Seamless gutters or sectional drains: which should you choose?

If you live in a house or own the building you live or work in, you will need to consider how to drain rainwater from your roof. Even buildings in dry climates need to deal with this issue, although obviously it is a higher priority in regions with heavy rainfall. Your choices will essentially come down to seamless gutters or sectional drainage.

Seamless gutters, as the name suggests, do not have any joins where different parts of the network are connected. They are recommended by installers such as Gutter Guy, who works in a very wet area in Florida. Because there are no vulnerable spots where the drain is weakened this system is much less likely to result in leaks.

Sectional drains, on the other hand, are essentially brought to your house in pieces, then joined together to fit around your roof. This means there will be spots where they connect together that are vulnerable to breaking, especially if sticks or other debris are washed off your roof or there is heavy rainfall.

Seamless gutters

Seamless gutters are custom made to your roof, and in fact the installer will usually bring his machine and manufacture them on site. Because they are made for your roof you can be confident that they will fit tightly around your house and be as strong as possible. The drains that carry water and leaves away from your home will also be carefully placed to be as effective as possible.

This type of drainage solution will work for any home, no matter what size, and is even appropriate if you have multiple levels of roofing. Some multi-story homes will have less floor space on the upper levels than the lower, so that they have several rooves. Customised seamless gutters are ideal in this situation.

Sectional drains

Sectional drains are manufactured in a warehouse, then brought to you and cut down to size to fit your roof. They can be mass produced, which makes them significantly cheaper, and it is a lot easier to cut them to size and join them together than it is to create a whole seamless gutter.

The disadvantage, of course, is that sectional drains have inbuilt weak points at the joins. In heavy rainfall a leak or burst is more likely to happen in these places, especially if there is a build-up of leaves. The corners are also generally sharp turns, which narrow the width that the water and debris has to go through.

The joins in these corners are therefore particularly vulnerable to blockages and bursting, and if this happens you are likely to end up with water flooding the ground in the corners of your house, possibly leading to water damage in your walls or your foundations.

If your roof has any curves then it is even more likely that you will experience problems. Sectional drains are built along straight lines, so if they need to go around a curve you will inevitably end up with parts that do not connect to your roof.

Not only does this mean that in some areas water will be falling straight off the roof rather than being drained away, these sections are liable to collapse under heavy rainfall as there is less support than drains that are attached to the wall. Add in the necessity of having at least one join to bring the drain back to the roof and you have a very weak spot.

Sectional drainage
This sectional drainage system has broken at the joints. Photo: Antranias, Pixabay

Which is better?

When working out which system of drainage is better you need to look at your individual situation. Seamless gutters are a more secure and safe option, although they are also more expensive. If your area experiences heavy rainfall, though, they are probably worth the investment.

Note that I said heavy, not regular, rainfall. If all you ever get is a light drizzle then you can probably get away with sectional drainage, even the rain is near constant. It’s areas where the rain comes pouring down in heavy storms that need seamless gutters, as this is when your drains are under the most stress.

Ironically, this means that a house in Alice Springs, where it only rains once or twice a year but absolutely buckets when it does, needs heavier duty seamless gutters than a home in England, where the rain is more regular but a lot lighter!

So when it comes time to decide which drainage system is right for you, you will need to consider a few factors. First, in pure monetary terms sectional drainage is going to be the cheaper option. However, this option is a lot less durable and reliable than seamless gutters. If your home is not built to a standard four straight walls design you should also seriously consider the seamless gutters.

Christian Woods
Christian Woods
Christian is a morning reporter and technology columnist for Best in Australia. Christian has worked in the media since 2000, in a range of locations. He joined Best in Australia in 2018, and began working in Melbourne in 2019.
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