What Are Box Gutters?

By Amanda Lutz Updated March 1, 2024

Box gutters are concealed rectangular gutters that channel water away from the roof of a building or home. These oversized gutter systems are commonly installed in commercial buildings, but they can also work for residential properties.

Besides handling more water than traditional gutters, box gutters are easier to clean and have a distinctive polished appearance that some homeowners prefer. However, they can be costly and require a more complicated installation than other gutter types.

In this guide, we’ll review what a box gutter is, the ins and outs of box gutter installation, the advantages and disadvantages of this type of gutter, and how to choose the best type of gutters for your home.


What Is a Box Gutter?

A box gutter, also called an internal gutter or trough gutter, is a box-shaped gutter typically incorporated into a commercial building or house. This graded channel is usually lined with asphalt, metal, or roofing felt, and it’s concealed behind eaves or in a roof valley. Modern box gutters are made from high-quality materials, such as galvanized steel and copper, and they come with a long life span, lasting at least 70 years with little to no maintenance.

The purpose of this structure is to channel water away from your home’s walls and foundation to prevent moisture damage. Unlike traditional gutters that you can see attached to the exterior of a house, box gutters are built into the roofline and are concealed from the outside, helping them blend in with the home’s architecture. Box gutters were popular in the 1800s and 1900s thanks to their functionality and are still found on some historic homes today.


Box Gutter Design

Homeowners choose box gutters for both their aesthetic appeal and functionality. Since they’re hidden from view, these gutters contribute to a clean, minimalist exterior. Box gutters may be a good option if you’re looking for an uncluttered design or planning an industrial look for your home.

Box gutters have a rectangular shape, providing a large capacity for collecting and channeling rainwater. Their shape makes them ideal for areas with heavy rainfall and buildings with large roof surfaces. While box gutters were partially made of wood in the past, they’re now composed of durable materials, such as copper, aluminum, or steel.

These gutters are mainly used for commercial purposes, but they also come in smaller sizes for residential use. These smaller residential gutters still have a larger capacity than external gutter types.

The commercial box gutter design is time-tested. With the right approach to installation, these rain gutters can serve for decades. However, due to their built-in nature, poorly installed and maintained box gutters could lead to significant problems with the home’s integrity.


Material Selection

With built-in gutters, the choice of material is important since replacing them can be labor-intensive. Determining which box gutter material is right for you will depend on a variety of factors, including the climate, your budget, and aesthetic appeal. In most cases, the more durable and long-lasting the material is, the higher the initial investment in the gutter. By investing more up-front, you’re likely to spend less on maintenance, repair, and replacement in the future.

Aluminum

Aluminum is a durable yet lightweight material that can be an excellent choice for many elements of a roofing system, including the gutters. It’s corrosion-resistant, easy to install, cost-effective, and readily available. However, it’s not as durable as some other gutter materials, it’s prone to denting under heavy loads, and it’s not always suitable for extreme weather conditions.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is a common gutter material that dates back to the Victorian age. Its impressive durability and longevity make it a good choice for homeowners who want to invest in their gutters long-term. Cast iron can last up to 100 years, is resistant to extreme weather, and is fully recyclable, but it’s heavier than other materials and harder to install than aluminum box gutters.

Copper

Copper is one of the most popular gutter materials thanks to its durability and longevity. Besides the potential to last a lifetime, copper gutters develop a natural patina over time, making them more corrosion-resistant and creating an interesting visual appeal. Copper is also easy to maintain but usually comes with a high gutter installation cost.

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel is steel with a zinc coating. This material can handle heavy loads, which is important for box gutters that channel large volumes of water. While priced similarly to aluminum, this material is less prone to denting. A few drawbacks of galvanized steel are that it’s heavy compared to other materials, its zinc coating can fade, and it needs regular painting to prevent corrosion.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC gutters are gaining popularity among homeowners because of their cost-effectiveness. Since this material isn’t as durable as metal, it’s mostly useful in mild climates. PVC gutters are also lightweight compared to other box gutter materials and easy to install and maintain. However, they’re not as durable as metal, have a short life span of 10 to 15 years, and don’t handle UV exposure well.


Installation of Box Gutters

The built-in nature of box gutters makes the installation more complicated. To ensure your box gutter installation goes smoothly, we recommend hiring experienced gutter specialists.

Gutter professionals will begin with a thorough assessment of your home’s structure and drainage requirements. They’ll also evaluate the potential location of the box gutters. If you’re having box gutters replaced, the roofing team will remove the old gutters and assess the repairs that may need to be done to the roof before installation.

The most important part of proper box gutter installation is having the right measurements. The gutter team will take measurements of the roofline to custom-design the box gutters so they fit perfectly. While taking measurements, the professionals will also evaluate the structure of the building and assess the load-bearing capacity to install appropriate supports, if necessary.

The installation process also includes the connection of downspouts to the box gutters. Roofers will strategically position the downspouts to facilitate proper water drainage and will review the building’s landscaping, foundation grading, and local building codes.

When installing box gutters, consider installing gutter guards. While the box gutter system is hidden from view, it still requires protection from debris.


Advantages of Box Gutters

While box gutters aren’t as popular as K-style or half-round gutters, they’re installed due to a variety of benefits such as their durability and low maintenance.

Durability

Since box gutters are a built-in part of your home, they’re typically made of durable materials, such as stainless steel, copper, or galvanized steel. Unlike low-cost vinyl gutters, the box systems are usually made to last a lifetime.

Hidden Design

One of the major advantages of box gutters is their hidden nature. They’re integrated into the roofline, creating a clean and unobtrusive look. If you’re after a modern and sleek home design, consider adding box gutters to your home’s architecture.

Increased Capacity

Box gutters are larger than other gutter types. If you live in a place where heavy rains are common, you may benefit from this large-capacity gutter. Box gutters come in several sizes. Industrial-size gutters are 7 or 8 inches wide, while residential gutters are 5 or 6 inches wide. Choose the gutter size that suits your roof design and caters to the potential water volume.

Low Maintenance

Box gutters are usually easier to clean and maintain compared to external gutters. Since they’re concealed within the roofline, these gutters are less exposed to debris, leaves, and other potential blockages, reducing the frequency of maintenance. Meanwhile, proper maintenance and the right choice of materials ensure minimal problems with the gutter integrity, and repairs are rarely required.


Disadvantages of Box Gutters

While box gutters have a few benefits, some homeowners avoid installing them for several reasons, including the following:

Complex Installation

Installing box gutters and replacing them can be more complex compared to traditional gutters. The integration into the roof structure requires careful consideration of structural factors and more labor. Ideally, installation should be done while the house is being built.

Cost

Box gutters can be more costly than other gutter types. Since homeowners prefer more durable materials to ensure longevity, the up-front costs are higher than they are with traditional gutters. The installation process is also more complicated and requires more labor, resulting in higher costs. In some cases, installing box gutters may require structural modifications, which can lead to additional expenses.

Limited Design Options

Due to their nature, box gutters have a more limited range of design options than external gutters. Their rectangular shape may not suit every architectural style or personal preference. However, you can still manage to incorporate design elements like decorative end caps or outlets into this gutter system.

Maintenance Challenges

While box gutters are easier to maintain than external gutters, the process may still present some challenges. Because box gutters are concealed, damage may not be immediately visible, and it may be necessary to perform inspections more often than you would with other gutter types. Failing to identify problems with box gutters could lead to significant repair expenses in the future.


Alternatives to Box Gutters

While you’re looking for the best gutters for your home, consider several box gutter alternatives that may be more suitable for your design plans and budget.

Fascia Gutters

Fascia gutters are installed directly onto the fascia board, which is the horizontal board that lines the perimeter of the roof. Traditional gutters that you can see on the exteriors of many homes are attached to the fascia board.

Benefits:

Drawbacks:

French Drains

French drains are a completely different type of drainage system consisting of a trench filled with gravel or a perforated pipe that redirects water away from the building’s foundation.

Benefits:

Drawbacks:


Our Recommendation

Consider installing box gutters if you’re looking for a distinctive and durable gutter option. These gutters can offer excellent water channeling capacity and make your home look unique. While box gutter installation comes with challenges, including higher costs, many homeowners choose box gutters for their aesthetic appeal and functionality. Before settling for box gutters, consider the potential expenses, maintenance demands, and installation issues that may come with this gutter system.


What Are Box Gutters FAQ

Are box gutters any good?

Box gutters can offer multiple advantages, including larger water-channeling capacity and a longer life span than traditional gutters.

What are the disadvantages of box gutters?

The disadvantages of box gutters are that they tend to be more costly than traditional gutters, require a complex installation, and have limited design options.

Why are box gutters so expensive?

Box gutters are expensive because they’re usually made of high-quality materials and demand labor-intensive installation due to being built into the home’s structure.

What are some alternatives to box gutters?

The alternatives to box gutters are fascia gutters, which are installed on fascia boards. Some examples are half-round gutters and K-style gutters. You can also opt for non-gutter drainage systems, such as drip edges or French drains.