Gutters are often decorative, but their primary purpose is functional: rain gutters guide water away from your house, helping homeowners prevent water intrusion and erosion around their property’s foundation. If your gutters are sagging, leaking, or in generally poor condition, it’s time to update with new gutters. This guide walks you through the process, so you can decide if it’s a DIY project or better left to professional installers.
How To Choose The Right Type of Gutter For Your Home
Like many home improvement projects, adding a gutter to your home comes with a few choices.
Step One: Decide On Style
There are three types of gutter that are most often chosen today—Half-Round, K-Style, and Box gutters.
Half-Round gutters are often used in older and even historic homes. Much like the name suggests, Half-Round gutters mimic a pipe that’s been cut in half to allow for water.
- Half-Round gutters have a very open top, making them less prone to clogs.
- These gutters are not likely to rust.
- Their open design also makes these gutters easy to clean.
- Half-Round gutters are more expensive and complicated to install.
- These gutters are not made to withstand heavy rains.
- This style tends to weigh more, putting more strain on your structure.
K-Style gutters are the most common option and what you’re most likely to see on modern homes. K-Style gutters have a unique shape that mimics your home’s crown molding, making them the most visually pleasing option.
- Despite their elegant appearance, K-Style gutters are the cheapest and easiest option to install.
- These gutters are more durable than Half-Round gutters and can handle a higher water volume.
- You will experience more clogs and corrosion with this option.
Box Style Gutters
Box Style gutters are oversized and often used for commercial buildings. Unlike the other two options, Box Style gutters aren’t hung on the edge of the roof. Rather, these gutters have a high back that tucks underneath the shingles.
- Box Style gutters are made to handle large amounts of water.
- They are ideal for use in commercial buildings.
- These gutters are not designed for homeowners.
- Because they work with the roof, Box Style gutters must be installed when a building is first being built or when the roof is getting new shingles.
- This option may require professional gutter installation.
Step Two: Choose Your Gutter Material
If you decide to go with a Half-Round or K-Style gutter, you can pick from any of the following materials. Box Style gutters are only available in copper or aluminum.
- Aluminum Gutters: Aluminum is cheap, lightweight, and easy to install. It is also available in a variety of colors. Unfortunately, it’s also sensitive to temperature and is prone to warping.
- Steel Gutters: Steel gutters are some of the most durable on the market, able to withstand a good amount of weight. Unfortunately, the weight can also be steel’s detriment, as it is prone to coming loose. Similarly, steel is pretty expensive and tends to rust.
- Copper Gutters: Copper gutters are known for their high-quality durability and popular patina look. However, keep in mind that this is the most expensive material, and its weight can cause your gutter to come loose.
- Vinyl Gutters: Vinyl gutters are the go-to for DIYers because they are cheap and easy to install. Unfortunately, vinyl gutters are only available in white and are prone to warping.
Step Three: Sectional vs. Seamless Gutters
After you’ve chosen your gutter style and material, it’s time to think about the length of gutter material you want to work with.
As the name suggests, seamless gutters are made from a single piece of material and are also known as continuous gutters. Because you’re only working with a single piece of metal, you don’t need to worry about sealing up any seams or joints.
- Seamless gutters are more aesthetically appealing.
- They have a longer lifespan.
- Seamless gutters are less prone to leaking.
- Seamless gutters require professional help
- They are costly to install and repair
Sectional or regular gutters, on the other hand, come in pre-cut sections that require you to attach them with sealant.
- Regular sectioned gutters are less costly to install and repair
- You don’t need to have a professional come and cut the sections of gutter
- You will need to reapply gutter sealant
- Sectioned gutters are more prone to leaking at seals and joints
When installing gutters as a DIY project, you’ll want to have every step planned well in advance. So, how are gutters installed? Putting up gutters isn’t difficult, but attention to detail is a must to ensure the gutter system works properly when you’re done. Before you do anything else, you’ll need to make sure the gutter’s support structure is in good shape.
Inspect The Fascia
Complete a full inspection of the fascia and soffit to ensure that the wood is in good condition and doesn’t need replacing before you get started. These boards are where you connect the hangers for your gutters, so any rot can cause sagging and impact performance. Often, there will be a decorative wood trim on the front that you’ll need to remove to inspect the entire roofline. If everything looks good, you can start gathering materials and planning. If not, you’ll need to do some repair work on your soffit or fascia before you can continue.
Gather Your Supplies
You’ll also need to make sure you gather all the necessary supplies.
Materials and Tools List:
- Measuring tape
- Chalk line
- Power drill
- Gutter hangers
- Gutter end caps
- Gutter miters
Get Your Measurements
You’ve got a long list of materials, but before you go on a buying spree, you need to know how much of everything to get. There’s a reason the measuring tape is at the top of the list, and it’s because your first step is measuring the linear footage you need to cover. Measure all sections of your roof at the lowest point and get the entire perimeter measurement.
Assuming you go with sectioned gutters (which don’t need to be professionally measured), you will also need to measure your gutter system. Use your measurements to buy enough gutter for every side of the roof, downspouts and elbows. Check local regulations to make sure the gutter system you buy is properly sized for your climate.
Tips For Gutter Replacement
If you’re planning on replacing an older gutter system that worked well, you already have a plan in place for your gutters. Locate the current downspouts, count the number you need, and measure the vertical length.
Check the level for your downspouts and make sure they’re sloped properly to guide water away and into any other drainage system you have installed, such as French drains. Before you buy, check the existing gutter hangers. If they’re solidly mounted and in good condition, you might just have an easier project than anticipated. If not, be sure to buy enough hangers to mount them no more than 24 inches apart for the entire perimeter.
Getting Started with Your Gutter Installation
Once you have your supplies, it’s time to start the project.
Take Down Existing Gutters
Take down your existing gutters and hangers if they need replacing.
Use a chalk line to mark the placement for your new hangers. Measure out the installation location for each hanger and mark it along the fascia boards.
Screw the gutter hanger to the fascia board at the marked locations. Make sure each hanger is installed level to avoid sagging or leaks.
Put Up the Downspouts
Take a break from the ladder and put up the downspouts next. These vertical pipes are typically installed at one end of a long section of the roof. On a square home design, expect four downspouts, one at each corner. More complex home layouts may require more downspouts with more complicated placements. For example, if you have roofing sections that are longer than 40 feet, you might need to slope the gutters down at both ends and install two downspouts on that side. If the existing gutter system works well, you can always follow along.
Attach downspouts directly to your home along the wall. You may need an impact drill if your home is brick or stone. Straps and screws hold the downspout in place. Before you install it, attach elbows to the bottom of the spout to guide water away and in the direction you want it to travel.
Assemble & Install Your Gutter Sections
Assemble gutter sections on the ground before mounting them. You’ll get better seam sealing by securely attaching each section and creating a solid overlap between one piece of gutter and the next. Secure sections with screws and sealant to avoid leaks or shifting. Wait to attach the last section. Once most of your gutter section is assembled, slide it into the hangers starting at one end.
Next, mark out the area where you’ll need to cut a hole for the downspout. Tin snips usually work well after you use a chisel to put in a notch. Then, install the last section of the gutter for each roof segment and insert the tub connecting the gutter to the downspout. Check the finished section to ensure it covers the entire roofline for that section.
Add the End Caps and Connect the Corners
Putting on the end caps yourself lets you create custom gutter lengths. Once you have the gutter system in place, simply install the end caps just after each downspout where the gutter ends. Use miters to connect corner sections together.
Screw miters into place and use sealant to secure both miters and end caps. Then, let everything dry for a bit. That’s it! Your gutter installation is complete. All you have left to do is test it.
Run a Test
Take a hose and start running water into your gutters. If you were careful when installing gutters, the water should smoothly flow through the system to the downspouts and away from your home. While the water is running, check for leaks or places where the water flows slowly. You can always make adjustments to your gutter installation if needed.
Here are some of the most common questions regarding gutters.
What happens if I don’t have gutters?
While there is no law requiring homeowners to install gutters, it would behoove them to do so. Rain gutters are intended to help prevent water damage to your trim, siding, basement and landscaping every time it rains.
Do I need to clean my gutters?
Even the most expensive gutter run can get clogged with leaves and other debris. Therefore routine gutter cleaning is essential to avoiding leaks and gutter repair. Most homeowners can get by with cleaning out their gutters twice a year. However, if your home is surrounded by trees, you may need to clean them out every three months.
I live in an area with extreme weather conditions. Should I do anything differently?
If your home is in an area where ice and snow are the norm, you might want to install gutter guards and heated gutter cables. Gutter guards are a good idea in most areas since the covers keep out most things that could jam up the water flow, such as leaves, debris and birds nesting. Heated gutter cables are specifically for areas where ice dams can do serious damage. They work by keeping the gutters warm enough to melt the ice before it becomes a problem.
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