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Who Invented Gutters?

(Hint: They’ve Been Around for a Long Time.)

There are many modern things that we take for granted because they’ve always been there.  Running water, for example. Electricity. Larry King.

Gutters are a convenience that falls into that category.  It’s something we don’t think about. Rain gutters are just there, doing their job to direct water away from homes, protecting roofs, siding, foundations, and lawns from the harmful effects of water runoff.     

The Ancient World

As early as 3000 BC, people knew there was a need to direct rainwater, refuse, and sewage away from their buildings, as evident from the clay brick drains that have been found by archaeologists in the Indus Valley in South Asia.  By 600 BC, the Romans were creating intricate road systems with drainage to keep them from flooding. These road systems were a major contributor to the success of the Roman Empire and they brought this technology all the way to Britain around 47 AD.


Gargoyles are usually associated with Gothic churches and cathedrals where they stand alert, looming over the people below, warding off evil spirits or perhaps serving as a reminder to the congregation that it’s safer inside the church than out.  Despite their dark reputation, they were designed as water spouts to prevent building damage with grooves that direct water off the roof and out through the mouths of the creatures, shooting it several feet away from the buildings. But the first gargoyles actually predate Christianity.  Gargoyles in the likeness of lions have been found in ancient Egyptian architecture and one of the oldest examples of gargoyles were the 102 lion-headed spouts that adorned the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (built 472-456 BC) in Greece. (Sadly, only 39 remain. The rest of the heavy water spouts snapped off throughout the years.)

Modern History

The 1700’s brought cast iron which was cheap and plentiful, so it was used in the construction of rain gutters.  Previously, lead had been used to line wooden gutters because the wood rotted over time but cast iron was strong enough to stand on its own and easier to work with so they could be mass-produced, leading to wide usage.

During the Industrial Revolution, as London became more and more populated, houses and buildings inevitably became closer and closer together which would cause them to remain damp, contributing to a myriad of ailments including bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia.  In the mid-1800’s a sewer system was designed that included iron gutters and downpipes that directed runoff into the sewers and out into the Thames, helping to make homes dryer and more sanitary.

By World War I, asbestos-cement gutters emerged, but their popularity was short-lived due to their tendency to break easily.  The year 1913 brought the invention of PVC, or Polyvinyl chloride, which seemed to be tailor-made for use in drainage systems, and by the 1930’s, it was a staple in the rain gutter industry and remains one today.  Vinyl gutters are still made of PVC, and provide a lightweight and inexpensive solution for your gutters. While PVC gutters were gaining in popularity, a competition emerged. In the 1960’s, the seamless aluminum machine was invented that ushered in the development of aluminum gutters custom-built for any home or building, revolutionizing the gutter industry.  

Today’s Gutters

The gutters of today come in several different materials such as vinyl, aluminum, steel, or show-stopping copper, and the seamless varieties can be fabricated right on your front lawn during the installation process.  Whether you’re looking for gutters to meld to the character of your home or ones of a unique color to stand out, Gutterpros has the gutters to fit your budget. We install, repair, and maintain gutters throughout the greater St. Louis area.  Our skilled technicians are dedicated to providing high-quality work with superior customer service. We use only the best materials and do the job right the first time. Whether you need new gutters or just a good cleaning, call Gutterpros today at (314) 656-7195.