Wood gutters were the norm a hundred years back, before mass production and technology made metal and plastic the gutter materials of choice. Nonetheless, wood gutters are still out there for those who are purists at heart and for homeowners tackling renovations of historical homes. If you’re considering installing them on your home, here are a few things to think about as you shop around.
Not for The Faint of Heart
I’m not going to lie to you, if you’re looking for a gutter that’s going to last a lifetime with minimal maintenance, you’re barking up the wrong tree here. Go with aluminum, galvanized steel, or vinyl instead. These gutter materials are cheaper, longer lasting, virtually maintenance free, much easier to install (wood is very heavy). If you’re willing to take on a labor of love, on the other hand, you can’t beat wood gutters when it comes to good looks and historical integrity. In fact, if you can handle the initial cost and don’t mind undertaking regular maintenance, you won’t find a better or more beautiful gutter on the market.
Choose Your Materials Carefully
The key to wood gutters, as with any wood product that experiences exposure to water and weather, is to get the right wood. Redwood is by the far the best investment here, with red cedar heartwoods a close second. Both contain natural oils that repel water and will help resist rot and other water damage. Douglas fir is also commonly used, and cheaper, though it won’t hold up nearly as well to the wear and tear any gutter is bound to endure.
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Paint, Oil and Regular Maintenance
The key to keeping any gutter in good shape is regular maintenance. This goes double for wood. The two biggest threats to these gutters are drying out (splitting and cracking) and water damage (specifically rot). There are three maintenance solutions here. The first is routinely painting your wood gutter. Because they regularly come into contact with water, you’ll want to paint the exterior of your gutters every few years to fight off the elements. It’s best not to paint the inside of your gutter, however. Instead keep the inside of your gutter well oiled with shingle oil, a light motor oil or mineral oil. Avoid linseed and tung oil, though. These oils dry to form a protective surface that will eventually break down and trap water underneath, causing irreparable damage. Finally, be sure to clean out your gutters at least once a year. Debris traps water, which in turn causes damage. The cleaner your gutters are the longer they will last.
How Long Will They Last?
Some redwood gutter manufacturers claim that by following the above advice your gutters could last a hundred years or more. Less biased estimates are quite a bit more conservative—anywhere from 15 to 30 years. Regardless, the key to keeping your gutters in shape is upkeep. Without it, you’re guaranteed to be replacing your new gutters in a matter of a few years. Our best advice is to talk to a contractor or gutter installer experienced in the installation and maintenance of wood gutters. Deferring to their expertise and experience is the best way to ensure this substantial investment will be one that beautifies and protects your home long into the future.