Important: Roofing Mission (a.k.a “BulletpRoof Roof Systems”), when installing or replacing parts of the roofing gutter system, it’s always important to consider all of its parts are working correctly to avoid unnecessary damage to the home; One reason why we don’t layer shingles as well. Understand that water not being channeled away from the home’s foundation by the gutter system is affecting the home, with water damage.
Roofing gutters are one component of a roof system that runs along the base of the roof, where gutters are responsible for channeling water away from the home’s foundation to reduce the risk of:
- flooding the basement,
- damaging home’s siding, and
- erosion and harm to your landscaping.
Meaning it not only prevents people walking near the home from getting drenched by water running off the roof’s shingles, especially during a downpour; Some people take advantage of their gutters to channel and conserve water in a rain barrel, for later use in their garden.
The Lower Mainland’s rainforest-like climate comes with heavy rainfall, making rain gutters a requirement since standard BC homes are built with at least a few inches of roof overhang and anywhere in the 12 inch or more range becomes recommended (sometimes it will naturally cascade away from the house); Reason being, without gutters the rain will run-off the roof and pool against the foundation:
- drenching people walking underneath,
- damaging the foundation and siding, and
- any landscaping or flower beds will be washed away.
Although there are a few exceptions that makes gutters optional or an aesthetic choice because water will naturally channel itself away without the help of gutters:
- When the house’s altitude is higher than its surrounding landscape
- When the climate has little to no rainfall, very arid climates
- When the home has concrete patios, walkways and driveways surrounding the entire home
Depending on the condition of your roofing gutters or you are ever unsure of “why” your gutters aren’t working as they should, consult a “BulletpRoofer” for immediate assistance with any gutter-related issues.
Table of Contents
- Parts of the Rain Gutter System
- Gutter System Styles & Materials: Pros & Cons
- Final Considerations about Roofing Gutters
Parts of the Rain Gutter System
Together all of the parts of the rain gutter system help to channel water run-off from the roof away from the home’s foundation, protecting your home further from rainfall. Understanding the parts of the gutter system will help the homeowner to identify which part of the gutter system has a problem because they aren’t doing their job correctly before consulting a professional for help; Avoiding replacing perfectly good gutters, sections of a gutter, a downspout, etc. that costed more to repair for no good reason.
Common issues with the gutter to keep an eye out for if you’re unsure:
- Water dripping, overflowing or leaking from the gutter
- Water leaking into the soffit venting
- Fascia is rotten or has water stains
- Irregular ground erosion from water draining
To help explain, let’s discuss the horizontal pieces that run on the edge of the roof, followed by the vertical pieces that run along the side of the house; Including what signs would mean there is a problem with that particular piece.
Horizontal Pieces of the Gutter System
- Gutter; Half-cut metal tube on the edge of the roof that catches water running-off the shingles and channels it along its tube, each piece is called a “section”; Signs of rust, corrosion, holes, broken section(s), clogged or overflowing gutters will cause leaks in the gutter
- Hangers; Strips of metal that support the gutter’s bottom helping the gutter stay level with the roof’s edge; Signs of uneven gutters or sagging mean these hangers are causing leaks in the gutter because water can not be channeled evenly through the gutter
- Ferrule; Hollow shaft that encloses a “spike” or long screw and helps the gutter attach to the roof’s edge, onto the home’s fascia; Signs of the gap between the gutter and fascia means the spikes are loose causing water to drip down the house’s side
- End Caps; A cap (a seal) that fits at the end of a gutter “section” that prevents water from channeling out of a gutter’s edge; Signs of rust, corrosion, holes, the end cap being loose or missing causing water to drain onto the side of the house or eroding the ground near it
- Mitered Corner; Corner piece of a gutter that helps water to channel around the corner of a roof’s edge; Signs of rust, corrosion, holes or a leak causing water to drain down the corner of a house.
Vertical Pieces of the Gutter System
- Downspout; Vertical tube that runs down the side of a house, responsible getting the water caught by the gutter and moving it towards the ground; Signs of rust, corrosion, holes or a loose downspout would cause water to drain onto the side of the house
- Downspout Elbow; The part of the downspout closest to the ground that redirects the water coming down the downspout and away from the home’s foundation; Signs of holes, rust, looseness or excessive ground erosion on the ground, or landscaping damage indicates water could be leaking into the home’s foundation.
- Pipe Cleats; Strips of metal that attach a downspout to the side of a house, responsible for keeping the downspout secure to the wall when draining water; Signs of corrosion, rust, missing or loose pipe cleats means the downspout could shift out of place and cause water to drain onto the side of the house
When any of these signs are visible, there is a problem with the gutter system’s ability to channel water away from your home.
Gutter System Styles & Materials: Pros & Cons
Residential gutter systems come in a combination of shapes and materials that enable it to channel water effectively in any home’s climate conditions. The trick is to select the right combination to meet both the home’s needs and the homeowner’s budget.
There are 3 common gutter styles:
- Half-Round Gutters; Pre-1960’s, traditional style gutters found in older neighbourhoods and historic homes, that look like a tube cut in half
- Pros: It’s trough-like shape makes it effective at channeling water while being prone to being clogged with leaves and debris;
- Cons: While its tube-like shape prevents it from sitting flush against the fascia boards, requiring brackets to stay in place, and exposes the fascia to potential water damage; Recommend using a leaf-guard or metal meshing on top to reduce clogging.
- K-Style Gutters; Post-1960’s, common on most homes today, that look like a “K” when viewed from the side
- Pros: It’s crown molding “K” shape is decorative, carries more water than the half-round gutter making it suited for rainy climates
- Cons: The inner angles make it harder to clean as debris collects in these edges
- Custom-Built Gutters (or Fascia Gutters); Post-2000’s, found on some homes today and is gaining popularity, that are long stretch gutters with no “sections”
- Pros: It’s extended length of gutters prevents it from leaking where one section used to connect to another section of gutter unlike the other two styles
- Cons: Expensive to install depending on the size of your home
Gutters are made from a few types of materials:
Wood Gutters; Historically, wood a long time ago was common, being prone to rot and weathering this quickly changed to alternative materials instead (aluminum, zinc, vinyl, steel or copper)
- Aluminum Gutters; Lightweight and flexible metal material
- Pros: Thinner material in general, depending on its thinness to cost makes it more affordable at the cost of durability as you move towards the thinnest aluminum gutter (thicknesses of 0.025 inch, 0.027 inch and 0.032 inch)
- Cons: It has a 25 year lifespan, doesn’t rust, lightweight and easy to install, weatherproof and available in many colours; Prone to bending or denting depending on thickness
- Vinyl Gutters; Lightweight plastic material
- Pros: Lightweight, inexpensive, can be painted, DIY installation friendly, won’t corrode or rust and not damaged by salty air
- Cons: A 10-20 year lifespan, becomes brittle in high-heat, cracks when it freezes, colors become sun-faded with exposure and is the least durable in general
- Zinc Gutters; Heavy gray metal;
- Pros: Very long lasting (a 50 year lifespan), resistant to warping or fading and over time it goes from a dull gray to an attractive patina
- Cons: An expensive material, not DIY-friendly, and doesn’t handle salty air or acidic run-off from cedar shingles very well
- Steel Gutters; Strong and heavy metal with fracture resistance; Comes in galvanized steel where leaves tend to speed the onset of rust, and stainless steel which doesn’t rust but is expensive
- Pros: A very strong metal gutter, resistant to severe-weather climates and can be painted
- Cons: Prone to rust, oxidation starts between 10-15 years and being heavy isn’t a good candidate for DIY installation
- Copper Gutters; Yellowish metal that both conducts electricity and heat well, making it ideal for plumbing and roofing;
- Pros: It has a 100 year lifespan, has a unique glow to it, doesn’t require painting, won’t rust or warp and extremely durable to all types of weather from the highest heat to the coldest freeze
- Cons: Very expensive material, not DIY-friendly and develops a green patina as it becomes weather-worn
Depending on the location of your home, the pros and cons of each style and material may be different but these serve as a general reference. Allowing the homeowner to select a combination that will last in their climate conditions and not need replacing as often.
Final Considerations about Roofing Gutters
There are a lot of details to consider when working with roofing gutters and hopefully this thorough explanation sheds some light on the state of a homeowner’s gutters. Together the roof and gutters protect the home (including the siding from wind-driven rainfall) from retaining water, then eventually deal damage to the home.
When it’s time to install, replace or repair roofing gutters, they rarely require a roof replacement unless severely neglected. Performing any work on the gutters can happen independently whenever the homeowner chooses.
Finally, never perform an unsafe gutter repair, replacement or installation yourself, contact a professional roofer like Marty and avoid the trouble of potentially injuring yourself.