6 Gutter Alternatives That Will Keep Your Home Dry and Protected

Drive down any suburban street in America, and you’re almost guaranteed to see gutters lining the rooftops of every house on every block. These are among the most ubiquitous installations in the history of personal property, and most homeowners assume that a house can’t properly function without them. Of course, you wouldn’t be completely wrong to think that. Gutters provide a valuable service for their cost, which is normally quite reasonable. A professional installation can go up in only a few hours, and for the inexpensive price tag, you get a system that collects and channels rainwater away from the foundation of your home. Who would think to get rid of them?

Well, gutters aren’t perfect. While a good gutter system is invaluable when it comes to directing water off the roof and away from the house, it isn’t without its flaws. Unless you install some sort of gutter cover, you’re going to have to deal with things other than water getting into the channels and blocking up the works. Leaves and other forms of debris are the most common obstacles, and this wet vegetation can invite pests and insects to create a permanent home on your roof. If this situation gets too dire, it can do more than block the water from flowing through the channels; it may actually cause the gutters to fail completely and fall away from the house. After dealing with the frustration of maintaining the system, one can understand why a homeowner might strike out in search of a good alternative.

But is there such a thing? Is it worth the risk?

The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second is: It depends. Before we explore the different gutter alternatives available to you as a homeowner, let’s first talk about how you can improve your gutter purchase in a way that makes financial sense.

Choosing the Right Gutters

No matter whether you live in an arid climate or in a place like Seattle, it is important to have some kind of gutter system that can drain water from the roof and prevent it from seeping into the foundation of your home. Even desert biomes can sometimes be hit with thunderous rainstorms; it could only take one of these monsoons to put enough water into your foundation to cause serious damage. This water can also creep into your basement and cost you thousands in damage. It’s always better to spend the money upfront on maintenance than to cough it up for repairs after a predictable disaster. Does that mean you have to put up with expensive, clogging gutters? Not always. Here are a few tips that can help you choose the right gutters:

– Don’t automatically opt for the cheapest solution. Gutters are relatively inexpensive even as they are, and you can run into trouble if you try to save TOO much money on installation.

– Speaking of installation, always entrust your gutters to a professional. Improperly installed gutters can leave gaps where water can accumulate and leak into the home.

– Find a good gutter lid if clogging is your primary concern. It is usually less expensive and more effective to put one of these lids in place than to replace your entire gutter system with an alternative.

– Hate the looks of a traditional gutter system? That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wade into the world of alternatives. Regular gutters come in a variety of materials and colors; some are even “hidden” gutters that are practically invisible to the ordinary observer.

– If you’re dead set against the use of gutters, and you can’t find anything you like in our list of alternatives, you should use sandbags (or comparable solutions) around the house to prevent rainwater from seeping into your home or your foundation.

Gutter Alternatives: The Pros and Cons

As we move through our list of gutter alternatives, we’ll point out some of the striking advantages and disadvantages that belong to each system. Before we do that, however, let’s talk more broadly about the pros and cons of choosing one of these alternatives over a traditional gutter system.

PRO: Savings. Gutters aren’t exactly expensive on their own, but they can easily run $3 per square foot – more if you’re building during a time when the price of aluminum and other materials is higher than the market average. With most of the alternative solutions mentioned below, you can expect to pay less than half of what you would on a traditional system.

CON: Maintenance. Traditional gutters require a certain amount of maintenance throughout the year to keep them free of leaves, bird leavings, and the rest of the debris that tends to get trapped in the channels. But some of the gutter alternatives are even more demanding of your maintenance attention, so pay close mind to that factor when making your choice.

PRO: Aesthetics. It’s rare that you’ll find a homeowner who is over the moon about the aesthetics of normal aluminum gutters. At best, the categories can be divided into two camps: Those who hate the way they look, and those who couldn’t care less. On the other hand, many of the gutter alternatives are quite handsome, and they can add value and curb appeal to your home.

CON: Resale Value. This could actually go in either the pro or con category; it really depends on where you live and who your potential buyers are. Some home shoppers are turned off by anything “different,” be it gutter alternatives or solar panels on the roof. Others live for those little details that set a house apart from the pack. Either way, keep this dichotomy in mind when choosing a path forward.

Okay! Now that we’ve got some of that information out of the way, why don’t we go ahead and run down the most popular and effective gutter alternatives?

Here we go!

6 – Drip Edges

This isn’t so much a dedicated alternative to gutters as it is an attachment that every roof should have. Even when used in conjunction with traditional gutters, it dramatically improves the way your roof handles water, shuttling it off the roof and preventing it from seeping underneath the shingles. Depending on the size of the metal flashing used to create the drip edges, they can disperse the water into the gutters or away from the immediate side of the house. In addition to helping you control the amount of rainwater that gets underneath the shingles, the extra metal can also act as support for the shingles themselves, which can prevent animals such as raccoons from ripping up your roof to make a home for themselves in the attic.

5 – Rain Chains

If you’re looking for a gutter alternative that is beautiful, exotic, and effective, rain chains may be your best bet. These attractive devices have a long, ancient history in Japan, and they are no less potent today than they were in eras past. Rain chains can be used entirely as substitutes for traditional gutters, as they accomplish the same feat – pulling the rain from the roof and directing it to a more appropriate place. In the case of rain chains, the water is usually diverted into a container of some sort. They can also be used in conjunction with regular gutters; just put them in place where the downspout would typically go, and you’ll have a rainwater solution system that works perfectly. Rain chains should be avoided in areas prone to heavy downpours, however; the system can get overwhelmed if faced with an extraordinary amount of rain at any one time.

4 – Rain Dispersal Solutions

Several national companies, including Rainhandler and Rain Breakerz, take a different approach to handling rainwater. By dispersing rain into smaller rivers – and in extreme cases, into individual droplets – these systems reduce the impact heavy rain can have on your roof, your foundation, and your home. In addition to acting as a gutter alternative, these systems can work beautifully with a set of traditional gutters. Why would you want to combine their powers? Well, the rain dispersal systems take care of some of the major problems that gutters face; namely, the clogging problem. For the most part, however, homeowners use Rainhandler and its competitors as a complete alternative to gutters, giving them a good, clean look to the edge of their roofs. These systems are meant to be DIY installed, so if you’re looking to save money on installation costs, this might be a good buy.

3 – Drip Paths

While the solutions we’ve discussed so far are different from gutters in their implementation, they do share one thing in common; they are attached to the roof in some way. The same cannot be said for our next entry: Drip paths. These are actual pathways that are built on the ground from rocks, bricks, or some other type of water-resistant surface. When placed directly underneath the edge of the roof, these pathways serve as a kind of drainage ditch for any rainwater that comes pouring off from above. When installed correctly, these can serve as natural beauty enhancers to the home’s exterior appearance as they keep your soil free from erosion.

2 – French Drain

Much like the above-mentioned drip paths, the French drain is another ground-based gutter solution that works similarly. The rainwater from the roof flows into a trench filled with gravel that has been dug on the ground below. These systems include a pipe at the bottom to allow the water to drain freely and simply, finally emptying at a point away from your property. These gutter alternatives are favored by those who hate the look of gutters and don’t care for the aesthetics of their most popular counterparts. Indeed, the French drain (sometimes referred to as a ground gutter) is easily hidden from view, so if you’re looking for a rain solution that will not alter the appearance of your house, this is one of the best systems.

1 – Yard Grading

If you’re determined to forgo anything that could possibly be confused with a “gutter,” your last remaining option would be this: grading your lawn. This can be an enormous, construction-heavy endeavor, however, and it is not recommended for anyone who can’t spare the resources to hire a professional contractor. Grading requires that you shape the earth around your home so that water has a natural way to slope away from the house and off the property. Done correctly, it can keep your foundation secure, but it is not recommended for those who live in areas subject to heavy rainfall. In most cases, grading is seen as – at best – a temporary option for those who cannot afford a full gutter system yet. In certain areas of the country, it may be possible to use grading as a permanent replacement for gutters, but in places like Florida and other rain-heavy climates, it is not an appropriate alternative.

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