Among your home’s many exterior features, it’s easy to overlook rain gutters, which seem like purely functional devices rather than ornamental pieces of flair. In reality, gutters do make a subtle contribution to a home’s curb appeal in addition to channeling roof runoff safely away from the foundation. If you’re planning to replace your gutters, it’s a good idea to know about their aesthetic qualities as well as their drainage capabilities.

For starters, gutters come in several different styles. Read on to find out more about the three most common types.

K-Style Gutter
K-style Gutters are shaped to look like crown molding, and because of that resemblance, they’re also called “ogee” gutters (after an architectural term for a kind of decorative curve). K-style is by far the most popular kind of gutter in the US and can therefore be found in a wide array of materials, including aluminum, vinyl, galvanized steel, and even copper. K-style gutters also come in a range of sizes; five- and six-inch troughs are the most common and can adequately handle heavy runoff from most residential roofs.
Box Gutter
Box Gutters, also simply called “square” gutters, have deep, wide troughs and lack the contours that give K-style gutters their decorative appearance. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, box gutters were unobtrusively built into many flat-roofed neoclassical buildings to maintain the resemblance to ancient Greek and Roman cornices. Now, exposed gutters are more common, and the utilitarian look and larger troughs of box gutters make them suitable for commercial buildings and residences where stylishness is less of a priority than the ability to handle large amounts of roof runoff.
Box Gutter
Half-round Gutters are a classic style, one that often adorns historic architecture and restored homes. In the colonial US, half-round gutters were made of lead sheets formed around wooden poles, but as the Revolutionary War increased the military demand for lead, copper became the more popular choice. Copper, which adopts an intriguing green patina as it ages, is still a popular choice for half-round gutters, but the classic shape can also be found in aluminum, which is less durable but also less expensive. Homeowners should note that half-round gutters, whatever material they’re made from, have a smaller trough capacity than K-style or box gutters and therefore cannot accommodate quite as much water.

When selecting gutters, you’ll clearly need to know more than the pitch of your roof and the amount of rainfall in your area. You’ll also need to decide which style complements the character of your home. Make a few preliminary decisions about how you’d like your gutters to look, and then work with a qualified contractor to install a system that provides adequate drainage and enhances your home’s appearance.

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Sources: The New York Times; US National Park Service.

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