Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter (Except for Today)

Have you ever looked up at your home’s roof edge and wondered about the history of the gutter? I am going to guess most likely not! Did you know that little feature was first being thought about way back between 1500 – 3000 B.C.E.? It started in the area we know today as Pakistan and Northwest India. At the time this was the Indus Valley. Gutters were being created out of burnt clay. It took many years to start to see more familiar features that we still see today, such as the gargoyle, that would spit or discharge the water away from a building. The London Tower, which was constructed around 1240, was the first structure to use a downspout.

When the colonist of America and started constructing homes in the 1700’s they created wood planks in a “V” shape to create their gutters. They attached them to the roof edge with wood pins or cast iron brackets.

Throughout the years gutter have been created with many materials such as; cast iron, wood, asbestos cement, UPVC, aluminum and bamboo. In the early 1900’s a metal rolling machine was invented which was the start of half round steel gutters. In the 1960’s seamless aluminum gutter machines were developed and are responsible for 70% of today’s gutters.

The popular residential gutter of today is a 5” K gutter. You would think since it is called a “K” gutter it would be shaped like a “K”. Well, you would have thought wrong. The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association(SMACNA) has a list of 12 gutter types each corresponding to a letter. The eleventh type is K (first type is A, second B and so on) which happens to have the most decorative shape and since most people like decorative things this style became the most popular.

The function of the gutter is to collect the water from your roof during a rainfall and send it to the downspouts which ultimately carry the rainwater away from your home. The gutter and downspouts are sized based on the area of roof and rainfall intensity in the location you live. Does the International Residential Code 2015, New Jersey Edition (IRC) ensure that you have gutters on your home to protect your property? It is a little vague but the intent is there. Section R801.3 Roof Drainage discusses the requirement of a “controlled method of water disposal from roofs, that will collect and discharge roof drainage to the ground surface not less than five feet from the foundation walls”. The IRC never uses the word gutter but it’s clear that they want you to use one!

Make sure your architect sizes your gutter appropriately.