What To Use Instead Of Traditional Gutters? (9 alternatives)

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Gutters have been known as the usual drainage system in homes. But they usually pose many challenges as they many times do not completely shield the building from rainwater.

A good amount of rainwater may still find its way into the basement and foundation of the building. The maintenance and aesthetics of gutters can also be a problem. This then brings up the question, what to use instead of gutters?

There are several ways to drain rainwater without the use of traditional gutters. Rain chains, french drain, drip edge, grading drip path, rain dispersal systems, and many others are alternatives to the gutter.

Water drainage is a very important part of any house construction. Water seepage into the foundation or walls can pull down a house. But gutters as good as they seem come with high demand in maintenance.

They can get clogged or crack allowing water to see into the foundation. Read on to find out the 9 alternatives you can opt for instead of a gutter.

How do you divert rain without gutters?

Rainwater can be a source of worry. This is more of a concern in the regions that record high amounts of rainfall. Apart from the danger of it seeping into the foundation and basements. It can get into the walls through its splashing.

There are various options to choose from to divert rainwater without using gutters. Gutters have been for centuries and so are some of these alternatives. Though gutters have advantages, they can be a burden too, especially as they age. So how can rain be diverted without a gutter?

Rain chains are an alternative to gutters that have been around for centuries as well. They have been used in Asia for many years. They effectively convey rain away from the building without the use of gutters.

Another means of diverting rain without gutters is the use of french drains or ground gutters. This uses a trench filled with gravel and an underground pipe that conducts rainwater away from the house.

There are several other means of diverting rainwater in this article, keep reading.

What can you use instead of gutters?

Gutters have served as the primary means of draining rain and other water waste from the house. But they are not as effective as they seem in the long term. Gutters can get clogged with dirt and debris as time passes.

They can still allow water to seep into all the wrong places. But they also do not look that good. If you are particular about the aesthetics of your house, you should look at some of these alternatives to a gutter.

I have compiled 9 other ways rainwater can be drained without using a gutter. The next section of this article discusses these alternatives in good detail.

9 Alternatives to divert water from your roof without gutters

These alternatives are more attractive and easier to manage than the usual gutter.

Underground Rain Chain

Rain chains have been in use in Asia, especially Japan for many centuries. It is made up of a chain and a cup. The Japanese call them Kusari Doi. The rain chains collect the rain from the roof through the cups and pass them down to an underground reservoir.

The underground reservoir is usually barrels. This alternative to gutters is attractive and easy to manage. The cups reduce the intensity of the rain splashes and effectively conduct them away from the walls and other parts of the building.

Several cups and chains can be used at different points of the roof. The several chains can have a joint collection point that passes the water to the underground reservoir. The rainwater is completely conducted away from the building without causing damage.

The downside of this design includes the inability to handle large volumes of rain. It is best suited for places with low rainfall. It can also be heavy to carry chains and cups, especially when dealing with a big building that may require several units.

The weight may reduce the efficiency of installing them. If not properly installed, they will not collect rainwater well. This will make the whole essence lost.

Above Ground Rain Chain

This is the same in design as the underground rain chain mentioned above. The only difference is the collection mode. Here the rain is passed into a reservoir that is not underground. This allows the water to be recycled for other household use.

There are several designs of the rain chains. Some have cups and chains while some have bells instead of cups. Several other designs are mainly chains shaped in spheres without cups or bells. Depending on individuals’ preferences, choices can be made of these designs.

The rain chains are advantageous because they slow down the rainwater making it less destructive. They are quite easy to install and can come in different designs to add to the house’s beauty. The cups can be in different colors while the chain can also be golden or silver.

They can even get a repainting to give a new look to the house. Another advantage of the rain chain is the opportunity to collect rainwater for reuse. They are also affordable and easy to install in the house with the proper roof type.

French drains or Ground Gutter

The french drains consist of a trench that is filled with gravel. There is a draining pipe at the base of the gravel that conveys the rainwater away from the house. The rain falls directly into the gravel-filled trench.

This is why it is called a ground gutter. The rainwater is drained into a dry well or the main street drainage system. It offers a hidden drainage system that does not require cleaning. There is no obstructive look to the house like the usual gutter design.

The trench is dug in a V-shape and slopes away from the house to allow the water flow. The trench is covered by a water-proof material to ensure water does not seep into the building. Water is carried away by the pipes beneath the gravel layer.

Maintenance of the french drain is only to ensure nothing clogs the outlet where the water drains away. It offers an easy-to-manage drainage option. The gravel surface can be covered with plants making it more attractive.

The ground gutter can last many years when it is constructed in the proper way. Ensuring continuous protection of the building. But it can be expensive to construct. It requires a whole lot to dig the trench and to fill it with gravel.

Drip edges

These are metal strips that are attached to the edges of the roof to conduct water away. Drip edges are attached between the shingles and roof deck. They protect the shingles from water deposits and also the woods under the shingles.

Many people use the drip edges in combination with gutters. The drip edges are made to empty their water into a gutter that then conveys it away from the house. The major advantage of drip edges is that they direct the rainwater away from the walls and the shingles.

There is no splashing that can affect the wall with drip edges. It is very important to have a channel for the water to enter after being collected by the drip edges. The drip edges can just collect the water to pass it down to the foundation or walls if not well directed.

It is also hard to install drip edges after the building has been constructed. It is best installed along with the construction process not afterward. Upgrading a drainage system to include drip edges may not be easy if it is not planned from the start.

Because drip edges do not convey rainwater away from the building it is not totally an alternative to gutters. It has to be used as a means of conveying the water away. It can be used with a gutter or the water can be channeled into a barrel or reservoir.

Rain Dispersal Systems

The rain dispersal systems work to reduce the flowing rainwater into tiny droplets or rivulets. They are installed at the edges of the roof and disperses the rain as it falls off the roof. Rain dispersal systems are available at hardware stores.

They are shaped like louvers that are attached at specific angles. These louvers break the rainwater into smaller drops that fall some feet away from the building. This will protect the walls from the splashing of the rainwater on them.

Since they are installed just after the roof, rain dispersal systems protect the woods by the roof from water drops. It reduces the impact of falling rainwater. Erosion is reduced to the minimum with this system.

Debris like leaves are also dispersed away from the roof by the rain dispersers. It can be seen as a means of dispersing water on the plants around your house walls. The rain dispersal system sprinkles the rain on the plants rather than let it fall with heavy flows.

This alternative is not too efficient for areas with high rainfall rates. It is also important to plan a way for the water to leave the compound. Grading is a good option to combine with rain dispersal systems. Underground gutters are also a good consideration.

Drip Path

A drip path is a paved channel for rainwater that is placed directly under the roof edges. It is made of a sloped edge usually made with laying bricks or blocks in the soil. The drip path protects the soil from being eroded by the rain.

It collects the rainwater at an angle that protects the walls of the building from rain splashes. The hard surface also prevents the water from seeping into the soil. It protects the foundation and the walls by channeling the water away from the building.

When installed in the right way, the drip path does not disturb the landscape of the house. It may require an underground drainage system to help it efficiently convey the water away from the foundation and walls.

It is an affordable option to having a gutter. But the drip path must be installed correctly. The wrong slope will not take rain splashes away from the soil and without an underground drainage heavy rain can still get to the foundation.

Box Gutters

This is also called a built-in gutter or hidden gutter. They are made of valley-like troughs that collect the rainwater from the edges of the roof. They can work independently on their own without needing a supporting draining system.

They are more concealed than the regular gutter design. The trough conducts the rain away from the roof, walls and foundation of the building. It continues to empty the rainwater off to a central point away from the house.

It is well hidden and thus does not disrupt the look of the house like the normal gutters.

Box gutters are not prone to be clogged by sand, debris and wastes like the normal gutter. They are not cyclindrical in shape so not easily clogged. The issue with box gutters is corrosion because they are made of metal.

Due to the metal material, they are made of, box gutters are also prone to weather effects. Expansion and contractions happen over time and may cause the gutter to burst at seam and joint lines. This can lead to the rainwater leaking at these joints over time.

They are not easy to install in a building. Buil-in gutters are usually installed by professionals. It can also be pricey to have this type of drainage installed.

They are also hidden and so hard to know when maintenance is needed.


Grading employs the use of gradient and topographical planning to drain rainwater from a building. Houses built on a particular elevation can make it easy for water to drain due to the slope without settling around the walls or foundation.

This is a simple and easy drainage alternative. It can be a cheap means of getting rid of rainwater. But it cannot handle heavy rainfalls and frequent falls. It can work for houses in places with very rare rainfall within a year.

The slope must be level enough that it is devoid of any holes where water can settle in. The downside of this method aside from the inability to accommodate heavy rain is that it can be disruptive. There will be a need to keep maintaining the slope to keep the water drained.

Copper Gutters

Copper gutters are essentially not different from the usual aluminum gutter. But there is more advantages to copper gutters.

Copper is a non-corrosive metal and this means it will considerably last longer than the normal gutter.

They require less maintenance as it does not corrode. There is also no growth of moss, algae and fungi that may be responsible for clogging of the drainage.

The downside is the expensiveness of copper. It will require the nails and fasteners to be made of copper as well.

What is the best gutter alternative?

The best alternative out of all that I have mentioned is the french drains. If I can pick two as the best I would have also opted for the box gutters. The french drains can do well to handle rainfall regardless of the intensity.

Unlike normal gutters, french drains do not need any serious maintenance. The only challenge with the use could be the trench digging that may be laborious.

French drains offer a chance to conceal the drainage system as plants can be grown on the gravel covering.

The box gutter is also a great alternative to gutters. They easily convey the rain away from the building in a concealed channel. But it does not seem to fit all roof types and can be subjected to corrosion because of the metal it is made of.

What is the cheapest alternative to gutters?

The cheapest alternative to gutters is grading. Simply choosing a gradient that will allow rainwater to flow away from the house is seamless.

It does not require any special expertise other than creating a slope that makes water flow away.

As cheap as it is, it may not be able to handle heavy rains. It is also a method that exposes the soil to constant erosion and thus can be disruptive to the topography of the environment. It is a good choice in places with minimal annual rainfall.

Another cheap option is the drip path. They do not require an expert to install as well. It involves the use of blocks in the soil at an angle that keeps the rainwater from splashing in the wall. This method can be ineffective if not properly installed.


Getting rainwater drained off the building foundation and walls is very important. To achieve a good balance between this drainage need and aesthetics is possible. There are several alternatives to the conventional gutter, 9 of such have been highlighted here.

Most alternatives to gutter can be concealed to a good degree. This way, they do not obstruct the architectural design of the house. They even in many cases add to the beauty of the house. The rain chains for instance can come in various designs that add beauty.

One important factor to note when deciding on a drainage system is the volume of rainfall. Some alternatives can add to the house’s beauty but can not accommodate heavy rain volumes. There is no point in putting the cart before the horse.

The drainage success should come before the aesthetics. Consider the options well and see which one offers a good balance between the drainage need and aesthetics.