Most of the gutter coil sold here in our market is a mild steel sheet metal. This mild steel is not a galvanized product so it is more suseptible to rusting and it scratches easily which invites rust to take over on cut edges like miters or end caps. The painted steel finishes tend to fade and chalk within 10 years so they will have a lower cosmetic life expectancy, unless of course you are willing to get up there every few years and give it a coat of car wax and put some elbow grease….Like that’s gonna happen, right?
Strength of Steel
Anyone who sells steel gutters is going to tell you that it is a stronger product. That would be true to a point, but what they dont tell you that the building code requires all professionally installed aluminum gutters to be formed with sheet metal that is almost twice as thick as its steel counterpart to compensate for this difference. The high grade aluminum alloy materials that we use to form our gutters are stiffer than just plain aluminum by itself. In addition to being equal in strength they will not rust if the paint were to completely flake off. Try that with a painted steel product. As long as it is properly installed and reasonable maintenance is performed such as cleaning etc. Aluminum gutters will last indefinately. They can be cleaned and repainted down the road. Damaged gutters from impacts like tree limbs and ladders etc represent less than 10% of all gutter replacements. Steel gutters will not resist any hard impact either. One thing to keep in mind is that if ladder standoffs are used by the homeowner or contractors when they perform work on the house, gutter damage due to impacts from ladders will not happen.They (steel gutters) cannot be repainted inside and they will fail much quicker as they will rust through the bottom of the gutter. 75% of all steel gutters eventually need to be replaced for this very reason. We call the use of steel “Planned Obsolescence”
Weight of Steel
Steel weighs significantly more than its aluminum counterpart. Wouldn’t it make sense that hanging a lighter weight material from the edge of your roof rafters make more sense from a sheer gravity standpoint?
Longevity of Steel
Painted steel gutters will rust through in 5-30 years depending on how they are affixed, sloped for runoff, and maintained. If you have trees or your neighbors have trees that shed often you will increase the life of your gutters if you clean them often. However most folks to do not clean their gutters often enough to avoid problems. Leaves and debris begins to break down and becomes acidic. If you have pine, fir or cedar trees the needles and buds are highly acidic and must be cleaned more often on steel gutters. This might be ok if you are cleaning them yourself, but if you are paying a service to clean them, it can get really expensive. It’s either clean them regularly or replace them sooner if you own steel gutters. Another way to extend the life of steel gutters is to purchase gutter protection or covers to keep the debris out.
Expansion & Contraction
Many sales reps who sell steel will tell you how aluminum will expand and contract more than steel, and that steel is more stable. There is some truth to the expansion comment however it is a barely detectable difference that can only be measured in minute increments over a 10ft length. Any gutter installation regardless of material choice needs to be factored for expansion and contraction, particularly with long runs of gutters. In short there are no real advantages to steel other than cost. With labor being the the majority of the overall cost, doesnt it make sense to use a material that will not require replacement? Using this analogy steel is not worth the the disadvantages listed here. We will never install steel gutters for this reason. We feel that we would be doing our customers a disservice if we did. In our market there are some contractors who have been offering steel for many years and have very successful by offering “planned obsolescence to their customers. We provide our potential customers with this blog as a research tool to enlighten them on what to purchase if they want long term satisfaction with their gutter purchases. We hope that the above information will help you decide which way is the better route.