For most homes, gutters play an important role in preventing water from draining onto people and surfaces close to the house, which can result in soil erosion or plant damage. They also direct water away from the foundation which aids in keeping moisture out of the basement. Draining several hundred square feet of roof, a lot of water can be gushing out of the downspouts during a good storm, and getting it away from the house helps keep your home dry and mildew free. Most gutters these days are made of seamless aluminum. They are attractive, unlikely to leak, and can be made in any length, so one piece is all you need for an entire side of your home. Gutters are also available in vinyl and wood, which were the preferred materials prior to developments in technology that allowed metal to be used. Some historic homes still maintain wood gutters as part of the original appearance and some historical commissions require wood gutters to be maintained in a historical zone (check with your city hall.)
Wood gutters require a true craftsperson to install; they are cut to length, seamed where required using tarlike sealant, routed for seams and outlets and then lined with lead sheeting flush with the inside gutter contour so water will flow correctly. They are heavy (made of fir) and require annual or semiannual cleaning and oiling with boiled linseed oil to maintain the waterproof interior and prevent rot. The exteriors can be painted to match or accent the house color. Fir gutters are also very expensive, costing almost $20 per foot just for the raw gutter stock. These days, they are really only used to maintain the original character of a historical home.
Galvanized steel gutters became popular years ago as a substitute for wood. Some are still on homes today. Lighter and less expensive than wood, they are typified by the corrugated round downspouts. Eventually, galvanized gutters can rust, are more expensive than aluminum, and are becoming less prevalent on homes.
Vinyl gutters are light and inexpensive. They require seaming and can break if struck. We see lots of leaks and cracks in these gutters and they are becoming less prevalent as well.
Seamless aluminum gutters constitute over 90% of all gutters on homes today; available in any length, a wide choice of colors and reasonably priced, they are durable, attractive and efficient.