A lot of home improvement and maintenance projects can be done by homeowners like you. With just the proper knowledge, tools, and courage (you’re working outside your comfort zone, after all), you can make a lot of additions or modifications to your home by yourself. No need to get the services of remodeling contractors for these relatively minor jobs.
But of course, this does not mean that you should just do all construction-related work by yourself. Don’t tempt fate and try to do large-scale construction jobs if you don’t know how to and don’t have the right tools for them. You need to remember that many of these are quite risky. The State wouldn’t require contractor licenses for certain construction-related fields if they were all just too easy and safe for anyone to do, after all.
Work involving rain gutters are quite easy to do, even for an amateur. If your gutters are due for a change, or you don’t have them but now see the need for it, you can try to make its installation as one of your DIY projects.
The Importance of Gutters
Most homeowners take pride in the appearance of their homes. They are willing to spend so much money to have the most eye-catching home in the neighborhood by focusing on its curb appeal. But there is one part of the home that annoys a lot of aesthetics-conscious homeowners, and that is the rain gutters.
Rain gutters can be quite unsightly, that is why many homeowners enlist the help of professionals to help tweak the design so that these gutters would instead complement the appearance of their home. Unfortunately, these gutters can be limiting and you can’t really get them customized unless you are willing to pay a lot. This is the biggest reason why many just choose not to have them in favor of having a beautiful house. For these homeowners, appearance trumps functionality.
As a result, there is quite a debate going on when it comes to rain gutters: should you have them installed or not? After all, most states don’t really require homes to have this.
Those who choose not to have rain gutters believe that these things are negligible and don’t really have an important function. Maintaining them can even be quite a hassle, since they need to be cleaned regularly to avoid blockages. They would even point out that these gutters tend to separate from a house later on. Why go through all that?
Rain gutters do serve an important purpose. That is, they catch the rainwater flowing from your roof and redirect their flow to the downspouts, instead of letting them just flow directly downwards and onto the foundations of your home or even the basement. Since they are found at the edges of your roof, think of them as guards that direct where water should go.
Their role sounds so simple, doesn’t it? That’s why many people feel that these gutters are a negligible part of a home. What these homeowners don’t realize is that their role doesn’t stop there. Rain gutters prevent a lot of possible complications on your home, such as:
- Rotting wood sidings and water damage on ceilings – wood is known to rot after being exposed to too much water. This is why many homes that do not have rain gutters and use wood on the exteriors experience a lot of wood rot, especially if they live in an area that gets plenty of rain.
More than an eyesore, rotting wood also attracts pests and other animals that can cause further damage to your home. They can squeeze their way inside and make a home out of the foundations. In the long run, this will affect your home’s structural integrity.
- Flooded basements – without rain gutters, rain would just flow downwards and because the basement is the lowest part of your home, it is highly likely that the water will end up there. This is a common issue experienced by many homeowners that do not have rain gutters in their homes.
- Erode soil – you might think that there’s nothing worrisome about soil erosion happening in your home, but this is something you really need to keep in mind. Any home can experience its foundations settling, that is, they move away from their original positions. You probably don’t know it but soil erosion plays a big part in this.
Too much soil erosion will let water pool around your home, particularly close to your foundations. If not rectified, the water will be able to penetrate the foundations and this will cause it to weaken.
- Ruin landscaping – another key component to having a beautiful home is landscaping. Plants and other related ornaments will add character to your house, especially when you take good care of them.
A gutter-less house with landscaping close to it is a recipe for disaster. When it rains, water will flow directly on top of those plants. This will eventually cause them to bend, especially during non-stop rain or when the rains are quite strong. When this happens, it would be very difficult to get them to grow straight.
Also, too much water is known as an easy way to kill plants. This is something that happens quite often with gutter-less homes. Water being dumped on your garden bed frequently and at large volumes will damage your landscaping.
- Cause mold to grow – we already mentioned that water can seep through the foundations of a house that does not have rain gutters installed. Aside from possibly weakening the structure of your home, it can also cause molds to grow on its walls. Damp environments, which these foundations have, are a known breeding ground for molds.
- Drop in the overall value – do you plan to eventually sell off your home? If you do, you need to be aware of the consequences of going without a gutter on your home. You’ll have to deal with cracks on your walls and foundations, rotting sections, ruined flowerbeds, and so much more, and these will decrease the value of your home. No one would be interested in buying a damaged home at a high price.
Installing rain gutters will always be an optional investment; there are some instances that roofing contractors will recommend not having them because they would relatively be useless. If the following apply to you and your home, you’re safe with not having rain gutters:
- You live in an area that receives very little rainfall all year long, like Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
- The land already slopes downwards, away from your home
- Concrete can be found in close proximity to your home and it acts as a barricade against water
- Your home’s roof overhang is already long or an extension is present, allowing water to go down some distance away from the foundation of your home
You also need to take note of the following conditions, which would really require you to get rain gutters for your home:
- Slope of the land is going up, with the lowest areas found closest to your home
- Red clay, which can let water repeatedly go to your foundations, is present and dominant
- The overhang of your roof is very short or does not exist at all
With the above conditions, it will be much easier for you to decide to get rain gutters installed in your home or not without consulting a contractor. But in general, it is advisable to do so.
Best Gutter Materials
If you plan to go the rain gutter DIY route in your own home, you should first know about the available shapes and materials you can choose from to decide which type is suitable for you.
In terms of the shape, there are five you can choose from:
- K-style – also known as the ‘ogee’ gutter, this is the most commonly used gutter shape. It is easily identifiable due to its appearance that is reminiscent of crown molding on the front, and with its bottom and back flat and even.
Don’t let its dainty appearance deceive you; K-style gutters are known to be durable and will take a lot before it can bend. Not only does it look good, it is also the gutter shape that can hold the most water, is cheaper compared to other gutter shapes, and is much easier to install. Its seamless finish also lessens the likelihood of leaks.
Since it can hold large amounts of water, it also has a better chance of corroding but this will depend on the type of metal used. And because of its irregular shape, cleaning is much more complicated.
- Half-round – another relatively common gutter shape is the half-round gutter. As the name implies, they look like pipes that are horizontally cut in half. This is a much simpler type and because of its stylish appearance, it is a favorite of those who prefer their gutters to complement their home. You’ll also notice that most traditional homes, especially those that are quite old, use this shape.
Half-round gutters can also make use of hangers that are cleverly tucked away and its shape, with the right materials and color, can even trick anyone who looks at your home to believe that you do not have a rain gutter installed. Its smooth shape also lessens the chance of corrosion and makes it easier to maintain.
This gutter shape is easy to make but is not that readily available. With the advent of K-style gutters, manufacturers lessened their production of half-round gutters. They also use specialized parts that can get quite pricey. As a result, they are more expensive overall than K-style ones. And if weight is an issue, you might need to consider others because half-round gutters are known to be heavy.
- Victorian Ogee or Old Gothic – reminiscent of Victorian-style gutters and elements, this gutter shape is mostly installed on heritage-listed homes and those that incorporate traditional styles, such as those with a Victorian or Federation theme. Its appearance takes inspiration from cast iron gutters used widely in the 19th century.
Because they are quite shallow, they are ideally only installed on smaller homes. This is also not produced in mass quantities, so homeowners who want this style installed in their homes would have better luck in having them custom-made. As a result, it is quite pricey.
- European or Euro-gutters – this shape is easily mistaken for a half-round gutter because they are very similar in style. What sets them apart is the gutter bead, or the curl you see at the tip of the gutter. European gutters have gutter beads that face outwards, while half-round gutters have inward-facing gutter beads. Because of their similarities, they also share the same pros and cons.
- Fascia or eaves gutter – some homes do not come with traditional fascia and for those who want to install rain gutters without having to install the separate fascia as well, fascia gutters are the solution. In the truest sense, the gutter and fascia’s functionalities are combined in a fascia gutter.
Often found in homes in the western states of the US, they are identifiable by their angular appearance, with its back having a 90˚ angle. Fascia gutters are normally custom-made, since they are installed seamlessly.
Unless customized, rain gutters would just come in two sizes: 5-inch and 6-inch. 5-inch gutters are typical for K-style gutters, while the 6-inch size is used more often for half-round gutters.
In terms of gutter materials, you have a number of options available if you plan to install them yourself:
- Aluminum – the most common material used by both beginners and professionals, owing to the fact that they resist corrosion and rust and will withstand all kinds of weather. Aluminum is also lightweight but is durable and known to last for a long time. You can also customize them yourself, since you can paint them in any color you want.
A downside of using aluminum is that it can get dents. While it can still function properly, the dents can be unsightly. But because of its relatively cheap price, the benefits greatly outweigh the cost and it is easy for homeowners to get them replaced whenever they want to.
- Vinyl – it is another inexpensive material, and is oftentimes the cheapest. Vinyl is heavily-favored of those who want to DIY their gutters because they are lightweight and easy to install. They also come in sections and is easy to cut them into the lengths you need. Because they are crafted using strong plastic, corrosion and denting won’t be an issue. Vinyl also comes in different colors, but it tends to get discolored over time.
An issue with vinyl gutters is their durability; they are quite weak when compared to other gutter materials. Expose them to the cold for some time and they will eventually become brittle. And if they are installed incorrectly, they will eventually sag and develop leaks. If you plan to use vinyl gutters, consult with a contractor if the thicker ones would work for your home.
- Galvanized steel – it is also possible for homeowners to install gutters made up of galvanized sheet metal, but only if they know how to solder. Galvanized steel is known for its durability, withstanding hits by stray branches, ladders, or other solid materials. They would not easily bend, break, or shatter. Most people think that galvanized steel gutters cost a lot but the truth is, they are quite affordable.
The biggest issue that can affect this type is rust. Although it is quite rust-resistant, not doing regular maintenance on them will result in your galvanized steel gutters developing rust in as early as 5 years or so. This material is also heavier than aluminum and vinyl and only those with some experience doing DIY work at home should attempt to install them.
There are also other gutter materials that are sturdier than the ones we mentioned, but they cost a lot more. They are also much more complicated to install, requiring professionals to handle them. If professional installation is something you are still considering, you can choose from the following gutter materials:
- Copper – if you want something that can last for a very long time and money is not an issue, a copper rain gutter is your best bet. Most would agree that it is the most eye-catching gutter material, in a good way, which is also why copper roofs are popular on higher end homes. Its signature appearance looks good when brand new and it will even look a lot better as it ages because of the patina it develops. Did you know that this patina also acts as a protective barrier, and that many homeowners choose to have pieces of copper installed along the roof to avoid black streaks on their shingles?
Copper is known as the sturdiest material for gutters, as they are not prone to getting rust, can withstand the harshest weather conditions, and can survive hits from falling debris without getting damaged. It is also low-maintenance because the material prevents mold and other algae from growing, and clogging is therefore minimized.
Because of all these, it comes as no surprise that it is the most expensive gutter material out there. However, the price is justifiable because it is known to last for decades, generally outlasting all other gutter materials.
- Galvalume – if you want many of the benefits of copper gutters but hate their price tag, why not look into galvalume gutters? This is made up of a steel substrate for durability, as well as 45% zinc and 55% aluminum for antirust. And if you want your gutters to retain its original look, this is your best bet. Some may think that it is just similar to galvanized steel, but galvalume gutters are stronger and will last a lot longer.
- Zinc – another substitute for copper ones, it consists of roughly 99.5% zinc, as well as titanium and copper. Zinc gutters will also develop patina over the years, and this layer will protect it from corroding and the effects of extreme weather conditions. Zinc gutters are known to be cheaper than copper but are more expensive and will last longer than aluminum. Zinc can also be used as the main material for the roof.
- Wood – this type of gutter is now only used primarily for historic or heritage homes that originally used them, owing to the fact that they are prone to rot and cannot withstand extreme weather conditions.
- Stainless steel – yes, stainless steel gutters also exist. However, they are not a popular choice because of their price tag. This material is also weatherproof, not prone to warping, and not susceptible to rust, which makes the price justifiable.
Mistakes to Avoid when Doing a DIY Gutter Installation
Everyone has a chance of making a mistake or two when doing DIY work, especially if it is their first time doing so. Do you recall your first-ever DIY project? You probably also remember your own mistakes before finally finishing that project successfully.
Installing rain gutters are no different; beginners are likely to make mistakes and these are actually common to DIY work for rain gutters. As a result, many homeowners end up spending more and wasting materials, instead of saving money by not hiring gutter installers.
Sometimes, video tutorials and guides are not enough. You also need to arm yourself with information regarding the most common mistakes of DIY gutter installations. This will let you know what you need to avoid when you start your DIY project.
To help you out, we have compiled a list of the most common mistakes made when installing rain gutters:
- Wrong pitch – the pitch matters because this will affect the flow of water going to the downspouts. Too little can slow down or stop water from flowing to the downspouts – it will just sit there and water will just spill out of the gutter’s sides. On the other hand, too much slope looks unsightly and will cause water to rapidly move along, eventually causing an overflow somewhere. Slope recommendations are ¼” towards a downspout per 10 feet of gutter or around 1-2” for every 40 feet.
- Installing it in the wrong area – most first-timers believe that since they seem to be placed at the edge of roofs, they can just install their gutters anywhere. Rain gutters should always be installed a few inches below the roof edge or line.
- Gutter hangers have improper spacing – have you seen rain gutters that sag in a section or two? This is mainly due to the fact that their gutter hangers are incorrectly placed, as they have a lot of space in between.
- Gutters tilt forward – it is also important that gutters should be installed in such a way that they are at an even level from back to front. If not, its front edge will slump forward and water will flow out from there instead of going to the downspouts. It’s like you didn’t have a gutter at all.
- Seams are just too many – DIY rain gutters are rarely seamless, and unfortunately, these are where leaking often appears or where gutters even detach over time. To avoid these, make sure to have as few seams as you possible can, if you are unable to go for seamless gutters.
- Not using the proper equipment – make sure that the right ones are used, such as power drills and screwdrivers for making holes on your gutters and sealants and rivets to keep sections together. Not doing so can make your gutters flimsy and prone to damage.
- Improperly-sized gutters – gutter size matters because this will affect how efficiently gutters will work and how it will prevent damage to your home. If you use gutters that are too small for the amount of rainfall your area gets, it won’t be able to handle all that water.
- Wrong number and positions of downspouts – your rain gutters are not the only ones you should focus on; downspouts are as important. Have enough downspouts for water to not get stuck on your gutters, and correctly install them in the right places.
- Mishandling gutters – some people tend to be careless during installation and they end up damaging parts of their gutter accidentally, requiring them to replace entire sections. New gutter materials normally come with warranty, but mishandling them is a surefire way of voiding it.
- Using the wrong materials – it is also important that you consider which material is most appropriate for your home, not just focus on what looks good or what is cheapest.
- Underestimating the entire installation process – installing rain gutters means you’ll have to get up on your roof and be in good condition to handle all the strenuous physical activity it involves. This is something a lot of homeowners don’t consider. It seems so easy to do on tutorials, but they realize it too late that they can’t handle the height or are unable to finish it due to physical limitations.
Throughout the entire installation process, remember to always consider your safety and of those working with you. Because you need to work at a high place, make sure that your ladder is stable and won’t move around as you work. Keep your at least one of your hands and feet in contact with it at all times.
Admitting defeat when you need to is also one thing you need to keep in mind. In some cases, DIY ends up being more expensive than getting professionals to do it or the work involved is much harder than you anticipated. There’s nothing wrong with getting help from a contractor if you need to.
How to Install Rain Gutters by Yourself
Now that you are aware of which materials to use and what you need to avoid doing, you now need to learn about how to properly install rain gutters. If you prefer to simply watch a video, we’ve embedded one below, otherwise the steps are outlines below the video.
- Determine how long your gutters would have to be by measuring the fascia, since this where they will be fastened to. The shingle line would also work if you do not have a fascia.
- Mark where your gutter hangers or fascia brackets will go. At best, they should have a 32-inch space between each hanger or bracket.
- Identify where your downspouts should be placed. You should ideally have a downspout after approximately every 40 feet of gutter.
- Snap a chalk line to mark the path of your gutter. Make sure that there is a slightly downward slope to it.
- Before attaching the gutter to the fascia, place gutter sealants on the end caps and tighten them with a crimping tool.
- Mark where the downspouts should go and make appropriate holes for the downspout outlets on your gutter.
To make it easier for you to make the holes for the outlets, create a V-shaped hole that will be your starting point. Cut away and make sure to do so with an allowance of 0.16 cm away from the actual outlet hole.
- Insert your downspout’s outlet and make holes where rivets would go. Use both rivets and waterproof silicone glue to keep them together and in place.
- Temporarily install your gutter a few inches below the marked gutter line, then install the gutter hangers or fascia brackets. Make sure that there is one hanger for every rafter.
- Reposition the gutter so that it is now in its proper place, then screw it to the fascia. Tighten the screws to make sure it can handle the weight of the water.
- Connect your downspouts to the downspout outlets of your gutter. You should use mounting straps to make sure that these outlets will stay in place.
- Add gutter sealants to every seam and leave it alone to dry for an entire day.
This installation is applicable for sectional gutters. Seamless gutters are also available, but they are only installed by professionals.
Why You Should Regularly Inspect Gutters
A common mistake of homeowners is that once they have their rain gutters in place, they would just leave them alone and only remember to check them when it gets problematic. They would not do proper maintenance, believing that the rain water will flush away debris in their gutters anyway. This is a misconception that leads to disastrous consequences, and properly inspecting them should already be on your home inspection checklist.
Rain gutters also experience all sorts of problems. One thing you need to know is that almost all of them are avoidable – if you make it a habit to regularly check and do maintenance works on them. If you don’t, expect at least one of the following to happen:
- Appearance of mold
- Clogged gutters
- Standing water in your gutter
- Overflows during rain
- Basement and roof leaks
- Damage to your foundations
- Cracks, sags, and holes on the gutters
- Infestations of insects and other animals
Dealing with these problems is not just going to be a headache but is also bound to be costly. This is why it is very important for you to get them checked out every after a few months, especially before fall season starts, by yourself or a professional.
Water Leaking Between House Gutters and Fascia
One of the main reasons why roof gutters are a must is that they help prevent water damage to your home. However, there are times that this may not be the case. Instead of going to the gutter, some of the rainwater goes behind it instead.
This is a fairly common problem. More often than not, clogging is the culprit. Too much debris on your gutters will let water overflow and it will spill over to the edges of the gutter. If the gutters look clear, yet the water poured on your gutter is not going down, there may be a blockage somewhere else.
If you are sure that there is no clogged section of your gutter, the issue likely involves your roof itself. This is often the case for roofs with shingles, as water follows the path of the trim instead. To solve this, you can either use a drip edge or gutter apron.
Gutter aprons are much more recommended, because they not only protect your roof deck since they are installed under your shingles, but they also lead the water straight to the gutter. Drip edges, on the other hand, are not capable of directing the flow of water and as a result, it can still flow behind your gutter.
Installing gutter aprons is quite easy, as you only need to place it under your roof’s shingles and have the angled bottom placed over the gutter, with roofing nails used to secure its position. You should have this installed as soon as you notice leaking behind your gutter to prevent any possible damage to your home.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Professionals to Install Gutters?
Most people would rather do the DIY route because construction work done by licensed contractors are generally quite expensive. After all, you’re not just paying for the materials but also for their skills. You pay premium so you can also expect the best for your home and peace of mind that you won’t encounter any issues for a very long time. Unless you are very confident with your skills, this is hardly something you can get from a beginner’s DIY work.
The cost of installing roof gutters largely depends on the materials you want. If you recall, there are some materials that are quite cheap and there are also those that are on the pricier side. Including labor and materials, installations can go for as low as $200 and as high as $10,000. But on average, you can expect professionals to charge roughly $970, with it ranging from over $550 and reaching almost $1500.
Depending on your arrangement with the contractor, their rate may or may not include the installation of downspouts. If they charge it separately, expect to pay around $10 to $160 for it.
Even if you are set in installing your rain gutters by yourself, it doesn’t hurt if you ask contractors for their quotations for the job. They don’t expect you to commit to them once you make inquiries, anyway. And their quotations may even end up being lower than the budget you have in mind if you do the installation yourself.