Gutter School

Gutter Basics
Unless you have long overhangs on your roof and your property is steeply graded, you need some sort of drainage system for your home. Poor rainwater drainage can't be ignored. It can severely damage a home. In fact, poor drainage has been known to completely destroy a home. And standing water near your home is a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

Gutters and down pipes are your home's drainage system. They're your front line of defense against water. They're essential for routing roof runoff away from your home, protecting it from the ravages of water. Manufactured from a variety of materials, gutters and down pipes clear rainwater away quickly and efficiently from the roof of your house.

Types of Gutters
Gutters were originally made from wood, generally old growth cedar, which is not easily obtainable now. Gutters made from new growth cedar replaced gutters made from old growth cedar, but they proved inadequate. Today, gutters are made from a wide variety of materials.

  • Continuous Aluminum gutters are today's most popular. While these gutters receive high marks, they tend to bend and warp when ladders are leaned against them. When buying aluminum gutters, insist on primary aluminum, the thickest and most consistent kind. Avoid secondary aluminum. It's a recycled product plagued by inconsistent thickness.

  • Vinyl and plastic gutters are commonly used on homes. Sold in do-it-yourself hardware stores, these gutters are cost-effective, impervious to rust and rot, and easily installed by a homeowner. They work well, but are susceptible to damage by ladders and long-term deterioration by the sun's ultraviolet light. Homeowners can install these gutters in a weekend.

  • Integral Gutters are formed by the end of the rafters and fascia on a sloped roof. Lined with a built-up roofing material, integral gutters hold a great deal more water than most other types of gutters. The disadvantage of this gutter type is in the potential for leaks, which can result in damage to the framing, fascia, and sheathing of the roof. Integral gutters must be carefully inspected every few years and the lining replaced or repaired every five to ten years. You can convert these gutters to a standard gutter system.

  • Metal/Steel Gutters are popular choices of homeowners. When buying metal gutters, choose the thickest you can afford - optimally .032 inches. Galvanized Steel Gutters are cost-effective. They stand up to ladders and fallen branches better than aluminum, but even thick galvanized steel eventually rusts through. Stainless-steel gutters are strong, rust-free, and maintain high sheen for years. As with other high-end custom materials, their drawback is cost. Galvanized-steel, aluminum, vinyl gutters are the predominant varieties.

  • Copper Gutters offer numerous benefits. Copper resists corrosion, so gutters made from it last a lifetime without needing repairing or repainting. Copper also ages well, getting better looking as it gets older. When installed, it features a naturally bright finish, which mellows to a deeper bronze before developing a verdigris patina. Copper is the material of choice for gutters in Europe. Over the last 20 years, it has virtually replaced other systems.
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