You can’t forego rain protection altogether (unless you want the rain to gradually wear down your home’s foundation), but that doesn’t mean you can’t try some rain gutter alternatives. They may work just as well and sometimes even better than gutters. Which rain gutter alternatives should you consider?
Here are 9 great rain gutter alternatives:
- Drip path
- Rain dispersal system
- Box gutters
- French drain
- Drip edge
- Above-ground rain chain
- Underground rain chain
- Copper gutters
In this extensive guide, we’ll go through all 9 rain gutter alternatives above and explain what they are and how each one works. We’ll also cover the pros and cons of each. By the time you’re done reading, you should be able to choose an alternative solution to the traditional rain gutter.
9 Rain Gutter Alternatives – Pros and Cons
As we established in the intro, when it rains, you need that rain to be redirected somewhere besides the sides of your home. If not, then damage will accumulate over time.
A drip path can pull water in the right direction even without rain gutters.
The drip path includes a series of paving stones installed below your roof’s edge. The stones create a pathway along the perimeter of the roof.
When it rains, the paved path collects the rainwater that naturally runs off the roof edge. The spacing between the blocks or bricks that comprise the paved path prevents water from gushing onto your lawn and saturating that.
Drip paths are a DIY-friendly project if that’s your thing. If not, then getting a drip path professionally installed shouldn’t be too costly since it’s a simple rain gutter alternative.
Another clear benefit is that drip paths are appealing. Sure, you’re installing the path strategically, so maybe its placement isn’t as eye-catching as it could be. That said, you might increase your home’s curb appeal with one of these paths.
They’re certainly more attractive than a rain gutter, that’s for sure!
Now onto the downsides.
When it comes to drip path effectiveness, it’s all about the installation.
The slope of your yard must be carefully brought into consideration. If not, then the water won’t travel correctly. You could end up with water damage to your home’s exterior.
Plus, some people aren’t thrilled about the idea of water having to travel all the way to the ground and possibly onto their lawn just to redirect it from the house. That’s a fair concern.
Rain Dispersal System
Your next option is a rain dispersal system if you’d rather not use a rain gutter for your home anymore.
A rain dispersal system, as the name implies, will break down the size of rain droplets into smaller droplets still. The smaller a rain droplet is, the less force it has.
The small rain droplets will still reach the ground just like bigger droplets do, but they don’t accumulate in one area. Rather, the smaller drops spread.
The best-known rain dispersal system is RainhandleR. The RainhanldeR rain dispersal system is made of aluminum. It includes specialized louvers as well as screws and brackets.
The louvers are designed to redirect water away from your home’s exterior as well as shrink the size of water droplets.
You do have to install a rain dispersal system yourself, but it’s not that difficult to do since there aren’t many parts.
Made of aluminum, rain dispersal systems like the RainhandleR promise to never rust. They’re also supposed to be maintenance-free.
Perhaps most importantly, a rain dispersal system will send the rain runoff to a band that’s between two and three feet wide to limit soil erosion.
What’s not so good about rain dispersal systems? Well, you have to plan where you’ll install yours very precisely. If you don’t accommodate for runoff especially, then puddles can still develop even with smaller water droplets.
You might want to consider a ground gutter to redirect the water once it reaches the ground. Plus, if your yard has any valleys, then you should strongly think about yard grading before you proceed with a rain dispersal system.
Okay, so not every rain gutter alternative means foregoing the gutters entirely, as you’re going to see here.
Box gutters are also known as hidden gutters or built-in gutters. The reason for these nicknames is that, compared to the traditional rain gutter, a set of box gutters is much more inconspicuous.
How do box gutters work, you ask? They include a series of troughs. Each trough has valleys throughout.
When it rains, the troughs catch the water and send it away from your home’s foundation as well as the roof.
Box gutters, unlike rain gutters, are not circular. Rather, the troughs are rectangular.
They sometimes include a liner made of roofing felt, asphalt, metal, or ethylene propylene diene monomer or EPDM rubber.
A set of box gutters is easily obstructed in a roof valley as well as behind the roof’s eaves or even a parapet if your roof has them. They’re very discreet!
You will have to install box gutters yourself, so if you have prior gutter experience, that’s best. The job is still doable even if you’ve never worked with gutters before, but it might be more difficult.
Another downside is that since box gutters are so well-hidden, if an issue arrives such as clogs or corrosion, you can miss it for a long time.
By the time you do spot signs of trouble, the issue is usually so evolved that you might have to replace sections of the box gutter.
That said, box gutters, due to their rectangular design, do not clog up nearly as often as circular rain gutters.
Your fourth rain gutter alternative is the French drain, which is also known as a ground gutter, a rock drain, weeping tile, or trench drain.
A French drain entails filling a trench with rock or gravel and sometimes both. Within the trench is a perforated pipe.
The next time a rainy day is in the forecast, the pipe will send groundwater and surface water elsewhere on the property.
The series of pipes built into a French drain will ensure the water doesn’t saturate into the ground and affect your lawn.
Although you usually hear of French drains being installed indoors, often in a basement, they’re a suitable outdoor solution too and a great option if you’re tired of your unappealing rain gutters.
Like the other rain gutter alternatives we’ve discussed to this point, you have the option to install an outdoor French drain yourself. The job would involve you digging a trench opposite your home.
The water has to drain, as standing water can lure in mosquitoes and other invasive insects.
If you’d rather pay a professional to install your French drain, that’s an option as well.
French drains are a preferable option to rain gutters since they’re practically invisible. The drains are ground-level so you barely see them.
Further, French drains don’t need much maintenance. You can skip the gutter guards as well.
The real challenge lies in the installation of a French drain system. This is intensive work, and it’s expensive to obtain all the materials.
This next alternative doesn’t involve any sort of rainwater collection system at all, but rather, the slope of your yard.
By getting your yard graded, you can create a slope that foregoes the need for any gutters. Rainwater will naturally run down the slope and travel away from your house.
Unlike the other options we’ve discussed, many of which are near invisible, grading your property is a wholly visible alternative to rain gutters. There is nothing to hang on the house and nothing to maintain either.
Plus, a graded yard is often an appealing yard, so your home’s curb appeal could increase. That’s a definite plus!
Now onto the minuses. It’s really only feasible to grade your yard if your home is currently undergoing construction. For homes that were built decades ago, grading the yard is very difficult and intensive.
Even if you do get your yard graded, this isn’t a permanent solution.
Time and erosion can naturally change the slope of your yard. By that point, your home will have been around for years, so getting the yard re-graded isn’t exactly the most cost-effective measure.
You’d have to utilize another rain gutter alternative at that point.
A drip edge is a more traditional alternative to the standard rain gutter, but it certainly gets the job done.
So what is a drip edge? It’s a type of flashing that’s usually made of metal that goes on your roof edges.
The goal of a drip edge is to redirect water from the fascia and other under-roof parts. This can prevent roof decking and fascia board rotting, which is expensive to repair.
Admittedly, a drip edge does create a bit of an overhang around your roof. Your roof won’t necessarily look worse off for it though, and it will certainly be better protected from rainwater than if you continued to use a rain gutter.
The level of shingle support you get from a drip edge is undoubtedly one of its biggest benefits. The shingles stay drier when it rains so they last longer.
If you’ve had issues with pests and critters in your home, the inclusion of a drip edge makes it harder for these unwanted animals and insects to get in.
However, drip edges aren’t perfect. They’re another rain gutter alternative that works best if your home is currently being built.
You can add drip edges to a preexisting house, but it’s harder and usually more expensive.
You’d also benefit most from professional installation. If a drip edge is improperly installed, then the water might not flow correctly and could pool up in spots that you don’t want it to.
Above-Ground Rain Chain
The next two rain gutter alternatives are centered around rain chains, both those that go above the ground and under the ground.
Let’s start by talking about above-ground rain chains.
Rain chains originated in Japan, where they’re known as kusari-do. That translates from Japanese to English to “chain-gutter.”
A rain chain includes metal cups with a hole in the bottom to connect a chain to another cup. The cups usually dangle vertically.
You’d place the above-ground rain chain on the corner of your roof.
When it rains, water collects in the first cup. When the rainwater overflows, it pours into the second cup, then the third cup, and down the line, it goes until the water reaches the last cup.
Then the rainwater would spill out of the last cup and onto the ground, so some sort of water collection system such as a basin would be best.
The rainwater you collect in the basin can have lots of handy purposes like watering your plants.
You can choose from all sorts of above-ground rain chain designs and options. They’re decorative above all else, so they’re supposed to look appealing.
Additionally, rain chains can retard water flow. Even if you don’t collect the rainwater in a basin, by the time it reaches the ground, the drops move slowly and cause less damage.
In that sense, an above-ground rain chain is akin to a rain dispersal system.
Although it doesn’t look it, above-ground rain chains can be tough to install, and that’s certainly one con. If you don’t install the rain chain correctly, then it won’t drain well, and puddles are likelier to develop.
In heavier storms, the amount of water coming down can overwhelm the above-ground rain chain and render it ineffective.
Over the winter, you’ll have to take the rain chain down. If it freezes, the chain can become too heavy and pull on your roof.
The bigger the roof you have, the more rain chains you need. One rain chain looks nice, maybe two, but any more than that and your home doesn’t look as good as it could.
Underground Rain Chain
If you’d rather not wrestle with above-ground rain chains, that’s not your only option. You can also consider an underground rain chain as a rain gutter alternative.
An underground rain chain doesn’t go directly on your roof. Rather, you install it in the ground. There, the rain chain will direct rainwater straight to a basin for collection.
If you’d prefer, you can also redirect the water to a drain so you don’t have to deal with it later.
You can select from several underground rain chain styles, including multiple chains, a single chain, or even a cup system.
The variety of options afforded to you is one upside. That the rain chain system is hidden is another benefit.
For bigger homes that would have had to use several rain chains on their roofs to collect water, an underground rain chain makes much more sense.
The ornateness and complexity of the system are downsides though, as is the high price associated with installing an underground rain chain.
The last rain gutter alternative we want to talk about is the copper gutter.
Yes, okay, copper gutters are still gutters at the end of the day, but they’re much more attractive than a standard rain gutter, so we thought we’d include them on the list.
A copper gutter works the same way any other gutter does, but with great benefits. Copper resists corrosion so your gutters will look impeccable for longer. The metal also has a low rate of rusting.
More so than just beautiful, copper gutters are durable as well. The average lifespan of a set of copper gutters is anywhere from 30 to 100 years, which is astounding.
Plus, copper gutters don’t require a lot of maintenance, which we’re sure you’ll love.
Compared to a standard set of rain gutters though, you will pay more for copper gutters. Quality doesn’t come cheap, you know.
There you have it, 9 very viable alternatives to the standard rain gutter. Although not every option is more inexpensive than a set of rain gutters, each one can augment the appearance of your home, and many are more effective than rain gutters too!