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Rain Gutter Alternatives | Comprehensive Guide

rain gutter alternatives

Rain gutters are an important part of any home, but they can be expensive to install.

Luckily there are a number of gutter alternatives that can help keep your home looking clean and beautiful without breaking the bank. 

This article will discuss rain gutter alternatives in detail, including best practices for installation and maintenance, as well as how much these products cost.

What is a Rain Gutter?

A rain gutter is a channel of metal or other material, placed around the perimeter of a roof, to carry rainwater from the rooftop to an appropriate drainage location.

Gutters are most commonly used on residential properties for directing water from roofs and removing debris.

In this way, gutters play a vital role in protecting both the property and inhabitants of a building by preventing water damage to walls, walkways, foundations and landscaping.

A gutter system is also used to prevent significant build up of water pressure near the foundation of a structure which may compromise the foundation’s integrity.

Alternatives to Gutters

Why the Gutter Alternatives?

During the second-half of the 20th century, American industry stopped making just about everything. 

It’s no longer even possible to buy tin snips or a handsaw that was made in America. 

There are solar panels and wind turbines available for alternative energy supply, but does anybody make rain gutters anymore?

Most homes built before 1970 have gutter systems that are made of metal. Since then, most gutters have been installed using aluminum or vinyl material.

  • Vinyl has largely replaced metal for many building applications because it weathers better in cold climates and costs less to buy in small quantities.
    • But there is no good reason why the seams cannot be soldered with lead, like they used to be, and aluminum can corrode.
  • Aluminum gutters are readily available today but they tend to be flimsy; the standard aluminum gutter is too thin to hold up well in cold climates.
    • New houses with vinyl or metal gutters do not come with downspouts.
    • Instead they have what are called “rain leaders” that are routed to the foundation drain, which usually goes straight to the sewer or septic.

This is part of a national trend toward building houses with no gutters at all, sometimes called “gutterless green”. 

It costs more to build without gutters but it seems like an effort by builders and architects to showcase their creativity and save the effort of installing gutters.

A modern house with no gutters is more likely to be featured on a TV show than one with gutter and downspouts, which are viewed as impossibly old-fashioned.

What are the benefits of a rain gutter alternative?

The obvious benefit of using a rain gutter alternative is the cost savings. 

A rain gutter costs around $6 per linear foot, or $2.50–$3 per square foot depending on the layout and type of gutter used. 

Using an alternative to standard gutters can save homeowners about half of what they’d spend on conventional gutters.

In addition to cost savings, a rain gutter alternative can be more visually appealing than traditional gutters. 

For example, a decorative metal arch over a doorway is often more aesthetically pleasing than the typical aluminum or vinyl gutter. 

Fortunately for homeowners who desire something other than the ordinary, there are several options available when it comes to gutter alternatives.

When choosing a rain gutter alternative, homeowners should consider how the material will be installed. 

For example, aluminum gutters are typically nailed or screwed to fascia boards near the eaves of roofs, while copper and metal gutters can be soldered onto roofing sheets for more permanent installation.

What are the disadvantages of using a rain gutter alternative?

The most obvious disadvantage of using a rain gutter alternative is the cost. 

Installing roofing-bound metal gutters on one’s home can be very expensive, whereas installing overhanging gutters on masonry walls or standard aluminum rain gutters near the ground are often cheaper options.

Another disadvantage to consider when deciding whether or not to install roofing-bound gutters is the need for additional maintenance. 

Since metal gutters are typically fastened to the bottom of roofs, they require extra cleaning and possible repair during periods of heavy snow or rain.

Most Common Rain Gutter Alternatives

1. Downspouts

Downspouts are a good alternative to gutters, because they can be custom designed in many different styles to fit your house. 

Downspouts come in many materials; copper, aluminum, steel, fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP), rigid PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and lead.

They come in several different shapes and can be painted or stained any color. 

Downspouts are installed with hangers that attach to the roof or fascia board. 

They can be attached at any point along the roof, depending on where they need to drain water.

Downspouts help drain rainwater from the roof and redirect it away from the house foundation, sidewalks, and driveways after it falls off your roof. 

They also direct water away from areas where ice dams might form during winter months.

Ice dams are caused when snow melts on a roof and then refreezes as it travels down the roof’s slope.

Downspouts are available in two types: round pipe and corrugated plastic. 

The corrugated type are usually less expensive than their matching metal or plastic counterparts, but have a slightly shorter lifespan due to exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight that can cause them to crack over time.

2. Rain barrels

Rain barrels are available in a variety of different shapes and sizes. 

They can be installed under downspouts to collect rainwater from roofs, gutters, balconies or other hard surfaces. 

Rain barrels use gravity to direct water from the barrel into your garden hose or irrigation system.

Depending on the location of the hose bib (faucet), you can install a diverter kit to pump water to another part of your yard.

3. Rain chains 

Rain chains are an alternative to downspouts because they provide a decorative way to redirect rainwater from the roof.

They look similar to racks made of metal or plastic tubing filled with pebbles or beads that funnel water off the roof and into a container near the home, such as a rain barrel or landscaped rock basin.

These containers then direct the collected water into a garden hose or irrigation system for use in the landscape.

What is a Guttering System?

Guttering System is the system of pipes and troughs that is used to route rainwater from a roof to storage or away from a building. 

It’s an essential component of any structure with a roof.

Many people use standard guttering systems for years without problems, but occasionally something goes wrong and they have leaks or damage. 

When this happens, it’s important to have a backup plan in place.

There are two main reasons you’d need an alternative solution:

  • The guttering system isn’t suitable for your situation or you can’t install a standard system.

If there is a possibility that the design of the roof means that a standard guttering system won’t work (for example, if it’s difficult to install, the positioning won’t work or if there are obstructions like balconies), you’ll need an alternative system.

  • The other situation is when you don’t want to (or can’t) take up valuable roof space with gutters.

This solution could be temporary, until you have access to the roof to fix a problem or if you’ve decided that traditional guttering isn’t for you.

What is a Non-Guttering System?

A non-guttering system is an alternative to standard gutters. It’s essentially a “mini gutter” that extends down part of your wall, draining water onto the ground or away from the house.

You either fit it at the top of your walls (which means you don’t compromise on roof space) or you attach it to the side of your walls. 

You can choose to attach it to the bottom or middle part so that you get water falling directly onto the ground, not near your house.

This system provides an alternative for when standard gutter installation isn’t possible or so you don’t have to take up valuable roof space with gutters.

Types of Non-Guttering Systems

There are two main types of non-guttering systems, also known as “alternate gutter systems” or “non-conventional gutters”. 

They’re either in the form of a trough that runs down your wall or in a drip irrigation system.

1. Troughs

It’s a series of plastic or rubber pipes that are attached to your wall. 

Water flows down them, either collecting in a container or flowing directly onto the ground. They’re sometimes called “gutter boxes”, “rain chains” or “wall gutters”.

2. Drip Irrigation

It’s an alternative to the standard drip irrigation system for garden irrigation. It’s basically a set of small tubes with holes on the end, attached to your wall. 

The water flows through them and onto the ground or into a container. They’re sometimes called “gutter drip irrigation”, “guttering drip system” or “wall gutter drip system”.


There are many gutter alternatives available on the market nowadays. 

Depending on your needs, you can choose from a range of gutters and non-gutters systems that have been designed to be installed in places where a traditional guttering system isn’t possible or is not suitable for your situation.

If there’s a possibility that standard rain gutters won’t work with your roof structure (if you don’t like the idea of taking up valuable roof space, if there are obstructions such as balconies or it’s difficult to install), consider using one of these systems.

If this is a temporary solution until you have access to the house and can fix an issue with standard gutters, or if you’ve decided that standard rain gutters aren’t for you, non-guttering systems are viable alternatives.

Gutters Alternatives