Most buildings need rain gutter systems installed at some point, but what style is right for your home? The four most common gutter styles are half-round, k-style, box-style, and custom fascia gutters. Each design has aesthetic and practical purposes. While we can’t choose for you, we can explain the different gutter styles so you can make the best choice for your situation.
Don’t worry if your knowledge of gutters begins and ends at “gutter” and “downspout.” Let’s define some terms you need to know to understand and choose a gutter style.
- Gutter: The open-topped part that captures rainwater from the roof. They usually come in sections but can be seamless when custom-made.
- End caps: The part that seals the end of a gutter.
- Ferrule: A hollow cylinder covering a long screw that attaches the gutter to the roof. You can either use ferrules or hangers to attach a gutter.
- Hangers: The bottom supports for the gutter that prevent sagging. Not all gutter styles need hangers, but some styles do.
- Downspout: A vertical pipe the water runs down. It is either round or rectangular, depending on the gutter style.
- Downspout elbow: The bent part of the downspout that directs water away from the building.
- Pipe cleat: The part that attaches the downspout to the building.
- Fascia board: A board that covers the edge of your roof’s eaves. Not all homes have them. Many kinds of gutters will be attached directly to the fascia board. If your home lacks one, then you will need a roof strap.
- Roof strap: A metal strap hanger that allows gutter installation on houses with no fascia board. It attaches the gutter directly to the roof.
4 Types of Gutters
These four different types of gutters come in various shapes, sizes, and materials. Let’s dive into their aesthetic appeal and the practicality behind their designs.
As the name suggests, these gutters resemble half a cylinder or pipe with an open top, curved lip, and round downspouts. To install half-round gutters, you need to attach brackets and hangers to the roof edge, then hook the gutter on. They typically come in 4- to 6-inch sizes and can be made of any typical gutter material.
Half-round gutters aren’t as decorative as other styles. However, they’re commonly found on old, historic, and rustic homes. Their smooth, open design makes them easy to clean, but they don’t hold as much water as other styles. They’re also prone to denting.
- Less prone to corrosion than other styles
- Easy to clean
- Struggles with heavy rainfall
- Not as durable as other styles
This gutter design gets its name from its shape, which some say looks like a K from the side. You also may know them as ogee gutters. Their shape allows them to lay flat against the fascia board and carry more water than half-round gutters. K-style gutters vary from 4 to 8 inches and have rectangular downspouts. This gutter comes in all standard materials.
The shape of K-style gutters looks similar to crown molding, which makes it one of the most visually appealing designs. The design is sturdy and efficient. However, leaves can get stuck in the nooks and crannies, making cleaning challenging and encouraging corrosion.
- Can handle high water flow
- Flat back prevents water leakage
- Visually appealing
- The rigid structure helps it withstand damage
- Prone to corrosion and clogs
- Hard to clean
Do you need something heavy-duty and sturdy? Box-style gutters are designed to hold large quantities of water. Rather than being attached to the fascia board, this style has one side tucked under the shingles to prevent water from slipping between the gutter’s edge and the external wall. They come in sizes from 6 inches and up and can be made from most gutter materials.
Box-style gutters are most commonly used for commercial and industrial buildings but work well for homes with large roofs. However, they must be installed under your roof. They can be used for newly-built homes or when homeowners replace their roofs.
- Can handle lots of water
- Good for large roofs
- Needs to be installed alongside a new roof
Custom Fascia Gutters
If none of the other gutter styles look right, consider custom fascia gutters. These gutters are made of one continuous piece with no seams. Seamless gutters are more visually appealing and less prone to leaks. Fascia gutters are typically only available in aluminum, copper, steel, or vinyl.
A professional will design these gutters to match your home precisely so they don’t stand out too much. Because they are custom-made, they come with the highest price tag. The more complicated the design, the more difficult it will be to clean.
- Matches your home perfectly
- Pricey to build and install
- Limited material options
- Difficult to clean
How to Choose the Best Gutter Style for Your Home
Now that you know what your gutter options are, how should you make your final decision? Here are some factors to consider.
Your priority is to get gutters that function how you need them to. While a half-round gutter may work well for an arid climate, it won’t handle a torrential downpour as well as a K-style or box-style gutter.
Large roofs collect more rainwater than smaller roofs. Therefore, they need gutters that can handle the extra water, such as box-style gutters. If you have a small roof and don’t get much rain, a 4-inch half-round or K-style gutter will suit you just fine. You can use mini-gutters for small structures like sheds.
Note: The amount of rain trumps roof size. If you live in an area with lots of precipitation, err on the bigger side for gutters, regardless of your roof size.
Many types of gutters attach to the fascia board. If your roof doesn’t have a fascia board, you will need a roof strap to attach the gutters. The roof straps will either go under or over your roof shingles. If you also need a new roof, you could install box gutters since they need to go under the roof anyway.
Roofs with sharp peaks and large overhangs may not require gutters at all. Why? A gutter’s purpose is to divert rainwater away from your home to prevent flooding, erosion, foundation problems, mildew, or mold damage. If the water lands far from your home’s foundation and exterior, you will be less at risk of damage. Even then, a gutterless system is best attempted only if:
- You live in an arid climate with little rain
- Your home is surrounded by impenetrable concrete or well-drained soils
- The water will flow downhill away from your home
Cost and Labor
Pre-made or DIY-friendly gutters are generally cheaper and quicker to install than custom-made styles. Consider your budget, free time, and handiness to narrow your options.
The cheapest option is K-style gutters. They are easy to install, which decreases labor costs and makes them more DIY-friendly. Half-round gutters are also DIY-friendly but take more labor and parts to install. This extra labor makes them more expensive than K-style gutters.
The most expensive styles are custom fascia and box-style gutters. Fascia gutters are expensive because they are seamless and custom-made to suit your home. Box-style gutters are primarily expensive because they require a new roof installation. However, their price may be manageable if you plan to replace your roof.
The various materials used affect your gutters’ longevity, appearance, cost, and installation difficulty. While most gutter styles can be made in any material, custom fascia gutters are usually limited to aluminum, copper, steel, or vinyl.
Materials offered for each style also vary from company to company and store to store. If you are dead set on a particular material, check with the company or store you plan to use to see what styles you can choose.
Here is a brief overview of each material you could use:
- Aluminum: This material is one of the most popular choices for all gutter styles. It is naturally rust-resistant and lightweight. However, it is prone to dents or bends, especially if it is thin. You can DIY or professionally install aluminum gutters. You can paint or purchase them in a color that matches your home.
- Copper: The attractive color matches rustic and historical homes well. The most common style is half-round, but it is available in other styles. This material is thick, heavy-duty, temperature-resistant, and extremely long-lasting. Since copper gutters require welding, they are expensive and require professional installation.
- Steel: Though expensive and difficult to DIY, steel gutters are durable. Paint them to match your home’s exterior. Steel has a relatively short lifespan and is prone to corrosion. To avoid rust, choose stainless steel.
- Vinyl: Also known as plastic or PVC, vinyl comes in many colors. DIYers often choose vinyl because it’s affordable, readily available in home improvement stores, and easy to cut or assemble. While vinyl gutters don’t dent or corrode, they aren’t the best gutter choice for areas with extreme temperatures, rain, snow, or wind because they could crack or warp.
- Zinc: While not a common choice for gutters, zinc is a long-lasting, rust-resistant material. Its installation requires welding. It starts with a dull gray color but will develop a patina over time. You can buy zinc gutters pre-weathered. Salty air and acidic conditions (such as runoff from cedar shingles) can damage zinc.
- Wood: This material is the least common for a reason. While it looks beautiful on cabins and historic houses, it requires frequent painting, staining, and oiling to prevent water and weather damage. Depending on how well cared for they are, they could last anywhere from 10 to 100 years.
You’ll see your gutters whenever you go outside, so you want to like how they look. If your home has exterior crown molding, K-style or custom fascia gutters will work best. Half-round gutters may look the most pleasing if you have an old, historical, or rustic home. Box-style gutters will fit right in on a modern or industrial-style exterior.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You should choose the style you like best (provided it meets your practical needs), regardless of whether your exterior is modern, historical, or rustic.
FAQ about the different gutter styles
K-style gutters are the most popular design due to their visual appeal, low cost, and ease of installation.
Custom fascia gutters tend to last the longest because they are tailored to your home and have no seams where leaks could form. K- and box-style gutters can also last a while due to their sturdy structures.
However, the material will significantly affect how long your gutter lasts. The longest-lasting materials are copper and zinc, lasting close to 100 years. Aluminum and steel can last up to 25 and 30 years, respectively, when well-taken care of.
Gutter guards are your best defense against clogs. A gutter guard is a grate or mesh layer covering your gutter’s open top. They allow water through while stopping leaves, needles, and other debris from entering the gutter. They still need to be cleaned, but they’re much more manageable than gutter clogs.
Gutter guards are especially helpful for K-style and fascia gutters with plenty of nooks and crannies, but all gutters benefit from gutter guards. Some gutters come with gutter guards built in.
When to Hire a Pro
Some homeowners choose to install gutters themselves. Half-round and K-style gutters are suitable for DIY installation, especially if they’re lightweight and easy-to-cut materials like vinyl.
However, box-style and custom fascia gutters aren’t possible for the average homeowner to install themselves. You also may not want to use your precious free time to measure, cut, drill, and assemble gutter pieces. Gutter installation on tall roofs could be dangerous as well.
To save yourself all this trouble, contact a local pro to care for your gutter needs. They can help you with new gutters, gutter cleaning, and gutter repair.
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