You’ve just moved into your dream house, but there’s a problem: it doesn’t have gutters. You know installing them won’t be cheap, so now you’re wondering if gutters are even necessary.
Necessary? As in essential? Maybe not, says CJ Browning, owner of Browning Aluminum in Ocala, Florida. If they were essential, local building codes would require them. But it’s pretty much indisputable that gutters are incredibly important for protecting your roof, siding and landscaping in the long term, Browning adds.
“I highly recommend gutters if you want to protect your investment,” he says.
So risk going without gutters if you want, but you should understand that it’s a major gamble. We’ll lay out the reasons why.
- What Are Gutters?
- Why Gutters Are Important
- When You Should Have Gutters
- When You Can Do Without Gutters
- FAQs About Gutters
What Are Gutters?
Gutters are essentially long troughs that run along the roofline to catch rainwater. The water flows to a downspout, then to the ground and away from the house.
Gutters are attached to the fascia board at the edge of a roof, positioned right where they can catch all the rainwater that falls off of the roof.
There are several styles of gutter and a number of types of gutter material:
The different types are:
- K-style gutters are the most popular gutters. They area square at the bottom and have a wide mouth to capture rainwater
- Box gutters are square as well
- Half-round gutters are making a comeback because they have sleek, retro appeal
The different types of gutter material are:
- Aluminum is perhaps the most popular material
- Copper is very stylish and durable but quite expensive
- Galvanized steel is very durable and long-lasting
- Stainless steel is also durable and doesn’t rust easily
- Vinyl is the least expensive option but is also the most fragile
- Zinc is another durable material
Why Gutters Are Important
Gutters are the unsung hero of your home that can save you thousands of dollars in repair bills. Here’s why.
1. Prevent Foundation Damage
Gutters protect your home’s foundation from water damage. Without gutters, rainwater will pool around your home, weakening the foundation. With time, the foundation may get too weak to the extent it can’t hold the weight of your home and collapse.
2. Protect Siding
Siding is your home’s protective layer. If it stays wet from frequent rain, mold can develop and even infiltrate inside the house. Excess water on the siding can also peel off the exterior paint and form stains, decreasing the curb appeal of your property.
These ugly brown stains are largely an aesthetic concern, but they can also cause issues such as rot. Wood siding is the most vulnerable to water damage. For homes with a lot of wood siding, install gutters to protect the wood from rotting and weakening from water damage.
Surprisingly, vinyl siding can take a beating as well.
“Vinyl siding has a wax coating on it that protects it from the sun,” Browning says. “But as water keeps hitting it, it washes off that wax coating. That’s why, with a lot of older homes, you see the vinyl siding on the bottom of the house is cracked.”
3. Protect the Attic
Gutters are necessary to protect your attic and roof from water damage.
“What I see a lot of when people don’t have gutters is that water works its way up into the roof itself,” Browning says. “The trusses get wet and you’ll end up with rot in your plywood.”
If you live in a region that gets heavy rainfall and you don’t have gutters, your fascia, fascia board, and soffits may rot or warp as well.
4. Prevent Soil Erosion and Landscape Damage
Without a gutter system, water cascades in heavy sheets off your roof, pounding the soil and plant beds below. The force of the water erodes soil and batters tender plants and flowers.
Flowers and fragile plants may not be able to survive sheets of stormwater pouring down on them during rainy days. Plants need soil to survive, and pooling water causes major soil erosion.
5. Prevent Basement Flooding
Basement flooding is common when property slopes down toward the house. If you don’t have rain gutters, the basement will flood quicker.
Basement flooding can damage your home’s foundation, wiring, and insulation. It can also cause health issues due to mold and mildew formation.
Pro tip: You can install a sump pump to force water out of the basement. Ensure the sump pump has a backup power source, as there may be power outages during heavy rain.
6. Prevent Damage Caused by Clay Soil
Clay soil absorbs water but doesn’t drain quickly, causing the soil to expand and damage the foundation. When the soil dries, it shrinks and cracks, allowing stormwater to penetrate.
If you live in an area with clay soils, gutters will direct water harmlessly away from clay soil, or at least to an area of the yard where clay soil expansion and contraction won’t affect your foundation.
7. Prevent Cosmetic Damage
Water falling off your roof to the ground can cause ruts in your lawn. Rainwater cascading to the ground also splashes dirt and debris against the house, making it grimy and stained.
When You Should Have Gutters
Most homes benefit from gutters, for all of the reasons stated above. But Browning strongly encourages homeowners to get gutters if:
- You live in an area where it rains a lot.
- Your property slopes toward the house.
- Your yard has a lot of clay soil: Red clay, in particular, directs water in consistent patterns, which results in water going towards the same spot again and again. It also tends to absorb a lot of water. A lot of red clay soil in your yard means you need a gutter system.
- Your roof has no overhang. Overhangs help direct water away from the home’s foundation.Generally, you should have gutters if your roof has less than a foot of overhang. A small overhang isn’t enough to protect your foundation from erosion.
When You Can Do Without Gutters
Although he installs, repairs and maintains gutters, Browning is honest about this: Some homes don’t need them, and other homes only need them in certain locations.
“If your property is graded away from your home and foundation and you don’t have landscaping directly under the roofline, you may not need gutters,” he says.
You also may not have a gutter system if:
- You live in a dry area that doesn’t get much rain or snow. States like Arizona and Utah have arid climates. They don’t receive enough rainfall during the year to necessitate a gutter system.
- The roof overhang is at least 1 foot long. A long overhang will carry water well past the edge of the roof and harmlessly into your yard, away from your foundation.
- The house is surrounded by concrete, asphalt or landscaping rocks. Soil erosion occurs when dripping water washes away exposed. If your home is surrounded by concrete, asphalt, rocks, pavers, or some other hard surface, you probably don’t need gutters.
- The roof has a steep slope. Steep roof slopes don’t need gutters as much as low-sloping roofs. A roof should be angled at a slope of at least 2 feet for every 12 feet.
If you are thinking about going without a gutter system, have a roofing contractor inspect your home and ask them if your house can go safely without gutters.
FAQs About Gutters
It can take months or years for water to crack and seriously damage your foundation. However, in some cases it only takes as little as 72 hours for water to damage your foundation.
Gutter guards prevent or minimize gutter clogging. Also known as leaf guards, they are designed to prevent debris from collecting in the gutter pipes.
Regular gutter cleaning keeps your gutter and downspouts free of blockages, so remember to remove leaves, twigs, and other debris stuck in your gutter 2-4 times a year.
Call a Pro to Install Gutters on Your Roof
Gutters protect homes from soil erosion and water damage. If you’re still unsure whether your home needs gutters, ask a gutter pro.