The 6 Best Alternatives to Gutters

Everybody assumes that you need gutters, but is that actually true?

It’s not crazy to think that gutters are an eyesore that ruin curb appeal, especially when you have downspouts sticking out everywhere, your gutters are sagging, and the colors don’t match your home.

Well, contrary to popular belief, you don’t always need gutters. Crazy, right? If you are a forward thinker that wants to learn the best alternatives to gutters, stick around. This article is for you.

1. Rain Chains

First up, we have the original gutters, rain chains. These were originally used in Japan but have definitely caught on more in the West, and for good reason. They work well and look good.

To be completely fair, rain chains are not a complete substitute for gutters, they can only replace the downspouts.

With gutters, the most common complaints are not actually about the gutters themselves. In fact, most people are frustrated by how bulky and out of place their downspouts look.

So instead of replacing your entire gutter system, you can simply install a rain chain instead of a downspout.

They are functional, stylish, and customizable.

Rain chains have been around since the dawn of time (and for good reason). Rain chains offer an effective way to channel water out of your gutters and away from your homes siding, foundation, and landscaping.

At first glance, it doesn’t really look like a rain chain would do anything. It looks like the water would just bounce right off, but that’s far from reality.

There are few things more mesmerizing than watching the rain fall down a rain chain, it looks almost magical as the water sticks to the chain and gets channeled to the location of your choosing.

What’s amazing about rain chains is there are so many different styles and designs to choose from. You can go for a copper or golden look, you can go for a silver aluminum look, you can go for a specially designed chain with a variety of shapes, or you could even do multiple chains if you’re feeling spunky (this actually helps if you get a lot of rainfall).

Now, it’s worth noting that rain chains don’t actually work as well as gutters. Yes, they do work. But with enough rainfall a single rain chain can’t compare to a proper downspout. There are some ways around this issue, however, some people who have this issue simply install multiple rain chains giving the water more stuff to cling to.

If you’re interested in rain chains, you can usually find them at a local hardware store or just by searching around on the internet. On Etsy you can find a huge amount of different ideas and options from rain chains in the shape of pinecones, mushrooms, rings, fish, and more.

For more interesting gutter downspout alternatives check out this article.

2. Gutter Drip Edge

If you really don’t want gutters, it can still be a good idea to at least have a gutter drip edge installed.

The gutter drip edge is a piece of metal (typically used with gutters) that helps water flow from the roof and into the gutters. It’s main purpose is to protect the fascia, the wooden board your gutters attach to, and to prevent water from falling behind your gutters.

So why would you need a drip edge if you don’t have gutters?

Well the drip edge would offer an extra bit of protection to your fascia and siding by helping channel water away from your house. It would basically fling the water further away from your home.

Any extra protection from water is definitely worth it, repairing your siding or foundation are not cheap fixes.

This option is only recommended if you have good drainage around your house, such as living on hill, or you live in a naturally dry climate without any intense storms.

It still won’t be the prettiest, because the drip edge will be jutting out along your eaves (or roofline). But hey, at least it’s cheaper to only have drip edges instead of a whole gutter system installed.

To learn more about gutter drip edges, you can read more here.

3. Drip Path

A drip path can be used instead of gutters along the sides of your home. A drip path is a super stylish way to manage the water flow that falls off of your roofline.

Instead of the water falling into your grass and creating muddy pockets that look ugly and tear up your grass, you can install a drip path there instead. Pretty cool, huh?

A drip path is a pathway with pavers placed on top of rocks that will catch the water coming off of your roof and escort it away from your home without causing any damages.

With a mix of your favorite looking pavers or decorate stone pathing and some interesting irrigation rocks, you can get a modern looking design that is both functional and attractive.

No gutters needed. Gutters are now in the past, the drip path is the future.

Who doesn’t like playing hopscotch as you skip across the pavers on a nice sunny day? And when it rains, you’re covered as well. The irrigation rocks will take that rainfall like a champ and prevent any damage to your property (and look nice too).

The biggest downside to this sort of setup is the amount of work involved. You need to remove the grass, level the area, install the pavers, and haul in all of the rock.

Then align everything and place the pavers in a nice straight line – but then boom you’re done.

Your home will be the most desirable in your neighborhood. You’ll be Joneses everyone is trying to keep up with.

4. French Drain

Instead of big hunks of ugly metal hanging off your roof, AKA gutters, you can get in touch with your European side and opt for a classic French drain.

French drains are highly sought after because they are not as visible from the curb as the classic gutters we all use today, instead it’s a way to manage water that’s completely in the ground.

A French drain is essentially a gutter system that is installed into the ground along the eaves of your house (the roofline where the water falls). The French drain, while sounds fancy, is really just a trench full of rocks and pipes.

You can design the French drain to add a nice landscaping element to your home while also channeling water away from your home whenever the rain comes a knockin’.

Keep in mind, this sort of drainage system has it’s own pros and cons. It’s definitely a project to install and requires you to get the sloping correct or else you’ll have even more water issues to deal with.

But once it is done and properly installed, a French drain can be a major asset for you home and an added equity bonus if you ever plan to sell or refinance.

5. Built-In Gutters

If it’s the “look” of gutters that really grind your gears, then built-in gutters could be the way to go for you.

No longer will you need to stare at your gutters in disgust as they will be completely hidden from ground view.

Built-in gutters are essentially built-in into the roof of your house and are not visible from the curb. These are super cool as they have the full functionality of normal gutters without any of the drawbacks of the “look”.

These are usually in the K-style design, which gives them optimal water flow. And they are typically used in classical design, back when more thought went into the finer details of homes and buildings.

Interestingly, built-in gutters are not considered a component of the house, but instead are a part of the architecture. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense financially for most people to renovate their homes to have built-in gutters as the scope of work is quite intense.

But if you do happen to see a home with built-in gutters, you’ll know just how cool they are.

6. Yard Grading

If you had to boil down the purpose of gutters into a simple sentence, it would be to channel water away from your home. Well, what if the land around your house did that automatically?

That is the theory behind grading. Grading is essentially sloping the land around your house so that water is pushing away from your foundation. This has huge benefits as it will keep your home properly protected even when you get extreme rainfall.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to do this. Relying on grading alone is only for the special few who have built their homes on top of a hill or an elevated surface.

The grading around your home will naturally move the water away from the delicate parts of your house, such as your foundation, and push it far far away.

But keep in mind, even if you do opt for grading, it’s still a good idea to have some form of additional water protection if you live an area with heavy rainfall, such as tropical storms or monsoons.

If there are certain sections of your house that don’t have gutters and the landscaping around your house works, you can grade the area in that specific section to push water away. It doesn’t always need to be all or nothing.

Do You Actually Need Gutters?

You may be wondering if you really do need gutters, or a gutter alternative, for that matter. And the answer is…. it depends.

I know it’s a bit of a cop-out answer, but everyone’s situation is different. There are a lot of factors as play, such as the amount of rainfall in your area, the location of your home (if your home is on a hill), the condition of your siding and foundation, etc.

Without gutters, you can expect your home to deteriorate on a faster timeline than with gutters. That’s because your gutters offer protection for a dozen different things, such as:

  • Foundation cracking or erosion
  • Flooding in your basement
  • Washed out landscaping
  • Muddy pockets around your house
  • Siding with tiger stripes or water damage
  • Interior ceiling water damage

So at the end of the day, you just need to weigh the risk vs reward of having gutters, and the answer will be different for everyone.

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