When it comes time for new gutters, it can be difficult to know where to start. Do you want the kind of gutters most of your neighbors have or ones unique for your home? Do you want to install them yourself or leave that to the professionals? How often do you want to clean them? How long do you want them to last?
All of these questions and more can be important to answer. Like our asphalt shingle comparison guide, we intend to help you answer the most important questions you have about gutters.
K-style vs. Half Round
There are mainly two different styles of gutters: K-style and Half Round. K-style is most common on new homes and Half Round is most common on traditional homes.
- They have high capacity relative to size
- Easy install due to straight backside
- Easier to construct seamlessly
- May drain less efficiently due to angles of sides and bottom
- May be more prone to corrosion
When to get K-style gutters: You want well-functioning gutters for a reasonable price on a modern style home.
- They look great on some traditional homes
- Have a wide variety of aesthetic options
- Drain more efficiently due to curved walls
- Go well with round downspouts, which drain well
- Can come in multiple sizes
- Less prone to corrosion
- They aren’t that deep and overflow easily
- May need to be cleaned out more frequently
- Require special tools and should be installed professionally
- Are typically heavier and more expensive than K-style
- Are harder to construct seamlessly than K-style
- Larger sizes needed for equivalent performance of K-style
When to get half round gutters: You have a traditional home and want gutters that match the historical or unique look.
- They may reduce the number of times you need to clean your gutters.
- Block larger objects from entering gutters
- They increase the costs of gutters
- Can take some effort to find ones that fit well
- May need to be removed for each cleaning
- Do not block smaller objects from entering gutters
- Can prevent water from entering gutter
When to get gutter guards: Your home gets a lot of larger debris that the guards can deflect, and you prefer less frequent maintenance.
Size: 5″ vs. 6″ (K-style)
5″ gutters are the most common size of gutter, usually on K-style. While custom sizes do exist, like 7″ or 8″, they are rarely needed. For Half Round gutters, bump the size up by at least one inch. Their rounded profiles reduce their capacity per size.
- Great for most homes
- Cheap and lightweight
- Easier install than 6″ gutters
- Can overflow in regions prone to storms
- Harder to clean than 6″ gutters
When to get 5″ gutters: Your roof is not very large or complex and you don’t experience heavy downpours from storms. Most homes fall into this category, so if you’re unsure if you have any use for larger gutters, it probably means that you don’t.
- Can handle up to 50% more water inflow than 5″ gutters
- Great for large homes or industrial buildings.
- Fascia board must be mounted properly to handle the extra weight of 6″ gutters full of rainwater
- More expensive than 5″
When to get 6″ gutters: Your roof is steep enough, has large enough area per gutter entry point of rainwater, or you live in a stormy area with high downpour density. The steeper the roof, the more quickly rainwater travels into the gutters. The longer the travel of rainwater, the greater the volume of rainwater in the gutters. Homes with a large enough increase may be better off with 6″ gutters instead of 5″.
If you think 5″ K-style gutters might not be large enough for you, then Half Round gutters almost certainly will be too small since their 6″ size holds less volume than 5″ K-style.
Downspouts: 2″x3″ vs. 3″x4″ (K-style)
Where gutters collect rainwater, downspouts drain it. 2″x3″ downspouts are most common and they match with 5″ gutters. 3″x4″ match with 6″ gutters, yet can be installed on 5″ gutters as well.
- Low cost
- Easy install
- Function well for most homes
- Can drain too slowly for heavy rain regions
When to get 2″x3″ downspouts: You have 5″ gutters and don’t have any of the previously mentioned issues associated with drainage trouble. Most homes are in this category.
- Can solve many drainage problems when applied to 5″ K-style gutters.
- More expensive
- Might not be installed properly on 5″ K-style gutters
When to get 3″x4″ downspouts: You have 6″ K-style gutters or drainage issues with 5″ K-style. Many drainage problems can be solved just by increasing the downspout size (along with increasing the gutter outlet size). Sometimes increasing the gutter size alone won’t improve drainage since outflow can only be as much as the downspout allows.
Seamless vs. Sectional
Gutters can be installed either piece-by-piece (sectional) or altogether as one piece along the gutter line (seamless).
- Less prone to leaks
- Fewer points of failure
- Less labor intensive install
- When damaged, the entire length of that gutter must be replaced
- Not a do-it-yourself option
When to get seamless gutters: You want better-looking gutters that are robust against damage and leaks, and professionals are handling the installation.
- A do-it-yourself option
- Easy to replace a damaged section
- Propensity to leak at seams
- Has more points of failure
When to get sectional gutters: You’re doing it yourself and are willing to replace portions yourself when they leak, bend, or dent.
Gutters can be made out of multiple different types of material. Each type of material has a unique set of attributes that can make one type fit perfectly for one person yet not another.
- Lightweight and have easy-to-install snapping mechanism
- Don’t rust or rot
- Come in many styles and sizes
- Become brittle in climates with extreme hots and colds
- Can bend or collapse from heavy rainfall, snow, or wind
- Sectional only and prone to leaks
- Even though they are easy to install, they can also be easy to install improperly, resulting in unnecessary sagging or leaking
- Shouldn’t place ladders against them
- Short lifespan (about 20 years)
When to get vinyl gutters: You live in a year-round mild climate, are on a tight budget, want to install them yourself, and are not too concerned about leaks or needing to replace them at some point down the road.
- Sectional or seamless
- Not too costly
- Don’t rust or rot
- Can be lightweight and easy to handle
- Thin and lightweight versions can bend or dent to falling objects or improperly placed ladders
- Comparable lifespan to vinyl gutters, but can last longer with thicker versions
When to get aluminum gutters: When you want to go low cost without unnecessarily sacrificing quality. 5″ K-style aluminum gutters are popular and well-rounded.
- Sectional or seamless
- Some kinds never rust and can have a long lifespan
- Can be rust-prone if only galvanized
- Reducing rust propensity with Galvalume increases cost
- Eliminating rust propensity with stainless steel can get very costly
When to get steel gutters: You want to go heavy and stainless and know of a good deal or you don’t mind spending a little more for gutters that are better than most.
- Have a neat finished look
- Longer lasting than most (up to 50 years)
- Vulnerable to acidic conditions
- Should probably be installed professionally
When to get zinc gutters: You don’t want to do-it-yourself, are willing to pay for attractive gutters that last a long time, and there is no risk for them to come in contact with acidic conditions.
- They don’t rust or peel
- Can last longer than the Roman Empire (okay, not quite that long)
- Sectional or seamless
- Color changes over time
- Can cause stains
- The most expensive gutter material
When to get copper gutters: You want to pay enough to never have to replace your gutters, and you are well informed of the unique issues involving copper (like how they change colors and can stain).
There is great variety when it comes to choosing gutters. They range from cheap to expensive, rustproof to rust-prone, functional in storms to non-functional in storms, and many other factors. This guide describes the main concerns of each so that you have all the information you need to select the gutters best for you.
Looking for new gutters with your new roof? Just let us know and we can make it happen! CHASE CONSTRUCTION NORTH WEST, INC. is a leading contractor in the roofing industry of Western Washington, we’re GAF MASTER ELITE® contractors, and we have been installing fantastic roofs since 2002. Give us a call at 253-445-8950 or fill out our quick estimate form!