Rain gutter

Rain gutter and downspout

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.[1]


Dripping of water from an open rain gutter in Telče, eastern Slovenia

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,[2] protects painted or stained surfaces by reducing exposure to water,[3] and provides a means to collect rainwater for later use.

Gutters are also very effective at keeping building egress areas clear of falling water. Going into a house entrance below water running straight off the roof in a heavy down pour is literally like taking a shower. This major reduction in moisture also helps to keep entrance surfaces dry and free of moss, slime, algae and other growths likely to cause slips.

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.[4]

Water collected by a rain gutter is fed, usually via a downspout or "downpipe" (traditionally called a leader or conductor),[5] from the roof edge to the base of the building where it is either discharged or collected.[6] Water from rain gutters may be collected in a rain barrel or a cistern.[7]


Weeds in roof gutter.

A rain gutter may be a:

A box gutter is a deep gutter which is concealed within the structure of the roof.[6]

Commercial Box Gutter

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.[9]

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.[10]


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.[11]

Gutters must be maintained regularly to remove leaves and other debris to keep them from clogging.[12] 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.[13]

Gutter protection devices include:

Regardless of the gutter guard protection used, all gutter systems should be examined for cleaning and repair twice every year.[17]

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

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 started 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

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.

See also


  1. Sturgis, Russell (1901). A Dictionary of Architecture and Building: Biographical, Historical, and Descriptive.
  2. Truini, Joseph. "How to Install Rain Gutters". This Old House Magazine.
  3. Abrams, Gary (November 19, 2000). "How to Make Sure Your Rain Gutters Do Their Job Properly". Los Angeles Times.
  4. Hardy, Benjamin. "Gutters 101". Bob Vila. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  5. "Architectural Graphic Standards," First Edition, 1932, ISBN 0-471-51940-5, p. 77, 'Parts of a gutter' illustration
  6. 1 2 Ching, Francis D. K. (1995). A Visual Dictionary of Architecture. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. p. 209. ISBN 0-442-02462-2.
  7. "Rainwater Harvesting". Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Texas A&M. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  8. Sturgis' Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture and Building: An Unabridged Reprint of the 1901-2 Edition, Vol. II: F-N, p.340, ISBN 0-486-26026-7
  9. "Architectural Graphic Standards," Ninth Edition, 1994, p. 390, ISBN 0-471-53369-6.
  10. "An Introduction To Guttering". Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  11. "Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus in Delaware", dema.delaware.gov
  12. "How To Know If Your Gutters Need To Be Cleaned". Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  13. Kruger, Abe; Seville, Carl (January 1, 2012). Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction.
  14. Harris, Jr., Walter (16 July 1996). "For Preventing Debris From Clogging Drain Spouts". United States: United States Patent Office. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  15. "Rain Gutter Guard". United States Patent Office. 8 August 1995. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  16. "Hindged Gutter Guard". United States Patent Office. 10 September 1974. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  17. Ridout, Andrea (April 22, 2008). If I Had a Hammer: More Than 100 Easy Fixes and Weekend Projects.
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