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Gutters are designed to collect water running off the roof and direct it away from the house's foundation. In this regard, the ground should slope away from the foundation so water doesn't pool. Water should also be carried as far as possible from the house by splash blocks, downspout extensions, flexible drains, or even underground drains.
Gutters, which are hung from the edge of the roof or attached to the fascia board, are made from vinyl, galvanized tin, aluminum, copper, and wood. Some come with baked-on enamel coatings, others are bare and must be painted. Among the many choices are seamless aluminum gutters that are custom formed at your house before they are mounted.
Seamless aluminum are among the best because they require no painting, as galvanized gutters do, and do not crack or bend, as vinyl gutters do. After the installer measures your roof perimeter, aluminum is fed from a spool into a special machine that extrudes the gutters on the spot. Despite the name, these gutters are not entirely seamless, but only have them at inside and outside corners.
Galvanized tin has been around for years. Its only drawback is that it must be painted periodically to prevent rust from penetrating the galvanized coating. The gutters are stiff and strong and hold up well in areas with heavy snowfall.
Vinyl gutters are the easiest for the do-it-yourselfers. They are sold at all large home centers, are light and easy to put up. They usually come in just brown or white colors. Although easy to install, they do not have the look of permanency of metal gutters and are subject to distortion from heat and cold.
Wood gutters today are a custom design. They can be beautiful and long lasting with proper care, which means regular cleaning and painting.
Copper gutters are also custom, but beautiful and long lasting. They have natural rust resistance and can last a century or more. They have a very distinctive appearance, which make them expensive other than for the many pieces they come in for assembly.