7 Ways to Protect Your Gutters from Rusting

A gutter with rust on it installed on roof of house

When it comes to rain gutters, the last thing a homeowner wants to see is rust. If left untreated, it will eventually eat holes in your gutters. If your gutters start leaking, it can lead to even more serious issues, such as water damage to your foundation. The best way to protect your gutters from rust is to prevent the rust from establishing in the first place. 

Maintenance and proper cleaning are the best ways to prevent rust on your gutters. Other methods, such as regularly trimming your trees and aligning your gutters’ pitch, can also go a long way. Here’s how to keep your gutters rust free and working properly.

7 Ways to Protect Your Gutters from Rusting

1. Install Gutters Right the First Time

The first step in preventing your gutters from rusting is to make sure they’re built right. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going through gutter installation for the first time, are replacing them with new gutters, or are just doing some gutter repair. If it’s done incorrectly, your gutter system will rust faster since it’s more likely to develop standing water. It will also lead to more problems than gutters that were done right the first time. In other words, do it right, or do it twice.

2. Pick the Right Metal

Gutters on a house
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While installing gutters or making repairs, you need to pick the right metal. While each one has its upsides and downsides, some are better choices than others. Aluminum and galvanized steel gutters are rust-resistant, so they’re good choices. Galvalume is also particularly good for coastal areas with salty ocean winds. Copper is pricey, but it can last up to 100 years.

If you can, avoid using vinyl gutters. Although they can’t rust since they’re not made of metal, they’re prone to cracking in extreme temperatures. They’re also more likely to leak and are more fragile compared to metal gutters.

It’s also important to use the same material for the entire gutter system as opposed to mixing two different ones. If you do, you run the risk of galvanic corrosion, which is a process by which metals rust due to a reaction between them when they’re connected by water. If you get aluminum gutters, for example, you need aluminum screws and brackets, as well.

3. A Little Sealant Goes a Long Way

If you need to keep your gutters safe from rust but aren’t installing a new system, a great way to do so is a sealant. Applying a metal sealant or a similar substance to your gutters, such as paint or primer, can protect them from rust by preventing moisture from getting to the metal. Applying sealant to gutters should be easy to DIY, so you won’t have to spend a ton of money on it.

4. Remember Your Maintenance

The single most important thing you can do to protect your gutters from rust is to regularly clean and maintain them. Proper gutter cleaning and regular maintenance will extend the life of your gutters and prevent rust from forming by getting rid of clogs, or even gutter mold, that will prevent water from draining.

5. Consider Gutter Guards

A gutter guard installed on top of roof of house
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If you want to do more to prevent your gutters from rusting, you can install gutter guards. Gutter guards are screens that go over your gutters and prevent debris, such as leaves, from creating blockages that would lead to standing water. Keep in mind, however, that they do not eliminate the need for regular cleaning and maintenance.

6. Trim Your Trees

If you have trees on your property, especially ones that create a lot of litter like pine trees, another way to prevent rust on your gutters is to trim any branches that hang over your house so that they don’t drop any debris into your gutters that could create a clog. This will make it less likely for standing water to pool in your gutters and create rust.

7. Check the Alignment

One of the most important factors when installing or reinstalling your gutter system is the alignment and angles. Make sure that your gutters are pitched properly to drain any rain they catch so that water doesn’t pool in your gutters and cause rust.

Even if your gutters are properly aligned when you first build them, their pitch can be altered by wind, debris, water, or just the house shifting and settling. Make sure your gutters are aligned for optimum drainage at least once a year. The best way to do this is to pour water down the length of it and have someone confirm it’s all coming out of the downspout.

How to Treat Rust on Gutters

rusted gutter on a house
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In the case of minor rust, follow these steps:

  • Brush off the rust with an abrasive tool such as a wire brush, some sandpaper, or steel wool.
  • Wait for the gutter to dry.
  • Apply metal primer that will protect the metal against moisture and the elements.

If it’s a big case, you’ll probably need to replace the rusted section of gutter. Doing so, however, creates a seam that is prone to leaks and may need to be replaced down the line.

What Causes Rust on Gutters?

The most common way gutters get rusty is standing water. When gutters can’t drain properly, whether it’s poor drainage, a clog, or something else, the excess moisture will build up and cause rust. Some materials may also rust over time just by being exposed to ambient humidity in the air.

FAQ About Gutters

How often should I clean my gutters?

It depends. As a rule of thumb, you should clean your gutters at least twice a year, but if you have certain trees in your landscape, such as pine trees, you’ll need to clear them out more often.

How much does gutter repair cost?

It depends on the extent of the damage. If it’s just a little rust, all it should cost is the price of some steel wool or sandpaper and a can of paint. On the other hand, if there’s severe damage, you might need to replace the whole gutter system, which can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

What is the difference between seamless gutters and regular ones?

Seamless gutters are made of one long, continuous piece of metal, hence the name. This means that they don’t need any sealing at their joints. Regular gutters are made in sections, so they need to be riveted together.

Shake Off the Rust

If you have issues with your gutters, contact local gutter professionals who are ready to protect your property from water damage.

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Austin Geiger

Austin Geiger is a writer who's passionate about home care. He enjoys writing about home maintenance practices, as well as projects to turn an outdoor space into a backyard paradise.