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Aluminum Gutters

Choosing Your Gutters: Copper vs. Aluminum

A closer look at which material might be the right fit your gutter needs

The importance of great guttering is something I spotlighted in my earlier blog, but it bears repeating just how much of an asset it can be. By channeling and redirecting the elements while dealing with the fallout from unwanted pests, gutters play a very important role in keeping a structure both safe and visually appealing.

A sound investment in quality workmanship today can save a homeowner a great deal of time, money and trouble down the line, but making the right choice is easier said than done. There are many diverse materials competing for your gutter dollar. This makes it important to learn more about how the options stack up in functionality, return on investment and curb appeal, as well as understanding their downsides.

Your gutter choices

There are several gutter materials on the market, including zinc, vinyl, stainless steel and galvalume (a composite of various materials, including zinc and steel). You may even see wood gutters on some older, historic structures. These may be pretty to look at, but they’re not the most functional or cost-effective solution. 

Today I’m focusing on two of the most popular metal choices which provide impressive performance without losing visual appeal: aluminum and copper.

Aluminum gutters

Aluminum is the lighter member of the steel family, and it’s due to this fact that workmen prefer dealing with it rather than its heavier cousin. Aluminum eventually eclipsed steel as the country’s most popular guttering choice. Easy for roofers to manipulate and available in a wide range of sizes and styles, aluminum can also be color-customized to match any homeowner’s taste.

Aluminum in its best condition has a robust resistance to rust and can be fitted seamlessly to a home. This metal is available in two basic types: primary and secondary aluminum. Primary aluminum is the stronger and purer of the two, while secondary aluminum tends to be a composite of recycled materials. Aluminum is a highly recyclable material, which makes it a favorite of the environmentally conscious.

The chemical reactivity of aluminum gives gutters a kind of built-in environmental shield. Contact with oxygen creates an aluminum oxide layer that helps protect the gutter’s surface from erosion. Copper’s chemical reaction is very different and may split homeowners into two camps (as you’ll see below). 

Copper gutters

Copper is considered the more upmarket of the two materials. It is a commodity, after all, traded on the stock market just like gold and silver. One of the most important differences between aluminum and copper is the latter’s chemical reactivity, which creates a verdigris patina over time. This causes a greenish blue-tinged appearance. (A great way to visualize this is by looking at the original shade of the Statue of Liberty.)

No two pieces of copper will react to this oxidization process the same way. This gives each patina individuality, which many homeowners feel adds a historic look and certainly gives their house a unique appearance. Not surprisingly, copper tends to be the guttering of choice when curb appeal is among the homeowner’s top priorities.

With the very basic stuff out of the way, let’s look more closely at how copper and aluminum square off against each other in the pros and cons categories.

The pros and cons of aluminum gutters

Aluminum can handle high volumes of water, which is great in any state, but particularly in rainy New Jersey. Our state summaries show precipitation has become highly variable, with the last decade being wetter than average. Winter, spring and extreme precipitation events are expected to increase in the future. We’re also situated in a hotspot for coastal and tropical storms, so the more water a gutter can handle, the better.

Aluminum is also more resilient against gutter sagging due to its lighter weight and averages around 20 years of solid performance before needing to be replaced. Cost-conscious homeowners may also find aluminum the more attractively priced option.

Aluminum gutters can be painted, which is something copper gutters can’t claim. This gives homeowners a greater degree of expression when choosing the color of their gutters, but that comes with the drawback of a little more maintenance being necessary. Thicker aluminum gutters are highly resistant to thinning through weather exposure and more resilient against hail or other impacts.

Now for some negative points. While aluminum can be resilient against rust, it doesn’t handle variable and higher temperatures as effectively as copper. Shifting temperatures may cause aluminum to expand and contract repeatedly. This process can rupture the surface, weakening it and potentially doing wider damage to your home.

Airborne stressors like hail or debris in high winds can also dent aluminum of lesser thickness if they hit with sufficient impact. Aluminum can contribute to the erosion of copper and vice versa, so if your home already has any copper fixtures, the two must be kept well apart.

The pros and cons of copper gutters

Copper gutters can add 30 more years of durability compared to aluminum, providing a potential half-century of service. Copper gutters are also much lower maintenance than aluminum and even tougher when it comes to rust and heavy weather, making them less prone to dings and dents. Copper is also arguably the more visually versatile and appealing of the two options due to its radiance and ability to compliment many styles of home exterior.

As I mentioned earlier, one potential downside to copper, depending on the individual’s taste, is the color shift over time to a browner tint and eventually the final green-blue appearance. This may be acceptable and even desirable for homeowners who consider the patina to be quite a distinguished look.

The loss of copper’s initial shine may seem counterproductive to others, however, so note that the sparkle does not last forever. The less-glamorous aluminum may be preferred in this case because it can be painted or repainted to maintain a constant tonal appearance.

Another potential disadvantage is how demanding a material copper is. No material except copper may be used for fittings that come into contact with these gutters. This adds to the price, which is already above that of aluminum. Together, this makes copper gutters a more expensive and specialized kind of installation that requires an experienced and attentive team.

Which gutter should you choose?

This is a question that takes teamwork to answer. The homeowner’s preference, budget and long-term housing goals come first. Those are then combined with an expert’s opinion on the right material and style of guttering to make those preferences a reality. Even if you think you’ve already made up your mind, speaking to the professionals can shed light on every important consideration, from cost to climate change, before you make that final decision.

This is why we offer a free consultation to share our expertise and answer any questions our customers have. We’re here to get the job done the way you want it to be done, but we believe in making sure you know all the pros and cons before making that commitment and investment.

Choose Blue Nail as your gutter experts

Blue Nail’s experienced team provides new gutter installation, repairs and replacement services. You can count on us for a thorough inspection of your existing gutters to see which of those you need. We offer multiple dimensional options to match both your own preferences and your home’s exterior, and we install K-style gutters that provide optimal drainage for many types of home by handling double the amount of water compared to the half-round style.

Our seamless work comes with premiere gutter covers that protect against damage from weather and wildlife without detracting from your home’s appearance. Once you’ve decided between copper and aluminum, Blue Nail can craft the gutters on-site so you can see every step of the process. We then fit them and leave your property as pristine as we found it.

We offer financing options to help you afford the gutters you want. We can even check the condition of your gutters while adhering strictly to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines thanks to our drone inspection capability.

Winter is right around the corner for New Jersey, and that’s the season when great guttering matters most. Harsh weather, debris, snow, ice dams and water flow all become risks to the roof, siding and foundation if your gutters underperform.

We’ve already helped many homeowners in our community maximize their home’s appearance, resilience and value. We’d love to help you, too, so connect with Blue Nail to discuss all your guttering plans.
Working with Blue Nail Roofing means coming home to craftsmanship. From first call to final inspection, we’re with you every step of the way to ensure you benefit from our experience. For more information or a free consultation, drop by our contact page or call 973-937-8876.

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