HomeownerEducational: A-M

Gutter Installation

Gutter Installation Educational Content

THE IMPORTANCE OF GUTTERS
Gutters have a really important job. As they collect and carry away rainwater, gutters protect your house from a host of problems. Leaking or overflowing gutters and clogged or misdirected downspouts can’t do their job correctly. When rainwater gets too close to your house, it can cause water damage, erosion, and leaks. These problems only get worse if they aren’t addressed promptly. In fact, faulty gutters can eventually cause roof leaks and major foundation damage. Keeping your gutters in good shape is a worthy investment.

ISSUES FROM FAULTY GUTTERS
Basement water damage. Problem gutters can dump gallons of water right next to your house. This water sometimes leaks through the foundation wall and can cause water damage in the basement or crawl space.

Undermined driveways, patios, and walkways. Too much water near your house can erode the ground under your driveway, patio, or walkway. As the dirt erodes, those surfaces lose support and can settle, crack, or even collapse. If you’ve already noticed this type of damage around your house, fix the gutter or downspout problem first. Then replace or repair the concrete slab.

Leaking roofs. When the gutters are clogged, they can’t keep water away from your house. Rainwater may flow back up onto the roof and under the shingles. This can cause roof leaks.

Damaged fascia, soffit, and exterior walls. Fascia and soffit make up your roof’s eaves. These parts of your roof are next to the gutters. If your gutters are clogged or leaking, the fascia, soffit, and outside walls of your house can rot.

Cracked foundations. The fill dirt under your home’s foundation settles over time. Sometimes that settling process isn’t even, and one area settles faster than others. This uneven settling process can cause cracks and structural issues. Excess water dumped next to the foundation by faulty gutters intensifies this issue.

Landscape washout. Faulty gutters can also cause erosion and washout around your landscaping.

Insects. Standing water builds up in clogged gutters. That standing water makes a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Termites also need water to thrive and reproduce. If your gutters dump water too close to your house, you could be encouraging termites.

GUTTER AND DOWNSPOUT SIZES
Gutters are typically sold in five-inch or six-inch sizes. Six-inch gutter troughs are usually required around steep roofs to minimize overflow. Downspouts are usually two inches deep by three inches wide or three inches deep by four inches wide. Larger downspouts drain faster and don’t clog as easily. This lessens the stress on the gutters and can help them last longer.

PROPER INSTALLATION
Correct fastener spacing and slope are key to successful installation. For water to move through the gutters efficiently, the gutters need to be installed with a certain slope. They should ultimately slope slightly downward toward a downspout. If the degree of slope is too high, the gutter will slant too much and overflow. If the degree of slope is too low, water won’t move through the gutter very well. This can also happen when too few downspouts are installed. A structurally sound gutter will have fasteners that are relatively close together. Spacing the fasteners too far apart makes for a weak system. The back of the gutter should be installed behind the existing roof flashing. This prevents leaks and water damage between the gutter and fascia board.

GUTTER COVERS AND SCREENS
A gutter cover is a smooth piece of curved metal. This cover is installed over the top of the gutter to keep out leaves and other debris. Gutter covers can be painted. They can also be covered in shingle granules to match the roof. When it rains, the cover draws the water around and underneath into the gutter. Leaves and other debris fall to the ground. Leaf screens are another option.

Instead of a solid piece of metal, leaf screens are made of a mesh material. The mesh allows water into the gutter while keeping out leaves and debris. Leaf screens are usually easier to install than gutter covers. They come in a variety of materials, styles, and colors. There are lots of gutter cover products on the market, and they all do essentially the same thing. Gutter cover systems are often more expensive than conventional gutters. Many cover systems, however, come with extended warranties. These warranties can keep you from paying out of pocket if the system ever clogs or breaks. The slope of a roof has a huge impact on the effectiveness of gutters and gutter protection systems. If your roof is very steep, rainwater might flow down the roof fast enough that it overshoots your gutters. Diverters and wide gutters and downspouts can help. Ask your gutter contractor about the best solution.

GUTTER MATERIALS
Aluminum. Aluminum is the most common type of gutter material. These gutters are cost effective and typically last more than 20 years. Seamless aluminum gutters come in specific lengths and a variety of sizes and colors. Aluminum gutters are more susceptible to dents, such as those made by a ladder.

Copper. Copper gutters are expensive to manufacture, and installation is labor intensive. Copper gutters are beautiful and distinctive, which may make the cost worth it. Copper develops its characteristic green patina within about ten years. Well-maintained copper gutters can last the lifetime of the house.

Zinc. Like copper, zinc gutters are expensive but beautiful and distinctive. Zinc is durable. It also doesn’t need to be painted, since the metal will develop a patina over time.

Steel and galvanized steel. Steel gutters are strong and come in a variety of colors, but they are also prone to rust. Galvanized steel gutters are coated with zinc. They’re more resistant to rust than untreated steel. Even with the galvanized coating, you might see rust after five to ten years.

Vinyl. Vinyl is lightweight and inexpensive, which makes it a good choice for DIYers. Vinyl is a thin material that can dent under the weight of a ladder. Vinyl gutters are also more likely to crack in extreme cold.