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If you’re putting gutters on your home for the first time, or replacing your existing gutters, you may be surprised by just how many options there are. While there may be numerous options to choose from, it’s important to understand the various costs associated with this type of project before making a decision. In fact, the experts at Improvenet.com say the cost to install gutters and related components like downspouts can vary widely, with installation rates ranging from a minimum of $3 to more than $17 per linear foot.

While gutters protect the sides of the house from mud—preventing erosion, reducing water damage to the foundation, and keeping visitors from getting wet—guttering can demand more maintenance and cleaning, distract from the profile or design of a home, and be a big expense when constructing or remodeling.

According to Improvenet, the four top gutter material options are aluminum, vinyl, copper and stainless steel.

While the decision is often personal, Roselyn Bette at Medium.com loves and recommends copper, because over time it develops a special lining that protects from rust and other potentially harmful elements. She says copper prevents algae and fungi growth, so blockages, with their related cleaning and maintenance expenses, will be significantly reduced.

And, Bette says, copper gutters can last well over 100 years due to their remarkable durability.

Turning to other materials, doityourself.com points out a few important things to know about aluminum gutters. While relatively weather resistant compared to vinyl—and very lightweight—aluminum is less durable than steel or copper.

Aluminum gutters need to be maintained to avoid corrosion and dents, so cleaning them and caulking them regularly is important. Since aluminum expands and contracts with the temperature, they’re prone to cracks, which need to be repaired in order to avoid leaks.

When it comes to affordability, vinyl tops the list because it’s lightweight and easy to install. Additional benefits include the fact that its color won’t fade, chip or crack over time. While it’s a top choice for DIYers, vinyl can get brittle and snap in cold extremes, so it may not be the best option for homes in cold climates.

Steel ranks second when it comes to affordability; however, it’s important to note that it can rust in certain climates. Not only is it sturdy, but also it can hold a lot of weight, so sagging is less common.

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