Gutters perform an important role in that they keep rain water away from the foundation and the house in general. Left on its own, rain water can wreak major havoc on the house from rotting the roof, damaging the wall paint, weakening the foundation, flooding the basement and other issues. With gutters, you get to have a strong house unaffected by runoff from the rain.

All isn’t rosy with gutters, however. Gutters that sag or are clogged can worsen the formation of ice dams on the roof. Also, gutters clogged with leaves are a fire hazard as the leaves are flammable. Even worse, gutters made of plastic materials such as vinyl are themselves flammable meaning they can easily catch fire in the right conditions.

For these reasons, you might want to look for substitutes for gutters. The alternatives include rain dispersal systems, drip edges, rain chains and hidden gutters while DIY options consist of drip paths, ground gutters and grading methods. The following are details of each of these alternatives with pros and cons

Rain dispersal systems

One of the reasons gutters are installed on the roofs of buildings is to break up the speed of water running off the roof. You have probably noticed that roofs without gutters are often lined with a series of holes on the ground right below the edge of the roof.

What rain dispersal systems do is reduce the size of the streams of rainfall from the roof and increase the impact area. The result is less water and at a slower speed hitting a single spot on the ground. One such system splits up the stream of water then directs it to hit the ground in a band that’s at least 2 feet wide. Another system splits a single drop of rain into 19 smaller droplets which won’t have an effect on the ground.

Drip edges

Drip edges are pieces of metal installed at the lower end of the shingles or other roofing materials to prevent the water from falling close to the house. Such sheets of metal are installed under the shingles to prevent the water from rain from affecting the wood and other materials underneath.

Essentially, drip edges keep the water away from the house by adding to the length of the overhang such that water falls further away from the house. They can also be used with gutters to direct the water into a downspout or other collection system.

Drip paths

Drip paths are simply paths for the water to follow once it drops on the ground. To construct a drip path, bricks or other materials are placed under the roof where the runoff falls in a slanting manner. A concrete apron is then added to provide a hard yet smooth surface for the drops to fall on.

This way, the droplets from the roof will fall on hard ground then follow a designated path away from the house. The result is that there won’t be any erosion caused by the falling and flowing water from the roof. Drip paths are quite easy to construct and won’t need the input of an expert.

Rain chains

Rain chains are a series of chains or cups under the overhang of the roof. When it rains, water from the roof drops into the cups then flows to a reservoir or barrel underground. This water can then be used for a purpose of your choosing.

Rain chains are used to keep the water from damaging the ground with the force it gains from the roof downwards. These chains can be combined with gutters such that the downspout empties its contents into a cup or chain which then guides it to an underground reservoir.


The grading of your house refers to the amount of slope around the house. When building the house, make sure it’s built on higher ground compared to the surrounding areas. The area around the house should also be built such that there are no flat areas or holes to keep the rain water from flowing away from the foundation.

If obtaining such a scenario naturally isn’t possible, you can construct concrete aprons around the house such that they slope outwards to direct the water away from the foundation. You can also invest in extensive landscaping to ensure the land is sloping away from the house to keep the latter in good shape.

Ground gutters

If you prefer the gutters to be away from the roof and in the ground, the use of ground gutters is your solution to the roof gutters. Ground gutters employ the design of French drains in that they are dug in the ground then covered with vegetation and soil to look like a normal piece of land.

First, you dig a V-shaped trench right on the drip-line. The drip-line is the line on the ground where water from the roof falls unto to the ground and creates small holes. You then line the bottom of the trench with a waterproof material then add a perforated pipe on this material. The two will easily transport water to one direction. The trench and all the items in it should have a slope both away from the foundation of the house and towards the water reservoir.

After laying the pipe inside the trench, fill the trench with gravel. Avoid using soil as it can easily clog the pipe up leading to a flood on the ground. You can protect the French drain with mulch or grow shrubs on it as well. This trench should also be lain all around the house to carry away the water from the foundation.

Hidden gutters

Hidden gutters, also called box or built-in gutters, are rain gutters hidden from view but used to perform the same task normal gutters perform which is transporting water collected from the roof.

Hidden gutters adopt a boxy shape rather than the round shape typical with most conventional gutters. They are then built at the ends of the roof but hidden from view such they don’t spoil the look of the building like normal gutters do.

The other advantage they have over conventional gutters is that they rarely get clogged given the boxy shape which offers the runoff from the rain more space to move along. For this reason, they will need less maintenance than other types of gutters yet they perform just as well if not better.

The downside to having hidden gutters is that it’s usually late discovering a problem after it develops. While normal gutters are easy to see as they’re outside the roof, the hidden nature of box gutters makes it hard to see problem areas right away. You will thus need a strict inspection and maintenance routine to avoid major issues with your roof.

Choosing either one or a combination of these alternatives to the conventional gutters will solve your runoff issues without the problems associated with gutters. You can choose which ones best fit your situation as per the amount of rain in your areas, the slope of the land around the house and the tools on hand.

Copper gutters

While still a type of gutter itself, a gutter made of copper is much better than the other types of gutters thanks to the inherent qualities of copper over other materials when it comes to resilience against the elements outdoors.

Copper will last as long as 100 years or even more, it needs less maintenance than all other gutter materials, and, best of all, doesn’t rust or corrode. Copper gutters also look better than gutters made of other materials and they can be given the color and look you desire to look like the rest of the house.

Traditional Gutter Systems
Regular Gutter

Mobile home gutter alternatives

For a mobile home, the alternatives to a gutter include the following:

  • Rain dispersal systems
  • Drip edges
  • Above-ground rain chains

These can be modified to suite the nature of mobile homes. With this type of homes, the aim is to create a system to drain water away from the home without necessarily going for a permanent option. Rain dispersal systems are some of the best solutions for this purpose given that they can be installed and left on the home no matter where it goes to.

For mobile homes, however, the best option is usually installing gutters since the amount of runoff collected isn’t much given their smaller sizes. Also, mobile homes don’t stay in one location for long and the downspout from the gutters and the gutters themselves won’t be that ugly when in use. You have options with aluminum, copper, steel and vinyl gutters on offer.

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