Gutter Materials

Gutters and downspouts - the vertical sections that send runoff down to the ground - are made out of aluminum, vinyl, galvanized steel, stainless steel and copper.

Wood is also an option, but wood gutters are rare, except for restoration work. They're also expensive, starting at about $12 per linear foot installed and, depending on the wood species, running as high as $20 per linear foot.

Copper is another material usually reserved for classic restorations. It's handsome, never rusts and never needs painting. But at about $15 per linear foot, it's also expensive.

Gutter Construction

All gutters are either sectional or seamless (or continuous). Sectional gutters are sold in pieces and installed as component systems. All do-it-yourself gutter systems are sectional, though pros install these, too. The sections themselves can be over 20 ft. long each or cut to any size with a hacksaw. Snap-in-place connectors join gutter sections to each other and to downspouts. All sectional systems have end caps, corner pieces and drop outlets for connecting to downspouts. The drawback to sectional systems is that all those seams can eventually invite leaks.

Seamless gutters won't leak at seams because there are none; sections join only at inside and outside corners and at downspout outlets. That's why they're the most popular configuration. Seamless gutters, made of aluminum, galvanized steel or copper, are extruded to custom lengths on site using a portable machine.

Sizes and Shapes

Most gutters come in several sizes and shapes called profiles. These include U shapes as well K configurations, in which the ogee-shaped front looks like the letter K. Gutter channels are available in 4–, 5– or 6–in. diameters; 5–in. Ks are the most common. You'll also find downspout choices that include 2X3–in. or 3X4–in. rectangular shapes, as well as 3– or 4–in. round pipes. Particularly in leafy areas, use larger downspouts, which minimize clogs.

k gutter

u gutter


Sectional aluminum and steel gutters come in more than 25 different colors – ideal for matching trim and house colors. Gutter colors are baked on at the factory.

Vinyl typically is brown or white; the latter color holds up better in intense sun. Copper is prized for its natural color and comes unpainted. If you like the look of copper but not the price, Alcoa sells a faux-copper gutter made of aluminum. Called Musket Brown, it sells for about $9 per linear foot installed.