If you've been told that you need new gutters, or if you're equipping a custom-built home with its first set of gutters, you're probably wondering how to get the best performance for your money. Selecting the right gutters and keeping them in good working order can save your roof and other parts of your home from water damage, mold accumulation and other pricey problems. Here are three considerations to help guide your gutter installation journey.
1. Choice of Material
What should your gutters be made of? There's no simple answer to this question, as a visit to your local home improvement store will quickly confirm. Different materials have different strengths and weaknesses. The one material you can probably reject right away is wood, which is almost never recommended anymore because of its vulnerability to moisture-related rot. Even so, this leaves you with a variety of inorganic materials to choose from.
If your hands are largely tied due to budgetary concerns, your cheapest solution will likely be vinyl. Vinyl gutters won't rot, and they're immune to rust, but they still have a limited lifespan because UV rays and extreme temperatures can weaken them. Galvanized steel is a strong, popular, affordable solution, but you'll need to maintain the paint job on them so they'll have a rust-proof coating. Aluminum costs more, but it resists rust nicely, while copper, the most expensive metal option, doesn't rust at all and could last for the life of your home.
2. Sectional or Seamless Gutters?
You can purchase gutters that are assembled in sections, or you can go with one-piece seamless gutters. Which solution makes the most sense for your home and budget? The main difference in performance is that sectional gutters can leak, especially as the seal between sections starts to deteriorate over time. Seamless gutters won't leak (unless they somehow manage to rust all the way through). This usually makes them a superior long-term choice over sectional gutters, even though they require professional installation.
Sectional gutters can be often be installed by a handy homeowner. But while you'll save on installation costs, the tendency toward leakage will force you to replace various sections, minimizing the long-term difference in expense. Unattended gutter leakage may also cause water damage to other parts of your home, making sectional gutters a kind of false economy compared to seamless gutters.
3. Gutter Covers
Your gutters will only perform well if they are kept clean of any blockages that interfere with water flow to the downspout. Unfortunately, it's all too easy for leaves, loosened shingle granules, dust, twigs, bird's nests, and even dead animals to clog a gutter. To make matters worse, snow or ice on the roof may melt, drip down to the edge of the roof, and then re-freeze into ice dams. These blockages force water to collect higher up on the roof, where it can eventually seep through and cause expensive damage.
The most sensible way to keep your gutters performing at top capacity it to invest in gutter covers. These devices fit over the tops of the gutters and act as filters, allowing water into the gutter but preventing any debris of significant size from entering. But conventional gutter covers do not free you from the need to do occasional cleaning, since the mesh on the gutter cover still gets covered with debris. Nor will this solution prevent ice dams from occurring.
A more expensive but also more effective option is to purchase heated gutter covers. These covers extend beyond the edge of the roof so that only water drips down into the gutter directly below; solid matter slides off the roof at an angle and hits the ground. A heating element inside the gutter cover prevents water from freezing so ice dams can't form.
Take some time to compare prices and materials, shop for gutter covers, and ask your residential roofer for advice. The right choices today can help ensure a drier, healthier home tomorrow -- and for many years to come!