Gutters come in several different sizes although most people never notice. You may have become accustomed to seeing white and brown gutters on homes but in fact many custom colors are available today. I built a Marine barracks in New York that required all red trims. Louvers, vents, fascias and soffit materials and yes even the gutters and downspouts were a matching red color. As with window units, there are dozens of custom colors to choose from today. Almost all residential applications use a four inch by four inch wide standard gutter and three inch downspouts or leaders. There are cases where due to a large expanse of roof area, a larger gutter may be required. Five inch gutters are available that resemble the four inch standard size. The downspouts are increased to four inch from three inch to accommodate the extra water flow. If the downspouts are undersized the water will wash over the outside lip of the gutter defeating the entire intent of the gutter and possibly damage the house or landscaping below.
Also available are gutters called “Yankee Gutters”. These are built into the roof itself and do not protrude from the roofs edges. Often used in the New England area it is rumored to help prevent damage from sliding snow, they became Yankee Gutters. These work extremely well and may be as much as twelve inches wide to catch all the water from the roof. They must be maintained however to prevent any leaks. Leaks will penetrate directly into the house itself since the gutter sits inside the exterior wall line. Properly installed and maintained by proper cleaning these gutters have lasted over a hundred years.
All gutters have downspouts of some kind. These come in ten foot straight lengths as well as elbows type A and Type B. Matching color gutter straps are also available. Downspouts must be secured firmly to the house as falling water places a heavy load on the pipe and fittings and can actually pull a downspout loose from the gutter or house.
Once I have the downspouts in a finished configuration that I like, I rivet each pipe and fitting together with two matching color rivets. Additional rivets used to secure the straps to the leader pipe leaves a nice looking end product that will not pull apart.
Also important to a good gutter system is to provide a way for the water to get from the end of the downspout away from the house foundation. There are commercial products that attach the downspout end that rolls out when water in the leader puts enough pressure on the inside of the roll. The plastic roll has holes to act like a sprinkler hose thereby letting the water out slowly causing no damage to plants or lawns below.
There are many types of after market gutter accessories to prevent leaves and other debris from entering the gutters and clogging them. Gutters must be cleaned at least once a year to prevent debris from clogging the downspouts and causing gutter overflows. There are also some quite good washer attachments that fit on the end of a garden hose that will let you wash out the gutters from the ground or a small ladder. There are many types of leaf guards that fit inside the top gutter lips to prevent leaves from entering the gutter. Some work quite well, some not at all. There is one type of “gutter” system that in fact is not a true gutter at all These are called rain guards, rain splashers and so on. They are a series of finned sections that in cross section look like a louver blade. When rain water flowing from the roof strikes the guards the guards scatter the water over a large area thereby dissipating the force of the water falling directly onto the ground below the eave edges. They do not carry the water away from the foundation however which must be a consideration before installing them.