Gutters have been a staple in modern home design. However, more and more contractors and homeowners are looking for alternatives to gutters for water displacement around the home. Gutters get clogged with leaves and dirt quickly rendering them useless, especially if your house is under a lot of trees. Climbing up a ladder to clean the gutters and risking injury has homeowners looking for a safer solution to avoid foundation erosion.
There are four primary alternatives to traditional gutters, each with its own set of requirements. These different methods have been used globally and in areas where gutters are not a viable option. To help alleviate the struggle of finding a great alternative to gutters, here are four easy applied solutions to any gutter problem.
Proper Grading Around Your House
One of the essential elements of homeownership is keeping water away from your house, i.e. the grade of the property. If you are unfortunate enough to have a negative slope, meaning your house is lower than the surrounding yard, you will need to hire a professional landscaper to fix the property’s grading.
Ensuring that the slope is at the proper degree is as easy as placing a yardstick at the base of your foundation and measuring the height from the lowest point on the yardstick to the ground. The slope should measure one inch in height versus one foot away from the property in a downward angle.
There should also be at least four inches of visible foundation above the dirt line. Using this formula, you will disperse water evenly at a pace that is safe to do so. Also, if done correctly, you will avoid water being diverted to a neighbor’s property and any damages that may arise because of that action.
Get the grading right the First Time with these Helpful Reminders:
- One-inch downward slope for one foot of length (or Rise over Run 1:(-1))
- Only use the first five to ten feet, giving a maximum depth of ten inches from the property structure at the farthest most point.
- Hire a Professional if you do not know what you are doing!
- The grading of your property is critical and can lead to flooding/legal troubles if not correctly done.
- Check with your local city planner or permits office for and municipality codes that may be in force in your area.
Check out this video from the Partners for a Cleaner Environment for more information on proper grading.
Rain Dispersal Systems
The design concept behind rain dispersal systems will vary by company. However, the main idea is to break down the rain droplets by interrupting the path of the droplets. The system diverts rainwater by creating a contact point, whether a flat blade or a cluster of correctly angled aluminum triangles. The rainwater hits the device and is delayed through dull blades and pushed forward away from the property.
The device is placed on the property’s eaves hardly ever become clogged as they require very little maintenance. There is also an environmental benefit to using a rain dispersal system; less rainwater is diverted into city processing centers helping to avoid overloading city resources.
Some of these systems will even help prevent Ice damming in the winter months. But, as with most scenarios, proper grading is required, and planting greenery in the final resting place of the dispersed water.
There are, of course, other rain dispersal systems that you’re probably already familiar with such as rain chains. Japanese invented the copper cup system that uses a series of copper made cups and chains to break up, slow down, and divert the rainwater usually into a type of rain barrel for collection purposes.
Drip Paths in Sand/Gravel Soil Combinations
The entire concept behind the drip path is to collect the water until it soaks into the ground through the rocks. One huge caveat is that this water displacement system can cause flooding inside the home if the foundation has unsealed crevices.
An eighteen-inch-deep trail should run parallel to the roof angled edge around the entire property. The path should be no less than one foot wide and filled with crushed stone. This method is unique to properties with structures that sit on soils primarily of sand and gravel. The soil type allows for quick dispersal of large amounts of water.
This water dispersal method requires heavy-duty maintenance if there is a clog since it is very labor-intensive work by removing the rocks to get it unclogged. Frequently cleaning the drip paths after a storm will help alleviate the need to dig up the rocks to remove debris when the stones become clogged.
Some creative and helpful tips if you are thinking about using a drip path:
- Placing Non-Woven Geotextile Fabric on all the rocks below the top three inches.
- Check the Soil Type for your property
- Maintain a good property grade
- Plant your favorite plants at the edge of the path
- Line the path with larger boulders
- Line the walkway with your favorite desert plants
French Drain / Ground Gutters in Heavy Clay Soil
Following the same concept as the drip path, this method diverts water into a collection area or street. The french drain system is a series of underground pipes that divert the water through an underground system to its final destination; the road.
Again, proper grading is needed, and just like the drip path, you need an eighteen-inch-deep trench all around the property. In addition, the slope of the canal must be one-quarter inch downward for every foot in length. You would also need to place exposed drain spouts at the highest points to help eliminate clogs.
The french drain works by collecting rainwater similarly to the drip path method; only the buried pipe has holes in the bottom that enter the tube to be dispersed as the water reaches the designed level. Below the level, the water can spread into the ground without affecting the foundation.
The main difference between the drip path and the french drain is the space required to build both. With a drip path, you can get close to the foundation, and everything will work as designed. However, you want to be at least two to four feet away from the foundation with the French drain. The length of the path also only needs to be eight feet across instead of twelve which is the width of the buried pipe.
Not every home is equipped to handle gutters, nor do some homeowners want to deal with cleaning gutters all the time. Gutters were invented as an alternative to properties that could not use any of these traditional methods. They became famous as more contractors started to use them as cheap alternatives to the more labor intensive methods used above. The correct way to keep water away from your home should be based on your property’s soil type but any of the methods we mentioned above should also work.