How to Install Gutters— A Practical Guide
If you seldom look upward when walking the perimeter of your home, you probably have not noticed your home’s rainwater drainage system. Gutters are the first line of defense against wallet-busting water damage like cracking foundations, staining on your siding, and even mosquito invasions on your property.
Whether you’re building a new home or merely replacing your old, worn gutter system, you need to have a well-functioning approach to channel water away from your home and prevent the piling of extensive repair bills. Homes in areas with a good amount of precipitation need great gutters.
If you are a savvy DIY-er, you may be researching how to install gutters before your gutter installation contractor starts work or so you can install them yourself.
Everything you’d need to install your gutters is located at your local home improvement store with experts to offer a hand on exactly what you need to get the job done.
This extensive guide will walk you through installing your properly functioning gutter system. Before getting your hands dirty, you must decide on the best product for your home’s drainage needs and aesthetic style.
Faulty Gutter System? Learn the Cost of Water Damage
It’s crucial to understand the benefits of having a well-functioning gutter system and what happens when you don’t. The damage can be catastrophic when your gutters are clogged, not the correct size, or leaking rainwater.
Everything from rotted fascia boards and discolored siding to mold remediation and foundation repair could cost you plenty, which could have partly been avoided by having proper rainwater channeling away from your home.
Check out the common water damage issues that could cause faulty gutter systems and the approximate average costs to repair them.
|Cost to Fix Common Water Damage Issues*|
|Common Home Water Damage Issue||Average Cost to Fix in the United States|
|Landscaping Replacement||$300 – $800|
|Fascia and Soffit Replacement||$500 – $2,000|
|Pest Control||$350 – $500|
|Mold Abatement||$1,500 – $3,150|
|Roof Repair||$150 – $3,000|
|Roof Replacement||$5,000 – $11,000|
|Basement Flooding Remediation||$1,200 – $5,000|
|Cracked Foundation Repair||$1,500 – $10,000|
Now that you have an idea of approximations, let’s get to work on installing your new gutters.
Planning Your Gutter Installation
Great things happen when you have a solid foundation and plan. Installing gutters on a whim may eliminate leakage and soil erosion at your home, so get started with some prework before you get the ladder out and start ripping things down.
Ahead of your installation, plan a realistic budget for your gutter installation. It’s a good rule of thumb to add 10% to cover any unexpected or unforeseen expenses that you may run into. When you remove your old gutters, you may run into water-logged soffits needing repair, mold that needs to be remediated, or you may find that you need an entirely new soffit. While we hope you don’t run into these issues, it’s smart to prepare for any surprises you may encounter.
the average cost of gutters in the United States ranges between $665 and $1,656. This range does not include professional installation. Check with your local gutter supply or home improvement store for your area’s pricing.
|Gutter Material Type||Average Cost Per Linear Foot (Material Only)|
|Aluminum||$4 – $8|
|Vinyl or PVC||$3 – $6|
|Steel||$6 – $9|
|Copper||$15 – $28|
|Wood||$18 – $28|
Remember that depending on your geographical location and associated climate, some gutter materials may warp, crack, and break in harsh temperature fluctuations or require annual maintenance to keep them looking great and functioning properly.
The width of your chosen gutter material will also play a part in your final invoice, but if your area is prone to large-scale storms or your roof has a steep slope, wider gutters will offer better performance.
Homeowners must clean their gutters twice annually to remove debris and clear clogs, so water does not spill out over the gutters and into the roofing structure, seep into basements, or destroy your exterior walls.
Choose a Gutter System
There is a wide range of costs depending on your choice of gutters. Style and color may be important to you, but it’s also vital to ensure you have chosen the right gutters for your unique home’s needs.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a gutter system.
- Roof size
- Pitch of the roof
- Whether your home is historically preserved
- The climate in your geographical area
- Your home’s aesthetic
- How far the eaves hang over the edge of your roof
- Preference for traditional or seamless gutters
- Home warranty for the downspouts
- Gutter material preference (i.e., aluminum, vinyl, copper, etc.)
Measure Your Home
You will need a great idea of how many linear feet of gutters you will need and where they will hang. If you’ve taken a good long look at the exterior of your home, you may notice that gutters are only attached to the horizontal sections of your home where the edge of the roof meets. There are no gutters on exterior walls that display the roof’s pitch.
Measure the length of the sides of your home where you will install the gutters. Be sure to measure twice and order a bit more if you make a mistake, especially if your local home improvement store does not stock the appropriate-sized gutters. Sometimes, the shipping process will slightly damage the pieces during shipping, or you could make an error when cutting the gutter material. It’s always great to have a backup piece or two, just in case.
Sketch your gutter install plan on paper by mapping out the size and shape of your home, where you will install the gutters, and the appropriate measurements. If you’re newer to home renovation projects, take your drawing to the home improvement store with you for any order amount recommendation.
Make Your Shopping List
Get all the materials you’ll need and tools to install them down on paper and take it with you to the home improvement store. There’s nothing worse than making multiple trips before you’ve even had a chance to begin your gutter transformation.
Common tool examples used during gutter installation:
- Cordless drill
- Tin snips
- Ladder stabilizer
- Hex head driver
- Rivet gun
Some examples of common materials used in gutter installation:
- Self-tapping hex head screws
- Gutter flashing
- Gutter hanging straps
- Gutter sealant
- Caulk gun
Gather your materials
Now that you know what you need, it’s time to place the order. Don’t forget to take your drawing to the store to ensure you’re ordering the correct amount. When ordering extra items, ask the associate about returns of unused material, even if it’s a specialty product. Don’t assume you can’t return it because you had to place a special order. Now that you have placed the order, let’s review the instructions for installing your gutter system.
Step 1: Inspect Your Home’s Fascia and Soffit
For new builds, you can skip this step. For those replacing an existing gutter system, it’s vital to ensure that your new gutters last the test of time and work as they should.
Use a simple screwdriver to poke at your home’s fascia board to test for rot. There’s a decent chance you may not be able to investigate in its entirety until you remove the old gutters, but this is the best place to start.
Next, check the soffit for rot and decay. When poking a screwdriver into the wood, if it penetrates ⅛” or more, you may need to replace it before installing new gutters. Contact a trusted and honest contractor for a second opinion when in doubt.
Step 2: Remove Old Gutters, if Applicable
If you still have old gutters attached to your home, it’s time to gently remove them to avoid causing damage to your fascia and soffit. When you get up on your ladder, take a peek at how the gutters are attached so you can safely remove them. It could be with rivets, screws, nails, or clamps.
The first step is to loosen and remove downspouts from the elbow. Next, remove the downspout straps and any connecting fasteners to disconnect the elbow from the gutter run and guide them down to the ground. Use caution not to drop them from a second-floor height to avoid causing damage to your siding, exterior surfaces, first-floor gutter area, or any person on the ground offering you some assistance.
Use a hammer, screwdriver, or another resource to loosen and detach the gutter runs from the house. If you have a partner, it’s helpful for them to hold the gutter steady while it’s loosened and guide it down to the ground.
After removing brackets, screws, or nails, seal up any holes in your fascia with weather-proof caulk and allow it to dry entirely before patching the holes with wood filler. You can even repaint your fascia for a finished look.
Step 3: Mark Your New Gutter Slope
Gutters must have a slight downward slope to drain toward the downspouts properly. Most homeowners may skip this step but avoiding slope calculations could cause you more harm once you install those gutters.
Grab a chalk line and measure ¼ – ½ inch downward for every 10 feet of gutters. Snap a chalk line to secure that measurement and repeat the process as you move from the highest point to the downspout.
Step 4: Measure Again, Cut the New Gutters to Length, and Assemble Them (On the Ground)
Preparation is key, and measuring twice (and cutting once) is crucial when installing new gutters. They are an expensive investment in your home, and you won’t want to waste gutter material by cutting them too short.
It’s much easier to join the gutter sections on the ground and install entire runs at one time instead of riveting smaller pieces on a ladder. Keep in mind, all gutter sections should overlap between 2 and 4 inches and be riveted together for a secure fit. You can use a pair of tin snips to cut your gutter sections to the perfect length.
Drill a ⅛-inch hole where the rivets will go and install them using a rivet gun at the front of the gutter.
Be sure to cut holes for the downspouts and install the downspout outlets into the gutter runs before installing them onto the fascia board. Double-check that your downspout positions won’t be obstructed or cause damage to any existing landscaping once installed.
Assemble the downspouts using three elbows and two straight tube-like gutter pieces. These can often be purchased ready-made at your local hardware store and require assembly with simple sheet metal screws. You’ll need a downspout crimper to ensure overlap when assembling two pieces together.
For pieces that join at an inside or outside-facing corner, notch the top of the gutter section to ensure a tight fit.
Use end caps for the ends of gutter runs and seal them well.
Step 5: Seal the Gutters
Now that you have all your gutter pieces securely joined, it’s time to seal every crack and seam to prevent leakage. Use a caulk gun and sealant to fight the common inclement weather you see at your location.
A special gutter sealant made for this purpose is flexible, does not crack, is often paintable, and can withstand the elements. Don’t skimp on this section. Allow the sealant to dry before installing the gutter sections onto the home.
Gutters are intended to direct water away from your home. When leaks occur, they can completely negate all your hard work to install them.
Step 6: Attach the Gutters to Your Fascia
You’ve measured and marked your gutter slope, making it much easier when installing your assembled gutter runs. Have your assistant help and hold the gutter steady as you attach the gutters to the clamps, or install gutter screws, following manufacturer installation instructions. Follow your slope line and ensure that the shingles drain into the runs before securing them in their final spots.
Use one gutter screw every 2 feet. If the materials did not include instructions, use 1 ¼-inch hex head stainless steel sheet metal screws.
Step 7: Install Flashing and Gutter Hanging Straps
If your roof does not have gutter flashing, you will need that to ensure water drips down into the gutter. Gutter flashing is installed under the edge of your shingles and over the back edge of the gutter and typically comes pre-bent at your local home improvement store. Use 1-inch roofing nails every 2 feet to secure it to the roof. Be sure to overlap the flashing pieces by 2 inches.
If using gutter hanging straps, install them under your gutters to help keep them secure. They will add some much-needed strength in areas with heavy downpours or an abundance of snow and ice in the winter. They are installed every 2 feet through the flashing and into the fascia with the included screws.
Step 8: Install the Downspouts
With your downspouts pre-assembled, use downspout straps or a downspout clamp to secure them to your home. The straps or clamps are connected to the house and the downspout with sheet metal screws. Be sure the extension piece drains 4 feet or more from your home’s foundation.
Step 9: Test your Installation
Using a common garden hose, spray water directly into the gutters and look for leaks near gutter seams, corners, end caps, and the downspout areas. Once you’re clear, you can sit back and enjoy your hard work.