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How to Buy Rain Gutters

The purpose of rain gutters is to collect water as it comes off a roof and thereby prevent the water from causing damage to a home's walls, windows, paint, or foundation. Gutters are usually installed around the edges of the roofing system and consist of a narrow, pipe-like trough with down pipes placed in corners or other strategic locations. The gutter system forces the water to flow away from the house into a collection system, a sewer pipe, or directly onto the ground. Without a gutter system, water can back-up and cause flooding in a house with all the related damage.


Gutters come in a variety of materials including wood, copper, aluminum, stainless and galvanized steel, and vinyl. Wooden gutters are rarely seen anymore except in older or historical structures. Today's gutter systems complement the home as they are usually custom painted to match its color.

Components of a Gutter System

The following terms are often used in describing a gutter system:

  • Gutter section: a wood or metal trough that collects water from the roof and slopes to send it through the downspouts;
  • Downspout / down pipe: a vertical section of gutter where water flows toward its collection point;
  • Splash block: an extension at the end of a downspout to keep water from pooling near the foundation, sometimes called a downspout extension;
  • Elbow: a curved or angled gutter piece used to connect sections at corners or bends;

Potential Problems

Clogged gutters can't do their job of directing water away from the house and will therefore result in all the same problems gutters are meant to prevent. Homeowners need to be diligent about checking all open gutter elements and periodically clearing them of debris. In addition to clogging, organic material in gutters makes a good breeding ground for insects and also can allow plants to begin growing in the gutter. In ultra cold climates, it's sometimes necessary to use heated cables in gutters to keep the gutters from freezing closed.

Finding Suppliers

Research various rain gutter systems before you make a purchase. You may also want to consider a gutter protection system, which is also known as a gutter guard. Our review section is a good place to start your gutter protection system research. It may also be a good idea to talk to some experts in the roofing and building field or ask your friends and neighbors what type of gutters they use, who installed them, and how happy they are with the gutters' performance.