Rain gutters do a lot more than protect the foundation of home from downpours. They work to channel water out of the way and to a location away from your home, and different gutter styles help to minimize the risk of damaged siding or basement floods that can cause serious issues. Also, if you plan on conserving water, gutters are a great solution that can help take the water runoff and direct it into your rain barrel setup to use for your garden.
Rain gutter styles are usually fairly basic, but you can choose from several materials. If you’re considering replacing your worn-out, old gutter system, or if you’re going to install new gutters for the first time ever, you’ll want to know what gutter styles are available to you. We’re going to outline the basic anatomy of a gutter, popular sizes, whether or not you need them, and the gutter styles below.
The gutter style you choose will depend on the pitch of your roof, your environment, and your home’s style. What works well for one house may not work for another. Gutter by Patrick Morin / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Rain Gutters Anatomy
Just like with most industries, gutters have their own terms and vocabulary that pertains to the different pieces and parts they have. If you’re not sure what everything means, this quick guide will help you understand what people are talking about.
- Downspout Elbow – This gutter part is the angled piece of your downspout that fits right into the bottom of the downspout and directs the water to run away from the foundation.
- Downspouts – This is the portion of your gutter that runs vertically down the side of your home, and it channels water from the roof into your rain barrel or into the ground.
- End Caps – The end caps slip into the end of your gutter’s length and help to seal the system.
- Ferrule – This is the hollow shaft that encloses the longer screw that attaches the gutter to your home. The screw is called the spike.
- Gutter – Gutters come in pieces of different lengths. Each piece of gutter you buy is a section of gutter.
- Hangers – The hangers are the srips of metla that help to support the bottom of your gutter system to prevent sagging.
- Mitered Corner – As the name suggests, this is the corner piece of your gutter that fits onto the corner of the roof.
- Pipe Cleats – These cleats work to secure the downspout to the house.
Do You Need Rain Gutters?
Before we break down the popular gutter styles for you, it’s important to decide whether or not your home actually needs gutters. Most homes do need them, but there are a few exceptions to the rule. If you’re wondering whether or not you’re an exception to this rule, consider:
- Are You Living in an Arid Climate? You might be able to get away without installing gutters if you live in a more arid planting zone since they’re not necessary.
- Does the Roof Have a Short or no Overhang? If this is the case, it’s very likely that the water will collect right against the foundation of your home. This will lead to damage to any plants or flower beds near the foundation, the foundation itself, and it can cause water to fall on anyone who enters or exits the house. So, if this applies to you, you need gutters.
- Does Your Roof Have a 12-Inch or More Overhang and Peak Sharply? If it does, the rainwater will flow down to the ground and away from your home. It won’t go straight down and settle around the foundation. So, in this instance, you may not need gutters.
- Is There Concrete Surrounding Your Home? If you have walkways, patios, or driveways surrounding your home, rain gutters can be optional. The concrete will act like a barrier between the foundation and the rain runoff.
If, based on what you read above, you’ve decided that you need rain gutters on your home, you’ll want to read on to figure out which size and gutter style will suit you the best.
Popular Rain Gutter Sizes
The size rain gutter you pick out will depend on how much rain you get and whether you’re going to put them on a residential or commercial building. Commercial buildings need bigger gutters to handle more rainflow, as do bigger residential spaces. Gutters by Elisha Pospisil / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Both the gutter style and size that you buy must be able to handle the amount of rainfall you get in your location each year. When it comes to the sizes of your rain gutters, you can choose from two standard sizes, including five and six-inch gutters. The dimensions refer to the gutter’s width, or the distance from the edge of the gutter to the fascia board.
In most circumstances, a five-inch rain gutter is more than sufficient to handle annual rainfall for most places in the United States. K-style gutters are the most common type you’ll find in this size category. If you live in an area that gets more rainfall than average, you may want to consider adding additional or oversized downspouts to the system. This will help improve the drainage and drive the water away from the house.
Most people consider the five-inch gutters standard for residential gutter systems, but a lot of people are choosing to go slightly larger. Six-inch gutters are considered oversized. Even though they’re only an inch bigger, they can withstand up to 40% more water than the five-inch gutter. The oversized downspout on this system that gets installed with these gutter styles is also meant to allow more debris to pass through them, and this reduces your risks of them clogging.
Generally speaking, most people recommend six-inch gutters over the five-inch system if you have a bigger roof. Also, if you have a steeper pitch to the roof, six-inch gutter styles can handle the faster water runoff. You can also find gutters in seven and eight-inch sizes, but they usually only get installed on commercial or industrial properties. They’re not suited for residential homes. If you’re not sure about the correct size gutter you need, it’s a good idea to consult a professional.
15 Common Gutter Styles
When you’re deciding on which is the most suitable gutter for your home, you have to decide on a gutter style first and foremost. Gutters come in a few styles with a range of designs, colors, and materials. Before you pick a material and style, you have to consider how much rain you get a year and the roof’s slope. These are the most important factors to help you decide which system will work best. With this in mind, we’re going to go through the 15 most popular and common gutter styles below.
Aluminum is one of the most common gutter materials on residential homes. You can get these gutters in 0.25, 0.27, and 0.32-inch thicknesses. The cheapest gutter style is also the thinnest, but it’s much more likely to dent or bend. The thicker options are slightly more expensive and well worth the money, particularly if you live in an area that sees a lot of snow or rainfall.
Most home improvement centers will sell 10-foot sections of aluminum gutters that you can install yourself. However, because of the sheer weight of the gutter systems, you may want to leave the installation to the professionals to ensure that it’s done correctly. If you’re not a fan of the gray coloring on aluminum, you can easily paint them to match your home’s color scheme. However, be aware that aluminum is prone to bending under heavy use, so you’ll have to make a point to maintain it.
Aluminum gutter styles are very popular since they’re lightweight while being very durable, and you can easily paint them to match your home. Finished house – front angle by James / CC BY-NC 2.0
The box gutter style only comes in six-inch sizes and higher, and you’ll typically find them on commercial buildings over residential ones. This gutter style gets designed to survive more water runoff than a standard gutter, and this is why you typically see them installed on bigger roofs.
It’s hard to deny the beauty of copper gutters. They can increase your home’s resale value, these gutter styles are resistant to mold, rust, and mildew growth. So, copper gutters are a maintenance-free option that look even nicer as they age. However, you should keep in mind that copper gutters cost significantly more upfront than other gutter styles, and they require a professional to install them. They do make a worthwhile investment if you can swing it though.
A lot of traditional home styles feature copper gutters because they offer an old-world appearance. Copper is extremely durable, and it won’t get negatively impacted by any type of weather, including the hottest and most humid summer days to freezing winters. But, since they are one of the most expensive gutter styles, not a lot of people have the budget for them.
European gutter styles, or euro-gutters, are a half-round type of gutter. The biggest distinction between European gutters and traditional half-round gutters is that the gutter bead turns outward. You attach them using a half-round hanger. Also, the fittings that connect the gutter sections to your roof’s corner, or the gutter miter, don’t have seams. Instead, you get round, smooth end caps.
One of the biggest reasons people choose European gutters over other gutter styles is aesthetics. This is especially true when you choose for the very popular copper gutter variety. Copper is a very common material used to create euro-gutters. They offer a very distinctive look from the moment they get installed because they have a penny gloss to them that will turn into the famous copper patina as they age.
They have a reputation for being durable in more extreme conditions because they’re made from zinc, steel, copper, and a thicker aluminum. The downspouts that attach to European gutters have to be full-round, and this means that they have a wider circumference and opening that gives them a more efficient water flow on particularly rainy days.
Finally, this gutter style is less likely to house squirrels, rats, mice, birds, and any other pests. The design is much less accommodating for them than other gutter alternatives, including the 90-degree angles you’ll get with K-style gutters.
5. Fascia Shape
Unlike K-style gutters or half-round gutters, this gutter style doesn’t come with sections that you can attach. So, it doesn’t have seams that are prone to corrosion and leaks. Instead, you’ll get custom-built gutters to your home sing a long piece of aluminum. They commonly get installed on homes that don’t have any pre-existing fascia boards because these gutters act as the fascia board and the gutter all in one.
However, this gutter style is very pricey, and they also require professionals to install them. You can expect to have double the budget for these gutters as you would with half-round or K-style gutters. Depending on your home’s size, you could have to spend hundreds of dollars to have custom fascia gutters designed, built, and installed.
However, this gutter style adds a very seamless look for your home while working to prevent water damage and preventing pests from getting into the house through the rafter tails. Although you won’t typically install this gutter style when you already have existing fascia boards on the house, they are a nice option for people who are in the middle of constructing their homes.
6. Galvalume Steel
Galvalume is a steel variety that gets coated with a durable combination of aluminum and zinc. What you get is a considerably stronger metal gutter that resists damage and corrosion. These gutters get built by dipping steel into liquid zinc and aluminum. Because of this process, you can only get these gutters by having a professional create and install them, and this brings up the price.
When it comes to making the choice between galvanized steel or galvalume steel for your gutter styles, you have to consider your environment. Even though they’re similar, galvalume steel will outlast galvanized steel in terms of different weather conditions. In some areas, this choice will last roughly 10 times longer than galvanized steel.
Galvalume steel gutters are great for wet and rainy areas as they resist rust and corrosion with constant exposure, and this can help them last much longer. Strathalbyn Railway Station built 1883 by denisbin / CC BY-ND 2.0
7. Half Round
This gutter style is shaped like a tube that you cut in half. They’re extremely effective at carrying water. However, the main drawback of this style is that they are very prone to leaf or debris clogs because of the open, trough-like shape. To prevent this from happening, you may want to install leaf guards to make maintenance easier. A second drawback is that they have a curved side shape, and this means that they won’t sit flush to your fascia boards. This is why you’ll have to install brackets to keep them securely in place.
The installation process for these gutters is slightly different from normal ones. As we mentioned, you’ll have to install brackets along the roof’s edge. Once you have the brackets in place, the gutter gets dropped into place and secured firmly. If you’ve picked heavier gutter materials like copper, you’ll need additional hardware to keep the brackets securely in place.
This gutter style isn’t as decorative as K-shaped ones, so you’ll usually find them on homes with more traditional styles that were built before the 1960s. The more rustic looking gutters in this category, especially ones made out of zinc or copper, come in five and six-inch sizes and they’re highly desirable.
8. High Back
Most of the gutter styles on the list come in high back shapes, so this means that the back portion of your gutter has another section for tucking under metal roofing. This can help prevent water from entering the shingles on your roof. These gutter styles aren’t nearly as popular as other ones because you have to install them before you install the roof.
When you look at them from the side, this gutter style looks like the letter K. They’re the most common options you see on many older homes. The flat back allows you to nail them directly to the fascia board without needing to install any brackets. However, what makes this gutter style stand out and be so popular is the decorative front side. It looks just like crown molding. The flat bottoms and outward sides allow this gutter style to carry more water than the half-round options.
So, if you live in an area that gets a decent amount of rainfall every year, this system is most likely the most obvious one for your home. One big drawback of these gutters is that they can be challenging to keep clean and the inner angles can snag lots of debris.
10. Seamed or Sectional Gutters
Seamed or sectional gutter styles are very popular among people who like to DIY projects around the house because it’s easy to fit the sections together without any special equipment. The gutters have smaller sections that snap together to form a bigger gutter section. They’re typically made out of vinyl, aluminum, or steel. Seamed gutter styles usually come in 10-foot long columns that use hangers to attach to the home’s fascia board.
The biggest drawback of seamed gutters is they have failure points and leak potential, even if you have an expert install them for you. All it takes is one clogged section due to debris and you’ll see large or small leaks, depending on how heavy the rain is at the seam points in your gutters. In the worst-case scenario, you could even see an entire section collapse under the weight of the trapped water. This is especially true if you chose vinyl for the material as it’s lightweight. However, since this gutter style is the most economical one, you can easily remove a collapsed or leaking section and replace it with a new one.
11. Seamless Gutters
If you want minimum leakage with a smoother look, you can consider installing the seamless gutter style. You get more color choices with it and there is also no length limit. Since they have no seams along the length of the gutters, they are much less likely to leak, except in the corner joints. The gutters are created using longer single aluminum coils that get coated with rot-resistant chemicals. They look beautiful when you get them installed as they keep your roofline’s seamless horizontals. You can match them to your home’s exterior, and they’re available in 30 or more colors.
Unlike seamed gutters that you can install on your own, these ones require the help of professionals. So, you will pay more for the installation since it’s more time-consuming and labor-intensive. The one downside of this gutter style is that when one section fails, you’ll have to replace the whole section or cut it out independently.
However, there are also big benefits of installing these gutters. They usually are a much higher quality, so you’ll get a product that lasts longer than more traditional sectional gutters. Also, they increase your home’s resale value while minimizing the risks of dampness, mold, and rot to the house.
Even though seamless gutters are more expensive, they’re also much less prone to leaking because there are no weak spots or seams where they can corrode and start leaking. Blackwell House Strathalbyn 1869 by denisbin / CC BY-ND 2.0
12. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel gutter styles are more durable than aluminum options, and they’ll do fairly well when it comes to severe weather. You can get galvalume or galvanized steel in addition to traditional stainless. Each material has a unique metal mix that is waterproof and rust-resistant. If you’re after the most rust-resistant steel gutter type, go for galvanized as this is the most durable option. You will have to install some leaf guards to help extend how long your gutter lasts.
The best thing about this gutter style is that it won’t rust, but they are much more pricey than galvanized steel gutters. Since they have more weight to them compared to aluminum, you don’t want to install them on your own. So you also have to factor in labor costs.
13. Victorian Ogee
Victorian ogee gutters are popular for people who are trying to get a different look for their homes over more traditional gutter styles. Better known as Old Gothic gutters, they’re much more concerned with aesthetics over actual function. Their style comes from the 19th century cast-iron gutters that were very popular at this time. They work best when you install them on traditional homes, especially Victorian ones. However, with a little styling on your part, they can look nice on virtually any home.
The gutters are relatively shallow in design, so they have a very limited space for holding water when you compare them to traditional gutter styles. They tend to work best when you install them on smaller homes in areas that are drier and more arid. Also, you have to have this gutter custom made for your home, so you won’t be able to find them readily available anywhere.
Just like vinyl siding is very popular, so are vinyl gutter styles. As with aluminum, this option is very lightweight. When you start the installation process, you’ll realize that they’re relatively easy to size and cut before snapping together almost seamlessly. Vinyl gutters feature a strong plastic that resists corrosion, denting, and bending. This makes them nice for areas that get a lot of rainfall during the year. It’s important to know that vinyl is the least durable gutter style of all materials. They can still last for over 20 years if you don’t live in a very harsh climate though.
A second drawback with vinyl gutters is that the material will bleach out and fade over time, especially when they’re in an area with direct sunlight. You can find these gutters in a few different colors, and they give you the ability to paint them to match your home’s exterior color. If you plan to DIY the installation process with these gutters, you’ll usually pay between $1.00 and $2.00 a linear foot for the K-style. If you want the same gutters professionally installed, the price jumps to $5.00 a linear foot.
The final gutter style on the list is zinc, and it has a reputation for being expensive. However, they’re decently durable and resistant to warping, corrosion, and weathering. They can be an investment, but they can usually last up to two times longer than aluminum gutters to roughly 50 years. When you first install zinc gutters, they have a dull gray look that slowly turns into a pretty patina with age. The gutters get made out of zinc with traces of titanium and copper. They get left unpainted, and unlike other gutter styles on the list, need professional installation.
This is due to the fact that these gutters need to be welded to install them properly. You typically see this gutter on historic, high-end properties. Due to the aesthetic appeal and durability factor, you can expect to have a large budget for these gutters. They range anywhere from $10.00 to $22.00 a linear foot, including the installation. Unless you know how to weld, you don’t want to attempt these gutters on your own.
We’ve gone over 15 popular and pretty gutter styles for you to consider for your home. Some are much more durable and long lasting than others, but they come with a higher price tag attached. Other gutter styles are more budget-friendly, but you can find yourself having to maintain them more. Whatever option you choose, they’ll help protect your foundation from water runoff.
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.