DIY Gutters and Downspouts
Guttering is an often overlooked, but very essential building product. Degraded or missing guttering can cause serious damage to landscaping, allow rainwater to get into basements and crawlspaces, and ruin fascia boards and siding. Guttering repair and/or installation is fairly easy, however, it usually requires ladder work, which many folks just don’t like. Ladder work can be dangerous if you don’t work carefully and safely.
Guttering is available in several materials, types and sizes. Aluminum is the most common gutter material and aluminum gutters are available in continuous or seamless designs, or in sections that are joined together. Aluminum seamless guttering is commonly installed by dealers, using a machine to extrude the guttering on the jobsite. For example, Classic Gutter Co. (www.classicgutter.com) has specialized in seamless aluminum gutters for 21 years, offering more than 20 available colors.
Sectional gutters, available at building supply dealers and stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot, are 10-feet in length. Longer lengths are available for custom orders, but will need some means of transporting them to the jobsite. Aluminum sectional guttering can be installed by do-it-yourselfers.
Vinyl guttering has become increasingly popular because it will not rust, chip, dent, crush or leak. There is no need to paint—brown and white are the most commonly available colors in both aluminum and vinyl guttering. Vinyl guttering is also available in 10-foot sections and installation is an easy homeowner chore. Rain Master or TuffFlo vinyl guttering systems, from Euramax Canada, Inc. are UV protected and guaranteed not to crack, peel or corrode. This system also utilizes vinyl joiners, end caps, corners, drops and other fittings with patented seals that eliminate the need for caulking and sealants.
Copper and galvanized metal guttering are also available and are high-end products, typically contractor installed. Berger Building Products is our sister company that has a plethora of copper gutter products that are contractor installed.
The Rainhandler (www.rainhandler.com) gutters feature a unique, patented louver design that allows leaves and debris to wash away. The Rainhandler self-cleaning system eliminates clogged, overflowing gutters and downspouts. Also, there are no more destructive ice dams. Rain runoff is converted to a 2- to 3-foot wide band of soft, rain-sized droplets that sprinkle the landscape.
Click below to play Gutter Repair video:
The most common problem with gutters is keeping them clean and free of roof debris, such as asphalt shingle particles, and of course leaves. A number of products are available that can keep large items, such as leaves, from the guttering. These include Leaf Guard (www.leafguard.com) and Gutter Helmet products (www.gutterhelmetatlanta.com).
The second most common problem is a loose gutter, caused by the gutter hangers or nails working loose from the fascia board. This repair can be simple or hard. If gutter nails were used, substituting hangers can alleviate the problem. In many instances, however, the fascia may be rotted, causing the gutter nails or hangers to be loose. In this case the guttering must be removed, and new fascia installed, then the guttering reinstalled.
The third most common problem is leaking around the joints of sectional guttering and/or downspouts. This is caused by poorly fitted connections. Reconnect if possible, then caulk with a good grade of silicone caulk in an appropriate color to match the guttering.
The last but not least common problem is loosened or disconnected downspouts. This again is caused by poor connections. Refit the connections and fasten together with rivets. Again, caulking may also be required to seal the connection.
Guttering installation is a fairly straightforward chore requiring only a handful of tools. You’ll need a hacksaw or handsaw and miter box for cutting the pieces, a hammer for hanger installation, measuring tape, small square, portable drill/driver with bits and drivers, safety glasses and a chalk line. And, of course, you’ll need a ladder—probably two ladders and a helper for most installations.
The first step is to examine the fascia to make sure it is sound and will support the guttering. Then measure the roof line to determine the guttering needed. Make a sketch of your roof line with the measurements marked on it. In most instances you’ll need a minimum of one downspout for every 10 feet. More downspouts increase the capacity of the guttering to drain away water, so more is usually better. It’s important, however, to locate downspouts so they effectively drain water away from the foundation and landscaping. Corners and changes in roof lines are common downspout locations. Also determine the placement of hangers, nails or hooks. In snow-belt areas, or with a metal roof, you’ll need hangers or hooks spaced no further than 18 inches apart. Other areas can get by with hanger straps or hooks installed every 24 to 32 inches. The anchoring nails or screws must go through the fascia and into the rafter ends for a solid installation. Determine the amount of guttering, downspouts, end drops, elbows, connectors, corners, joiners and hangers, nails or hooks needed by using the sketch of your roof outline.
Repair and repaint the fascia boards, if needed. Drive a nail at the high end of the guttering location 1/2 inch down from the top of the fascia board. For every 10 feet of guttering, drop the measurement 1/8 inch and then snap a chalk-line guide.
The easiest method of assembling the gutter, with joints, end caps, drops and so forth, is on the ground. Measure the lengths needed and cut. A miter box and fine-toothed saw is used to cut vinyl guttering to the lengths needed. A hacksaw and miter box, or metal cut-off saw can be used for metal guttering. Always wear safety-glasses and leather gloves when cutting and handling metal guttering. Vinyl guttering does not produce sharp edges, but you should still wear safety-glasses.
The Rain Master vinyl system utilizes either hidden or exterior exposed hooks that make installation easy. The hidden hooks are installed on the guttering during assembly and then the hidden hook holders are fastened in place, following the chalk line. Exterior hooks are fastened directly to the fascia again following the chalk line. In either case, the assembled guttering section is then raised up and snapped in place. The Rain Master joiner is then screwed directly to the fascia. These steps are repeated for each section of guttering.
Installation of the downspouts begins by attaching an elbow to the drop outlet. Either self-tapping, rust-resistant metal screws or rivets may be used, depending on the guttering material. Position the opposite elbow against the building wall so both openings are in line and measure between the two. Add the appropriate distance for fitting the downspout length into the connectors, and cut the downspout piece to the correct length. Assemble this section, again with self-tapping screws or rivets. The bottom of the downspout should be approximately 6 inches above the ground. Cut the downspout to this length, or join pieces if the overall height is longer than 10 feet.
Install an elbow at the bottom of the downspout and then install an extension to the bottom elbow. Diverters may also be added to allow the extension to be swung out of the way for yard work. Slide the downspout up into the bottom end of the drop outlet elbow and anchor the downspout in place with clips or downspout fasteners, solidly anchored to the wall. Fasten the upper end of the downspout to the outlet elbow with screws or rivets. Add splash blocks as needed.
Don’t be afraid to tackle your guttering projects, it may be easier than you think.