Gutters play an important role when it comes to protecting your home’s exterior from the elements and the water damage it can cause. Having to purchase new gutters can be the ideal opportunity to upgrade and take advantage of new styles and technologies. When it’s time for gutter replacement there are several factors to consider.
Gutter Materials – What’s Available
Aluminum gutters: Aluminum is the most popular gutter material. An aluminum gutter system is lightweight, relatively inexpensive to install, and will last 20 to 25 years.
Copper gutters: While most people don’t think of a gutter system as the focal point of their home’s exterior, copper gutters are a stunning visual feature. Copper is a high-end gutter material known for it’s strength, durability, and the natural patina it develops throughout the years.
Steel gutters: There are two kinds of steel gutters, galvanized steel gutters and stainless steel gutters. However, while the latter never rust and can look like new for years, a stainless steel gutter system is a rare choice for homeowners because of the high up-front costs of materials and installation. Galvanized steel gutters are manufactured from steel that is then coated with a layer of zinc, which makes it rust-resistant and stronger.
Vinyl gutters: Vinyl gutters are the least expensive gutter material available on the market. While they are a low budget alternative to gutters made of metal, vinyl gutters have the shortest lifespan, lasting 15 to 20 years, depending on climatic conditions.
Gutter Materials – Pros and Cons
Aluminum gutters: Aluminum gutters are versatile and don’t rust. In comparison to other metals on the market, aluminum is the most budget-friendly gutter material. Disadvantages of an aluminum gutter system are: susceptibility to denting (ladders, wind, falling tree branches); not as durable when manufactured from higher gauge aluminum; and while it will last for up to 25 years, it will need resealing to prevent leaks and repainting to keep it looking good anywhere from three to five times in its lifespan.
Copper gutters: A residential gutter system will last as long as the house, is easy to maintain, and typically increases a home’s resale value. Disadvantages of copper gutters include the high cost; they need to be installed by a gutter company who is familiar with copper gutter system installations; and the downspouts can be a handy target for thieves. While not a disadvantage per se, remember that as the gutter material ages the copper colour is replaced by a blue-green patina and might not appeal to some homeowners.
Galvanized steel gutters: As a gutter material, galvanized steel is resistant to rust, denting, and temperature fluctuations. The main disadvantages of this type of steel gutter material are the zinc coating which will eventually wear down, allowing gutters to rust, and steel is a heavy gutter material, making it labour intensive (higher costs) to install.
Vinyl gutters: Vinyl gutters are inexpensive, lightweight, available in a wide variety of styles and colours. And for those who enjoy doing DIY projects, a vinyl gutter system is relatively easy to install. However, vinyl gutters are prone to fading, drying out (cracking), and do not perform well in areas that experience extremely high temperatures or consistently low temperatures.
Seamless or Sectional
If you’re replacing damaged sectional gutters, consider installing a seamless gutter system. Because a standard gutter system is made of interconnecting pieces, sectional gutters have more seams, and therefore more possibilities for where leaks can occur.
On the other hand, seamless gutters only have seams in the corners where the gutter run changes direction. They also have a greater aesthetic appeal because of the polished look they create.
DIY Gutters or Hire a Pro
One of the big decisions homeowners have to make is whether to DIY gutters or hire a pro. Especially if you enjoy DIY projects, it might be tempting to install vinyl gutters yourself. Hire a pro if any of the following are applicable to you and your home’s exterior:
- If you want seamless gutters
- If you are installing copper gutters
- If the house is large or two or more storeys
- If the configuration of the roof is complex
- If areas of the roof are not easily accessible
Before deciding on doing it yourself or hiring someone, consider other factors such as the amount of time it will take, and the total cost of all the materials you’ll need (elbows, end caps, gutter sections, downspouts, etc.).