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Where Gutter DIY Goes Wrong

Gutter installation
Will a DIY project turn your problem gutter into a model gutter system?

You’re a proud handyperson. Your gutter installation is going to go well, or so you think. Sure, you have a few questions about what gutters to choose and how to install them, but that’s not going to be a problem, is it? Your gutter installation could be problem-free, but unfortunately, installing gutters is more involved than you might initially imagine. Here’s what you can do to make sure that your gutter DIY goes well. 

1. What Size of Gutter Did You Buy? 

For the most part, five-inch K-style gutters or six-inch half-rounds will work well for your house. However, according to This Old House, “Houses with big, steep roofs or those located in climates prone to heavy downpours may need wider gutters and extra downspouts to keep rainwater from overflowing.” Make sure the gutters you purchase can actually withstand the water coming off of your roof, or that water will just flow onto the ground.

The Weather Bureau measures the rainfall in different parts of the country. Take a look at this table before you purchase your gutters so that you can ensure that you make the correct decision, or talk to a gutter company to confirm.

If you find that you have a lot of water that just isn’t making it into the gutters, you can try a few different strategies: 

  • Add more downspouts to drain the water if your gutters are getting overwhelmed. 
  • Slightly increase the pitch of the gutter. Watch this strategy, as it can make your gutter look sloped.
  • Get gutters with a larger capacity.

2. Can You Install Seamless Gutters? 

What if you had the option to buy a suit off the rack or have one tailored? Which option would you choose? For many of us, tailoring sounds like it is out of the question. However, if you are going to wear that suit day after day and year after year, the investment pays off.

The same applies to your gutters. When you purchase sectional gutters for a DIY project, you’re purchasing a product that’s off the shelf. Your job is to mix and match between different pieces of gutter so that you can ensure that your entire home is covered. Sectional gutters need to be connected to each other, and this automatically introduces zones of weakness where the gutters could potentially come apart over time. 

The seams in your sectional gutters are exposed to a lot of pressure from water and debris over time. If you don’t install your gutters just right, then those seams can spread apart, leading to leaks that damage your siding and your foundation. Make sure that you add rivets and caulking to your gutters to help prevent leaks. After you install your gutters, test the seal and the slope by running water down them and watching to make sure it doesn’t pool, leak, or spill out over the edge.

If you can, invest in seamless gutters. These gutters are made on site for your specific home situation; you don’t need to worry about the gutters moving apart at the seams because there are only a few seams at the corners of your gutters.

3. Did You Put the Gutter in the Right Place? 

It’s obvious where you need to put the gutters, right? Well, actually, you’d be surprised. It’s not that people are installing their gutters in a completely incorrect location, but it’s easy to install them in a place that’s slightly incorrect, leading to water damage over time. 

Where should you install your gutters? 

Here’s a hint: they don’t tuck right up to your roof to collect the water, even if that seems like a natural place to put your gutters. Your gutter must be a few inches below your roof. 

Why do you need to place your gutters lower than you originally thought? Water drips off your roof and off the underside of your roof as well. The drips land much lower than you would think, and your gutter needs to be ready to catch them. 

If you’re working on a roofing project at the same time that you’re working on your gutters, it’s beneficial to attach a drip edge under your shingles to send the water more easily into the gutters.

4. Are Your Gutters Catching Water From the Corners Too? 

Your gutters generally go under the roof line, but at the corners, you need to make sure that you’re catching all of the water that runs off the shingles. According to the Family Handyman, “…where a gutter ends, cut it to extend about an inch past the end of the fascia board to catch water from the overhanging shingles. Then attach an end cap with rivets and seal the joint from the inside with gutter sealant.”

5. Did You Put Your Gutter on a Slope? 

What? Gutters are flat, aren’t they? They’re simply a trough that sits underneath the roof line and collects the water, right? 

Think about that for a second. If gutters were flat, in some rainy conditions, they would simply act as pools of water. They would collect the water until a larger storm came to push the water down into the drains. This would breed mosquitoes and algae and would not be good for your home or your health.

If you don’t do a lot of reading beforehand and enthusiastically decide to add gutters to your home, you could make this common DIY mistake. In fact, gutters are actually slightly sloped toward the drains. Usually, this is only 1 to 2 inches for every 40 feet of gutter length, so it’s hard to see.

When you’re installing your gutters, make sure you don’t get overenthusiastic about the slope either. A low pitch allows water to move easily into the drains while not overwhelming them with a waterslide of debris and water.

Gutter installation
Make sure that your rain gutters have the proper support, or they could sag over time.

6. Did You Properly Support Your Gutters? 

Your gutters might look good now, but did you provide them with a strong support system so that they’ll look good a few years from now as well? According to House Logic, “In order for gutters to do their job properly, they have to be kept in shape and free of clogs, holes, and sags.”

Your gutters will fill up with water and potentially with small pieces of debris as well. This is quite heavy, and over time, all of this water and debris will damage your gutters, causing them to angle outward, buckle, and sag. This leads to poor drainage, which causes more debris and water to pool in your gutters. This difficult cycle can gradually ruin your gutters, all because your gutters did not have enough support.

How do you support your gutters? Make sure that your hangers (or other mounting systems) include supports every three feet or less. This prevents sagging gutters.

7. Did You Consider the Longevity of Your Gutters? 

Wow: your gutters are so shiny, and they really add to the finish of your home. Have you considered how you’ll keep those gutters shiny and new-looking for many years to come? 

Over time, if your gutters get filled with debris or water, that water will spill out over the edge of the gutters. This can lead to mildew, mold, and algae buildup. Pieces of leaves and other debris get stuck to the inside and even the outside of the gutters. As the years go by, it can get more and more difficult to clear this debris from your gutters.

When you add gutters to your home, consider how you will continue to keep them clean, year after year. Adding a gutter guard or gutter cover system to your home not only keeps your gutters clean, it also eliminates the need to go up on a ladder a few times a year to clean out the debris. Keep your gutters working properly by adding a gutter guard system when you install your gutters.

8. How Are Your Drains Doing? 

One essential part of your gutter installation is the end result: the drain. There may be regulations about where your drains lead. Make sure that you understand them before you add gutters and drains to your house. Whether you decide to add a splash block or simply run the water away from your house, make sure that water is not pooling next to your foundation. This can cause shifting soil that leads to foundation movement and cracking over time.

Your downspouts need to extend at least a few feet out from the house if they’re not draining to an underground reservoir or drainage system. This prevents water from pouring into your basement during a large storm.

If you’re concerned about installing your gutters yourself or need some professional advice, talk with your local gutter installers. Harry Helmet has been in business for decades, and we’ve seen and replaced many problematic gutters. At Harry Helmet, we want to make sure that your gutter project goes well. We have experienced employees and a triple lifetime warranty. See why you can trust us with your gutter installation or repair: schedule a free estimate today.

Written by Del Thebaud

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