do copper gutters turn green

Do Copper Gutters Turn Green? Debunking the Myths

Do copper gutters turn green? The answer is YES. But not only green; the copper gutters can turn into shades of blue, green, purple and dark shades of green and emerald. This article explains the answer to the question and inquires about the reasons behind the color change, how to avoid it, how to remove it when it happens, the lifespan of copper gutters and so on.

Copper is one of the first metals used by humans, which goes as far back as 5100 BC (roughly 7000-8000 years ago). This is one of the two metals which does not have a gray or silver color. Copper is the third most used metal in the world after iron and aluminum. Apart from the above facts, copper has many interesting facts though some might not have any connection to the gutters turning green.

  • A good electric & thermal conductor
  • Corrosion resistance
  • It can turn into many shapes
  • Tough
  • Anti-magnetic
  • Attractive color
  • Recyclable

Copper is used in making various appliances due to its attractive color, toughness, corrosion resistance, and durability (the oldest thing manufactured with copper is roughly 7,000 years old). When it comes to the gutters same reasons are being taken into consideration

The reason for the gutters to be green is the copper oxide.

  1. Copper reacts with oxygen and form copper oxide.

4Cu + O2 → 2Cu2O [reddish/pink]

  1. The copper oxide continues reacting to oxygen.

2Cu2O + O2 → 4CuO [black]

  1. The copper oxide reacts with carbon dioxide and water to create a patina.

2CuO + CO2 + H2O → Cu2CO3(OH)2 [blue- green]

How Long Does It Take For Copper Gutters To Turn Green?

Some people do not like the blue-green color of copper oxide. It stops further corrosion of the metal by creating a coating so that the elements like oxygen, Carbon dioxide, water and other destructive elements like various sulfates will not reach the metal. The oxidization process will generally take 4-5 years. And there are ways to ease off or accelerate this process. Opening up the metal to the accelerated agents will start the oxidization. Oxidation can be done much more quickly by using chemicals (Acids) or things like vinegar, salt and baking soda.

Factors That Accelerate The Green Patina Formation On Copper Gutters

The main reason for the formation of green patina is the oxidization process. As discussed earlier, some agents in the environment, like Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, and water, will support the oxidization process naturally. And there are additives like ammonium chloride, copper sulfate, ammonium sulfate, etc. which are mostly added to the air due to environmental pollution. The saltiness in the air and the chemicals from vehicle exhaust will also expedite the oxidization process.

Is oxidization a bad thing? For some metals like iron, oxidization will do no good as it will continue until it is stopped by force. But for metals like copper, the oxidization gives added protection. Once the oxidization is done, the copper oxide acts as a layer of protection preventing the chemicals from further damaging the metal. The only disadvantage is the color change.

The only disadvantage of change of color in oxidization will be a primary concern when it comes to gutters, as the elegant look of the gutters and downpipes is more important, especially when one spends twice or more on the material compared to the alternatives and spends very much more on the labor as the copper work is not DIY friendly.

How To Remove Copper Gutter Oxidation?

Most of the time reasons for fixing copper gutters are the gold color, elegant look, and durability. Some homeowners may prefer the patina color, knowing there is protection against the corrosive agents with the oxide coating, while others will prefer the elegant golden look. There are ways to maintain a good look, and maintenance is not very often compared to other alternatives. The risks of cracks and holes are almost nonexistent, giving copper guttering another plus. There are some remedies for the color-changing issue, which is not an issue.

  • Using high-grade copper for the installation

High-grade copper is more durable and more antioxidant

  • Removing the oxide coating

There are chemicals to serve this purpose in hardware stores. And some mixtures can be done at home.

  • A mixture of Equal parts flour and salt with vinegar.
  • A mixture of one-part salt and two parts lemon juice.
  • A mixture of 1 tablespoon table salt with 1 cup white vinegar.
  • A mixture of lemon juice with baking soda

This mixture should be applied to the gutters with a soft cloth or brush.

  • antioxidant coating

Applying this will prevent future oxidation. And preserve the copper’s natural color.

How To Remove Copper Gutter Oxidation?

How Do You Keep Copper Gutters From Turning Green?

No matter what the gutters are made of, periodic maintenance is essential. As mentioned fixing copper gutters is very expensive compared to other materials. The homeowners use this because of its durability and elegant look. Within 4-5 years’ copper gutters will get discolored.

This discoloring process is called oxidization. Due to the Copper oxidization process, the green substance is called patina. This natural process happens when copper is in contact with oxygen, carbon dioxide and water. This process will accelerate when the air or water is polluted with chemicals. It is impossible to keep copper away from the said elements regarding gutters. The only logical step is to laminate the gutters to avoid the elements required for oxidization. There are antioxidant coatings for copper available in the market.

This antioxidant coating should be UV protectant and durable as the gutters are directly exposed to sunlight and other harsh conditions. The antioxidant coating does not make the guttering shine and get its original color. The coat works as a laminating so that the copper will not contact oxygen, carbon dioxide and water. The oxides and the patina should be entirely removed before applying this coat.

How Long Do Copper Gutters Last?

The value and lifespan of a gutter are comparative things. It depends on cost, lifestyle, commercial value it gives to the house, durability and, most importantly, the elegant look.

Copper gutter is the most durable and elegant gutter in the market as it is corrosion resistant, a good thermal conductor, Tough, can turn into many shapes, has an attractive natural color and is recyclable. Some companies guarantee copper gutters for over 100 years of use.

The National Association of Home Builders (USA) declares the lifespan of gutters on the type of materials they’re made with.

Material Expected Life (Years)
Copper 50+
Vinyl 25
Aluminum 20
Galvanized Steel 20

VIDEO CREDITS: Shawn Clemens YouTube Channel

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