What’s the Difference Between Vinyl, Steel, and Aluminum Gutters?

Gutters are very important roof structures because they keep water and over-moisture away from the home. A gutter does this by proofing the roof from leaks and rots.

With gutters, you can maintain the integrity of your home’s structure and in preventing erosion of the foundation. 

As such, let us outline the differences between vinyl, steel, and aluminum gutters being the three most common gutter materials out there. 

Related: 8 Gutter alternatives and their pros and cons

Quick comparison table

There is only so much that we can say about the salient differences between vinyl, steel, and aluminum gutters. For a more visual and handier pointer, here is a quick comparison table for these three gutter materials. 

PropertiesVinylSteelAluminum
Durability– Rot, rust, corrosion, and decay-resistant. 
– Not prone to dent or breaking. 
– Rot, rust, corrosion, and decay-resistant.
– Not prone to dent or breaking.
– Will survive harsher climates
– Way tougher than vinyl and aluminum
– Rot, rust, corrosion, and decay-resistant. 
– Not prone to dent or breaking.
– Will tolerate colder climates
Cost differences$5-12 per section
$1200-1700 for the overall installation
$9-20 per section
$1000-1950 for the overall installation
$9-15 per section
$1900-2800 for the overall installation
Color and design– Seamed
– Brown and white colors only; other colors are customized and are more costly
– Limited color and design but can be painted
– Can be enamel-coated
– Seamed and sectional
– Comes in an array of colors; paintable
WeightLightweightHeavier than both aluminum and vinylHeavier and thicker than vinyl but lighter than steel
InstallationEasy to installTougher to install compared to aluminum and vinylTougher to install compared to vinyl
Lifespan10-15 years– Galvanized steel: 7-12 years
– Stainless steel: 12 years and above
– Stainless steel and copper: 15 years and above
20 years and above

Vinyl gutters pros and cons

Vinyl gutters have become one of the most popular choices for many reasons. Their upsides include easy installation, inexpensive price, rust and corrosion-resistant, and lightweight, among others. 

On the other end, vinyl gutters can become very brittle especially in places with harsher conditions. They can sag or break under very cold climates, but if you are on a tight budget, vinyl gutters are a good go for the money. For a more elaborate vinyl gutter profile, here are its pros and cons. 

Pros

  • Inexpensive and lightweight. 
  • Easy to work with and easy to install (can be installed DIY). 
  • Low maintenance choice. 
  • Rust, rot, and corrosion-resistant. 
  • Would not easily dent. 
  • Color is embedded (not powder-coated or painted). 

Cons

  • Easy wearing and breaking in climates with a lot of strong winds, rain, and snow. 
  • Prone to sagging and cracking in harsh conditions. 
  • Traditionally manufactured for seamless gutters. 
  • Seams are not pressed or soldered making them more vulnerable to leaks. 
  • Shorter lifespan compared to steel and aluminum materials. 
  • Only comes in traditional white or brown colors. 

Steel gutters pros and cons

Steel gutters pros and cons

If you want an indestructible gutter, go for steel. It is rust-resistant, and it is considered the strongest material out there for gutters. But of course, there is always a drawback and for steel gutters, it would be the cost.

For a better view of what steel gutters can offer, here is a rundown of their pros and cons. 

Pros

  • Comes in many versions including stainless steel, stainless steel, and copper combination as well as galvanized version. 
  • Rust and corrosion-resistant. 
  • Prized for its longevity. 
  • Will not have sustained cracks and dents. 
  • Not brittle and will survive in harsher climate conditions. 
  • Soldered and riveted manufacture making it leak-free. 
  • Can be used with all types of roof shingles. 

Cons

  • Can be weakened by heat because metals expand and contract. 
  • More expensive (per section and overall installation). 
  • Heavier than vinyl; harder to work with as it requires soldering. 
  • Not a popular choice for professional installers. 
  • Limited styles and color (can be painted but will add more installation cost). 

Aluminum gutters pros and cons

Aluminum gutters pros and cons

This one shares a lot of similarities with vinyl gutters like being rust and corrosion-resistant, lightweight, and easy to install. But unlike vinyl, it is more weather-resistant and can tolerate colder but will not brittle down. For more information about what aluminum gutters can and cannot do, here are their pros and cons. 

Pros

  • Combines all the pros of vinyl and steel gutters. 
  • More lightweight, easier to work with, and easier to install. 
  • Rot, rust, corrosion, and sag resistant. 
  • Commendable lifespan (20 years and above). 
  • Most accessible gutter material. 
  • Comes in a variety of color and design. 
  • Will survive in most climate types including harsher ones.  

Cons

  • Corrosion and rust are probable for coastal regions. 
  • Less tough compared to stainless steel. 
  • Can be easily dented by hail, snowstorms, and debris. 
  • Larger dents can pose leaks. 
  • More prone to leaks especially around the joints. 
  • Can never be used with copper particles like copper roof flashings and algae-resistant shingles. 
  • The enamel coating is not that sturdy, hence, requiring repainting. 

Vinyl vs. Steel vs. Aluminum Gutters: Which is better?

There is no easy way to make a verdict about which of these gutters is the best choice. The decision of ‘which is better’ is based on many factors and here is an outline of them. 

Location

If you live in regions with milder climates, go for the easy-installation vinyl. But if you are in places with harsher climates where dents can be probable, opt for steel.

If the climate is tolerable but still has a surge of snow and rains, you can take a chance with aluminum. 

Budget

This is one of the most important factors to consider. Per section, vinyl is the most inexpensive but the cheapest to install but then again, vinyl is not always the best choice given the differences in climate condition per location.

Given this, steel is a more probable choice as it is within the budget range of vinyl and is less costly when it comes to installation cost range compared to aluminum. 

Workability

Because steel requires riveting and more joint soldering, it is not the popular choice for contractors. In terms of workability, it is a clear rip-off between vinyl and aluminum.

Evaluate your location and your budget range and from there, make the choice between these two gutter materials. But if you think that steel is still a better fit, know that it will take time for it to be installed. 

Conclusion

When it comes to gutter materials, the choice can be easy if you know the factors to consider. At the most basic end, everything boils down to where you are located, your budget range, and most importantly, the characteristics of the gutter material that will best suit your home. 

Three of the most common materials used for gutters would be vinyl, steel, and aluminum. Each material has its pros and cons. Knowing the specific benefits and downsides of each will help you in choosing the best gutter material for your home, sparing your effort and money in the long run.

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