Gutter Systems Explained:
The Parts That Go into a Gutter System

You may see the term “gutter system” a lot, and wonder what kind of “system” we’re talking about. Gutters are just gutters, right? Well, yes and no. There’s a lot that goes into any gutter to keep it functioning. In short, it’s not just your gutters; it’s everything they’re connected to. It all starts on the ground.


There’s absolutely no point in getting water off your roof and down a spout if it’s just going to wind up in your basement anyway. For this reason, picking a good drainage spot is absolutely essential. Most water will just run off into the ground, but depending on your soil, that may not be an option. If it isn’t, you’ll need to drain into a sewer or nearby storm drain: otherwise, you’ll have a brand-new basement pool, and possibly a damaged foundation to go with it.


Going up the system, we’ve got downspouts. The most important thing with a downspout is to choose the right size. For example, a 2” by 3” downspout will generally drain 600 square feet of roof fairly easily, while a 3″ by 4″ downspout will drain 1200 feet of roof without trouble. Of course, if you’ve got more square footage than that, you’ll have to mix and match to get the best combination. Just make sure each downspout has a good location for the water to drain.

Similarly, how the downspouts are secured to the gutters is an important question as well: do you weld or use zip screws to secure your downspout to your gutter?


Next we come to the star of the show: the gutters. Not just the gutters themselves, but also the components, such as the hangers, the protective coatings and paints you use, and any gutter protection systems you may install. For example, hangers need to be fastened to a secure architectural feature, such as a rafter, and have a slight incline of one to two inches for every forty feet of gutter. Similarly, your choice of gutters, such as seamless or sectional, and what kind of material you choose, will have an effect on your gutter system.

Gutters are where the system is most likely to fail: welds break, hangers sag, rust creates holes, debris collects, and so on. It’s likely that if your gutter system fails, it will be in the gutter itself. So, keep a good eye on your gutters, and do your best to keep them clear.

The Roof

Finally, there’s the roof itself. After all, without a roof, there’s no need for gutters.

Your roof can have a strong effect on your gutter system. In fact, the square footage of your roof often dictates the size of your gutter and downspouts. But there are more subtle effects as well. A lower pitch can mean less water flowing into the gutter itself. Certain types of shingles will erode over time, depositing debris and sediment into your gutter. It may not be a part of your gutters, but it has a real effect on the whole gutter system.

We hope you enjoyed this overview. Remember, a system is only as good as its weakest part, so clean your gutter system and take a look at it for potential problems on a regular basis, at least once or twice a year. Happy climbing!