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Green Basics

Roof Gutters

Choosing Rain Gutters: Wood, Metal, or Plastic?UPDATED 12/27/2011

Your choice: half-round or ogee

The two most common gutter profiles are half-round and the so-called K-style, which comes with an ogee profile. Contractors who produce seamless gutters with on-site forming machines are most likely to offer the K-style. Half-round gutters are available in lengths of 10 feet and up and assembled on-site. They can be ordered or bought locally in several materials.

Inexpensive aluminum or PVC gutters can look tacky on a well-designed house with handsome exterior trim. Since attractive alternatives like copper are so expensive, omitting gutters entirely may be tempting in some situations. If that’s the case, installing a perimeter ground gutter around the house topped with gravel may be an alternative for controlling runoff.

Look for something that will last

Size and cosmetic considerations aside, the chief question is what material to choose. Choices involve durability, cost, aesthetic, and environmental trade-offs. Materials that can be recycled easily are preferable.

Wood

An earth-friendly material, but wood gutters will need more maintenance than other materials and may not last as long as plastic or metal. High-quality cedar, redwood, and Douglas fir are expensive and getting harder to find.

Aluminum

Easy to recycle and can be formed into seamless lengths that don’t leak. Aluminum also is corrosion resistant. Limited style choices are one drawback.

Steel

Strong and dent resistant. For rust protection, steel gutters can be galvanized with zinc, coated with Galvalume (zinc and aluminum), or terne (tin and lead). Simple galvanized gutters are relatively inexpensive and long-wearing, and can be recycled.

Copper

Elegant-looking, durable, easy to recycle, and very expensive. Sections can be soldered together for leakproof installations or made from coil stock into seamless gutters. Unfortunately, rainwater can leach copper from roofs and gutters and carry it into local waterways, where it may harm to aquatic…

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