As a homeowner, you’re probably aware that a vast majority of homes across the U.S. are fitted with a gutter system. However, many people are unaware of the assortment of materials available in the market that not only safeguard your home from unwanted damages but also add visual beauty and curb appeal to your home. Because there is such a large range of materials you can choose from, you may feel at a complete loss when it comes to selecting the product that best fits your needs. Before picking, it’s important to know the different gutter types and the subsequent impact each could have on your home. It’s also best to talk to a professional before getting a completely new gutter installation.

Below is a list of some of the more popular materials that can be used for gutters to help you in your decision-making process.

Vinyl

For most homeowners who are looking for a DIY project, vinyl is a popular material to use. Out of all the gutter materials available for purchase, it’s the easiest one to install. If you elect to embark down this path, you’ll only need a few basic tools and all the parts fit together without any sealants. This is what makes it so popular. You do need to be aware, though; that vinyl expands and contracts the most out of all its gutter counterparts. Because of this, the inside of the downspout connector is often marked with various temperatures. You’ll need to cut a piece of the downspout connector at to a length that corresponds to the current temperature. From a style perspective, vinyl typically comes in white or brown, though you can find some manufacturers who offer gray and various shades of brown.

A downside of having a vinyl gutter is that over time, vinyl can become very brittle, especially if you reside in a climate that frequently encounters frigid temperatures. In regions that are prone to heavy snowfall, vinyl gutters do not contain the same level of durability and strength as metal gutters would. This is an important element to take into consideration if you want to ensure your home doesn’t sustain any unwanted damages. In addition to not being able to hold the weight of snow, vinyl gutters are also unable to support the weight of a person on a ladder, so be mindful not to lean on your vinyl gutters when performing your routine maintenance.

Aluminum

If you’re looking for the most widely used gutter materials, look no further than aluminum. Universally available, lightweight, resistant to rust, durable, and inexpensive, aluminum is a leading choice for homeowners looking for a good material to use. Aluminum gutters are typically available in white or brown. If the limited color palette doesn’t suit you, you can simply have your contractor using a colored coating to achieve your desired design aesthetic. Aluminum gutters are joined by slip-joint connectors and sealant.

For installation, you have several options. You can either use strap hangers that attach to roof sheathing, hidden brackets, exterior brackets, or you can use seven-inch screws or spikes with ferrules. Just like vinyl gutters, aluminum expands and contracts with temperature change.

If your roof is covered with algae-resistant shingles and granules in a thin coating of copper, aluminum may not be the best material to use. This is because runoff from the shingles due to rainfall can flow into your gutters and eventually lead to corrosion. Corrosion can jeopardize the structural integrity of your gutters and could lead to costly out-of-pocket repairs to mend the damage.

Copper

Copper gutters are naturally resistant to rust, experience minimal expansion and contraction, and possess a lifespan of over a century. While they are highly practical, their appearance is often the reason homeowners choose to invest extra dollars to have them installed in their home. Copper is soldered together, can be pop-riveted before being soldered, and is held together with strap hangers, hidden brackets, or even exterior brackets. Just like the Statue of Liberty, copper can mutate into a greenish color, which many homeowners find attractive on their home. If you want to avoid this transformation, you can simply have your copper gutters periodically treated with a sealant to prevent the material from oxidizing.

Steel

Steel gutters are the strongest of all the materials you can choose from for your gutters. This expensive and rare option is often constructed from galvanized steel or painted steel; their individual pieces soldered together or pop-riveted. Steel gutters are a better option than aluminum and vinyl due to the fact that it can resist hail, ice, snow, and falling branches. Steel can also provide more support for ladders, which is important for those who perform the routine maintenance necessary for prolonging the lifespan of their gutters. Steel contracts and expands the least. But, you should be aware that steel gutters will eventually rust. Make sure you keep that in mind if you opt to go with steel gutters.

Seamless Gutters

You can fabricate aluminum, steel, and copper gutters by running a metal coil through an extruder that produces the material in seamless lengths, which are longer than the typical ten feet sections available in local home centers. By having fewer seams in your gutters, you can cut down the number of leaks that could potentially develop, which is a great benefit to getting seamless gutters installed on your home. You can either call on companies to handle the job or ask for them to custom-cut the material if you want to do this yourself.

Whether you are looking for gutters that are easy on the wallet or for a product that offers maximum protection, there are scores of options for you to choose from. It’s important to take your geographic location into account as the climate that could negatively impact your gutters. You’ll also need to consider how frequently you want to perform routine maintenance on your gutters.