Gutters are an often-overlooked detail in custom homes. Not only do they serve a purpose, but they can also add visual interest and help define your aesthetic. Gutters route the rain and snowmelt runoff from your roof to keep it away from your house, which protects your siding, your windows, your doors, and your foundation or basement from water damage. For the most part, you probably don’t think about them unless they’re not functioning like they’re supposed to.
Craftsmen hand carved early gutters from wood. They were very heavy, very expensive, and required lots of maintenance. Metal gutters became popular with the invention of machine-rolled metal around the turn of the 20th century. Most gutters were custom made in factories until the 1970s when lightweight, portable forming machines made it easy to make gutters right on the job site.
Size Does Matter
One key factor to a properly functioning gutter system is the gutter size. Each gutter is sized to accommodate the amount of water that collects from the roof above. Moving up to a size larger than what standard calculations call for goes along way in a heavy rainstorm. Additionally, a larger gutter allows debris from leaves and pine needles to flow through, or it at least increases the time between gutter cleanings.
There are three primary gutter shapes used in Northern Colorado:
- The K-style, which is named not because the shape looks like a K but because that’s the letter designation given to that style by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA). The K has a flat side and bottom and a decorative crown molding-like look to the front. They can manage a great volume of rainwater, making them very efficient.
- The half-round, which is basically a half circle with the open side to the top. This style looks lovely in copper, galvalume, and even zinc. However, this style is typically two to four times the cost of the traditional K-style. It also doesn’t work as well as the K-style because it only can hold about half as much water. The circular shape also tends to spill over during rainstorms. Installation is a bit trickier as well, since there is not a flat back to rest against the eaves and provide a good point of contact. Half-rounds aren’t available in seamless construction, either. Rather, they typically come in 10 to 16-foot lengths depending on the metal used. This creates many seams from the pieces being caulked together at the time of install and becomes a long-term maintenance item for the future.
- The box style, which is basically a square box profile. You typically see this style in commercial applications but it can be used for residential purposes as well. Because of the lack of additional profile of the K-style, the box style is more susceptible to bends and blemishes caused by ladders and hail. Like to hang holiday lights from your gutters? The traditional plastic light hanger is made to work with K-style gutters, so you will need to special order hangers for square gutters. Also, if you ever need to repair or replace box gutters, you will need to use a specialized commercial gutter vendor.
There are a number of different styles and systems to choose from, but in general, these systems are added inside or on top of the gutters to keep leaves and needles from plugging up your downspouts. We typically specify and coordinate the best system to match your roof and gutter configurations. They are nice to have and will keep you off a ladder cleaning debris out of your gutters come fall.
Gutters are functional, but they can also add that final touch of beauty to your custom home. When we’re talking about design, let’s also talk about the gutters. We can give you some options that are perfect for your new home.