When you envision the exterior of your dream home, water dispersal is probably the last thing on your mind. However, gutters play a crucial role in protecting your home from water damage, and they can be an eye-catching design element, too. If your home refresh includes a new gutter system, you can easily tackle the project yourself. Read on for our guide to installing gutters like a pro.
Here at brick&batten, our virtual exterior designers know that gutters can make a dramatic impact on the look of your home. If you’re ready for a fresh facade but don’t know where to start, let our design experts help. With a few photos of your home, they can deliver a complete exterior design just for you.
The Complete Guide to Installing Gutters Like A Pro
Before you go crazy at the hardware store, determine if you will be able to DIY your gutter project. There are a few factors to consider before tackling this project. Our suggestion is always consult a professional. That said, after much research, DIY may be an an over statement for most homeowners. What looks like an easy job may be one to sit on the sidelines and let a professional complete.
Gutters come in all different styles and materials. First, make sure your gutter material can be installed without professional help. Generally, lightweight aluminum and vinyl gutters are a good match for DIY installations. If you’re tackling the project yourself, you’ll most likely be using sectional gutters — or segments of gutter that can be attached together or trimmed to size.
Another factor to consider is safety. Do you have safe and easy access to your entire roof line? If your home is several stories tall, or if parts of your roof are difficult to reach, you might want to consider calling in the pros.
As mentioned earlier, we always suggest consulting a professional before tackling this project to determine if it is one you are capable of completing. If so, this is our guide to installing gutters like a pro.
Step #1 – The Prep Work
Like any good project, proper planning ensures your success. Before you buy materials, you’ll need to do a few calculations to determine the right gutter size and quantities for your house, which will come into play later:
- Working one section of roof at a time, calculate the square footage of each drainage area (a single sloping segment of roof). For square roofs, simply multiply the length by the width.
- Next, measure the roof’s pitch. Hold a 2-foot level against your roof and measure the distance between the roof and the level at the midpoint (12 inches). The length of the gap determines your roof pitch factor, a number between 1 and 1.3. Follow this guide to determine your roof’s pitch factor.
- Gutters are meant to capture and divert rainfall, so you want to know how much precipitation to expect when determining your gutter size. Use the National Weather Service to determine the maximum rainfall intensity, or inches of rainfall per hour, for your area.
- To get your adjusted square footage, multiply your original roof segment square footage by your roof pitch factor. Then multiply that figure by the maximum rainfall intensity.
Using this adjusted square footage, you can determine the gutter size you need to safely and effectively divert rainwater from your home. K-style gutters mostly come in two sizes. Five-inch gutters are suitable for measurements around 5,520 square feet, while 6-inch gutters are preferred for roofs closer to 7,960 square feet. For half-round gutters, 5-inch gutters work for roofs around 2,500 square feet, and 6-inch gutters work for measurements around 3,840 square feet. ADCO Roofing and Waterproofing did an excellent job explaining different parts of gutters as seen below.
Step #2 – Getting Started
Now that you know what size gutter your design calls for, you can gather your materials. For your typical gutter installation, you will need:
- Gutter sections, end caps and downspouts
- Gutter brackets, spikes or hidden hangers
- Ladder or extension ladder (don’t forget a spotter to hold your ladder)
- Tape measure
- Chalk line
- Hacksaw, tin snips or miter saw
- Aluminum rivets
- Silicone caulk or gutter sealant
- Hole saw or hammer and cold chisel
Step #3 – Measure Twice, Cut Once!
Measuring may seem tedious, but doing it correctly will guarantee an easy installation process. Although gutters look straight to the naked eye, they are actually angled at a slight pitch (¼ of an inch over 10 feet). That pitch keeps water flowing toward your downspout. Mark out your pitch starting 1¼ inches below your roof’s metal drip flashing. This will be the high end of your gutter. Then, mark the low end of your gutter where the downspout will go. Snap a chalk line for visibility.
Step #4 – Find Your Support System
For a stable gutter system that will last a long time, you’re going to need supports. Whether you want visible ornamental brackets or hidden brackets depends on your exterior design and aesthetic. If you are using brackets, like those pictured above, attach them before you install the gutter. Locate the rafter tails behind the fascia (the flat edging along your roof line) and screw brackets in at every other rafter tail.
If you are using spikes to attach a K-style gutter, locate your roof studs and mark every other one. You will be hammering the studs through the gutter and into the fascia when you’re ready to hang your gutter.
Hidden hangers brace the inside of the gutter, giving more support. You will also install these at the time that you hang the gutter. They should be spaced about 24 inches apart and will be screwed through the gutter and into the fascia.
Step #5 – Break Out the Tools
For ease and safety, do all of your cutting and assembly on the ground. This reduces your time spent on a wobbly ladder and helps you get accurate measurements.
Using a hacksaw or a miter saw, cut your gutter segments to length. If your gutters wrap around a corner, be sure to cut the appropriate lengths and angles. If your length of roof requires two sections of gutter, leave an 8-inch overlap. You will connect those sections using screws or aluminum pop rivets in two rows of four.
While you’re measuring, identify your downspout locations and mark downspouts using the outlet. Cut holes for the downspouts using a drill or a hammer and cold chisel. Finally, attach gutter caps to the end of each segment using aluminum rivets. Waterproof any creases with caulk or gutter sealant.
Step #6 – Bring it All Together
You’re ready to install your gutters. Follow your chalk line to ensure your gutter hangs at the proper pitch. If you’re using brackets, set the gutter in the brackets and then rotate until it catches within the brackets’ edges. Screw the gutter into place.
If you are using spikes, hammer your spikes through the gutter and into the fascia at the pre-marked intervals. Do the same for hidden hanger brackets.
Step #7 – Up the Water Spout
One of your last steps is to install downspouts. Secure your downspout outlets to gutters at the pre-cut holes using screws or pop rivets. Use gutter sealant or caulk to ensure waterproofing.
Next, using two A-style gutter elbows and a short segment of gutter, connect your downspout to the gutter. Using one metal strap every 10 feet or so, attach your downspout to your home’s exterior wall. At the bottom of the downspout, use a B-style elbow to funnel water away from the house.
Overall, gutter and downspout installation can be tricky and one project you’ll want to consult a professional before tackling yourself. That said, if you’re up to the challenge our complete guide to installing gutters like a pro is a great way to get started.
The design experts at brick&batten know that gutters can make an impactful statement on your home’s exterior. With a few straightforward steps, you can install your own gutters and give your home a dramatic face-lift. Remember, you don’t have to spend big bucks for a big impact. Get started on your dream home with our virtual exterior design service.
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