Gutters come in several different sizes although most people never notice. You may have become accustomed to seeing white and brown gutters on homes but in fact many custom colors are available today. Louvers, vents, fascias and soffit materials and yes even the gutters and downspouts were a matching red color. There are cases where due to a large expanse of roof area, a larger gutter may be required. These are built into the roof itself and do not protrude from the roofs edges. Often used in the New England area it is rumored to help prevent damage from sliding snow, they became Yankee Gutters. These work extremely well and may be as much as twelve inches wide to catch all the water from the roof. They must be maintained however to prevent any leaks. Leaks will penetrate directly into the house itself since the gutter sits inside the exterior wall line. Properly installed and maintained by proper cleaning these gutters have lasted over a hundred years.
All gutters have downspouts of some kind. These come in ten foot straight lengths as well as elbows type A and Type B. Downspouts must be secured firmly to the house as falling water places a heavy load on the pipe and fittings and can actually pull a downspout loose from the gutter or house. Once I have the downspouts in a finished configuration that I like, I rivet each pipe and fitting together with two matching color rivets. Additional rivets used to secure the straps to the leader pipe leaves a nice looking end product that will not pull apart.
Also important to a good gutter system is to provide a way for the water to get from the end of the downspout away from the house foundation. There are commercial products that attach the downspout end that rolls out when water in the leader puts enough pressure on the inside of the roll. The plastic roll has holes to act like a sprinkler hose thereby letting the water out slowly causing no damage to plants or lawns below.
Gutters must be cleaned at least once a year to prevent debris from clogging the downspouts and causing gutter overflows. There are also some quite good washer attachments that fit on the end of a garden hose that will let you wash out the gutters from the ground or a small ladder. There are many types of leaf guards that fit inside the top gutter lips to prevent leaves from entering the gutter. Some work quite well, some not at all.
There is one type of "gutter" system that in fact is not a true gutter at all These are called rain guards, rain splashers and so on. They are a series of finned sections that in cross section look like a louver blade. When rain water flowing from the roof strikes the guards the guards scatter the water over a large area thereby dissipating the force of the water falling directly onto the ground below the eave edges. If you need a longer gutter you must use gutter splices and caulk to seal them. These splices tend to sag and leak over time so you should strongly consider having a one piece gutter made for you. If you purchase the gutter and decide to install it yourself, remember if it bends or kinks during installation, you own it. A really good idea is to have the contractor install it for you.
If you decide to install a gutter yourself anything over ten feet is a two man job in almost all cases. First install both the end caps with caulking and then add the downspout outlets, riveting each one in place. Gutters may be hung using either nails and ferrules or roof straps. A newer mount fits inside the gutter, locks into the gutters lips and is screwed into the fascia with a power drill. This type leaves no exterior evidence of mounting. If you are using spikes and ferrules, placing a ferrules inside the gutter lips, Place a spike on the outside face of the gutter directly over the opening in the ferrule. Striking the spike with sufficient force, it will pierce the gutter and enter into the ferrule. Line up the gutter exactly where you want the finished elevation to be and drive the spike through the back of the gutter and into the fascia board. Proceed along the gutter in two foot incremental spaces until reaching the opposite end of the gutter.
Now is the time to adjust the gutter slope before you drive the spikes completely into the wood. If you are happy with the gutter go ahead and drive the spikes flush with the gutter but do not compress the gutter or ferrules. The strap is nailed down into the roofing under the bottom shingle and hangs off the edge of the eave. The gutter is placed inside the strap assembly and the strap is locked into place. I have seen these straps face nailed into the bottom course of shingles but this is highly undesirable and will surely leak as the year pass.
Once the gutter is mounted you can proceed on to install the downspouts. Downspout fittings come in what are called either A or B types. They are both approximately 45 degree elbows but one is on the flat and the other is curved. You can bend the elbows slightly, and using left and right fittings to clear other obstructions until you have a finished length of downspout that will take the water directly to the ground or splash block below.
Attach the downspout to the gutter outlet with two small galvanized self tapping sheet metal screws. You may want to remove the downspout for cleaning one day. Now using the downspout bracket you riveted to the pipe earlier, bend the flat bracket tightly around the downspout pipe and bend the two ends outward flat against the house siding. Tug on the downspout. Remember many pounds of water will be flowing through this pipe at one time during a storm and in winter areas, freezing rain or ice and can freeze solid in the pipe. If your wall brackets are not properly nailed or not enough straps are used, the downspouts will surely fail.
Lastly a good investment is to place splash blocks under the outlet at the bottom of each downspout. Even if the downspout exits onto an asphalt or concrete driveway, use a splash block. The splash block helps carry the water away from the foundation and prevents soil erosion alongside the foundation as well. Splash blocks are available in concrete, plastic and fiberglass. It does not require a gutter the entire length of the building. Gutters capture leaves and other debris, cause ice dams in snow areas and need constant cleaning. I avoid them whenever possible.
Good luck with your gutter installation.
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