8 Gutter Downspout Alternatives (Pros and Cons)

A gutter is vital to the structural well-being of every home. Most homes have gutters, but if you want something that looks better or easier to maintain, there are gutter alternatives you can consider.

Gutters keep storm or rainwater off the foundation of your home. They collect and deflect water to make sure it does not seep in and cause havoc to the walls and foundation of your home. 

Gutters are high in maintenance. They need to be always clean and free from debris, otherwise, they can clog, rot, or leak and cause damage to the structure of your home. Water from gutters can also splash on the walls and or find its way to your basement or crawl spaces. 

Gutters have their advantages. Unfortunately, they have downsides, too. They can crack and be clogged with leaves and other debris.  They can also break and fall from the edge of the roof. Worth mentioning is the fact that they affect the aesthetic look of your home. 

There are gutter alternatives that are low in maintenance and are better-looking. Here are some of them that will do the trick. 

Related: What is the difference between vinyl and steel gutters?

8 Alternatives To Gutters

1. Rain Chains

Image credit: Gardenista

Rain chains are fast gaining popularity in North America but have been used in Asia for centuries, especially in Japan. They are an efficient and attractive alternative to traditional gutters. They can visibly make rainwater flow down from the roof to the ground through chains and cups. Rain chains combine beauty and functionality. 

A rain chain includes a cup or bell. Rain passes through the chain and into the cup or bell while producing a sound similar to a door chime. 

Pros

  • They are aesthetically appealing. They are available in a variety of styles and designs. They can enhance the aesthetics of other elements in your garden. 
  • They slow down the flow of water making it less destructive when hitting the ground.
  • They are less likely to clog because there is no space for debris and leaves to pass through.
  • They can be installed to make water flow directly to a rain barrel, pot, or catch basin so you can reuse the rainwater. 
  • They can create a lovely waterfall sound when rain falls through the chains. 
  • Rain chains are designed to become more beautiful over time. 
  • They may be pretty, but rain chains are affordable and can enhance the beauty of your garden. 
  • They are easy to install. 

Cons

  • They are heavy and it can be a challenge to mount them properly.
  • When not properly installed, the rain will flow directly to the ground causing improper drainage and lead to flooding in your basement or standing puddles. 
  • It can be expensive to fill larger roofs with more chains so they can work effectively. 
  • Rain chains are not ideal for areas with frequent rains because they cannot handle large volumes of the downpour.
  • The chain system may freeze, increasing its weight that can damage your roof. 

When you install rain chains on the outside of your home, you not only have a reliable rain dispersal system but also have an amazing water feature. 

2. Ground Gutter/French Drain

With a French drain, rainwater flows into a trench filled with gravel and into a pipe at the bottom, emptying itself away from the house. Rainwater from a French drain is often diverted to a drainage ditch, a dry well, a low portion of your property, or to the street. 

The trench bottom of this ground gutter should be directed towards where rainwater is supposed to flow. Every 8-feet of the trench bottom should have a 1-inch slope. 

Pros

  • Prevents water damage by protecting the foundation and siding of your home. 
  • Helps you make full use of your garden. When your garden is too moist, this ground gutter will be ideal for gardening and as a playground for the kids. 
  • Freezing is not an issue.
  • It will not alter the look of the exterior of your home because its installation can be hidden.
  • When properly constructed and installed, it can last for many years without any major issues. 

Cons

  • It can be laborious and complicated to dig the trench. Hiring a professional can bring up the cost of installation.
  • It is expensive to install because it includes a lot of materials.
  • Water damage or pooling near the base is possible when there is not enough drainage in the system. 
  • When not installed properly, this type of drain will be visible affecting the aesthetics of your property. 

A properly installed ground gutter/French drain will last long requiring little to no maintenance.

Image credit: Helet van Blerk

3. Rain Dispersal Systems

A rain dispersal system works by dividing flowing rainwater into even drops or smaller rivulets. This system can reduce the impact and force of rainwater. Rain dispersal systems are readily available in hardware stores.  They split rainwater into smaller rivulets through an angled-louver system and allow them to flow into a 2 or 3-feet band. 

Pros

  • Installing louvers on your roof will keep water away from the walls of your home or in your basement. 
  • Small sticks, leaves, or other debris on your roof will be blown off instead of being trapped in the gutter.
  • Customized to fit perfectly to your home for guaranteed effectiveness. 
  • Allows rainwater to land directly on plants beside your roof in finer spray form to prevent damage to plants.
  • Reduces erosion below your roof and keeps water away from around your home improving the aesthetics of your home. 
  • Prevents small pieces of debris and dirt from splashing to the sides of your home. 

Cons

  • Is not ideal for all roof layouts
  • Puddles can form around your home when the position of the runoff is not well-planned. 

Rain Dispersal Systems are easy and quick to install. They can be a DIY project. 

4. Grading

Grading is one gutter alternative that can be done as a weekend project. It entails shaping and sloping the ground surrounding your home to lead water away from your home. This is a common gutter alternative when you are on a low budget. 

Pros

  • A surefire way to keep rainwater away from the foundation of your home that is prone to damage.
  • Can improve the aesthetics of your home without the installation of any distractions.
  • Keeps rainwater away from your home on a budget. 

Cons

  • Low spots can cause water to collect in the grading. 
  • Creating the proper slope can ruin your landscaping. Sloping often requires uprooting some of your landscaping
  • Water will tend to gather in indented spots within the grading causing various issues
  • The slope needs to be regraded after a few years to ensure it can keep water flowing in the direction it should.

Grading as a gutter alternative is ideal with compact materials, such as clay, that do not absorb water. It is also ideal in areas that do not experience too heavy rains. 

5. Drip Edge

A drip edge is an L-shaped metal sheet paced at the edge of the roof. It works to direct water away from the fascia to prevent rotting. It also prevents water from flowing along the sides of your home and ending up below the shingles. 

The North American building codes require the installation of drip edges in homes to protect them from damage. Drip edges can be used alongside gutters or they can work by themselves to protect your home/ 

Pros

  • Ensures water from the roof does not flow close to the foundation or side of your home.
  • Allows water to flow to the fascia and rot it even if you have gutters. 
  • Provides added support to your shingles to prevent water from getting under them.
  • Does not allow the formation of ice dams on the roof.
  • Seals any openings to prevent small animals, such as pests and critters, from invading your attic.
  • An affordable way to protect your home from water damage

Cons

  • You need to ensure that water flows away from the foundation and not directly below the drip edge to prevent pooling that can cause damage to your home.
  • Difficult to install as an upgrade. Needs to be installed during the initial construction. 

A drip edge needs to be properly instead or it may cause pooling underneath and cause damage to your property. 

6. Copper Gutters

Image credit: reddit

You may consider copper gutters as typical gutters but they look more beautiful. Copper gutters can provide your home with beauty and style while protecting your home from any possible water damage. When seen from the street, a house with a copper gutter can look dramatic. 

When copper oxidizes, after about six years. it forms a coating and will turn dark gray. This color will eventually turn to a beautiful green patina. Thus, your copper gutter will make your home look amazingly beautiful. If you wish to maintain the natural look of copper, you can apply a sealant to prevent it from oxidizing. 

Pros

  • They are strong, durable, and will not dent. 
  • Your copper gutter will last long because it is rust-proof. 
  • They can be fitted without continuous straight runs and expansion joints. 
  • They add elegance, sophistication, and increase the curb appeal of your home.
  • They are low in maintenance because they are corrosion-resistant. It also prevents the growth of moss, fungi, and algae that need constant cleaning to prevent blockages. 

Cons

  • All nails, fasteners, and fittings should also be made of copper increasing the cost of installation.
  • Copper is a difficult material to work increasing the price and time needed for installation.
  • Requires a professional highly knowledgeable with copper. 

Copper gutters are eco-friendly. You can use it without worrying that you are harming the environment. 

7. Drip Path

Drip Path

A drip path is a paved pathway installed under the edge of your roof. Drip paths trap rainwater flowing from your roof. This pathway is typically made from blocks or bricks that protect the soil from eroding due to water dripping from the roof. 

You can also make a drip path by surrounding your home with pebbles or large stones and installing a drainage system to allow water to flow into it. 

Pros

  • An attractive way to water dripping from your roof is to keep away from the foundation of your home without eroding the soil.
  • Does not damage your landscaping, albeit, it adds to its beauty. 

Cons

  • Landscape and Bushes surrounding the drip path may hinder its ability to keep water away from your home
  • You need to install an underground drainage system

Drip paths need to be properly installed to keep water away from the foundation of your home and prevent water damage. 

8. Built-in Gutters

Image

Built-in gutters are complicated but they are not so visible, therefore, they do not disrupt the architectural design of your home. 

Pros

  • They are invisible gutters that keep rainwater away from your home.
  • They can withstand heavy rainfall and strong storms. 
  • They can be customized depending on the amount of rainfall in your area.
  • They can be designed to match the architectural design of your home. 
  • They are low in maintenance. 

Cons

  • Since they are made from formed metal, they contract and expand along with changes in weather. 
  • They cannot be installed as a DIY project. 
  • Maintenance can be neglected because they are hidden, thus build-up of blockages, corrosion, leaks cannot be immediately addressed. 
  • Hidden gutters take a lot of time and work making it an expansive installation. 

Built-in gutters or hidden gutters are concealed but effectively drain water on the roof. 

FAQs

Is it OK to not have gutters?

There are no laws that require your home construction to have gutters. Depending on your type of construction and where you live, gutters may just be an added expense both in installation and maintenance. Here are circumstances where you do not need gutters:

  • You live in an area with very little rainfall.
  • Your home comes with an all-concrete design that can protect the foundation.
  • Your home includes a large roof overhang.
  • You have landscaping with a downward slope

If your home does not fall under any of these circumstances, having gutters may be a good decision. 

Can you replace the gutter material?

You can replace the material of your gutter if you are replacing the entire gutter. Some gutters only need repairs while others need a full replacement.

Your gutter needed repairs or replacement depends on the extent of the damage. If the problems of your gutter are confined to one area, repairing the affected area and maintaining the rest of the gutter is the best option. If the problem covers a large portion, your best bet is to replace the gutter. 

Why does my house have no gutters?

There are certain home designs that do not require an installation of gutters. If your home does not have a basement, you do not need gutters. A home with great landscaping drainage does not need gutters, too. This is so because rainwater gravity will allow rainwater to fall from your roof and around your home while draining away from your home’s foundation and walls. 

Why don’t Texas and Florida homes have gutters?

Texas and Florida homes do not have gutters because they have sandy soil and do not typically have basements. These areas also seldom experience heavy rainfall. 

Conclusion

Many homeowners still continue to use traditional gutters. Gutter alternatives, however, are fast gaining popularity because they serve the same purpose as traditional gutters, but are more aesthetically pleasing and add to the curb appeal of your home. Gutter alternatives are often more long-lasting, can be concealable, and low in maintenance.

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