Integrated Gutter


Hi everyone,

I am having a question since a while about integrated gutter, which seems to be the new trend.

I was wondering, don't you think it can be risky to have this system in a super cold climate like canada which is reaching some -40 in the winter. The idea of having water that passes inside my roof and not getting push aways from it is a principle I am not sure about. If there is a little link, the problems will be catastrophic won't it?

I am curious to have your ideas about it!

Jul 16, 19 11:35 am
Non Sequitur

You can do concealed gutters in colder climates (like Canada) but you risk creating ice damns and serious water migration problems if you don't provide heat-tracing.  There is a good reason why northern building techniques evolved to use steep pitches and overhangs because snow is/can be a bitch.  Buildings that hide eaves often just run a roofing membrane from wall to roof peak and treat it was one large drainage plane.  This way, no funneling of water into easily freezable gutters.

Also worth noting that the thermal bridge and heat loss in both of your options will ruin your design as soon as winter hits.

Jul 16, 19 11:41 am

Gutters are bad design. Internal gutters are worse.

Jul 16, 19 11:51 am
Non Sequitur

interior gutters are even worse than that. my undergrad arch school had them...


You've said before that gutters are bad design. I'm going to disagree. Heavy rain can destroy ground surface materials running off of a roof. Bad design is not considering the climactic conditions of the exact location you're working, and all other factors, and just applying a one-size-fits-all approach.

A one-size-fits-all approach like gutters.

t a z

snow fence (or upstands) to retain snow on roof (and out of gutter) + heat tracing in the gutter to keep it clear of ice accumulation.

downspout in the wall cavity will need an accessible clean out.

part of the gutter will need to be accessible to clean out trapped leaves and debris.


Jul 16, 19 12:08 pm

Option 1 is best... The gutter will leak.  That is simply a fact.  There are so many ways for it to fail including just failing to regularly maintain it that you should never assume it wouldn't have a problem. So make sure when it does, it doesn't get anywhere to materials that can't take exposure.

Jul 16, 19 12:13 pm

Your roof needs to be cold. Any heat that melts anything from the bottom up is going to be a problem.

Jul 16, 19 12:18 pm

Thanks for your replies guys,

this is exactly what I am debatting with some architects or designers but they dont care at all.. it is sad that some people will pay a lot of money for their houses and then have crazy complications within few years..

It makes me mad for real!

Jul 16, 19 12:47 pm
Non Sequitur

If you're debating this and the "architect" does not care... find better architects.


This is what I did and changed where I work. The question just stayed because a friend of mine who is working with me is currently building her house and she doesnt add gutter... we had the discussion about everything surrounding the importance of gutters now she does what she wants ^^

Non Sequitur

Where are you located in Canada? Plenty of places don't use gutters if there is a steep roof or heavy snow-falls. The weight of melting snow alone is enough to tear them from the eaves.


Those are the same architects that extend joists from the inside to outside for a balcony!


im in sherbrooke , quebec! even with the eaves I would prefer to have gutters to reduce the path of water and damaging the siddings. So many houses with decent eaves have damaged cladding or water traces on it because it lacks gutters!

Non Sequitur

Francis, that's more likely a result of bad design than lack of gutters. A good pitch and roof projection will work do the job without fastening gutters to the edge. You just need to be clever with the landscaping.

For example, here's a simple steel roof.  Bonus point if you recognize it because it's in your backyard. (Almost... it's near Sherbrooke anyways).


Yeah I saw this building often on Dwell, it looks amazing, I like the simplicity of it! the eaves are quite big but it fits perfectly to the design of this house! I love this house so bad. Pretty sure it was not that exepensive to build neither ! I am proud of this building!


If the client can afford interior gutters he can probably afford copper external gutters. 

Jul 16, 19 1:50 pm

If this is your house / building, tell the Architect you do not want this detail. If they resist, you can always part ways.

Jul 16, 19 2:02 pm

Nah, it was just a company where I did my internship doing ''different design'' and it was a designer who was making all the designs. the architect was approving it tho. It was my 2nd day at that place and I was questionning all their houses because it was always stuff like... or worst..


Here is a photo of copper gutters and a copper roof on a contemporary Colorado ski house. Looks pretty attractive to me and simple to maintain.

Jul 16, 19 2:52 pm

and necessary, if all the water from that snow were to melt and run directly into the ground, you'd be replacing the landscape every year, and/or getting frost heave on hard surfaces. Nice house, btw.

Non Sequitur

I don't do residential design so I don't know much about copper gutters but... are they sealed somehow or will they oxidize? Anyone got an aprox cost per ft?


I think you can get them both ways NS, but normally they'll oxidize and patena over time; no idea on cost and you want someone who's worked with it before. This is a good design also because they kept to a simple gable; nothing to get in the way and start damming.

atelier nobody

NS - They can be sealed or not; they can also be pre-patinated and then sealed if there's a particular shade of green you want to keep. I don't have numbers handy, but they are hands-down the most expensive gutters you can get (unless you want gold ones to go with your gold water closets and the rest of your tasteless building, of course). They will also outlast the building holding them up, barring mechanical damage.

Non Sequitur

Thanks for the info fellas.


...also, they make nice scrap when they outlast the building


Interesting infos! I freaking LOVE this house, nice work!


The house is by Zone 4 Architects in Aspen. I was searching for copper gutters after seeing them being installed in new classical high-end homes being built around Annapolis, Maryland. Never thought about them being appropriate for modern design but they seem to work fine here.

atelier nobody

"Never thought about them being appropriate for modern design"

Nicely weathered copper roof over beton brut is one of my favorite looks.


it is actually reallllly sexy I like it so bad!


speaking of mechanical damage, you know why they're round and don't have sharp bends?


No? tell me, I am really curious!


Also, I heard that copper is good to counter moss on the building, often created by moisture, close trees and humidity. Some people use copper cable on top of the roof , so when it rains, it creates a chemical action that remove that moss. Do you think it is a good thing to have copper roof , on buildings that are surrouded by a lot of trees and vegetations, so the roof creates a protection on the siding ?

Wood Guy

@francisbergeron, yes copper, and other metals that release ions when it rains, do a good job of keeping moss off a roof. You can buy zinc strips to run along the ridge. Sheet lead also works. You can buy asphalt shingles that include copper beads that will also resist algae and moss growth.

A full copper roof would be a very expensive approach to protect siding, and where there is a roof overhang it obviously wouldn't help. 


The best way we have found to do interior gutters is to use a continuous fluid applied polyurethane system. Those polymeric chains are much more resilient to temperature change and you can do multiple layers over your plywood gutter-box backing just to be double-sure. Option 2 though is asking for trouble with your gutter being over interior space. The problem would be in locations where the gutter would connect to the downspout in a drainage sump receptor. That is hard to flash and seal well even with polyeurethane. 

There are two problems with doing sheet metal in internal gutters:

1. You need it to slope at least 1/16" per 1' meaning the brake metal machine has to do a varying profile. That's fairly hard to do. 

2. You need expansion joints especially in that weather. This is the place most likely to leak. Check out SMACNA details for this if you're interested. 

Jul 17, 19 1:24 am

Thanks for your reply, I really like to see what other people do! I am not sure I will ever use that system but if a client really wants it and after all my advice keeps that de decision, I will comeback here and use your experience!

Then question is not whether it will fail. The question is when it will fail.

atelier nobody

And what other construction will be in harm's way when it does fail.

Wood Guy

I'm generally not a fan of integrated gutters, but the "not whether it will fail, but when it will fail" is not a great argument--the same can be said for roofing, windows, doors, mechanical systems of all types, etc.. Whatever system you choose should be easy to inspect and maintain so you can catch issues before they become a problem.

There is a difference between material durability and design conditions that exacerbate failure.


Disagreed Wood. Gutters tend to pond water for a variety of reasons and are functionally meant to collect water. One linear foot of gutter will see a ton more moisture than a sf of roofing. So, ANY puncture, split seam, etc. that occurs will result in a lot of water penetrating. All materials eventually fail, but some see more of mother nature than others, and some failures are seriously catastrophic in the resultant damages. Additionally, gutter guys workmanship... um.. they normally aren't called out unless gutters fall off the building... they don't normally care if they leak a little bit as long as most the water gets to the downspout. You need these gutters to be at least as good as the plumber's sewer lines. And... thermal expansion. A 30' run of copper gutter will expand about a 1/2". Gaps tend to open up and stress is placed at every joint when the fasteners fight this expansion and rack the profile (it's also something you should think about when detailing.. slotted, lapped systems, etc. to allow for movement). I measured surface temps on step flashing the other day over 230 degrees from solar gain... it also melts/bakes SAF btw. which is why we were taking those measurements....

Wood Guy

Ok, fair enough. Personally I try to use ground gutters whenever possible, especially here where snow and ice dams wreak havoc on conventional gutters. When I've done integral gutters it's usually been on decks or porches, and I've seen a lot of old houses where the original integral gutters were later roofed over.


we did epdm for internal gutters w/ a metal roof on our studio 

our strategy was like option 1 above with the gutter outside insulation envelope, and we didn't try to conceal the downspouts in the cladding...they just pop thru the soffits at the face of the wall

also, we are in a moderate climate where freezing is rare

biggest issue is leaf/needle cleanout, which seems to be a year round deal...

Jul 17, 19 1:18 pm

Exactly I dont think it is logical to use that system... Gutters are not that bad in a design I mean, I can deal with it. It is way more pleasing having gutters than all the problems coming from it..

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