A rain gutter (from Latin gutta : drop), also known as a "rain catcher", is a narrow channel, or trough, forming the component of a roof system which collects and diverts rainwater away from the roof edge. It is also known as an eavestrough (especially in Canada), eaves channel, dripster, guttering or simply as a gutter.
The main purpose of a rain gutter is to protect a building's foundation by channeling water away from its base. The gutter also helps to reduce erosion, prevents leaks in basements and crawlspaces, protects painted or stained surfaces by reducing exposure to water, and provides a means to collect rainwater for later use.
Rain gutters can be made from a variety of materials such as cast iron, lead, zinc, galvanised steel, painted steel, copper, painted aluminium, PVC (and other plastics), concrete, stone, and wood.
Water collected by a rain gutter is fed, usually via a downspout or "downpipe" (traditionally called a leader or conductor), from the roof edge to the base of the building where it is either discharged or collected. Water from rain gutters may be collected in a rain barrel or a cistern.
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A rain gutter may be a:
- Roof integral trough along the lower edge of the roof slope which is fashioned from the roof covering and flashing materials.
- Discrete trough of metal, or other material that is suspended beyond the roof edge and below the projected slope of the roof.
- Wall integral structure beneath the roof edge, traditionally constructed of masonry, fashioned as the crowning element of a wall.
A box gutter is a deep gutter which is concealed within the structure of the roof.
Cold forming technology exists to allow continuous gutters to be created, on site, in long individual lengths suitable to roof edge conditions, thereby reducing joints along the length of the gutter. These mostly joint free gutters are referred to as "seamless", and available in various shapes, sizes, and finishes.
Rain gutters can be equipped with gutter screens, micro mesh screens, louvers or solid hoods to allow water from the roof to flow through, while reducing passage of roof debris into the gutter.
Clogged gutters can cause water leakage into the building as the water backs up. Clogged gutters can also lead to stagnant water build up which allows mosquitoes to breed and also allows grasses and weeds to grow in the gutter.
Gutters must be maintained regularly to remove leaves and other debris to keep them from clogging. Gutters that are filled with debris can overflow and soak the foundation, damage the roof structure, and exacerbate ice dams in cold climates.
Effective gutter guards that keep debris out but allow water to enter are a good alternative to regular cleaning.
Gutter protection devices include:
- snap-in metal and plastic gutter guards
- filtered gutter guards
- stainless steel gutter guards
- hinged gutter guards
- plastic and metal total gutter covers
- gutter brushes
Regardless of the gutter guard protection used, all gutter systems should be examined for cleaning and repair twice every year.
Another option is to use a closed gutter to ensure that debris and leaves do not enter the gutter. The continuous hanger is a way to protect gutters from clogging and damage while reducing required cleaning to a minimum.
Finlock gutters, also known as concrete gutters, were built on most new-build properties in the 1950s and 1960s. Due to a lack of steel and surplus of concrete in post war Britain, the government starting using Finlock gutters on houses. Finlock gutters are made of concrete blocks which can range from 8 inches to 12 inches and are joined using mortar. Finlock gutters were designed to be a maintenance free system; however Finlock gutters are now starting to deteriorate due to concrete being an unsuitable material for guttering.
Main problems include
- Interior damp (which can then lead to mold)
- External or internal leaks
- External mold patches
- Water not flowing properly through the gutter
- The gutters starting to fall apart
Many people with concrete gutters opt to have their gutters lined with a membrane. Dependent on the membrane, this is a short term solution. The only permanent solution is to have the external part of the concrete gutters cut away and replaced with a more suitable guttering system.
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