No gutters?

livingreen2013October 19, 2012

This is a photo of a house I saw when first coming across the GW earlier this year and loved. I love the large overhangs and exposed woodwork (name?) under the eaves. My question is- the more I have looked into current houses with this same look, I'm noticing the lack of gutters. Is this true? I guess we always assumed that every house built these days had gutters. Any thoughts or info you could share would be great. Thanks!

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Well, where do you live? What is the rainfall?

We get 5-7 inches of rain a year where I am. Gutters are uncommon; however, they are not unheard of. (We added gutters after our build in two small areas because water from our roof poured off and was noisy in those spots. The downspouts just redirected the water and minimized that noise.)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 4:52PM
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We're in the midwest- so rain and snow melting is definitely a factor. That's why I guess we were curious if this is even possible in our area...

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 5:08PM
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I'm hoping an expert weighs in, but what I've read about this so far says that whether or not you need gutters depends on your lot and your house design-- it's important that water is directed away from your foundation, and so the land around your house needs to naturally direct water away from the foundation. In other words, the ground needs to run generally downhill from the house. Also, if you had a complicated footprint, it might be hard to get the water well away from your house without gutters and downspouts.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 5:18PM
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Another midwesterner here. This photo looks to be in the early 1900s; perhaps gutters were not common at that time. I would not own a house without gutters in Illinois. There may be a design that does not have gutters, but even Frank Lloyd Wright put gutters on his homes to collect rain water.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 5:25PM
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This is addressed if you search on google on the topic. I'm linking to the first result, which does answer the question.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 5:32PM
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Another more now-aday example.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 5:36PM
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What I see in the photo is a typical copper lined wood gutter incorporated into a typical boxed cornice. If you look closely I think you can see some downspout elbows under the soffits.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 6:26PM
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We are in southern CA and sometimes get no rain for months, but when it does rain we get lots of it in a short period of time. We added gutters to the house we bought because we noticed areas that were getting damaged. Probably 70% of the homes here have gutters.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 8:29PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

We put gutters on the front of our house as they run the water away from the house and are only 1 story up. In the back, it is 2 stories up and is a full walk out basement so we did not put any gutters. This is our retirement home and I sure wasn't going to have DH up that high on a ladder trying to clean them. Also, the lack of gutters helps prevent ice damming which is an issue here in the NE.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 8:34PM
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One of the greatest threats to the stability of foundations of a house, as well as to the liviability of basements, the reduction of mold and the long-term durability of any structure is water. I'm guessing that water and ground-borne hydrostatic pressure have damaged more structures than perhaps any other source.

Gutters and downspouts are major tools to mitigate the damage of rainwater and roof-based runoff. Reduction of these decreases the potential for hydrostatic pressure against foundations and basement walls.

Let's face it: surface mounted gutters and downspouts are generally ugly and visually intrusive. But, with proper installation, they work.

Architects and designers, over the centuries, have looked for less visually intrusive ways to deal with water and runoff. The challenge for these to be effective and durable is that they require a much higher degree of care and workmanship by the builders during construction. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen.

And even the best design and workmanship may be overcome by nature: falling leaves each Fall can clog the gutter and downspouts unless proper leaf guards are installed and maintained!

Homeowners are well advised to ensure that rain water runoff is handled in a positive and durable manner. This means effective gutters and downspouts, positive grading so that water drains away from the foundations and, for basements and below grade portions of the house, proper waterproofing, shielding materials and below grade drains.

The only exceptions may be for areas with less than a few inches of rain per year.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 9:05PM
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It should be noted that some local jurisdictions require gutters (like where I just built).

My understanding is that FHA loan requires it.

But outside of regulatory requirements, I think with the right house and good overhangs, I don't think they are necessary. I think a 2 foot overhang will keep more water off the foundation than a 1 foot overhang with gutters if the soil is graded appropriately.

Lets face it, the soil settles and is not always replenished and this is what I have seen the most with water in the crawl/basement. But gutters need to be cleaned also so either way, someone needs to be attentive.

I think if you like the look and don't have a regulatory issue, you should go for it. Note that it may stress someone out at resale.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 6:02AM
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RE: FHA loans, the handbook says it is up to the appraiser... If the house has drainage issues, it needs gutters. Otherwise, it's not required.

FHA handbooks:

"The site must be graded to provide positive drainage away from the perimeter walls of the dwelling and to prevent standing water on the site. Signs of inadequate draining include standing water proximate to the structure and no mitigation measures such as gutters or downspouts."

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 11:41AM
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We did not put gutters on our current home and we have lived here for 9 1/2 years with no issues. We live in an oak hammock and keeping gutters clean is just not possible so we decided not to bother with them. Living in SW Florida we get plenty of rain, but we do not have the issue of a basement. We do have a min. 18" overhang and a front and back porch. We were also careful with grading to ensure water would naturally move away from our home.
So... I think you just need to take a careful look at your site conditions and your structure and see what is possible for you. I have loved not having them - the maintenance and the appearance, but I would hate to have water issues and damage to my foundation.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 1:23PM
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Thanks for the thoughts and information everyone. We're going to bring it up with our builder and look into some of the land elements. We do love the look though. Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 9:50PM
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