A Practical Homeowners’ Guide to Gutter Installation
Gutters are an essential component of any home. These hardly noticeable contraptions play a surprisingly important role in protecting your home from the elements and dramatically extending its lifespan. Gutters collect runoff water from your roof and direct this moisture away from your home’s siding, base, and structure. If water begins to collect at the base of your home, it can cause long-term structural or water damage, which can severely impact the integrity of your home.
If you’re a new homeowner or an old homeowner in need of replacement gutters, there are several options for you to get the job done. We recommend hiring a professional to get the job done, as this is the safest way to properly install effective gutter and downspout systems.
However, if you are on a tight budget or like to do things yourself, you can conquer this task on your own. This is why we pulled together the following homeowners’ guide with all the tips, tricks, and safety information you’ll need to install new gutters.
When to Replace Your Gutter Systems
Before you even start and spend your time and money on this project, look at your current gutter systems to see if they even need to be replaced. There are quite a few signs to look for to determine if you need a replacement. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- Cracks or holes – It is normal for gutters to have cracks and holes here and there. You can always opt for repairs instead of total replacement. However, if you start to see cracks or holes along your gutters and downspouts, you should take that as a sign to opt for replacement. Too many cracks and holes can lead to damaged fascia boards.
- Sagging gutters – If you notice your gutters starting to sag in the middle, you should consider a few things. First, your gutters are most likely clogged, and you should take the time to clean them out regularly to prevent the same issue from happening again. Second, you should consider replacing your gutter systems entirely. This is not typically an issue that can be repaired as the materials have warped over time. A sagging gutter cannot function properly and will be less effective in keeping your home safe from water damage.
- Watermarks or standing water – If you start to notice water spots or standing water along your home’s base, look closer at your gutters because something is not functioning as it should. This sign more than likely indicates a much larger issue (like one of the above problems) and can mean a total replacement is needed.
- Rust or chipped/peeling paint – While it may seem like only an eyesore, rust and peeling paint along your gutter systems can indicate a much larger problem. By the time you start to notice holes and cracks in your gutters, it may already be too late. So, act quickly when you see aesthetic issues with your gutters.
Ultimately, the entire purpose of your gutter system is to protect your home from moisture. If they begin to deteriorate in any way, it is more than likely that they will not function properly. This can quickly result in severe water or structural damage to your home’s foundation. Over time, this excess moisture can lead to very costly necessary repairs. You can avoid all of this by paying closer attention to your gutters and replacing them when it comes.
How to DIY Install Gutters and Downspouts
Now that you understand the various signs that indicate when it’s time to replace your gutters, you can begin the installation process if you opt for the DIY method. These steps assume that any previously installed gutters or downspouts have been removed.
Before you buy any materials, take some essential measurements to ensure you’re buying the correct products in the appropriate quantities. Skipping this step could result in too much material or not enough material. You could even find yourself at a standstill in your project if you begin attaching materials that aren’t properly fitted.
First, measure all the edges of your roof’s surface, including where your downspouts will go. You’ll want to install a downspout at least every 30 to 40 feet for best results.
Next, you’ll want to measure and mark your gutter slopes. Despite their level appearance, gutter systems are installed at a slight angle to encourage free-flowing water. Without a slope, the water would sit in your gutters without draining through the downspout, which could result in a sagging gutter over time. The ideal slope is ¼ of an inch for every 10 feet of gutter.
Finally, measure and mark where you will place your downspouts. As mentioned, you’ll want a downspout every 30 to 40 feet for the best results.
2. Gather Your Tools and Purchase Material
Once you have your measurements, gather or purchase the necessary tools and materials. We recommend picking up the following items for a smooth gutter installation process:
- Cordless drill
- Duckbill and offset tin snips
- Tall ladder (or an extension ladder)
- Hex head driver
- Pop rivet tool
- 1/4″ hex head screws
- 1/8″ medium length rivets
- 1 1/4″ self-tapping hex head screws
- Downspouts and elbows (based on the measurements you gathered)
- Gutters (based on the measurements you gathered)
- Hanging strap
- Gutter sealant
- Work gloves
There are several options for gutter and downspout materials. Select a material that best suits your budget and stylistic preference. However, remember that cheaper options like vinyl will not be as efficient or long-lasting as more expensive and sturdy materials such as copper and aluminum.
3. Fill in Holes
If you removed old gutters before starting this project, take some time to fill in any of those leftover gaps or holes. Use caulk for vinyl materials and wood putty for wooden materials. Be sure to sand this down afterward. Don’t skip this step, as you’ll want the installation process to be a fresh start with a nice clean slate.
4. Install Your New Gutter System
To install your new gutters, meticulously follow these four steps based on the measurements you took in the first step. You’ll start by cutting the gutters to size, then mounting the supports. Finally, you’ll place the gutters and attach the downspouts. We’ll cover each of these steps in more detail below.
First, check your measurements and cut your gutters to the appropriate size. Be sure to consider your down slope, as discussed in step one. You should be able to accomplish this with a hacksaw or tin snips for more precise cuts.
Next, drill pilot holes into the fascia to mount the support brackets. Starter holes make inserting the long hex head screws much easier.
Once you’ve cut your gutters and attached the support brackets, install your new gutters. Simply lay the gutters over the brackets and screw them into position. Add some caulk or sealant to further secure the gutters and protect against the elements. If you have gutter guards, install those now.
Finally, attach your downspouts using the holes you cut in the first step. Use sealant here to close gaps between the gutter, the elbows, or the downspouts. This will ensure proper water flow and longevity of your new gutter system.
And that’s it! You have a brand new gutter system – congratulations!
Tips, Tricks, and Safety Considerations
Now that you have read up on the basic steps of installing a new gutter system, here are a few other tips, tricks, and safety considerations to keep in mind when completing this DIY project:
- Install your gutters during late summer or early fall. While it’s true that every season presents its unique challenges, late summer and early fall are typically the best times to complete a DIY gutter installation project. This is because it is after the typical peak heat of the summer months but before the peak fall months when leaves fall the most.
- Keep seams to a minimum. The more seams you have in your gutter system, the more you will experience leaks, especially in winter when ice and snow begin to collect. Therefore, when taking your measurements and cutting your material, be very descriptive about where the seams are to limit the amount you have to seal up.
- Allow for appropriate hanging space. By allowing up to three feet of space in between hangers, you are making it more difficult for your gutters to sag and become damaged from the weight. This will significantly increase the longevity of your new gutter system.
- Don’t forget to include and account for the gutter slope. As was stated previously, the gutter slope is an important component of a properly functioning gutter system. This small slope allows the water to flow in the right direction, so any precipitation goes down the gutter spout and away from your home. Without this, water will begin to pool in certain parts of your gutters, causing overflow, which can lead to water damage. Ideally, you are accounting for ¼ of an inch for every 10 feet of gutter.
- Avoid damaging your new gutters. Gutters are usually made from heavy-duty materials. However, they can still easily become damaged during installation if you aren’t extra careful with them. The most common problems DIY homeowners face when installing new gutters occur during the cutting phase. Always double-check your measurements and use the proper equipment to cut the gutters. If the cuts aren’t straight or are too short, you’ll have to go back to square one and repurchase a bunch of material you already bought.
- Wear protective gear. This one seems obvious, but it has to be said. Always wear personal protective equipment when working on your roof. This equipment includes gloves, long pants, a shirt, closed-toed shoes, and a mask. If it’s hot outside, be aware that it will be hot on the roof, and you should wear sunscreen and avoid touching surfaces with your bare skin.
- Don’t work alone. Climbing on the roof can be extremely dangerous, especially when carrying heavy equipment like tools or gutter materials. Save yourself the risk by having another person available to help you and keep an eye on you in case you fall or injure yourself. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Why You Should Hire a Professional
Gutter installation can take time, money, skill, and precision. If you haven’t done a lot of DIY home construction projects, we highly recommend you consider hiring a professional to get the job done instead. Many things can go wrong during this process, some of which could result in costly home repairs or, even worse – serious injury. You can avoid all of this by calling a professional. Here are some other benefits of hiring professionals:
- These people are experts in their field. Not only do they have the proper tools and equipment, but they also know the best ways to install your gutters to last a long time.
- Professionals will have all the necessary up-to-date safety equipment, so injuries are less likely to occur.
- By hiring a company for your gutter installation, you will likely receive long-term benefits, such as annual gutter cleanings, free repairs, discounts, and more.
- Installing gutters is just as dangerous as it is a hassle. You could spend your Saturday afternoon doing something you enjoy instead, and you won’t have to worry if your gutter system is functioning properly.
Believe it or not, gutters are some of the most important features of your home’s exterior. They direct water away from your home’s siding and foundation, which reduces the chance of water or structural damage from occurring. This can save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.
If you have some extra time and are looking for a challenging DIY project, you might be inclined to take on a gutter installation project. However, keep in mind the many risks you take by tackling this intense, precise job on your own. We always recommend calling a professional for these matters, but if you’re up, the above steps should make the process easier for you.
If you notice any of the listed warning signs, such as sagging, cracks, rust, or leaks, your gutter system should be replaced immediately. This action will save you tons of time and money and prevent more severe issues from occurring.