When Buying Gutters Decision No. 1 – Material

Popular materials for gutters
Photo credit: Ctd 2005/Flickr Creative Commons

When buying gutters, typically the first question that springs to mind is, “What material should my gutters be made of?” The “right” gutter material for the climate where you live helps to better protect your home from water damage. It can also boost curb appeal and create visual impact. While aluminum gutters are the most common, there are five other main gutter materials to choose from.

Aluminum Gutters

Aluminum gutters are the most popular for a reason. This gutter material is lightweight, rust-resistant and the least expensive compared to other metals. Aluminum gutters are available in a wide range of colors and are easy to maintain. Aluminum might not be as long-lasting as copper, but when newly installed, aluminum gutters will typically last as long as you own the home.

Copper Gutters

Copper is one of the most expensive gutter materials. However, some homeowners think it’s worth the investment just for its looks alone. The appeal of untreated copper gutters is that they will develop a patina, turning the bright copper color to a greenish grey, grey-green or turquoise, depending on humidity and other climatic conditions. Copper gutters have a documented lifespan of 40 to 50 or more years. They are also very strong and relatively low maintenance.

Steel Gutters

Steel gutters are easily the strongest gutter material available. They are galvanized (coated with zinc) to prevent rusting. However, they will eventually rust when the protective layer of zinc wears down. Like copper gutters, steel gutters are chosen for their “natural” metallic color. Steel as a gutter material requires diligent upkeep and weighs more.

Zinc Gutters

Zinc makes for a lightweight gutter material that is very durable and low maintenance. It is a metal alloy made by combining zinc together with small amounts of titanium and copper. Because copper is one of the components of this gutter material, zinc gutters will also develop a patina over time.

Galvalume Gutters

Galvalume gutters are made of steel, coated with a mixture of zinc and aluminum. Galvalume, as a gutter material, is strong, long-lasting and corrosion-resistant. Depending on the local climate, galvalume gutters can have up to double the lifespan of standard galvanized steel gutters.

Vinyl Gutters

Vinyl gutters are the least expensive but have the shortest life expectancy of all gutter materials. As a low budget alternative to gutters made of metal, including aluminum, vinyl gutters last 10 to 15 years, are rust and pest proof, and can be easily maintained.