Gutter installation is a large long-term investment that requires thorough research. The most commonly used gutter materials are vinyl, aluminum, and steel.
Vinyl gutters, also known as plastic rain gutters are very popular among budget minded homeowners in the US, because vinyl is the cheapest gutter material and it can be easily installed DIY.
In this guide, we’ll list the advantages and drawbacks of vinyl gutters along with the average cost of materials and installation.
Additionally, we’ll compare different gutter types to determine which one is the best. Read on to find out whether a vinyl gutter is the right fit for your house.
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Are Vinyl Gutters Good?
Before we get into the pricing and comparing different gutter types, it’s worth taking a look at what distinguishes vinyl gutters.
The main reason vinyl gutters are so popular is the pricing. Plastic, regardless of the quality, is generally much cheaper than aluminum or steel gutters.
This type of gutter may cost you as little as $3 per foot-long section, whereas other gutter types cost as much as $40 for the same sized section of gutter material.
Naturally, we didn’t include the cost of couplings, hangers, and installation. More on that later.
Easy Installation and Low Maintenance
PVC gutters are lightweight and flexible and snap together easier than other gutter types. These characteristics ensure easy installation, consequently cutting down on the final cost.
Although we recommend asking a professional for help in installation, it can be done on your own if you’re a competent DIY enthusiast.
The core objective here is to slope the gutter properly for correct functioning. The maintenance is also extremely simple. You should wipe the gutters with a damp cloth repeatedly and remove debris.
Vinyl gutters don’t rust or corrode, unlike metal ones. Poorly placed ladders won’t dent the gutters, so you likely won’t need any maintenance.
Due to a lack of corrosion, vinyl gutters may serve you about as long as aluminum gutters and twice as long as galvanized steel gutters.
Furthermore, plastic gutters come in a wide variety of colors to match your roof and house perfectly.
As the color is embedded into the material rather than painted on, vinyl gutters are resistant to scratches and dings. With regular cleaning, they will look like new for many years.
The main drawback of vinyl gutters is that they are NOT suitable for all climates. Due to lightweight construction, PVC gutters aren’t great at withstanding strong winds, rains, and heavy snowfall.
The main issue is that plastic gutters are flexible and may sag or crack under pressure. Furthermore, unlike most metal gutters, vinyl gutters are made from several sections attached together with couplings.
As they aren’t soldered, they are more prone to leakages. The best climate for such gutters is mild and dry.
The lifespan of vinyl gutters depends hugely on the environment. In a mild and dry climate, such a gutter may last for 20 years without issue. However, in wet or cold climates with heavy wind, vinyl gutters may not make it to 10 years.
Vinyl gutters are ideal for homeowners wanting an affordable yet good-looking gutter system that doesn’t require much maintenance.
These gutters don’t need to be re-painted over time and can match your house perfectly. In dry climates, such gutters will also last longer than any steel gutters due to a lack of corrosion.
However, it isn’t the best option for residents of rainy or cold areas as vinyl gutters may leak or break under pressure.
Pro Tip: Did you check your roof’s condition before changing the gutter? If you need a roof replacement or repair, you may have to un-install the gutter. Installation is pretty costly, so consider this in advance.
Costs of Vinyl Gutter Materials
We’ve already mentioned that vinyl gutters are more affordable than other gutter types. Now, let’s take a closer look at the average costs of materials and installation.
First, the materials. Not all vinyl is the same, so the price of vinyl gutters and additional materials may range significantly.
We advise you not to go for the cheapest option, as such gutters are usually made from low-quality, thin plastic that won’t last long.
If you choose thick and durable vinyl, it will cut down your maintenance and replacement costs in the long-term. The price also depends on whether the gutter is seamed or seamless, its color, and diameter.
The average nationwide price of vinyl gutters is about $4 per foot-long section. The price range isn’t wide, with the cheapest options priced at about $2.50 per section and high-end at slightly above $6 per section.
However, considering that the average length of guttering is about 160 feet, the final price differs significantly. You may end up paying about $500 for low-quality vinyl guttering and about $900 for high-end.
You can use our Gutter Cost Calculator to estimate the cost of replacing your old gutters.
Pro Tip: This tip is for those who need to remove old steel or aluminum guttering. Ask your gutter company whether they can reduce the price in exchange for scrap metal. Alternatively, you can take the old gutter to a scrap metal yard yourself and earn some money for it.
Cost To Install Vinyl Gutters
Typically, the cost of gutter installation depends on local labor rates, the price of materials and the length of the gutter.
Typically, professional labor equals or is close to the final price of the materials. If you’re paying $500 for materials, expect to pay the same for installation.
Naturally, the cost of installation also fluctuates depending on the company, so we advise asking for estimates in advance.
However, the beauty of vinyl gutters is that you can install them yourself and save money on professional installation. In fact, this cost savings is one of the main appeals of vinyl gutters.
You should also consider any additional costs. These include professional gutter cleaning, gutter guards, and removal of old gutters.
While professional gutter cleaning costs about $100 to $200 and is required at least twice a year, it can significantly extend the equipment’s lifespan.
Thus, spending money on maintenance can help you save in the long-term.
Gutter guards are optional, though they help avoid blockages with debris and leaves. Expect to pay anywhere from $2 to $20 per linear foot. The removal costs less than installation, but it still may amount to several hundred dollars if you have a large roof.
Pro Tip: When making a price estimate for a gutter install, budget an additional 10-15% on top of the expected price. This will ensure that you can afford to pay for unexpected complexities that may occur during installation, such as tricky configurations or bump-outs.
Where To Purchase Vinyl Gutters
Vinyl gutters can be purchased in most large home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot or directly from your local gutter company.
Although they can also be bought online, we advise you to look at gutters in person to compare the material flexibility, appearance, and other features.
The pricing of materials doesn’t often differ much between stores and companies. However, experts working in gutter companies may give you better advice than sales assistants in stores.
Vinyl vs. Aluminum Gutters
Aluminum is another material to consider for your gutters, if it does have certain pros and cons. Let’s take a look at the distinctions between aluminum and vinyl gutters.
First, the durability. Aluminum gutters can serve for up to 30 years, while high-end PVC gutters about 15 years.
Aluminum gutters are resistant to rust, corrosion, rot, and decay. While vinyl gutters don’t rust either, aluminum is better at withstanding cold and wet climates.
As aluminum gutter sections are typically soldered together, they can withstand the strongest winds. Therefore, such gutters are better suited to coastal regions.
One thing to be aware of is that aluminum, like any other metal, expands when it comes into contact with heat. If you live in a hot climate, aluminum may become thinner over time and lose its durability.
In terms of installation, however, aluminum gutters lose out to vinyl. They’re much heavier and thicker, thus require more labor to install.
Furthermore, the sections must be soldered and a more complicated installation process naturally leads to higher costs.
The cost of materials is also higher with aluminum gutters. Generally, the price of a foot-long section ranges from $9 to $20.
This amounts to $1,400 to $3,200 for a 160-feet long gutter, nearly three times more than the price of vinyl gutters. However, considering the longer lifespan, the difference in value is insignificant.
Finally, the design. As sections can be soldered, aluminum gutters feature a neat look. They come in a wide range of colors, though not as wide as vinyl. Aluminum is also paintable, but any paint is prone to scratches. In the case of vinyl gutters, the color is embedded into the material and doesn’t change appearance over time.
Pro Tip: Aluminum gutters aren’t suitable for copper flashing or algae-resistant shingles. In the main, that’s due to copper washing off from the roof and causing corrosion in aluminum.
To conclude, aluminum gutters offer most of the vinyl gutter benefits without the cons. They are durable, rust and corrosion-resistant, and come in an array of designs.
Although the installation process is more complicated, you likely won’t install it yourself, so that shouldn’t be a major concern.
The only drawbacks you should be aware of are the higher price and incompatibility with copper shingles. Overall, it’s the perfect choice if you live in a harsh climate and aren’t limited in budget.
Vinyl vs. Steel Gutters
When we’re talking about steel gutters, we must distinguish between galvanized and stainless steel. While galvanized steel features a protective coating, it isn’t rust-resistant and typically decays in under 15 years.
Stainless steel, on the other hand, isn’t prone to corrosion and may last over 25 years. Galvanized steel, however, is more resistant to dents and is better for areas with strong winds.
As steel is tougher than aluminum and vinyl, such gutters are the better choice for areas with heavy snowfall, hail, and storms. Steel gutters don’t dent or crack under pressure.
Seamless gutters also don’t leak, as opposed to vinyl gutters that are constructed from sections and are therefore vulnerable to leakages. Seamed steel gutters are still better for rainy areas than vinyl models, as the seams are always soldered.
One major drawback of steel is its weight. Steel gutters are the heaviest type. For that reason, they are difficult and costly to install.
Such gutters aren’t as popular as aluminum or vinyl and may be hard to find. They are also limited in design variations.
Even though steel gutters can be painted, the paint needs to be renewed regularly to maintain the look.
Another issue with steel gutters is that metal expands upon contact with heat. This may weaken the steel over time, so be aware of using steel gutters in very hot climates.
Last but not least, the pricing. Steel gutters range from $9 to $20 per foot-long section. The final price of a 160-feet long gutter may amount to $1,500 to $3,000, so the total cost is close to that of aluminum gutters.
However, some companies charge more for the installation of steel gutters. Galvanized steel gutters also require more maintenance than other types.
The zinc layer must be regularly checked for holes that may lead to rust. You can do this yourself or hire a professional, as the process is pretty lengthy and tiring.
Overall, steel gutters are very similar to aluminum models. They are priced nearly the same and both offer excellent durability.
Steel gutters are the best choice for the harshest climates with heavy snowfalls, though vinyl gutters are more suitable for hot environments.
Vinyl gutters also need less maintenance, as steel gutters must be regularly re-painted and checked for corrosion if the steel isn’t stainless.
Hopefully, our guide has answered all your questions related to vinyl gutters and helped you to decide on the right gutter type.
Although vinyl gutters are the easiest to install, we advise you to seek professional help before making a purchase.
An expert knows how to assemble the gutter elements and install it correctly, ensuring that it will withstand rain and wind.
Your local gutter company can also provide an estimate and help you choose the right gutter diameter and length.
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