If you are like many homeowners, you have probably wondered whether gutters are even necessary. After all, they are prone to clogging, attract nesting birds, can only handle a limited volume of water, and can eventually pull away from your roof or tilt. Some roofers even advise against them.

I know that many homeowners also feel that rain gutters are controversial. This is because the law generally does not require this type of house drainage system on a sloping roof. Many modern homes may even lack gutters, even in instances where they are beneficial. I’ve worked with the expert team at Today’s Homeowner to compile this guide on whether you need to invest in a gutter system for your home. Let’s look at the different reasons why you may or may not need this type of drainage system.

*Costs in this article are sourced from product averages at Home Depot and contractor estimates sourced from Angi.

Gutter Cleaning Service
The national average price of gutter cleaning is $160, assuming you have about 200 feet of gutters.
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Gutter Guard Installation
In general, the national average cost of gutter guards ranges from $650 to $2,000.
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Gutters Installation
In general, it costs somewhere between $1,000 to $7,000 to get a full set of gutters installed on your home.
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Understanding Rain Gutters

Gutters are channeled drainage systems that redirect water away from your home. This prevents your landscaping from eroding. It can also help reduce damage to your foundation and your home’s exterior. Rain gutters are affixed to your roof and are usually made of aluminum, copper, or plastic. While they may have limited capacity and can be prone to clogging, gutters can be crucial to protecting your home from moisture damage.

How Do Gutters Work?

The gutters along your roof catch rainwater as it washes down the side of the roof. This water is channeled through downspouts and then redirected to flow away from your home. This reduces erosion of the ground against your home and may greatly decrease the risk of basement flooding and foundation damage. In some circumstances, the downspout empties into a tank or barrel for garden use during dry weather.

When Are Gutters Necessary?

There are many times when a gutter system is necessary to protect your foundation. Some of these instances are:

  1. If your home is built on red clay — Ground rich in clay can be very difficult to work with, and once water makes its way to your foundation, the clay will serve as a pipeline to continue delivering water to the same spot. By using gutters with a drainpipe and ground-based gutter line, you can direct the water a safe distance from your home.
  2. If the landscape around your home slopes upwards — When your home is at the bottom of a slope on at least one side, water will pool along the foundation both above and below ground. Using gutters on that side of the home will allow you to redirect the water toward a downward-sloping side. A small gutter along the ground will channel any runoff from the landscaping.
  3. If your roof has little to no overhang — Roofs which fit close to the home allow water to pour from the roof to within a foot of the foundation, creating numerous problems. Frequent rains will cause trenches to form where the water forms. Rainwater remains close to the foundation once absorbed by the ground, causing extensive damage over time. You may also have to pass through a waterfall when entering or exiting your home during a storm.

If your home has any of the above qualities, you will need a good gutter system to help maintain the longevity of your foundation and your home’s exterior. I recommend contacting a professional to help you with gutter installation.

When Are Gutters Optional?

Sometimes, your property is designed to perform the functions of rain gutters or can handle runoff without gutters, rendering them obsolete. In such cases, having gutters adds maintenance costs with no benefits. Your home does not need gutters if:

  • The landscaping around your home slopes downwards — especially when other factors are present.
  • Your home is surrounded by concrete — be it sidewalks, driveways, or patios. In this case, the concrete already provides your foundation with a protective barrier from water.
  • You live in an arid location — where there is little annual rainfall.
  • Your roof has an extension or long overhang — which allows water to run off a safe distance from the foundation.

Any of the above features may make having and maintaining a gutter system more trouble than it is worth. I would recommend having no gutters on your home in any of the above cases.

Why Do Some Roofers Advise Against Gutters?

When a roofer advises against installing a gutter, you should ask for specific reasons why this is the case. Many roofers claim that having a gutter will ruin the facial boards, which support the roof’s overhang. This is because improperly installed gutters may splash these boards during rainstorms and cause them to rot.

However, keep in mind that replacing your facial boards is relatively inexpensive — and I would argue that having a good gutter system is considerably more affordable than having to do extensive home repairs due to water damage. Doing maintenance work on your home’s foundation costs an average of $5,000, which is considerably more expensive. At absolute worst, having to completely lift the foundation of your home due to water damage could result in a bill of over $20,000 dollars.

It does cost around $275 each time you want to get your gutters cleaned and maintained by a professional. Installing a new gutter drainage system for the first time results in an average bill of $1,163 — depending on the type of gutter system. If you are in doubt, I recommend asking your roofers why or why not they recommend that your house have gutters. In a few cases, the roofer may suggest extending the roof instead of adding a gutter. This is especially true of older homes where the roof seam for a first-floor expansion has begun to leak.

2 Common Gutter Complaints and Solutions

There are a few common excuses homeowners give for wanting to remove their gutters. In both instances, the problem is solvable.

1. Gutter Clogs

This is the single most common complaint about gutters, especially on properties with several trees. Clogged gutters may be solved by adding gutter covers (or gutter guards), which are inexpensive, averaging around $15 per linear foot. Some covers have small diamond-shaped openings, which allow tiny debris to enter but block leaves. What debris enters is easily flushed during rain, and leaves may simply be swept or blown over the gutter’s surface. Severely clogged gutters can result in mildew or mold on the side of your home, so it’s best to address this issue quickly.

Gutter covers also prevent birds from nesting within the gutter, and there are gutter guards for heavy rains and other kinds of harsh weather. You can also prevent clogs through regular gutter cleaning.

2. Ice Dams

It is a common misconception that if gutters are clogged, they can create ice dams during the winter. However, ice dams are actually the result of a difference in temperature along the line of your roof, due to poor ventilation and insulation. Ice dams can occur whether your house has a gutter drainage system, but the gutters themselves can become damaged if you have an ice dam on the side of your house. Ultimately, if you do notice an ice dam, you should contact a professional to remove it and to check your attic. This will help remedy the underlying issue.

Final Thoughts

In general, the expert team at Today’s Homeowner and I recommend that if you have certain soil types, landscaping, or weather conditions where you live, it’s best for you to invest in a gutter system as part of your next home improvement project. While some areas or home types may not need gutters, it’s always best to reach out to a trained professional to see if this investment would be well worth it. Investing in a gutter system is certainly much cheaper than having to replace or repair your home’s foundation or exterior siding. Overall, it’s better to hire an expert than die a gutter system yourself.

If you are ready to invest in a gutter system or maintain your existing one, I recommend using Costhelper, which provides estimates for installing or replacing gutters. They also offer cost estimates for having your gutter professionally cleaned.

Frequently Asked Questions About If You Should Install Gutters On Your Home

How long do gutters last?

A good gutter system normally lasts around 20 to 25 years before it will need to be replaced. The type of material used and the climate in the area that you are living in will affect your drainage system’s longevity.


How much do gutter systems typically cost?

If you have never installed a gutter system on your home before, you should expect to pay an average of $1,100 for a new one. The types of material that you choose, as well as the exact number of linear feet that your gutter system has, will determine the specific cost.


Do I need to hire a professional to install my gutter system?

In general, I would advise hiring a professional to install your gutter system since adding one to your home requires working on ladders and having a specific type of expertise. Keep in mind that if you opt for certain types of metal gutters, they may have to be welded to your home’s exterior, which requires a specialist’s knowledge.

I would also advise hiring a professional to conduct regular gutter cleaning at least twice a year.


Does installing a gutter system have any environmental benefits?

In addition to protecting your home’s foundation and exterior siding, you can be strategic about where you channel the water flow from your gutter drainage system. For instance, you can direct the water into a rain barrel after a downpour and then use this collected water for household tasks or to water your landscaping. Some homeowners also have special rain gardens, which your gutter system drainage waters.


Does a gutter system help prevent foundation problems?

While there are many factors which can cause foundation problems, excess water near your home is one of them. Well-positioned gutter systems can direct water away from your home and prevent costly foundation repairs.


Article Update Log
5/27/2024
Reviewed for accuracy, cost data, industry best practices, and expert advice by Nikki Stavile.
Editorial Contributors
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Nikki Stavile

Nikki Stavile is a writer based in Tucson, Arizona. As an avid backpacker and passionate environmentalist, her work often focuses on sustainable movements at the personal and societal level.

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Sabrina Lopez

Editor

Sabrina Lopez is a senior editor for Today’s Homeowner with over 7 years of writing and editing experience in digital media. She has reviewed content across categories that matter to homeowners, including HVAC services, home renovations, lawn and garden care, products for the home, and insurance services. When she’s not reviewing articles to make sure they are helpful, accessible, and engaging for homeowners like herself, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her family and their two parrots.

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