Purpose of Rain Gutters
Many people think the main purpose of rain gutters is to protect the side of their home. Actually its to protect their home’s foundation by channeling water away from the foundation. Otherwise water running directly off the roof will dig a ditch along the sides of the foundation, and as the water soaks into the ground, some of the water will work its way through the foundation. If you choose not to install gutters, the excavator must take extra care to grade your property so all sides slope away from your modular home. Keep in mind that this solution isn’t as effective as installing rain gutters.
It’s also true that gutters are helpful with protecting the exterior of your modular home from back-splash stain and rot. In addition, they help shield your landscaping and reduce ground erosion. Most importantly, gutters shield windows and doors from water infiltration as well as family and guests from being soaked while entering your home. Gutters are especially helpful for preventing leaks around the thresholds of exterior doors during heavy storms. Without gutters, the exterior doors will be pounded with rain falling off the roof as well as from the sky. In such circumstances, the doors will be prone to leak.
In fact, the reason I decided to write about rain gutters is that two of the problems we’ve had from time-to-time have been with homes that did not have gutters because the homeowners wanted to save money. For sure, gutters are costly. But homes without them are much more likely to have a leaky exterior door or a damp basement or both. Since such leaks are not due to a defect in the exterior doors or foundation, they’re not a warranty claim.
Rain Gutter Material
Gutters are available in four materials: vinyl, steel, aluminum, and copper. Each material has its pros and cons for your home.
Vinyl gutters are lightweight, the easiest to install for do-it-yourselfers, and the least expensive. They come in a variety of colors, and since their color is part of the material, they hold it well. Another advantage of vinyl gutters is that they won’t chip, dent, or corrode. However, they can become brittle in extreme cold.
Steel gutters are the sturdiest, which enables them to support ladders and falling branches without damage. On the other hand they require the most maintenance and can rust if water doesn’t drain properly.
Aluminum gutters are very popular because they won’t rust. However, they can dent and bend from too much weight, powerful winds, or falling debris. This is most likely to happen if the gutters are fabricated out of secondary aluminum, which is made mostly of recycled materials, rather than primary aluminum, which is of a higher quality and thicker.
Copper gutters are usually reserved for classic restorations. They’re very attractive, durable, never rust, and never need painting. During their 75+ year life-time they will oxidize to an attractive green. On the other hand, copper gutters are the most expensive, which also makes them a target for thieves.
Seamless vs. Sectional Rain Gutters
There are two types of gutters, sectional and seamless. Sectional gutters are built out of pre-cut pieces that are joined and fastened together as they are installed. Seamless gutters are created on site using single lengths of gutter that are as long as can be functionally installed. This eliminates the number of joints that need to be fastened together, usually only at inside and outside corners and downspouts. Since gutters most frequently fail at the joints and seams, seamless gutters virtually eliminate this problem
Rain Gutter Maintenance and Repair
Gutters must be maintained regularly to remove leaves and other debris, since these materials will back up the flow of water. When this happens the gutters will no longer protect the house. In fact, the overflow can damage the roof and encourage the formation of more ice dams than if you didn’t have gutters. An option is to use “gutter guards”, which are designed to keep debris out but allow water to enter. Although these reduce the need for frequent cleaning, it’s still wise to inspect your gutters regularly.
You should also regularly examine whether your gutters are fully attached to your house. Gutters can pull away from the roof over time due to the weight of snow, ice, branches, and small animals. Checking for holes and leaks where gutter sections connect is another homeowner responsibility for maintaining well-functioning gutters.
For more information about rain gutters, see Modular Home Specifications and Features and The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.