1.) Man Made Materials
Vinyl gutters are inexpensive and will not rust. They are common in Europe, but less so in the US. They have a reputation for being of lower quality, and many people do not consider them aesthetically pleasing. Old World Gutters does not install vinyl.
Composite gutters imitate wooden gutters. They have a similar design, but are made from pre-primed composite blocks of material shaped using similar production techniques as wood. Some are lined with a dark plastic material. They are relatively new to the market and have already developed a reputation for contraction and expansion that may allow gaps to develop at joints. They are not inexpensive. And no, we do not install these either.
Fiberglass gutters are the newest addition to the Old World Gutters line. They are NOT composite gutters and are not shaped from blocks of plastic material, but rather are molded. Using a wood gutter as a template, a mold is created by hand. Then in much the same way as a boat is built, fiberglass and resin is layered on in a painstaking process that produces a gutter that on its exterior is aesthetically identical to the template including the grain of the wood.
Some of the earliest gutters were made from wood. From V-shaped eavestroughs to half-round styles that are fully integrated into the trim that extends up the rake board, wood can be shaped and painted according to the style of the house. Their primary attraction is aesthetic.
Wood needs to “breathe” and requires considerable maintenance. The interior needs to be oiled regularly, and there is little if anything that can be used to keep debris out, so it requires frequent cleaning to prevent water from stagnating. Since wood needs to be a certain thickness, the interior will not have the same carrying capacity of a similarly sized gutter made from another material. And of course the exterior needs to be painted regularly.
The capacity of the outlets in wood gutter are usually less than half that of outlets of other types of gutters, requiring more outlets and downspouts to drain properly. Cedar is the preferred wood gutter, but since these tend to be much more expensive, fir gutters are often used. Unlike the wood available in the 1700's and 1800's and even in the 1900's, today's trees do not produce wood that is especially durable. We do not install wood gutters.
The earliest metal gutters were copper formed into a half-round shape by hand. Custom gutters are still made this way. Subsequently, rolls of copper and aluminum were extruded through machines to produce various shapes.
Aluminum K-style are the most common gutters in the US today, so called because the cross-section resembles the top of the letter K. They have a flat back and bottom. Painted at the factory, shaped to imitate crown molding, and often seamlessly extruded on site, these gutters are very cost-effective. The standard 5” size, with 2”x 3” downspouts, are usually adequate for most residential applications. Larger sizes are available. Quality and price can vary with the thickness of the aluminum and the installation techniques. We will install these gutters in aluminum and copper.
Aluminum gutters can also be found in half-round styles. These are higher end products that require more installation time and have more options for installations. A number of photographs of half-round aluminum applications can be found in our Photo Gallery~Aluminum on this site.
Galvanized steel is steel that is factory coated with zinc to prevent rust. Galvanized gutter systems, but mostly galvanized downspouts with wooden gutters, are usually painted. They are strong and inexpensive, but once the galvanized coating is breached, they will rust through.
Galvalume is a new iteration of galvanized product. It is a steel product, cost efficient and strong, and is generally not painted for those who prefer a more post-modern, faintly industrial look. The coating is a zinc/aluminum/polymer alloy; again, factory applied. It is longer lasting than galvanized steel. We have these gutters available in the half-round style.
Coated copper also has an industrial appeal. Thought to extend the life of a copper application, lead-coating is losing favor. It is heavy, expensive, and potentially toxic. OWG does not supply lead-coated copper. Freedom Gray, or copper coated with a zinc alloy, has a similar look to the lead-coated and is more environmentally acceptable. However, the supplier of the coated sheet metal has discontinued production until further notice.
Copper gutters are a high end choice, both aesthetically and practically. See our Photo Gallery~Copper for examples. It is common for copper gutters to last 50, 75, or even 100 years, depending on usage and the thickness of the original material. Heavy gauge 20 ounce is generally the heaviest used in residential applications and the weight favored by Old World Gutters.
Copper does not need to be painted. It ages naturally from new-penny bright to a darker palate and eventually after 12 or more years to a green patina. The patina, which is actually oxidation, forms a protective coating. Should it be scratched or scraped it will naturally begin to re-form.
Mixing metals--for example, copper gutter with an aluminum downspout-- is generally not advisable, but with certain barriers in place, it has been done quite successfully.