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The Case Against Half Round Gutters

Half round gutters have become a go-to for many architects.  We get it - they “work” with a lot of different styles, and the adjustable brackets can be problem solvers for various roof pitches.  And some argue that all those visible brackets create a kind of rhythm.

Half rounds certainly have a long history.  Early gutters were simply split logs. Later they were fabricated from ceramic and metal, particularly copper.  They were/are widely used in Europe on masonry buildings that have little or no wood trim.  

Here in the US, many of our significant styles are derived from European examples of wood-frame buildings that used wood gutters, or metal formed to replicate wood moldings.  These gutters were an integral part of the exterior trim language, and created  a continuous line outlining the roof.

Most Victorian homes used some form of wood gutter, although occasional examples of half round gutters can be found on urban townhouses, or in climates not conducive to wood.  A wide range of details were used to integrate gutters into the design.

Often, the gutter was hidden, built into the roof frame. 

Most typical was the wood gutter with an Ogee profile that looks and acts like a cornice molding.  This shape was carefully designed to be able to miter and return either up the rake on gables, or horizontally on hip roofs. 

Half round gutters fall short when it comes to integration into the overall trim.  Because of their shape, they stand apart from the building, rather than embed into it.  Most importantly, they cannot return up the rake. This gutter-rake miter is emblematic of classical design:

Separating the rake molding from the eave molding (gutter) destroys this detail:

In the above photos, the eave molding, which should be the defining edge of the roof, is obscured by the half round. 


For these classical gable-end cornice returns, our OG profiles paired with our rake molding enables an exact reproduction of the original Greek detail.  


The Half Round on Shingle Style

Half rounds are also widely used on Shingle Style homes, but again present problems. These homes feature swooping roofs with generous eaves that taper to a fine edge. The half round gutter, hanging off the fascia, complicates this elegant detail. On gable ends, the blunt half round end cap presents as a stand-alone, non-integrated element.

It can be difficult to locate all the necessary downspouts without compromising the design. Because Shingle Style often features generous eaves, the downspout gooseneck becomes a dominant feature.  While they are artfully placed in the example to the right, this is not always the case.  


Back to the Future: A Modern, Built-in Gutter

For Shingle Style, our cutting-edge Wedge profile retains the aesthetic advantage of a traditional built-in gutter and maintains the thin fascia line. The Wedge can drain out the back, rather than the bottom, allowing the gooseneck to be concealed in the soffit.  


 It is simple to build, maintenance free, and the extruded aluminum provides a straight, crisp, thin edge impossible to achieve in wood.

The Wedge, like all Duragutter profiles, has a groove in the top back for flashing to lock in. This creates a completely sealed system from the gutter onto the roof, which is particularly effective against wind-driven rain common in coastal environments. The Wedge profile also has integral slots to snap in our custom leaf guard without using hundreds of screws as is typical with standard leaf guards. 

Above: The Wedge profile achieves a thin fascia and eliminates downspout goosenecks.

At Duragutter, we are often asked if we can make a half round gutter. We could, but we don't, because we feel there is (almost) always a better solution. We obsessively study every traditional and modern roof condition to design perfectly integrated gutters.

The next time you're about to specify a half round, consider whether one of the seven Duragutter profiles will better serve your design intent.

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