The four elements – earth, fire, air and water. They can really mess up your day when they visit in the form of natural disasters. Fire turns a home to ashes, earth (quakes) turns a home to rubble, wind (tornados and such) can blow the roof right off and water coming into the home wreaks all kinds of havoc. With the exception of fire, when it’s not a natural disaster, most of the elements are pretty benign. Water is another big exception. Even a few small drips inside your home can, over time, destroy structural integrity with a quickness. Get the skinny on rain gutters and prevent water intrusion problems in and around your home. A little investment up front can save you thousands of dollars in water damage repairs and headaches down the road.
The Laws of Average
What’s the average rainfall in your area? Unless you’re a meteorologist, you probably don’t have a clue. But it’s an important number that can help you to find the right gutter system for your home. By calculating the square footage of your roof and knowing the average rainfall in your area, you can determine just how much water your roof sheds each year. With that number in hand, you can determine if your existing rain gutters are up to par. If you have seen waterfall effects as your current gutters over-fill, that’s usually a good clue they may be undersized, which leads us to the next section – sizing.
Is the Gutter Wide Enough?
Gutters typically come in three sizes – 5, 6 and 7 inch widths. The larger the width, the more water you can safely wick away from your home. But of course, with more gutter comes a larger price tag. If you live in an area with a lot of rain and you have a lot of roof square footage, wider gutter channels are in your best interests.
Bipartisanism – Gutters and Don’t Forget the Downspouts
That’s a big word but it has a small meaning – a two party system. And, unlike our government, a gutter system can’t function with just one part of the system intact. Gutters are used to collect the water runoff and the downspouts are used to divert said water away from the foundation. Don’t forget to include plenty of good sized downspouts to keep water away from the foundation of your home, a common source of many homeowner woes.
Choosing a Gutter
Your rain gutter can be made on site – known as a seamless gutter – or it can be made in a factory and shipped to the site – known as a sectional gutter. The problem with this distinction is that both systems are sectional – no gutter system is completely seamless.
Sectional Rain Gutters
These are gutters that are manufactured off-site and typically come in 8, 10 or 12 foot long sections. They are bolted, glued or soldered/welded together at the seams to prevent water from seeping out between the sections. These are often best for DIYer’s who want to save a few bucks on installation costs.
Seamless Rain Gutters
A seamless gutter is made onsite by extruding a piece of flat metal through a form to shape the gutter. Pieces are cut to length so that the only seam in the gutter is where the corners meet or a downspout is installed. These gutters are best installed by a professional.
A gutter can be made from a bunch of different stuff. Most gutters are made from aluminum, while others are made from Galvalume – a combination of galvanized steel and aluminum alloys. Aluminum is typically painted or powder coated to match the homes soffit/fascia. But other higher-end gutter materials like copper or zinc provide an aesthetic look that’s perfect for architecturally appealing structures – just expect to pay through the nose for these costly materials.
Gutters also come in different shapes. Typical gutter shapes are called K-type or ogee. From some reason, somebody said that the ogee gutter shape looked like a K turned on its side. Maybe a K from a kindergarten class, but the name stuck anyhow. Other gutters like half round, full square and scalloped are just a few of the less common shapes you can use for gutters. The less common the shape, the more the gutter typically costs, so be aware!
You’ve got to cover those gutters with something! Usually that something is some hot dip galvanized or Galvalume coatings. Aluminum gutters usually have a powder coated surface. Copper and zinc gutters have no corrosion protective coating as they develop a patina that naturally resists heavy corrosion. Choose a good quality coating for steel and aluminum gutters or you could see them start to corrode in just a few years’ time.
Accessorize Those Gutters
There are a number of accessories that you can apply to your gutter system. My favorite is a leaf guard/screen. These simple screens cover the top of the gutter channel and help prevent debris from accumulating inside of the gutter channel. They work great, but they aren’t a cure all. You’ll still need to pull them off once a year to clear the channels out.