Gutter Materials

Roger Diez | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

If you need to add a new gutter or replace your old gutters, first determine which gutter materials are best suited for your climate and your home's architectural style. Size, shape, and material are critical to a gutter's performance.

Gutter materials

Gutters are manufactured using wood, metal, and vinyl. Wood gutters are seldom seen these days, as they are expensive and require a great deal of maintenance. The more commonly used gutter materials, characteristics, and costs are listed here:

  1. Vinyl: easy installation for the homeowner, resistant to rot and rust, least expensive. Cost is $3 to $5 per linear foot
  2. Galvanized steel: Heavy, more difficult to install, tend to rust and pit. $4 to $8 per linear foot in price
  3. Aluminum: impervious to rust and deterioration, but more expensive. Costs $5 to $9 per linear foot
  4. Copper: the most expensive gutter material at $15 to $20 per linear foot. No finish required, achieves a natural patina over time

Most gutters are made in sections--typically 10 feet in length--which must be joined together. Extreme care must be taken in sealing the joints to prevent leaks. There are also seamless vinyl gutters, but these cannot be installed by the homeowner. Seamless gutters require a special machine to extrude them on the job site.

Gutter sizes and shapes

For your new gutter, select the size that best suits the amount of annual rainfall where you live and the amount of roof area to be drained. The largest commonly available gutter is 6 inches, and should be used in areas of particularly heavy rainfall. A 5-inch gutter is the most popular, but there are also 2-inch, 3-inch and 3-inch-by-4-inch rectangular gutters used where rainfall is light. The most common shapes are U-shape and K-shape.

Additional materials and tools

Besides the gutters themselves, you will need a variety of other pieces and accessories to complete your gutter system. These include the following:

  1. outlets
  2. downspouts
  3. gutter sealant
  4. gutter hangers

If you have large trees nearby, you may want to install gutter guards to keep leaves and debris from clogging your gutters. You will also need some specialty tools for gutter installation, including snips for cutting sections to length, an outlet punch, a snap-lock punch, and a downspout crimper.

Gutter installation is at least a two-person job and requires working on a ladder. If you are not comfortable with doing the work yourself, please fill out the form on this page to get an estimate from a local gutter contractor.