Rain Gutters and Downspouts


Gutters and downspouts. Certainly not a topic that one thinks of with enthusiasim. Usually something that a homeowner doesn’t think of much at all. Until your gutters stop working. Because you didn’t clean them. Or you didn’t properly install the gutter covers. And then, in the middle of the biggest storm in history (or at least it certainly looks like that) you need to go out and try and muck out your gutters before they do any more damage than they already have done. So before that happens, let’s take a look at gutters and downspouts and see what the average homeowner can do to prevent such a scenario from happening.
The Purpose of Rain Gutters and Downspouts
While seemingly obvious, the sole purpose of rain gutters and downspouts is to keep the rainwater coming off your roof from damaging the sides of your house, windows, doors and maybe even your foundation. But, it’s already raining, why does it make a difference? The amount of runoff generated by the average roof can be surprisingly large. Having correctly installed and regularly maintained rain gutters and downspouts helps protect your home, simple as that.
Rain Gutters and Downspouts Basics
Even though the purpose and concept may be simple, the execution can be surprisingly complex, stemming from the fact that there are numerous shapes, materials, and mounting systems available in the world of gutters and downspouts. Let’s take a look at some of these to help clear things up a bit.
Shapes of Rain Gutters
The size and shape of the rain gutters you choose will depend on about three factors – the size and material your roof is constructed of, the amount of money you are willing to spend, and the look you are going for. The most commonly found shape these days, is the K-style, so named because the cross-section looks vaguely like the letter K. Also available are box or square shaped rain gutters, and what is becoming increasingly popular, the old “half-round” rain gutters. Typical residential homes can be well served by a 5-inch K-style rain gutter. If the roofing material is hard, perhaps slate or tile, or for roofs with a steeper pitch, wider gutters should be used to prevent runoff from cascading over the lip of the gutter. If choosing half-round rain gutters, they should be wider than the K-style rain gutters to provide adequate drainage capacity.
Rain Gutter Materials
Money may determine most of the steps involved in choosing rain gutters and downspouts for your home, as copper rain gutters, an increasingly popular choice, is more expensive than the typical aluminum or steel rain gutters. Copper rain gutters can run up to 20$ per linear foot, while steel can be in the 3-5 dollar range. Aluminum is in the middle at 5-9 dollars per linear foot. Steel will eventually rust, however, while copper does not. Replacing the cheap steel rain gutters down the road after they have rusted may you’re your choice of steel seem like a bad idea at that time. However, if cost is an issue now, it may be the best option for you, preserving your house now and allowing you to replace them with a longer-lasting option later.
Rain Gutters and Downspouts Mounting Options
Your rain gutters will most likely be attached to the fascia board on your roof. The two main ways this is done is by hangers or the spike and ferrule system. The spike and ferrule system is more likely to pull out and be damaged due to the fact that it is essentially a large nail connecting the gutter to the fascia board at one point. Hangers, whether using a bracket, a strap, or concealed, are attached to the roof at many points, allowing a more secure and longer lasting connection.
Downspouts
Also called leaders, downspouts are the final piece of the rain gutter system. While the rain gutters collect the runoff from your roof, the downspouts carry it down safely and channel it away from the base of your home, protecting your foundation. Downspouts can be round or rectangular, but will typically match the shape or design of your gutters. Some people opt for rain chains, a design that is supposed to “guide” the rainwater down, often to a rainwater storage system. Whatever the choice, take a good hard look at your personal style, your house’s style, and the purpose you want them to fulfill.
Proper Rain Gutters Equal a Happy House

So there you have it, a basic overview of rain gutters and downspouts. Take some time, drive around your neighborhood or other neighborhoods that you like and take a look at what they have installed. Figure out how much money you are willing to pay, and then go for it. Your new rain gutters and downspouts will keep your roof, and your house, happy for a long time.

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