The Insider’s Guide To Gutters

The Insider’s Guide To Gutters

Clogged Gutter

Gutters certainly aren’t the first thing you notice about a house. But, unless your roof has deep overhangs and your property is steeply graded, gutters are crucial for routing rainwater away from your home. When installed properly, your gutters will keep your basement or crawl space dry, preserve the topsoil surrounding your home, protect your siding from stains and rot caused by backsplash, and keep water from infiltrating your doors and windows.

Choosing A Material

Gutters, downspouts and other accessories can be made from  aluminum, galvanized steel, stainless steel or copper. Copper is a material often reserved for historical home restorations. It’s beautiful, never rusts and never needs to be repainted. But, as you might have guessed, it’s expensive. Stainless-steel gutters will also look great for many years. They’re strong and won’t rust, but they are also a rather expensive choice. This is why the other gutter materials (aluminum, and galvanized steel) are more widely used and readily available.

Steel and aluminum are the materials most homeowners choose. Galvanized-steel gutters are durable and economical, but without meticulous maintenance they will rust through eventually. Aluminum gutters, on the other hand, never rust and they’re still relatively inexpensive, giving aluminum gutters a slight edge in popularity. When purchasing these gutters, look for the thickest metal you can afford – optimally .032 in. While thinner, less expensive gutters are available, they definitely won’t hold up as well in the long run. Also, make sure to buy primary aluminum rather than recycled aluminum, which is often plagued by inconsistent thickness making them less reliable.

Vinyl gutters are impervious to rot and rust, cost effective, and are the easiest gutters to cut to size. However, vinyl often becomes brittle with age or in particularly cold weather. They also often leak at the joints between sections, usually in the second or third year. We replace vinyl gutters often, and people in the Northwest have become savvy enough to know that it isn’t cost effective to use plastic here in our climate.

Sectional vs. Seamless

Gutters either come in sections or as continuous, seamless systems. Sectional gutters are sold in pieces and installed as a component system. The sections can be more than 20 ft. long or cut to any size necessary. Snap-on connector pieces attach gutter sections to each other and to the downspouts.

Sectional gutter systems will have corner pieces, end caps, and drop outlet accessories as well. The downside to sectional gutters is that all those seams in a climate like ours will invite leaks eventually.

Seamless gutters, as their name implies, won’t have this problem, which is why they are a favorite among homeowners. Seamless gutter sections join only at corners and downspout outlets, and are cut to custom lengths on site. This is done using a portable machine and should only be performed by a professional.

In Oregon, seams still can leak if corners are not screwed together well and sealed well. The aluminum gutters tend to expand and contract 2 and a half times more than steel, causing too much movement pressure on those corners and loosening spikes. Because of this, poorly installed aluminum seamless gutters will usually only last about 5 years before repair is needed. Steel, on the opther hand, doesn’t “seem” to have that problem. They are also more durable than aluminum when it comes to ladders being propped up against the face of the gutter.

Sizes and Shapes

Gutters are available in a variety of sizes and shapes called profiles. These include  ½ round, Fascia style which is flat faced, more contemporary as well as K shapes, in which the front of the gutter looks like crown molding, more traditional. Gutter sizes come in 4-, 5- or 6-inch widths— 5-inch Ks being the most common. You will also find downspout choices in 2X3-inch or 3X4-inch rectangular shapes, and 3- or 4-inch round piping.

Use larger downspouts to minimize clogs in leafy areas or install “leaf catchers” which screen out the debris at the knee level in the downspout line. Unfortunately, the downspouts might be clogged above the leaf catcher before it gets that far. We use Mastershield gutter protection to keep out all the debris. This system covers the top of the gutter with a stainless steel screen and flashed under the roofing which periodically needs surface cleaning only.


The color of gutters is baked on in the factory inside and outside the gutter coil. Sectional gutters in aluminum and steel are generally available in dozens of different colors, making them ideal for matching exterior paint colors but those same colors are available in continuous gutters too. Vinyl gutters are typically brown or white. Copper, or course, comes unpainted because its natural color is so beautiful.

For more information about gutter systems for your home, contact Pacific West Roofing for a free estimate.

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