Best Gutter Alternatives for Your Home (2024)

By Sam Wasson Updated April 4, 2024

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A functioning drainage system is essential for your home. Without it, water will seep into your walls, erode your home’s foundation, and saturate your lawn. Rain gutters are the standard, but other options are available. We’ll break down gutter alternatives, describe how they work, and evaluate if they’re valid options for your home’s drainage system.

Note: Cost data in this article was sourced from Angi, HomeAdvisor, and internal data.


Drip Edge

Most homes with gutter systems also have a drip edge. These structures consist of a thin piece of metal, called flashing, that runs along the edge of your roof. Drip edges direct rainwater away from the fascia board into a gutter or downspout.

While drip edges are primarily used to improve gutter functionality, drip-edge-only systems do exist. These systems can be effective in dry climates but fail to direct water away from your home in heavy rainfall.

Pros and Cons of a Drip Edge

Pros

  • Provides minor protection against water damage
  • Applies to homes with and without gutters
  • Is more cost-effective than traditional gutter systems

Cons

  • Can’t handle large amounts of water
  • Provides no protection against runoff for your foundation and landscaping

Drip Edge Cost

Depending on the type of drip edge you install, it will cost between $1 and $15 per linear foot. A 2,000-square-foot home requires about 200 linear feet of guttering materials, including drip edges. You can expect to pay between $200 and $30,000 for drip-edge installation.


Drip Path

A drip path, also called a drip edge in landscaping (not to be confused with a drip edge in roofing), is an installation that helps prevent erosion. Drip paths are a series of trenches that run along the base of the home, filled with rocks, bricks, or other materials. Like roofing drip edges, drip paths work alongside gutters. These installations help divert excess water away from the foundation, preventing dirt splashback, reducing erosion, and limiting soil saturation.

Homeowners may install drip paths along sections of the home that lack gutter systems or underneath locations where spillovers are common. Drip paths could function as a gutter alternative when installed around the entire perimeter of the house. They aren’t as effective as gutters but can be a suitable replacement in low-rainfall areas.

Pros and Cons of a Drip Path

Pros

  • Prevents foundation erosion
  • Features customization options with different paving materials
  • Helps prevent lawn saturation

Cons

  • Does not protect fascia, walls, and roof structures
  • Is labor-intensive to DIY install

Drip Path Cost

We conducted extensive research across landscaping websites and gravel suppliers to establish an average estimate for this project. Most landscaping drip paths are roughly 2 feet wide and 4 inches deep. If you need 200 linear feet for your drip paths, you will need to fill approximately 134 cubic feet with gravel. Gravel costs between $1 to $3 per cubic foot, depending on the type you choose, totaling $134 to $402.

You also need edging material to cover the perimeter of the trench. Our research shows that standard garden bed edging costs $20 to $30 per 40-foot roll—or $100 to $200 for the length of the 200-foot trench. Not including tools, your total cost to install a DIY landscaping drip edge will be $234 to $602. Expect to pay $30 to $90 per hour in labor if you hire a landscaping crew for professional installation.


French Drain

Also called ground gutters, French Drains are similar to drip paths but look better, recycle water, and can expand to the entire yard. They resemble a trench filled with gravel. Underneath the trench is a perforated pipe that funnels water into a designated area.

French drains are thinner and more elegant than drip paths. They also serve complex functions, such as water recycling by connecting to irrigation lines or underground water storage systems. Unlike drip edges, French drains are not DIY installed, requiring the aid of a landscaping company.

Pros and Cons of a French Drain

Pros

  • Possess an elegant, high-end look
  • Allows for the collection and reuse of water
  • Protects both the home and nearby turf

Cons

  • Is prone to overflow in heavy downpours
  • Can be expensive

French Drain Cost

You can expect to pay between $10 to $50 per linear foot for an exterior French drain. Let’s say you need at least 200 square feet for your home and an additional 200 feet to drain into a nearby deposit area. Your total costs will range from $4,000 to $20,000.


Rain Chain

Rain chains, also known as kusari-doi, are Japanese systems that can replace downspouts. These chains use surface tension to direct the flow of water away from the home into a drainage area. While these chains are functional on their own, they are more effective when paired with additional systems such as French drains, standard gutters, or rain barrels.

Multiple rain chain types are available, but cup and link styles are the most common. Link-style chains are the baseline model and connect your roof system to drainage areas. Cup-style rain chains have a series of metal cups attached to the chain sections, allowing them to collect and funnel more water.

Pros and Cons of a Rain Chain

Pros

  • Creates a beautiful cascading effect when water funnels through
  • Is low-maintenance and easy to install
  • Allows water to funnel into storage or drainage system

Cons

  • Can functionally replace downspouts but does little to protect fascia and soffits
  • Can make cleaning, weed-eating, and other home maintenance more difficult

Rain Chain Cost

An individual rain chain can cost anywhere from $10 to more than $100, but our research indicates most cost around $65. You’ll need one rain chain for every 20 to 30 feet of roofline (or guttering) on your home.


Yard Grading

Yard grading is the process of adjusting the slope of your yard to drain water away from the home. Adjusting the incline of your yard allows water to flow evenly away from your foundation, which prevents erosion. Yard grading helps with other landscaping problems, such as soggy lawns, puddles, root rot, and uneven turf.

While yard grading can benefit your foundation and surrounding terrain, it doesn’t protect the upper parts of your home from water damage. Yard grading can help prevent future lawn problems but is most effective when paired with an existing gutter or drain system.

Pros and Cons of Yard Grading

Pros

  • Directs water away from your home’s foundation
  • Helps prevent soil erosion, root rot, and other problems
  • Creates a more curated, picturesque lawn

Cons

  • Doesn’t protect fascia and other upper home structures from water damage
  • Can destroy gardens and other landscaping features if poorly graded

Yard Grading Cost

Yard grading is a major undertaking that requires permits, heavy equipment, and professional crews. The cost of grading varies based on factors such as yard size, slope, soil composition, and local labor rates. On average, however, you can expect to pay between $400 and $6,000 for lawn grading.


Nontraditional Gutter Systems

Most U.S. homes use K-style or half-round gutters. Less common options are also available. Box gutters, also called hidden gutters or built-in gutters, are standard in industrial buildings but not commonly seen on homes. When installed on a house, these gutters are built within or under its overhang, making them nearly invisible.

Box gutters are efficient drainage systems but have several drawbacks. They are typically wider and deeper than traditional residential gutters, so they can handle more water flow. However, because they’re built directly into your home’s overhang, they can be prone to clogs and are difficult to clean. We recommend pairing box gutters with gutter guards.

Pros and Cons of a Nontraditional Gutter System

Pros

  • Is completely hidden, unlike traditional gutters
  • Funnels, drains, and redirects water from the home to a drainage area
  • Features a wide, deep system that can handle large amounts of water

Cons

  • Can easily become clogged with debris
  • Can be difficult to find a residential installer

Nontraditional Gutter System Cost

Box gutters are more expensive than other styles, as they’re thicker and more difficult to install. Installing box gutters costs between $20 and $50 per linear foot, including labor and materials. Expect to pay more for high-quality, corrosion-resistant materials such as galvanized steel.


Do These Gutter Alternatives Work?

After researching each system’s benefits, drawbacks, and qualities, we’ve concluded that most of these alternatives cannot replace gutters outright. When they can, they aren’t as effective as traditional gutters. Most of these gutter alternatives redirect water flow away from the home in some fashion, but few offer complete protection to your home’s systems.

While not viable as full replacements, these systems offer many benefits when combined with standard gutters. Lawn grading, for example, can help your lawn filter heavy rainfall. Rain chains can replace downspouts while adding a stylistic flair to your home.


Our Recommendation

After analyzing rain gutter alternatives, we recommend traditional gutter systems for most homeowners. While these alternatives may be effective in dry climates, most cannot withstand heavy rains. Only nontraditional gutters offer the full protection of standard home drainage systems.

Nontraditional gutters require regular cleanings and may suffer the occasional blockage. While twice-yearly cleanings are ideal for good gutter maintenance, you can simplify this job with top-recommended gutter guards.


Gutter Alternatives FAQ

How do I divert water away from my house without gutters?

You can divert water away from your home without gutters using a French drain, drip edge, or yard grading. While these techniques keep water away from the foundation, they donu0026#8217;t protect other important home structures and are most effective when paired with a gutter system.

What are the benefits of not having gutters?

Gutter systems can be unsightly, require continuous upkeep, and become clogged, leading to ice dams and overflows. However, choosing not to install a gutter system to avoid these problems will result in significant issues arising later, such as water damage.

What is the best way to protect against rainwater?

A clean, well-maintained gutter system is the best way to protect against rainwater. If you live in an area with heavy rainfall, combining your gutter with some of the options on this list can improve their performance.

What is the cost of installing gutters?

On average, you can expect to pay between $200 to $8,000 to install a gutter system.


How We Chose the Top Gutter Guard Providers

We researched and analyzed dozens of gutter guards and gutter guard companies to create an in-depth review methodology. We formulated a rating system based on the factors homeowners find most important. We evaluated each provider’s gutter guard design and aesthetics, service offerings, customer service and communication, quote process, warranties, and financing options. 

We created a separate rating system for DIY-installed gutter guards sold on retailer sites. We evaluated these guards based on their quality of materials, aesthetics, communication, warranty, customer reviews, and cost.

We evaluated each provider’s reputation using independent, third-party sites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Google My Business pages. For products, we analyzed the customer reviews on whichever online retailer primarily hosts the product.