foundation of the home.

Commercial properties tend to have flat roofs. Because they don’t slope, they need a drain system that is compatible with the roof type. Depending on the size of the building’s roof and its type, three common drain systems for flat roofs are gutters (installed differently than residential gutters), scuppers (used for buildings with parapet walls), and drains (drain pipes installed under the roof, running to the ground).

Gutter Size and Shape

For residential gutters, the standard gutter size is 5-inch gutters with 2 x 3-inch downspouts. Popular gutter profiles include K-style and half-round.

Commercial gutters tend to be slightly larger. Depending on the size of the commercial property, typically 6-inch or 7-inch gutter systems are installed. The most common profile for commercial buildings is the box gutter: the simple design is adaptable to most commercial applications, and box gutters are able to handle larger volumes of rainwater.

Gutter Materials

One might think that most gutter materials would work for both residential and commercial buildings: the only difference would be that the gutter material chosen for a commercial property would have to be industrial strength. For the most part, this is true. But again, there are distinct differences between gutter material choices for residential structures and commercial properties.

For example, a popular gutter material for houses is vinyl: however, for commercial applications, vinyl gutters would not be durable or strong enough. While copper gutters are often used on luxury or high-end homes, you don’t often see them on commercial buildings due to cost-effectiveness. Because aluminum gutters are available in a variety of colours and a number of different styles, aluminum is a common choice for both residential and commercial gutter systems.

Reasons Why You Should Know the Difference

While buildings, whatever purpose they serve, need gutters, most residential properties wouldn’t require the type and size of gutters that might look good on a commercial structure. Installing commercial gutters on a residential building – or vice versa – can lead to complications and ongoing maintenance issues.

Homeowners should also be aware that bigger isn’t always better. Oversized or larger gutter systems can change the appearance of a home’s exterior, making the front of a house appear “chopped up” or bulky and awkward. Using the wrong type of gutters – commercial gutters instead of residential – can also add undue stress on the fascia, since they are generally heavier than standard 5-inch gutter systems installed on homes.