Get Your Mind in the Gutter

A gutter full of colorful, fall leaves and a baseball.

Fall foliage is a beautiful thing—except when it's in your gutter. Without proper drainage, rain water can simply run straight down the sides of your house, potentially damaging paint and finishes, flooding the basement, and ruining the landscaping against the structure by making havoc with topsoil. The following article demonstrates various gutter materials and gives some tips on maintenance, as well.

Gutter Materials—Vinyl

Vinyl gutters are invariably expensive, but they often come with a lifetime warranty. While they won’t tolerate paint, they withstand elements like nothing else, making them well worth the expense to some homeowners. Although they are extremely tough and durable, they are difficult to install so take care and take your time. Traditionally, color choice has been limited, but the selection has grown over the past several years.

Gutter Materials—Steel

Steel gutters will get you roughly fifteen years of good drainage—not as long as the vinyl option. They're certainly less expensive, though. Steel gutters come with galvanized finishes or baked-on enamel. To prevent rust, steel gutters require painting every couple of years or so.

Gutter Materials—Aluminum

A popular alternative to steel gutters is aluminum gutters. They aren't as strong as the steel models, but they last longer and are far easier to handle. Aluminum gutters are typically available with plastic or enamel finishes that require periodic painting.

Gutter Materials—Copper

Copper gutters are seldom considered, but are available. They are expensive, and their joints need to be soldered, but they will last upwards of 50 years and are extremely durable. They will not corrode either, though their joints will undoubtedly require resoldering.

Gutter Materials—Wood

Finally, wood is sometimes used to fit in with the exterior décor of certain old houses, such as Victorians. Of course, working with wood gutters must be a labor of love, as they require annual maintenance. As you might expect, they frequently become warped. Also, wood gutters are heavy, so installation is rather difficult. Nevertheless, with proper love and attention, wood gutters may provide you with 10–15 years of drainage.

Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Gutters

First off, always pay close attention to the manufacturer's recommendations when it comes to your particular set of gutters. Now, inspect your gutters and downspouts in late spring and fall. Look for holes or sagging sections. Bolster any such sections and be sure hangers are firmly attached to the gutters. To repair a sag, you may need to attach a new hanger.

Hose down your gutters and check for dripping. Leaking at the seams is a common issue. Either re-crimp leaky seams, or apply adhesive and patch them. Patch from the inside with metal or roofing paper and if your seal leaks apply a coat of roofing cement.

Clear away debris—typically leaves and twigs. If you live under tall, deciduous trees, consider installing leaf guards. These screens will keep leaves from clogging your gutters and allow water to freely flow into downspouts and off your roof. Be sure your gutters slant toward their downspouts.

Finally, be sure to position splash guards to direct water well away from your house’s foundation. Set them atop a layer of sand or gravel.

While maintaining the gutters is not the most glamorous household task, it is an important one. Now that you're all done, take a well-deserved break and enjoy the colorful leaves, knowing they're no longer clogging up your gutters.