You can't stop the rain from falling, but you can control some of the water by using gutters, downspouts and drainage pipes. Here's a brief primer...

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You can’t stop the rain from falling, but you can control some of the water by using gutters, downspouts and drainage pipes. Here’s a brief primer on gutters and water control.

Gutter types

Copper and wood are among the most expensive gutters, but copper is the longest-lasting of all. Yes, all metals oxidize, but copper does it more slowly than most. However, copper does produce a by-product that is poisonous to insects, plants and people.

The most common gutters in use today are made from galvanized sheet metal. The sheet metal is made from heavy gauge tin that is galvanized on both sides to retard rusting.

Aluminum is less prone to rust than galvanized sheet metal, but is more easily damaged. Aluminum gutters are most commonly referred to as “seamless gutters” because the metal is so soft that it can be formed on the job site in lengths that traverse from roof corner to roof corner without joints (seams) in between.

Plastic gutters and downspouts are the least expensive and the easiest to install but they have the shortest life expectancy. The material is fragile and shouldn’t be painted. As with all polyvinyl chlorides, plastic begins to oxidize from Day One.

Galvanized sheet metal

In our opinion, you get the best value by installing galvanized sheet metal gutters and downspouts. They should be painted to ensure lasting quality, and you will have to control rust from time to time.

Galvanized gutters can be a do-it-yourself project if you’re handy with tools. But for many, this project is best left to a sheet-metal worker. Installation requires specialized tools that can cost almost $100 — a pop-rivet gun, a scribe, end cap crimping pliers, circle cutting snips and regular tin snips, to name a few.

If you decide to take on the project yourself, look for galvanized sheet metal gutter parts (inside and outside corners, downspout angles and so on). The parts will make installation easier.

Water control

Gutters and downspouts are two of many elements that make for effective watershed surrounding a home.

Rain and poor drainage change the condition of the soil beneath your home — expanding it in some places and making it mushy in others.

If you can prevent water from getting under your house, the dirt underneath likely will remain stable, and house movement will be minimal. Moreover, you can keep the crawl space dry and prevent fungus or rot damage to the wood framing.

You can control surface water (the water that hits the ground) by shaping and grading the soil, concrete, brick and other surfaces around your house so they shed water away from the foundation.

Rainwater from gutters and downspouts should be carried away from your home. Geotechnical engineers recommend that water be diverted to at least three feet from the perimeter of your home.

The best means of transporting this rainwater is to tie all of the downspouts into a solid three-inch plastic drainpipe buried below the surface of the soil. The drainpipe should then discharge into a municipal storm drain system or drainage culvert.

If budget or other circumstances do not allow for this configuration, at a minimum, place pre-cast concrete or plastic splash blocks that divert water away from the foundation.