When you think about gutters, the horizontal troughs that carry the water are only part of the equation. Those pieces need to drain somewhere, and that’s where downspouts come into play. The downspouts intersect with the horizontal sections of gutter, allowing gravity to push water toward the ground. Strategically placed downspouts relieve the pressure from gutter sections and direct water away from the foundation of the building.
But all downspouts aren’t created equal. They vary in size, material and shape. If you’re installing gutters on your home, you might consider whether to go with round downspouts or rectangular ones.
The History of Round Downspouts
Water is a valuable resource, but humans have always had to adapt to its power and flow. Ancient civilizations connected drains for their waste systems using gutters. Water was collected in cisterns via a series of pipes. The Romans began the practice of grading roadways so that water and debris drained into adjacent gutters.
But downspouts hadn’t been invented yet. After the Norman invasion, gutters terminated in gargoyles, which projected the water away from the building. The first downspout constructed in Britain was installed on the Tower of London to protect its façade.
Lead gutters were used to divert rainwater from roofs until the industrial revolution, when iron became more plentiful. Railways encouraged the transport of iron, allowing buildings in rural areas to be built to better specifications.
Toward the end of the Victorian era, most homes were constructed with cast iron gutters with round downspouts. This efficient system for moving water away from the home streamlined the profile of the roof. It also reduced moisture problems within the home, making the air healthier to breathe.
Cast iron downspouts began to be used on commercial buildings in the 13 American Colonies because they could divert water to underground drainage systems without risk of splatter or overflow. When metal rolling machines became popular in the early 1900s, manufacturers started producing half-round cast-iron gutters.
The History of Rectangular Downspouts.
Whereas gutters in Britain were commonly made of cast iron, those in the colonies were often made of wood. They typically consisted of two planks that were connected to form a V shape. These gutters were usually lined with metal to prevent leaks and direct the flow of water.
But half-round cast-iron gutters became popular in the U.S. in the 1900s too. This profile, which paired well with round downspouts, was commonly used on homes built through the 1960s. Once aluminum became readily available, however, it became the material of choice for modern homes.
Now, aluminum is the most popular gutter and downspout material. Those in the industry refer to the rectangular shape as a K-style because of its K-shaped profile. Standard aluminum gutters are corrugated, and they’re usually paired with corrugated aluminum downspouts with a rectangular profile.
How Are Round Downspouts Used Today?
Standard construction doesn’t rely on round downspouts in most areas. However, if you’re choosing between round downspouts vs rectangular, your decision might be based on your home’s architectural style.
Retro and vintage homes often utilize round downspouts to make the building’s exterior look authentic. You might choose round downspouts vs rectangular ones if you want to add antique charm to the home. They complement European architectural details, such as terracotta tile roofs and Victorian trim.
But round downspouts aren’t reserved for houses that want to preserve their vintage appeal. Their sleek design makes them excellent choices for large, upscale homes with distinct architectural elements.
How Are Rectangular Downspouts Used Today?
Although round downspouts can make beautiful statement, rectangular ones don’t look terrible. They’re not very obtrusive. In fact, they come in so many materials, colors and styles that you can customize the appearance of your home by getting to know all your options.
You might prefer the look of K-style or other rectangular gutters. For example, fascia gutters are popular in new builds because they have a hidden profile and can be constructed along with the home. You can also paint new downspouts to match your standard rectangular gutters.
With the right treatment, rectangular gutters do their job without making a fuss. They often blend in with the shape of the home and require minimal upkeep. Most roofers are experienced with installing standard gutters and downspouts and can give you a free quote.
Can You Combine K-Style Gutters With Round Downspouts?
In some cases, half-round gutters won’t work for your property. Standard leaf guards are designed for K-style gutters. Steep roofs require larger gutters, and K-style troughs accommodate a higher volume of water than half-round profiles.
But if you don’t like the look of a corrugated downspout, it’s possible to attach round downspouts to K-style gutters. This provides a cleaner appearance.
However, it’s essential to ensure that the round downspout will transfer the correct volume of water for the size of the gutter. If it’s too small, it can get clogged easily. Moreover, water will overshoot the downspout, increasing the risk of damage to your landscaping and foundation.
A round downspout should be an inch larger in diameter than an appropriately sized rectangular downspout. Depending on the shape of the opening in the K-style gutter, you may need a square-to-round downspout adapter.
Sometimes, round downspouts have tighter turns than rectangular ones. These can trap debris and restrict water flow. That’s why it’s especially important to size them correctly and have your gutters cleaned regularly.
If your roof channels most of the rainwater to the rear of the house, you can consider using K-style gutters and rectangular downspouts on that side of the building. It won’t affect the curb appeal from the road. Plus, it can save you money and divert rainwater more efficiently. You can find many homes with round downspouts on the front of the house and rectangular ones facing the backyard.
Installing Round Downspouts vs Rectangular Ones
Round downspouts are usually more complicated to install than rectangular ones. They aren’t as readily available, which means that you might have to wait longer to have them installed.
The installation process also takes longer because it requires special hardware to attach the downspouts to the gutters and home. Decorative brackets pull the look together but add to the expense. Furthermore, you’ll pay more for labor costs when installing round downspouts vs rectangular ones. These factors make K-style gutters seem more convenient.
You should also consult with a professional roofer to find out if round downspouts are right for your home. Even if you prefer the way that they look to rectangular downspouts, they might not offer adequate protection in heavy storms.
This is particularly true if you pair round downspouts with half-round gutters. These gutters are heavier than standard K-style options. They aren’t always the best choice for snowy climates.
The wrong type of gutter and downspout can also lead to pooling and other drainage issues. If moisture becomes trapped near the roofline, it could rot the eaves and contribute to mold growth. Avoid future problems by having the best gutters and downspouts installed from the start.
Functional gutters are more important than good-looking ones. However, you can have both. Let us know what you’re looking for so that we can help you choose the perfect gutters for your home.