Friday, March 23, 2007
Rain gutters whisk water away
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
Last week we may have made you nervous with a discussion about mold. Of course, one of the biggest causes of mold — and many other woes — is too much water around your home. So keeping water well away from your house is one of the most important things you can do. On the exterior of your house, rain gutters play a key role.
Gutters come in many sizes, shapes and materials. The most popular are aluminum gutters in what's called a K-style. The basic shape is a rectangular back with a curved front, which is formed on site by a machine mounted in the installer's truck. The machine pulls flat metal stock from a coil and then shapes the gutter to almost any length needed for your home. Thus these gutters are seamless, and that's a big plus because seams introduce the potential for leaking.
Aluminum comes in several weights. Heavier material results in a sturdier product that resists denting and holds up well to snow and ice. Most aluminum gutter stock comes pre-painted in a variety of standard colors. Aluminum gutters can be repainted, but it may not cost much more to replace them. The approximate installed cost is around $3 per linear foot.
Gutters are also available in steel. Steel is most often used in commercial applications, but it can also be adapted for residential use. The extra strength makes this type of gutter well-suited to stand up to snow and ice. Steel will rust when exposed to water and weather, so the metal must be treated or galvanized. The approximate cost is 70 cents per linear foot. These gutters can be pre-painted with the same finish you find on standing-seam metal roofs.
Plastic gutters have no problems with corrosion. This material is similar to that used in vinyl windows. Available in eight or 10-foot lengths, the pieces must be sealed together with adhesive like that used to connect plastic pipes in sprinkler systems. This type of gutter cannot be painted, so you are limited to the standard colors offered by the manufacturer. The cost is about $2.25 per linear foot.
The most expensive gutters are made of copper. Copper sells by the pound and the cost fluctuates with the market. Copper's thickness is designated by weight, with 16-ounce copper being the most common. It is very durable but also soft and easily dented. Copper has the interesting attribute of changing color — or developing a patina — over the years. It can be formed with the same machinery as aluminum to make a seamless application and it can be easily adapted to custom shapes.
It is important to keep the waterway clean and clear and to make sure gutters are hung with the proper slope so water runs freely. Gutters should be hung just below the edge of the roof, and they should be sized according to the amount of water anticipated.
The size of the downspout is also critical. If a downspout is too narrow it will clog with debris. Gutter covers can help keep debris at bay. Heat tape is essential to keep gutters free of ice throughout the winter.
As a final thought, after all this, you may think gutters are completely utilitarian. But well-chosen and well-placed gutters can get the job done and also add visual interest to the exterior of your home. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.