8 Alternatives to Rain Gutters You'll Be Surprised to Know About

8 Alternatives to Rain Gutters
Are you frustrated by the frequent clogging of rain gutters? If yes, then you may be surprised to know that you can replace them with other systems. Buzzle gives you information on some good alternatives for rain gutters.
Did You Know?
It has been found that dry leaves trapped in a rain gutter pose a fire risk, especially in a wildfire-prone area.
Rain gutters are vital for collecting rainwater and directing it away from a building. This is because, water is deadly for all foundations. If it accumulates near the foundation, it can cause structural damage, and that can be dangerous. The water falling from the roof can also splash on the walls and damage the siding, or it may enter basements and crawl spaces. These problems are all taken care of by fixing gutters at the edges of a roof, which trap water flowing down the slope and direct them to underground drains via a pipe, called a downspout.

Depending on the material used, rain gutters are of various types, like steel, copper, wood, tin, vinyl, and aluminum gutters. Gutters that can be installed by joining small sections are called sectional gutters, which can be done by any person at home. Another type of gutter is called the seamless gutter, which comes pre-assembled, and has to be installed on-site by a professional. This type has lesser joints, and hence, lesser chances of leaking.

Despite their usefulness, rain gutters do have their share of problems. They commonly get clogged with leaves and other debris, which makes cleaning necessary at least 3 - 4 times a year. When accumulated snow melts, it can create 'ice dams', which can weigh down on the gutter, even breaking it. Both these problems are frustrating, and can make the gutter almost useless. Another major issue people complain of is that, the gutter does not complement the look of the house, a problem that the downspout is especially accused of. Keeping these problems in mind, the best alternatives for rain gutters are listed below.
Rain Gutter Alternatives
Copper Gutters
Copper gutters
If the reason for choosing an alternative is the poor appearance of the gutter, then one can opt for a copper gutter. It has several advantages over traditional gutters, such as being rust-proof, low-maintenance, and having a much better appearance. In fact, copper gutters may last anywhere between 30 to even a 100 years in any weather, depending on how well they are installed. Also, they have an attractive appearance which can complement almost all house designs.
Rain Chains
Rain chains
Rain chains, called 'kusari doi' in Japanese, have been used for hundreds of years in Japan, and are an attractive substitute for traditional gutter-downspout systems. This technique involves collecting rainwater from the roof and transferring it to underground barrels or reservoirs, by using a series of chains or attractive cup systems, which break down the force of the water. The availability of a variety of styles which are much more attractive than a plain old downspout, combined with the fact that it can also be used together with an ordinary rain gutter, by replacing the downspout with a rain chain, is its biggest advantage. The collected water can be used for watering plants, or even for a birdbath.
Rain Dispersal Systems
Several rainwater dispersal systems are available in the market, which serve as a good replacement for a rain gutter. These systems work by breaking up the rainwater flow into either smaller streams or drops, which reduces its force on impact. The most popular system is undeniably the Rainhandler, which works by splitting up a stream of water using an angled-louver system, and directing the water in a 2- or 3-foot band. The system also claims to reduce the need to continuously clean clogged gutters or ice dams, and makes climbing up unnecessary. Another dispersal system is the Rain Breakerz, which works by splitting up each water drop into 19 smaller droplets.
Inspect the grading around your house. Ideally, the house should be built on a height, with the surrounding ground at a lower level. The layout should be in the form of a constant slope, without any low spots that may collect water, or any high spots that might block its flow. The bottom line is, the house should be designed in such a way that roof runoff from rain does not accumulate nearby, and flows away from the building foundation. If the house is not at a height, then concrete 'aprons' can be built around the foundations to provide the required slope.
Drip Edge
Drip edge
This is a metallic attachment at the roof edge, which provides an additional barrier to falling water, and can further help keep the water from falling very close to the house. The drip edge is a metal strip that is installed between the roof decking and the shingle to prevent water from seeping into the wood below the shingle. Along with protecting the foundation, this also reduces chances of water splashing on the siding and damaging it. The drip edge can also be used along with a rain gutter to properly channel runoff water from the roof into the gutter.
Ground Gutter
Ground gutter
A ground gutter can help protect the house foundation and siding from rainwater, without being too conspicuous. This just consists of digging a V-shaped trench at the drip-line, i.e., the place where water falling from the roof overhang makes contact with the soil. The trench is lined with waterproof material like polyethylene, and a perforated pipe is placed at the bottom, after which the trench is filled with gravel. This gutter is also called a French drain, and allows a network of pipes to be laid all around the house. Care is taken to ensure that the trench is angled away from the house to direct water away. When it rains, runoff falling over the roof enters the trench, and is carried by the pipe to an underwater drain for collection. The path can even be covered with mulch, and shrubs can be grown on it. An advantage of this system is that it needs little to no maintenance.
Drip Path
In this method, the rainwater falling off the roof is trapped by a paved path placed directly under the roof edge. This path is constructed by fixing blocks or bricks in the soil to provide a hard surface to the falling water, for reducing its erosive effect. The bricks are placed in a sloping manner to channel the water away from the house. A concrete apron, poured at least 6 inches around the foundation, will also drain away the rainwater if it is constructed in a sloping manner. A path made with large pebbles or stones can also be laid all around the house, which, however, makes it necessary to channel the water to an underground drain.
Hidden Gutters
Built-in gutters, also called box or hidden gutters, are actually a type of rain gutter, and can replace the latter, especially when the conspicuous appearance of the rain gutter is the main issue. Box gutters are valley-like troughs at the edges of roofs, which are concealed in appearance and don't draw attention from the beauty of the house design. They are not cylindrical like ordinary rain gutters, do not suffer from the problem of clogging, and require lesser maintenance. However, since they are hidden from view, any problem like corrosion or blockage might become severe before it attracts someone's attention.
While the above systems are good alternatives to rain gutters, experts insist that a well-fitted rain gutter is a must for protecting the foundation of the house over a long term. So, unless you live in a place which receives less rainfall, a rain gutter is highly recommended. If frequent clogging is the issue, then one can buy a lid for the gutter that keeps debris out, rather than searching for an alternative.