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Return Gutter aka: Corner Gutter Sections

left side gutter return

What is a Return Gutter?

A simple way to think of a return gutter is as a corner gutter section, or technically a gutter return. Often enough architects will design houses that have multiple roof sections coming together to one area. The problem is when this seam leads down to a little 1 or 2 foot gutter that isn’t able to properly catch all of the water. Especially during heavy rains. The positioning puts the gutter half way under the corner no matter which side the gutter is on. The water will go straight over the gutter in most situations. Our solution is to install a return section or gutter return. It is basically a small gutter extension around a corner designed to catch as much water as possible.

gutter return
A small gutter return was needed for this tricky roofing situation.

To make the gutter to go around the corner properly another section of gutter and a miter are needed. (A miter is the corner sleeve that covers the gaps created by the seam of the two gutters.) Basically the two gutter pieces are installed to form a 90 degree corner and the miter covers the corner seam. This configuration allows for as much water to be captured as possible compared to just a single gutter on either side. And especially when a gutter return is combined with a splash guard.

Pros:

  • Water Collection
  • Splash Resistance
  • Efficiency

Cons:

  • Aesthetics

Splash Guards and Return Gutters

You may notice in just about every gutter return photo we have, that you see a splash guard also installed to the gutter. That’s because a return gutter is necessary to install a splash guard to a corner. It’s simple, if there is no gutter on the corner you can’t install a splash guard there. Furthermore, most returns are needed for the sole purpose of installing a splash guard to the corner. Basically for the splash guard to go around the corner the gutter also has to go around the corner.

gutter splash guard
This corner required a return gutter, a splash guard, and we even had to extend the upper level downspout into the lower.

In the two photos below you will see a great examples of the most common need for returns and splash guards. And that is garage corners and even more commonly on garage corners that bump out. Home designers expect a whole lot out of the very small gutters they suggest on garage corners. They almost never work out as intended and require splash guards at least. If the splash guards don’t work then the next step is a return gutter with a splash guard.

left side gutter return
Front Left Corner Gutter aka Return Gutter with Splash Guard
right side gutter return
Front Right Corner Gutter aka Return Gutter with Splash Guard
Whoever designed this roof was not thinking of the water splashing. Luckily with a gutter return and a splash guard , we were able to save their lawn from water erosion.

Keep in mind returns can be needed on any corner of the home and are not exclusive to garages. Garages are just the most common area. More people probably notice the water spilling over because the actually have to go near there. Whereas if it was on the rear of the home you may never notice the overflow because you are never out there when it is raining.

Gable Gutter

This townhome has a gutter return on the front left corner and a long gable gutter on the front right half of the home. The gable gutter stretches across two gable sections on this one.

A gable gutter is just a more specified term for return gutter that goes under gables. In the photo below you see two gutters below what is called a gable. In the gutter world, a gable means there is no shingles or roof to collect water from. Therefore not much water goes to these sections. Sometimes a single gutter will stretch the whole way across a gable instead of two returns like pictured below.

A gable section with two gutter returns or gable gutters.

Leaking from Return Gutter or Gable Gutter

Anytime you have a leaking coming from the end of a gutter it is a direct indication of a gutter pitch issues. Gutters are all sloped or pitched towards the downspout. That way all of the water flows in the correct direction. If you see water coming out of the end of a gutter like in the photo below, that means the water is moving in the wrong direction.

The same rules apply for return gutters or gable gutters. If you see water coming out of the end of the return gutter like this, then it is likely pitched in the wrong direction. CLICK HERE for more information regarding gutter pitch.

leaking gutter return
Water leaking from the end cap of a return gutter under a gable.

Leaf Protection on Gutter Returns

Often times the small garage gutters are the only gutters on that part of the home. Therefore it is also the only place for debris to go. The more debris then the more chances of clogs in this area. The normal solution to that is to add gutter covers to this area. But what about to corner gutter sections or return gutters?

Perforated Aluminum Gutter Covers with a Corner Splash Guard installed to a return gutter section.

The answer is yes, you can install gutter covers to the small sections. We suggest perforated aluminum gutter covers for all leaf protection needs. That is because they allow a decent amount of water into gutter system. Whereas many other types of gutter covers deflect the water onto the ground. Types of leaf protection such as gutter helmets or leaf filter are terrible to use in these situations because the water will go over the gutter instead of in. For more information about the different styles of gutter covers CLICK HERE.

Miter Leaks

All return gutter sections require a miter to connect the sections around the corner. The miter is essentially a corner. If you’re return gutter section is leaking from the corner then you may be experiencing a leaking miter. CLICK HERE for more information on Miter Leaks.

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My Gutter Pro

93 Monocacy Blvd. A-6

Frederick, MD 21701

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  1. You have shared a wonderful blog for guttering services. It gives us best support to arrange our guttering work. I am very glad to find this kind of informative blog. Thanks for your wonderful effort.

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