While gutters are a worthwhile investment for many homeowners, you might be surprised to learn that you may not need gutters around your entire house. Specifics like the slope of your roof, the weather in your region, and aspects of your home’s landscaping can all determine if you need a gutter system around the entirety of your home’s exterior.

I’ve complied this guide as part of the expert team at Today’s Homeowner to cover the specifics of whether you need gutters around your home and the benefits of investing in a gutter drainage system. If gutters are the right choice for your area, you’ll also be able to learn about the different materials available and the overall price you should expect to pay for an installation job.

*Costs in this article sourced from contractor estimates used by Angi.

Do I Need Gutters Around The Entire House?

Without a rain gutter system, there’s a chance that your home could become prone to mold, mildew, and dampness.

However, gutters aren’t required by law, and not every house has them. Here are some factors to help you decide whether you need gutters:

  • Your roof has steep slopes. These can encourage water to pool at the foundation of your home, as gutters can’t collect the rainwater and redirect it away. In contrast, if your home has a flat roof, a gutter drainage system will not be effective because there will be no way for gravity to pull the water off your roof and into the drainage system.
  • There is no roof overhang. If your roof ends at the same point as your home, you might need gutters to prevent water from draining directly into your home’s foundation. However, if you have a roof overhang which causes water to drop off your house well away from your foundation, you may need a gutter system. To keep water from pooling onto your lawn and landscaping, you may want to invest in a ground drainage system, such as a French drain.
  • You have lots of heavy rain. If it often rains heavily in your location, gutters can collect the rainwater and direct it away from your home. On the other hand, if you live in a very dry area, gutters may not be necessary.
  • Your landscaping slopes away from your home. If your house is situated on a hill, water will run down the hill and away from your home’s foundation, which minimizes the risk of flooding or other water damage problems.

If your house allows for it, I generally advise that you install gutters on your home. This is because having a good gutter drainage system can prevent damage to your house’s foundation, fascia, and exterior paneling. Having a gutter drainage system is a good investment to keep you from having to make expensive repairs down the line.

Where Do You Put Gutters on a House?

Rain gutters should be placed beyond roof eaves to collect rainwater. They’re typically positioned on all sides of a home across the edge of the roof to guarantee efficient drainage.

What Happens if You Don’t Have Gutters?

If you don’t install gutters on your roof, you risk rainwater washing against your home and foundation, which can wear down materials over time. Plus, water will runoff and flow toward your home rather than away from it, which can cause potential flooding indoors, mold, and dampness.

Being able to direct rainwater away from your home is one of the major benefits of installing a gutter drainage system. But there are several factors which can make gutters a worthwhile investment.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Gutters

Before installing a gutter drainage system, it’s important to consider the pros and cons. Let’s look at some of them below.

Benefits

The biggest benefit of having a gutter system is that they effectively protect your home from water damage and flooding. They also reduce the chances of mold and mildew accumulating on your home’s exterior. This, in turn, can save you from costly repairs down the road.

When installed correctly, gutters can also last around 20 years. This longevity depends on the exact type of material you use and the climate that you are living in. However, gutters do come with some drawbacks.

Drawbacks

The biggest drawback to having a gutter system installed on your home is that you will have to perform regular maintenance to keep them clear of debris. You may also need to clean them to remove any mold and mildew. In general, I recommend cleaning your gutters at the end of the spring and the end of the fall. This will remove any debris such as pollen, pine needles, leaves, animal nests, or acorns, which may have accumulated during these seasons.

Keep in mind that you will also need to inspect your gutter system to make sure that the channels and downspouts are not warping or sagging. A damaged or poorly maintained gutter system can pull the fascia off your home and cause problems. When determining whether it is in your budget, you should also factor in the cost of gutter cleaning and maintenance. While some of these chores you may be able to DIY, I highly recommend hiring a professional to do so if you do not like heights.

Are Gutters Necessary in All States?

I strongly suggest doing your research to determine if gutters are required in your state, as building codes differ greatly across the country. However, there are some areas of the country where you may not need to have a gutter system installed.

States like Arizona or Nevada, which have primarily desert climates, often have homes without gutters. This is because these areas receive so little rainfall and downpours are uncommon.

Surprisingly, you aren’t required to have gutters on your home if you live in Florida, even though this state receives a significant amount of rainfall. The reason for this is that many homes in this state lack basements. You are required to have gutters installed in Florida if your roof drains onto another roof or if the edge of your roof is less than six inches away from the side of your home.

Finally, many homes in New England may lack gutters. This is because snow and ice can accumulate in the gutters if the house’s attic is not insulated properly. These ice dams cause the gutters to pull away from the side of the house, which can damage the exterior. In addition, soil erosion is not as common in this region and the ground absorbs water well. For this reason, some homes in New England don’t have gutter drainage systems installed.

If you do live in an area where gutters are required, either due to state building codes or because they are required by your homeowner’s association, I highly recommend reaching out to a professional who specializes in gutter installation.

Cost of Gutters for Your Entire Home

The cost of new gutters is around $20 per linear foot, with the average price of an installation job being around $1,100. The overall price depends on the size of your home, the material chosen, and any extras that you may add to your drainage system.

You can save money by choosing to install a new gutter system yourself as opposed to paying for a contractor to do so. However, depending on the type of material that you choose for your drainage system, you may need to hire a professional, because some gutter materials require expertise.

What Type of Material is Best for Gutters?

There are several materials to choose from, including:

  • Stainless Steel: Steel gutters are coated with magnesium zinc alloy on both sides for excellent strength and erosion protection. This top coating also provides a scratch-resistant finish, preventing corrosion damage in severe weather. However, these types of gutters require professional installation due to how heavy they are.
  • Aluminum: This material is durable, lightweight, and rust-resistant. It provides excellent value for money due to its strength, as you won’t have to regularly replace aluminum gutters.
  • Plastic/Vinyl: This is the most low-cost material for gutters. It’s a versatile material, so you can purchase plastic gutters in various colors and designs. But it’s not as durable as other materials, so it might not make the best choice for areas with heavy rains.
  • Cast Iron: This option is 100% recyclable and can last for over a lifetime. It’s durable, weather- and fire-resistant, and provides low maintenance since it’s not prone to rust. This option also needs to be installed by a professional as it requires welding to install them, and it is also quite heavy. Cast iron is one of the less popular gutter options due to how expensive it is.
  • Copper: This option is exceptionally stylish, durable, corrosion-resistant, and takes on a unique patina depending on the climate where you live. However, copper gutters must be welded onto the side of a house, so they must be installed by a professional.

When deciding on the type of material that is in your budget and is best for your home’s needs, it is important to consider how many downspouts your system will need. This will help you estimate installation costs.

How Many Gutter Downspouts Should a House Have?

This depends on the size and design of the house, as not all houses need gutters around the entire roof. The exact placement of downspouts on your house will depend on where rainwater is likely to collect. By installing a downspout there, you can direct water away from your roof. In general, the expert team at Today’s Homeowner recommends placing a downspout every 30 to 40 feet around your home’s perimeter.

If you aren’t sure if gutters are the best option for your home, or if you don’t want to place gutters around the entirety of your house, you might want to consider investing in a gutter alternative.

Gutter Alternatives

While they have many benefits, gutters are not always necessary, and they aren’t the only answer to an effective rainwater drainage system. Consider your house design, the weather in your area, and if your roof has slopes. If you don’t believe that gutters would be best for your area, there are some other solutions and alternatives that can help your home handle water runoff without gutters. These include:

  • Rain chains: In addition to serving as beautiful decor for a garden, rain chains can direct water away from your home through surface tension and direct water away from your home. Rain chains are available in a vast range of designs and colors, but they are not good for areas with heavy rains.
  • Drip Edge: These are slanted metal sheets that protect your home from moisture by redirecting water away from your house’s foundation. However, snow and ice can seep through some sections and cause damage.
  • Drip Path: This is pavement positioned under the edge of your roof that prevents water from seeping into the soil. This keeps excessive amounts of water from entering your basement.
  • Ground Gutters or French Drains: These types of systems work similarly to roof gutters, but these drainage systems are located on the ground and collect the water that flows off your roof. You can incorporate these drainage systems into your landscaping by growing plants on top of them.
  • Grading: While not a specific type of drainage system, putting a slope into your landscaping directs rainwater downward and away from your home. However, depending on your area and the extent of grading required, this can be an expensive alternative to gutters. You should expect to pay at least $2,000 for this service.

If you aren’t sure if gutters are the best option for your home, I highly recommend speaking with an experienced professional. They can help you make the best decision to save you money, both now and in the future, by helping you choose the best drainage system for your home.

Key Takeaways

Gutters aren’t essential for every house, and you don’t have to install them on all roof areas. I recommend considering the weather in your area and the slopes on your roof to determine if you should install gutters. If a drainage system is not necessary for your home, you may still want to invest in a gutter alternative to prevent water damage to your home’s foundation. Keep in mind that you should also factor in the cost of gutter maintenance.

If having a gutter system is the right option for your house, you can work with a professional to determine what type of material, how many downspouts, and the exact placement of gutters on your home’s roof. This way, you can create an efficient home drainage system without breaking the bank.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better: vinyl gutters or aluminum gutters?

Aluminum is lightweight and more durable. It’s also weather-resistant, making it a long-term investment.


Why do some houses have gutters and some don't?

Whether a house needs gutters depends on if the roof has a steep slope.  Homeowners with flatter roofs may be able to use a gutter alternative such as a rain chain, efficient garden grading, or a French drain to redirect water.


Do I need gutters at the back of my house?

It’s beneficial to have gutters surrounding your entire home to collect as much rainwater as possible.


What is the difference between gutters and downspouts?

Gutters catch rainwater and are installed horizontally along the side of your home. Downspouts are pipes positioned vertically along your home, connecting to a hole at the bottom.


Article Update Log
6/9/2024
Reviewed for accuracy, cost data, industry best practices, and expert advice by Nikki Stavile.
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Sam Wasson

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Sam Wasson graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Film and Media Arts with an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering. Sam brings over four years of content writing and media production experience to the Today’s Homeowner content team. He specializes in the pest control, landscaping, and moving categories. Sam aims to answer homeowners’ difficult questions by providing well-researched, accurate, transparent, and entertaining content to Today’s Homeowner readers.

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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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