Every time it rains or snows, water lands on your roof. The incline of your home’s roof causes the water to flow away from the center of the home toward the ground below.
Gutters help direct that water away from your home’s foundation. While they might not be on the list of most exciting home features for many homeowners, they should be on the list of most important home features. Without gutters, water could cause significant damage to the house.
Depending on your home’s age and condition, it might be time to replace the gutters. Here’s how to choose a gutter style and decide which type is the best gutter for your home.
What Is the Importance of Gutters?
Your home’s foundation has a major job. It needs to support the entire structure of the house while keeping out vapor and water. Your home’s gutters are support team members that help the foundation do its job. Water travels from your home’s roof to its gutters. Once in the gutters, water flows into downspouts and away from the home.
Without gutters, any water from rain or snow could seep down into the soil next to the house. This puts pressure on the foundation, possibly leading to erosion and damage.
Gutters also protect the rest of your home’s exterior from water damage. If you don’t install gutters on a home, water can damage its exterior surface, such as its siding. Water damage contributes to rot and creates a welcoming environment for mildew and mold.
Most homes need gutters to minimize water damage. One way to tell if your home should have gutters is to look at its roof. If the edge of the roof doesn’t extend past your home’s walls or only overhangs the walls by a few inches, you need gutters. Gutters are also essential if your home sits low on the ground.
The lifespan of your home’s gutters depends on the conditions they experience and their materials. Visible cracks in the gutters are usually a good sign that it’s time for a change. The state of the sides of your home can also reveal to you if it’s time for new gutters. Look for peeling paint, rotting wood or mildew growth to get an idea of whether you need new gutters or not.
What Types of Gutters Are There?
Two types of gutters are commonly available: K-style gutters and half-round gutters. Different styles of gutters have distinct shapes. Whether one or the other will work for your home depends on your budget and the amount of water you see in your area.
K-style gutters earned their name because they look like the letter K if you look at them from the side. The gutters have a flat back and bottom and a decorative, curved front. When attached to the roof’s edge, K-style gutters look like crown molding.
You’ll most likely see K-style gutters on modern homes. Many homeowners choose gutter colors that coordinate with the rest of their home’s exterior.
The gutters are available in two sizes: 5 inches and 6 inches. The 5-inch size is the standard, while the 6-inch size is ideal for areas that see more rainfall.
Half-round gutters are less common than K-style gutters today but were the gutter of choice for most homeowners up through the 1950s. Today, homeowners who want a classic look or want to restore their home to its original style are likely to choose a half-round gutter style.
Unlike K-style gutters, half-round gutters have a curved bottom edge. They look like a large pipe that’s been cut in half lengthwise. They usually measure 6 inches in diameter.
K-Style vs. Half-Round Gutters
Beyond their shapes, there are several notable differences between K-style and half-round gutters. Perhaps the most significant difference is the installation process.
The flat back of K-style gutters makes them easy to install up against the fascia board that runs along the home’s perimeter. Attaching the gutters directly to the fascia also minimizes the chance of water seeping out and coming into contact with the wall.
Half-round gutters don’t get attached to the fascia board. Instead, a series of brackets are installed along the home’s perimeter. A length of gutter is dropped onto the brackets and secured in place. Since the brackets have to support the weight of the gutter, plus the weight of any water in the gutter, they need to be firmly attached to the home to prevent failure.
Often, the installation process for half-round gutters takes longer and is more involved than the installation process for K-style gutters.
The interior of the two gutter types is also somewhat different. Half-round gutters are entirely smooth inside, allowing water to run through them more easily. The smooth surface also makes it much less likely for leaves and other pieces of debris to build up, causing clogs.
K-style gutters have more creases and folds, which can slow down the flow of water through them. Debris can also get caught in the creases more easily.
The shape and size of K-style gutters often work in their favor, though. Compared to half-round gutters, K-style gutters usually hold more water.
There are also notable aesthetic differences between the two types of gutters. Half-round gutters have a more classic look, making them a good choice for older homes and homes with smoother, softer lines. K-style gutters are more angular and modern, making them a good pick for contemporary homes or homes with angular roofs.
There’s more to your home’s gutter system than the piece that runs along the edge of the roof. The components of your home’s gutters include:
- Gutters: The gutter itself is the horizontal part that runs along the edge of your roof. It catches water and debris.
- Downspouts: The downspout is the vertical portion of the gutter. It connects to the horizontal part of the gutter and extends down to the ground. Downspouts are enclosed tubes that have openings on either end. The bottom part of the downspout is often angled away from the house, so water flows away from the foundation.
- Endcaps: If the gutter doesn’t extend all the way around the roof, the endcaps are attached to the ends of a length of gutter to keep water from spilling over the side.
- Mitered corners: If a gutter runs along the entire perimeter of the roof, mitered corners connect two horizontal lengths at the end of each wall. Depending on the bend of the house, the corners can face in or out.
- Pipe cleats: Pipe cleats rest on top of the downspout and are used to secure it to the wall of a home.
- Wedges: While K-style gutters can attach directly to the fascia board, in some cases, the angle of the roof can make that challenging. Wedges help to create a flat surface for the gutter to attach to.
Some gutter systems also include a rain barrel, which connects to the downspout. Water diverts into the barrel during a storm. A homeowner can use the collected water in their garden to water houseplants.
Difference Between Seamless and Seamed Gutters
In addition to being half-round or K-style, gutters can also be seamed or seamless. An easy way to understand the difference is that seamed gutters are sold in short sections that attach horizontally. Seamless gutters are made from a continuous piece of metal.
You can buy seamed — or sectional — gutters from a home improvement store and install them yourself. Seamless gutters need to be professionally installed. An installation team will bring the unformed metal and a special machine to your home and create the gutters on-site.
Seamed gutters tend to have a lower price point than seamless. They might also have a shorter lifespan. Since the sections need to be connected, there’s a risk of failure. If the seam becomes loose, the gutters can leak. Debris can also get caught on the seam, causing clogs.
Seamless gutters cost more than sectional gutters and lower the risk of leaks or clogs.
What Types of Gutter Materials Are There?
Another thing to consider when deciding what type of gutter you need is the material used to make the gutter. Several options are available.
Aluminum is one of the most popular types of gutter materials for several reasons. It’s lightweight and rust-resistant. It’s also available in a variety of thicknesses and colors. The thicker the aluminum, the better able it will be to withstand a heavy load.
Aluminum gutters can be sectional or seamless. Seamless aluminum offers several benefits to homeowners. First, professionals will install it, so you can rest easy that the job was well-done. Second, its design minimizes leaks, so you don’t have to worry about water damaging the sides or foundation of your home.
Aluminum also has a long lifespan, making it an ideal choice for some homeowners.
If you’re looking for form and function from your gutters, you might want to choose copper. Copper gutters look attractive, thanks to the metal’s shiny appearance. Copper tends to be a good pick for people updating the gutters on older, traditional-style homes.
One thing to know about copper is that while it doesn’t rust, it does develop a patina over time. Patina comes from oxidation and shows up as a green or brown film. Depending on your preference, you might like the patina, or you might prefer to maintain the copper so that it retains its shine. You can’t paint copper gutters, but most homeowners don’t want to do that, anyway.
Copper gutters come in both half-round and K-styles. These gutters require professional installation because the sections need to be welded together. Welding them creates a durable seam that isn’t likely to leak.
The price of copper gutters is higher than other materials, but they also tend to have a longer than average lifespan.
Steel rusts when exposed to oxygen, so any gutters made from steel need to be made from galvanized or stainless steel. Compared to copper or aluminum, steel gutters require a bit more maintenance. For example, it’s critical that homeowners regularly remove any leaves or debris from the gutters. Build up of wet leaves will speed up the oxidation process, shortening the life of the gutters.
However, steel gutters are very strong. They can hold a lot of weight, making them a good choice for areas that get a lot of snow. Like aluminum gutters, they can be painted and come in a range of colors.
Vinyl gutters tend to have the lowest price but also the shortest lifespan. A vinyl gutter system might last for ten years, compared to more than a couple of decades for aluminum or up to 100 years for copper gutters.
The weather conditions in your area directly impact the vinyl’s durability. If you live in a cold place, freezing winter temperatures can cause the vinyl to become brittle and break easily.
You can paint vinyl, but exposure to the sun may cause the gutter’s color to fade.
Sunshine Contracting Can Help You Choose the Right Gutter Style for Your Home
If it’s time for new gutters, you don’t have to work alone. Sunshine Contracting offers professional gutter installation in Northern Virginia. We install K-style and half-round gutters made from aluminum or copper. We can help you choose the best material and style based on your home’s design and your personal taste.
Some of the things to consider when choosing a gutter style include:
- The color of your home and its trim: We install seamless aluminum gutters in a wide range of colors. We can help you pick out a color that coordinates with the rest of your home.
- The design features of your home: Whether half-round or K-style gutters work for you really depends on the other design elements of your house. We’ll help you pick out the style that matches.
- Your budget: Your budget might dictate the type of gutter material you choose. Aluminum tends to be a perfect pick for budget-conscious homeowners who want a gutter system with a long life.
- The type of weather in your area: If snow and rain are common, you’ll want to choose a material and gutter thickness that can withstand heavy rain and snow.
Get a Free Estimate From Sunshine Contracting Today
At Sunshine Contracting, we’re happy to help you with your home improvement project. Our team is highly trained in all aspects of the exterior remodeling business, and we are committed to providing the best possible service for your home. We offer exterior contracting services in multiple Virginia counties, including Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Arlington and Stafford.
To learn more about our gutter installation services, fill out our contact form, and get a free estimate today.