6 Alternatives to Roof Gutters: Cheap & DIY Options

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

Gutters are the most commonly used system to divert rain away from your home. They are inexpensive, can be installed quickly by professionals, and exceedingly effective. Gutters not only collect and channel water, but they also keep your home free of mud-spatter and help to prevent any water damage from occurring near your foundation.

Despite the advantages, you may desire an alternative to gutters because they can often be a bit cumbersome. Gutters will frequently require a lot of maintenance because they tend to get clogged up with leaves, abandoned bird nests, and harbor pests. It’s also common for them to break off and slip away from the edge of your roof.

In some climates, gutters may not even be necessary if there isn’t enough rainfall. You can certainly choose to forgo using any sort of gutter system if you live in a dry environment. However, regardless of your yearly rainfall, you should invest in some sort of drainage system to protect your home from damage.

Although most homes use gutters, thankfully they aren’t the only choice that exists. However, the question becomes: how do you divert rain without gutters? We’ll show you the top 6 alternatives to gutters that will do just the trick.

Top Roof Gutter Alternatives

1. Rain Chains

Rain chains are an attractive and efficient alternative to traditional rain gutters. Used for hundreds of years in Japan, rain chains visibly cascade rain water down cups or chains from the roof to the ground. Installing them on the outside of your home can transform your rain dispersal system into a beautiful water feature.


Rain chains are undoubtedly one of the most physically appealing ways to keep rain from destroying your home. They also come in varying styles and design options to accomplish whichever particular look you desire.

More specifically, some of the popular products include cups or bells. When the rain travels down the chain and into the cups or bells they act like a wind chime, creating a pleasing and relaxing sound. This feature is very desirable among many that are searching for rain gutter alternatives.

Aside from being aesthetically enjoyable, the chain is gently sloped away from your home and the water is deposited into a catch basin or pot. The system reduces the flow of the water so that it is less damaging when it splashes on the ground.


Like anything, there are some downsides to opting for rain chains as a downspout alternative instead of traditional gutters. In general, the system is rather heavy and can be challenging to mount. If installed incorrectly, you risk the likelihood of improper drainage leading to puddling on your property or flooding in your basement.

Rain chains are not capable of handling large volumes of water or downpours. They should be avoided in areas that are prone to heavy rain and frequent storms. In locations such as Florida, the rain chains will be immediately overwhelmed unless you direct the chain straight into a rain barrel.

In colder climates, ice can also be cause for concern if the chain system freezes. This increases the weight of the chain and can damage your roof. Additionally, large roofs require more chains to work properly and can end up being rather pricey.

2. Rainhandler Gutterless System

The Rainhandler gutterless system is a world class rain dispersal device invented by an aeronautical engineer from M.I.T. This product features a louver design that is installed on an angle in place of a conventional gutter. It converts the water back into raindrops and are then deflected away from your house.


The main benefit of the louver design dispersing water away from the exterior of your home, is the reduced chance of water damage to your walls or puddling in your basement. This system will help improve the look of your property by keeping debris and dirt off of the outside surface of your home. Additionally, it prevents erosion near your foundation and below the roof.

Rainhandler is self-cleaning and designed to stop leaves and any other debris from collecting. You will not have to worry about traditional gutter maintenance with this product. Any sort of natural rubbish that would normally be trapped in your gutter will easily be blown off of your roof.

This gutterless system can be effortlessly tailored and affixed to the outside of your house. It’s practically invisible and installation is quick and simple enough to do yourself.


Since the Rainhandler must be installed yourself, this can be a drawback for some people. Fortunately, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it by hand, you could hire a subcontractor to complete the job.

It’s essential that you consider the specific layout of your roof before installing this system. Some issues can often arise with fitting to metal and barrel tile roofs. Also, if the edge of your roof extends too far or doesn’t extend far enough, this can be a problem.

However, drip edge extenders, adapters and other recommended accessories can be purchased to properly mount the Rainhandler. Though they’re an additional cost, whatever your situation, you will not have trouble finding a solution.

3. Grading

Grading is a DIY process that involves sloping and shaping the earth surrounding your home to naturally guide water away from the property. This is typically done and works most efficiently with clay or any other compact material that doesn’t absorb water. Grading is a type of gutterless rain system that is typically used as a low budget option.


When grading is done properly, it can effectively ensure that water flows away from your home and prevents damage to your foundation. Instead of using traditional gutters or rain chains, grading can improve the appearance of your home without causing any distractions.

This type of gutterless option is best if you live in an area that does not have very much heavy rain. Even though it’s not a long-lasting solution like gutters are, it will, however, address the problem for a fraction of the cost.


Unfortunately, grading requires that you uproot a lot of landscaping around your home to create the proper slope. You’ll need to create the right angle that will consistently keep the water from diverting away. Also, water will accumulate in any indented spots in the grading causing a multitude of issues.

Grading is not an entirely low maintenance option. You will likely need to regrade the space around your home to make sure that the slope is still correct and water is still be redirected. This can be costly and inconvenient.

4. Drip Edge

A drip edge is a metal device that is placed at the edge of your roof to control the flow of rain water. It moves water away from the fascia, prevents rotting and stops any water from running down the side of your home. This particular rain gutter alternative can be used in conjunction with a gutter but it works just as well on its own.


Aside from being an effective rain diversion device, a drip edge provides extra support for your shingles, reducing the amount of water that gets trapped under them. Also, they help to seal any openings that critters and pests may use in order to gain access to your attic.

If you live in colder areas, this method is a great option because you won’t have to worry about ice dams forming on your roof. Furthermore, drip edges are a fairly inexpensive way to protect your home from damage caused by rain.


Though it’s still possible, after your home is already built it can be more difficult to install drip edges. With this particular alternative it’s especially important that they are installed correctly to receive the full benefits.

If installed improperly, water will not be able to flow correctly and will cause pooling below the drip edge. This can cause significant damage to your property.

5. French Drain

A French drain is a type of ground gutter that redirects groundwater and surface water away from your home. The water runs into a gravel-filled trench and then collects into a perforated pipe at the bottom. French drains serve as a simple passage for water to flow freely and empty a safe distance away from your property.


Quite possibly the greatest advantage of this gutter alternative is the fact that it will not change the appearance of your home. It can be installed and hidden easily so that nobody will even know it exists.

The use of French drains can also help you get more use out of your lawn. If it’s normally too moist, installing this system will make it perfect for children’s play areas and gardening.

French drains do an exceptional job of preventing water damage by protecting your siding and foundation. Also, freezing is seldom a problem with this system. When assembled correctly by a professional, these in ground gutters will require little to no maintenance and be long-lasting.


Installing a French drain can be an expensive endeavor. They require quite a bit of material and it’s not recommended that you install them yourself. Digging the trench is very complicated and laborious; this fact is often why most people decide to hire a professional.

If these ground gutters are not constructed properly they can cause quite a few problems. Most notably, they will be visibly obvious and won’t add any aesthetics to your property. Also, if there isn’t enough drainage in the system, water will gather at the base of your home and could cause extensive damage.

6. Built-in Gutters (DIY Option)

Built-in gutters, sometimes referred to as “box gutters,” are part of the architectural configuration of the home. They date all the way back to the Roman empire and have been used in the construction of homes through the 1940’s.

Although they’re not used as frequently nowadays, they can enhance the natural design of a house. These types of gutters are very often seen if you own an old or historical home.


Despite being seen less often, built-in gutters are perfect for homeowners that want a more concealed option but still want the benefits of a traditional gutter system. They’re an almost entirely hidden way to direct water away from your room.

As far as maintenance goes, they do not require as much as conventional gutters do. They can also withstand strong storms and handle heavy rainfall.

Built-in gutters are also incredibly versatile. They can be adapted to the home depending on the amount of rainfall in your particular region. Additionally, since they can be tailored and designed accordingly, they won’t diminish the historical or architectural intent of your home.


Since built-in gutters are typically made from metal, they will contract and expand based on the weather. This can cause breakage in the joints of the gutters and will result in water damage.

Due to their concealed nature, homeowners often forget about the general upkeep that they require. Although they don’t need as much maintenance as regular gutters, they still should be cleaned out regularly and checked for any issues. Over time, if left unchecked, leaks, blockages and corrosion are likely to occur.

Box gutters are not a cost-effective choice for rain dispersal. They will typically take a lot of materials and labor to be constructed. Since they are usually part of the initial construction of a home, they cannot be easily installed after the fact. It’s also important that these be installed by an expert.

Wrapping It Up

Though traditional gutters may seem like the best and most common choice for rain dispersal, they aren’t the only option. Whether you’re looking for something that is low maintenance, long-lasting, easily concealable or aesthetically pleasing, there are plenty of alternative products on the market.

Whichever system you ultimately decide to go with, experts insist that a properly fitted gutter is essential for long term protection of your home’s foundation. Water damage is a serious problem and can cause even more issues in the long run. Therefore, unless you live in an arid climate, any sort of rain gutter is highly encouraged.

Is your gutter system not the problem? If you’re currently having issues with run off from your neighbor’s yard, check out this article.

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

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