A gutter is an essential piece to ensuring that your home’s structural wellbeing stays intact. While it’s true that most homes have gutters, you may want a gutter alternative that is easier to maintain and has better aesthetics. Gutters function to keep rainwater or stormwater away from your home’s foundation, and they work to deflect and collect the water to ensure that it doesn’t seep in and cause problems to your home’s foundation or walls.
Most gutters are more high-maintenance because they need to be constantly free from debris to prevent them from rotting, clogging, leaking, or causing damage to your home. Water from the gutters can actually splash onto the walls and leak into the crawl spaces and your basement.
Even though traditional gutter systems are very popular, they can look bulky and take away from your home’s overall aesthetics. This is why so many people are looking into gutter alternatives. Gutters by Elisha Pospisil / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
If you allow your gutters to get clogged with leaves, twigs, or other debris, they can crack. They can break away from the home and fall from your roof’s edge. They also impact the aesthetic look of your home. The good news is that there are gutter alternatives that look better and are lower maintenance. We’re going to go over the most popular options below.
1. Rain Dispersal System
A rain dispersal system works by dividing any flowing rainwater into much smaller drops or rivulets to reduce their impact or force. You can find them at your local hardware or home improvement stores that are readily available. This popular gutter alternative can have an angled-louver system on it that will split any rainwater into smaller streams and direct them into a band. One bonus with this system is that it reduces the maintenance needs, and you won’t have to worry about cleaning clogged gutters or breaking down ice dams before they cause damage.
You can install most rain dispersal systems without needing a professional to come out and do it for you, and they come with satisfaction guarantees. This product can also self-clean because they come with smart designs that blow away leaves, dirt, and debris.
- Small leaves, sticks, and other debris on your roof will blow away instead of getting trapped in your gutters to reduce your maintenance
- Installing louvers on your roof will keep the water from running down your walls or leaking into the basement
- Allows any rainwater to land on your plants beside your roof in a much finer spray to prevent damage to more fragile cultivars
- Gets customized to fit perfectly onto your home to make them more effective
- Prevents small dirt or debris pieces from splashing back up onto your walls
- Reduces erosion below your roof by keeping water away from around the house’s perimeter
- When you don’t plan for the runoff position, you can end up with puddles forming around the house’s foundation
- Doesn’t work on all types of roof layouts
This system is very quick and easy to install, and you could even do it as a DIY project over the weekend without any specialized tools or equipment needed.
A rain dispersal system’s main use is to slow down how fast the water is moving before it hits the ground to minimize how much damage it does over time. Useless frame 4 by Thibaud Saintin / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
2. Rain Chains
The Japanese call rain chains Kusari Doi, and they combine function with aesthetics beautifully. The Japanese have utilized this gutter alternative for centuries, and they’re just as popular today as they have ever been. This is a better-looking alternative for your more traditional gutter and downspout system. They work to collect water from the roof before directing it to fall into an underground reservoir, and this is typically a barrel.
This gutter alternative is able to work because it comes with pretty cups strung in a line that move the water from the top to the bottom of the chain while reducing how fast the water is moving. You can get rain chains in a huge range of different designs, and they’re a stunning combination of usefulness and looks when you consider gutter alternatives. You can use them alongside a traditional rain gutter by replacing the downspout to add to the benefits.
Also, you can choose from a cup-system chain, single chain, or multiple chains and put the collection unit above ground or underground. They work well while lending a nice Zen feel to your space.
- This gutter alternative is very aesthetically appealing and comes in a large range of designs and styles. They work to enhance your home or garden’s aesthetics.
- They’re less likely to have problems with clogging because they offer no space for leaves or debris to slip through.
- They slow how quickly the water is traveling to reduce damage when it hits the ground or your plants.
- You can get a nice waterfall sound when the rain slips through.
- They’re possible to install to make the water flow straight into a rain barrel, catch basin, or pot so you can reuse your rainwater.
- They come with a very quick installation process.
- They get more beautiful over time as they develop a patina.
- They enhance your garden’s beauty while being affordable.
- It can be challenging to mount them because they can be heavy.
- The chain system can freeze, and the added weight can cause roof damage.
- When you don’t install them correctly, the rain will go directly to the ground and cause improper drainage. In turn, this can lead to standing puddles or flooding in the basement.
- Not ideal for climates where you get frequent rains because they can’t handle downpours.
- Can be expensive to fill larger roofs with multiple chains to make them more effective.
When you install this gutter alternative on the outside of your home, you get a pretty water feature and a great rain dispersal system all wrapped neatly into one package.
A rain chain can be a beautiful addition to your landscape, and you can easily outfit every corner of your home with them to create fun water features with the soothing sound of running water. 011 by Field Outdoor Spaces / CC BY 2.0
3. French Drain or Ground Gutters
Ground gutters are great for anyone who wants a non-conspicuous gutter alternative. They work to protect your home’s foundation and walls without a huge amount of effort on your part. All you do to install them is dig a trench in a V-shape at the drip line. The drip line is the area where the water that falls off your roof comes into contact with the ground. The trench gets lined with a waterproof lining with a perforated pipe at the bottom. Then, you fill it in with gravel or pebbles. You may hear this setup referred to as a French drain, and you can lay a pipe network around your house.
Your trench should always slope away from the house so you don’t end up with stagnant water. The goal is to have any rainfall that slips off the roof go into the trench and travel through the pipe to reach the underwater drain away from the house. You don’t have to leave them exposed either, and it’s possible to have plants growing over it. This makes them win big when it comes to aesthetics, and it has almost no maintenance associated with it. You will have to occasionally check the outlet to ensure that it has clear and free drainage.
- Helps you use your total garden areas. When you have soil that is too moist, it’ll help dry up the area to make it more usable.
- Prevents water damage by protecting the siding and foundation of your home.
- You don’t have to worry about it freezing in the winter months.
- It can last for years without any huge issues as long as you build and install it correctly.
- It doesn’t alter how your home’s exterior looks because you can hide the installation.
- This gutter alternative can be expensive to install because you need a lot of materials.
- There is a lot of labor involved with digging the trench. Hiring a professional to do it for you will bring up the associated costs.
- When you don’t install it properly, the drain will be visible, and this can negatively impact your property’s aesthetics.
- Water pooling or damage near the base is possible because you may not have enough system drainage.
If you install your ground gutter or French durian correctly, it’ll last a long time with little or no maintenance required.
French drains are very popular for people who want to hide their water drainage system to create a pretty and uninterrupted landscape. French drain by SuSanA Secretariat / CC BY 2.0
4. Drip Path
A drip path is a paved pathway that you put right under your roof’s edge so that the water that falls from it gets trapped on the path. You generally construct these paths using blocks or bricks that you sink into the soil to protect the soil from erosion due to the water falling from the roof. The hard surface will stop the water from sinking into the soil, and you put the bricks or blocks at an angle so that the water gets deflected from the house or building.
Another idea for this gutter alternative is to set up a concrete apron with a drip, place it roughly six-inches from the foundation, and it’ll help drain the water away. This works very well when you utilize sloping stones. Another option you have for a drip path is to install grasscrete. This will let grass grow in your drainage zones. You could make a pathway using pebbles or larger stones all around your home. Be aware that doing this will require that you set up an underground drainage system where you can channel your water runoff.
- It’s an attractive way to prevent any water that drips off your roof from getting close to the foundation of your house without causing soil erosion.
- Won’t damage your landscape, but it can add to the look.
- Bushes and foundation plantings around the drip path can hinder how well it keeps water away from the foundation.
- You have to install them properly to keep the water away from your foundation to prevent water damage, and this usually involves a professional.
- Have to install an underground drainage system for it to work correctly.
When you create a drip path, it’s essential that you have your stones or bricks tilted away from your home’s foundation to encourage the water to drain away and not pool. Path in Glen Nevis by Tatters / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
If you don’t want traditional gutters and you’re building your house, make sure that the grading is correct. Generally speaking, you should build your house at an elevation that is above the normal ground level. The height difference should get made up using an efficient, smooth slope. This will keep the water flowing away from your home’s foundation and prevent puddling as it leaves the roof and falls to the ground. The slope itself shouldn’t have any spots for the water to percolate and stagnate.
- Allows you to keep rainwater away from your home without breaking your budget.
- Easy way to ensure rainwater doesn’t puddle around the house and leak into the basement or ruin the foundation.
- Able to improve the aesthetics of your home without adding any distractions.
- Creating the correct slope can wreck your landscape because it usually requires uprooting some of your established landscaping if it’s not a new build.
- Low spots can allow water to collect during the grading process.
- Have to regrade the slope every few years to ensure it keeps the water moving away from your home.
- Water tends to gather in any indented spots inside the grading to cause issues down the line.
Using grading as a gutter alternative is great for compact soil types like clay because they don’t absorb water. It’s also great for climate zones that are on the dry and arid side.
Grading can tear up your yard, and you have to regrade the area every few years. So, you really need to consider your landscaping if you choose this gutter alternative. Grading by iheartpandas / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
6. Drip Edges
A drip edge is a metal strip that attaches to the edges of your roof. In turn, it acts like another obstacle that reduces how fast the water is traveling when it hits the ground. They also work to keep the water from getting too close to the walls of your home. You install this gutter alternative between the roof deck and shingle layers, and this prevents any water from seeping into the wood that is underneath the shingles.
So, this gutter alternative works to protect your home’s foundation and ensure that water doesn’t accidentally splash up and ruin your walls or encourage mold growth. You can also combine this gutter alternative with a rain gutter to enhance how efficient it is with deflecting rain water.
- This is an affordable way to prevent foundation damage to your home.
- Ensures water running from the roof doesn’t flow close to the side of the house or foundation.
- Seals openings to prevent animals from getting into your attic and causing damage.
- Allows water to flow from your home’s fascia to prevent rot
- Give your shingles more support to prevent water from slipping under them.
- Won’t allow ice dams to form on your roof
- Difficult to install as an upgrade to existing construction.
- You need to make sure that the water goes away from your home’s foundation and not right below your drip edge to stop it from pooling and causing damage.
It’s best to have a professional come in and install this gutter alternative to ensure that it doesn’t cause damage to your roof and that it correctly directs water away from the home.
Drip edges serve the dual purpose of protecting your homes walls and foundation while also ensuring that water doesn’t get under your roof and cause rot or mold growth. Roof Drips by Alan Levine / CC BY 2.0
7. Copper Gutters
Copper gutters aren’t exactly gutter alternatives, but they look much better than traditional ones do. They also have several advantages attached to them, including lower maintenance needs, excellent durability, and a rust-proof design. If you install it correctly, your copper gutters can last between 30 and 100 years. Installing this gutter alternative will require that you have extension ladders, and you have to be very careful to prevent accidents or injuries.
- They have a corrosion-resistant design that makes them very low-maintenance. It stops fungi, moss, and algae growth without needing constant cleaning to prevent buildup.
- They’re durable, strong, and won’t dent.
- They add sophistication, elegance, and increase your home’s curb appeal.
- Copper gutters are rust-proof to make them last longer.
- You can fit these gutters without expansion joints or continuous straight runs.
- Copper is a very challenging material to work with, and this will increase your installation time and the project price.
- All fasteners, nails, and fittings should also be copper, and this will increase your material cost.
- Have to have a professional with copper knowledge to install them.
As a bonus, copper gutters are a very eco-friendly option that you can use without worrying about negatively impacting the environment.
Copper gutters create a very eye-catching look, and it develops a gorgeous patina after a few years out in the elements, so it gets better with age. Circus “aiko” all packed up and ready to go home by Aiko, Thomas & Juliette+Isaac / CC BY 2.0
8. Box Gutters
The final gutter alternative on the list is also called built-in or hidden gutters. They’re a gutter type that you can use all on their own. They’re great for anyone who wants a subtle method to drain away water than you’ll get with traditional gutters, and they offer valley-like troughs that sit right at your roof’s edge to channel the rainwater away. They won’t deflect any attention away from the architectural details of your home, and they’re not cylindrical in nature. This means that you will have lower maintenance needs and no or low issues with clogging.
However, if they’re difficult for your neighbors to see, they can also be difficult for you to monitor. This means that issues with corrosion or clogging can easily go unchecked for longer periods of time, and what was once a small issue can now snowball into something large and expensive to fix.
- They are very low maintenance.
- Work as invisible gutters that channel rainwater away from the house.
- You can design them to match your home’s architecture.
- They can withstand strong storms and heavy rainfall.
- You can customize this gutter alternative, depending on how much rainfall your area gets.
- Installation is expensive because they’re hidden.
- Since you use formed metal in the design, they will expand and contract with the weather changes.
- You can’t install them as a DIY project, so you’ll have professional installation costs added in.
- It’s easy to neglect maintenance because they have a hidden design. In turn, blockages or build-ups, leaks, and corrosion can get really bad before you notice them.
Built-in, hidden, or box gutters are a nice way to channel the rain away from your home without interrupting your overall design aesthetic. Box Gutters by Emily May / CC BY 2.0
Gutter Alternatives are Very Effective
A lot of people mistakenly believe that gutters aren’t a necessity in your home. They also believe that you can skip installing them if you don’t get a lot of rain in your area. However, this is incorrect as it doesn’t take much water to damage your walls or foundation.
If you do go with a regular gutter, you want them to be fitted very well so that they protect your home at all costs. Getting a gutter that doesn’t do the job properly is a waste. If you’re looking for another gutter alternative to get rid of clogging, you can purchase a gutter lid to keep out debris instead of taking the current system down and installing a completely new one.
If you have an issue with your aesthetic value, you want to purchase a gutter alternative that has a more attractive material and design, like copper or a hidden gutter setup. You can also choose sectional gutters or seamless gutters that come put together using lesser joints to reduce potential leaking spots.
Gutter Alternatives Frequently Asked Questions
house 2010 october with new soffit and guttering by h080 / CC BY-SA 2.0 It’s very common to have questions when it comes to attempting to pick out a gutter alternative, and we’ve picked out a few of the most common ones and answered them for you below.
1. Is it okay to skip the gutters?
There aren’t any laws that require you to outfit your home with gutters. Depending on where you live and the type of construction you have on your home, gutters could represent more maintenance and an added expense. You may not need gutters in the following instances:
- Your landscaping has a downward slope from the house.
- Your climate gets very little rainfall on an annual basis.
- You have a large roof overhang on your home.
- You have an all-concrete design on your home that can provide adequate foundation protection.
2. Why do certain houses not have gutters?
Certain home designs don’t require you to install gutters or a gutter alternative. If you don’t have a basement, you won’t need gutters. If you have excellent landscaping with great drainage, you most likely won’t need them. This is due to the fact that gravity will pull any rainwater off of the roof and drop it around your home where it’ll drain away from the foundation and walls without any additional help from you.
3. Is it possible to replace your gutter materials?
If you want to replace the whole gutter system, you can replace the materials. Some gutters will need a full replacement while others only need repairs. Whether you have to repair or replace it will depend on how extensive the damage is. If everything gets confined to one general area, it’s best to work on maintaining the whole system and repairing the smaller affected area. If the issue covers a decent amount of your gutter system, replacing it is usually quicker and less expensive.
4. Why are there no gutters on Texas and Florida homes?
Homes in Florida and Texas usually don’t have gutter systems because they have sandy soil and it’s rare that they have basements. They also rarely get heavy rainfall.
These eight gutter alternatives will allow you to find the one that is going to work best with your situation. What works well for one person may not fit the next, so it’s important that you weigh your options when it comes to your gutter alternatives.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.