Gutters & Downspouts

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Gutters and downspouts protect a house from water damage. Rain gutters collect water from the roof and divert it to downspouts, which release the water a safe distance from the home's foundation.

While a simple system, gutters and downspouts require regular maintenance to repair damage and remove blockages. Clogged rain gutters can cause water to seep under roof shingles. Incorrectly placed or blocked downspouts result in water pooling around a home's foundation, which can cause seepage and dry rot.

Types of Rain Gutters and Downspouts

Rain gutters and downspouts are made from several materials, including painted steel, galvanized steel, vinyl, aluminum and copper. Gutters may also be made of wood, although wood rain gutters tend to be used only for historic homes.

Of the different types of rain gutters, aluminum gutters are most common. Vinyl gutters are increasing in popularity, mostly because of their ease of installation.

Aluminum Gutters

Aluminum gutters and downspouts are cheap, come in a variety of colors and are easily available.

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Aluminum gutters are easy to maintain, although lightweight aluminum is susceptible to denting and damage from ladders and the elements. Aluminum's wide expansion and contraction range is its main disadvantage. In response to temperature changes aluminum gutters expand 100 percent more than steel and 50 percent more than copper gutters. Expansion can cause damage to the gutter system.

Copper Gutters

Copper gutters are low maintenance, don't require painting and don't rust, making copper rain gutters an excellent long-term investment. Often used for commercial buildings and large, upscale homes, copper gutters build up an attractive blue-green or brown patina over time that protects the gutters from the elements. As copper doesn't rust, copper gutters and downspouts are well-suited for coastal environments.

Copper gutters are, however, more expensive than other types of rain gutters. Unlike vinyl and aluminum gutters, which can be installed by homeowners, copper gutters require professional installation, further driving up the cost. On the plus side, once installed copper rain gutters are durable, attractive and easy to maintain.

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