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How Do I Choose the Best Gutter System?

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  • Written By: Paul Woods
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2014
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Choosing the best rain gutter system for a home requires striking the right balance between the shape of the guttering, the material of which it is made and the add-ons that can improve the system. For a larger roof area or a home with many trees near the roofline, the largest guttering available should be selected. Guttering comes in a variety of materials ranging from expensive copper to inexpensive aluminum, and the material should be chosen to complement the style and value of the home. Using bracket versus spike hangers, adding a leaf screen and extending the trough of the splash block add expense but can be necessary based on the amount of drainage expected, the shape of the home’s eves, and the expected amount of leaf and twig debris the system is to handle.

The typical rain gutter system comes in widths of 4, 5 or 6 inches (10.26, 12.7 or 15.3 cm). If the roof area of the home is large, it will slough off more water than smaller roofs and will require a wider gutter system. On average, the 5-inch (12.7 cm) system will suffice. For large houses or when there are a number of trees near the roof that will shed leaves, a 6-inch (15.3-cm) gutter width is typically best.

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Gutter shape is important as well but is mostly a matter of personal preference. Copper guttering, which is the most expensive, but very durable, is usually chosen for high-end homes and picked more for appearance. It is typically is round. Other gutters are often U-shaped or shaped vaguely like the letter K, with a leading edge that steps inward toward the house.

For a seamless gutter system, there is a range of choices in the width of the gutter material. The thickest material, 0.32 inches (8.1 mm) is more expensive but more durable. It typically is considered worth the investment as it lasts longer and is less likely to sag.

The method of attaching the rain gutter system to the house is an important choice as well. Cheaper and easier to install is the spike hanger, which is like a long nail driven through the outer edge of the gutter, through a small tube that is the width of the gutter, through the inside gutter edge and into the eve. Spike hangers can work themselves out of the roof over time. Bracket hangers, while a little more costly, are more durable, do less damage to the roof and are more likely to hold long term.

When there is a high probability of leaves and twigs getting in the gutter, homeowners should consider a leaf screen on top of the gutter, which adds cost but reduces maintenance and spillage. At the base of the downspout, a splash block receives the water coming through the gutter system and flows it away from the foundation. Larger splash blocks should be chosen depending on the amount of water expected and the slope of the lawn away from the foundation.

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