When choosing the right gutter materials for your home, you need to consider strength, and how sturdy the material is when being used as gutters. Will they withstand the constant running water of frequent rain? Do they easily bend, sag, or go out of shape? Can they withstand extreme heat during the summer and spring, strong winds during the fall, and near zero cold during the winter? Can they be easily cleaned?
Gutters are made from many different materials today, but aluminum, steel, and even copper are the most commonly installed types, for good reason. They’re sturdy and they hold up well to the elements when they’re properly cared for. Copper, of course, is more of a luxury metal and is usually used for old or historically restored houses, or made to order homes with unusual décor. Aluminum and steel are more expensive and take more time to install, but once set up, they can last more than 20 years when well maintained and cared for. The one common enemy of metal gutters is rust, that is, if the gutters are not well cared for.
There are some cheaper alternatives to metal, but they have some serious drawbacks.
Vinyl gutters are becoming more popular because they don’t rust or corrode like metal, so leaky gutters are a less frequent problem in mild climates. They’re also fairly inexpensive and easy for homeowners to install themselves thanks to their light weight and their snap-together assembly. The biggest drawbacks with vinyl gutters is that because they’re easy to install, many people who would not otherwise attempt the installation now try their hand, DIY style, and most often do it incorrectly, resulting in sections that sag. Vinyl also tends to get brittle and crack over time, especially in extreme cold weather. Vinyl is not recommended for places with extreme weather conditions that continually fluctuate.
Wood gutters used to be the standard, but are rarely used today because of the expense and the high maintenance. They are very cheap, though not worth the cost of constant replacement since wood tends to rot quickly. Water and wood are not the closest of friends.
Plastic gutters are the cheapest you can purchase. However, these gutters crack easily, especially in cold weather, and aren’t worth the time you spend installing them. They’re good for temporary use if you can’t afford metal and need gutters immediately, but don’t expect them to last long. They do make good extension spouts and French drains.