Don’t be fooled by TV home improvement shows. Installing new gutters, or any home improvement project for that matter, is a lot harder than it seems. To cut down on costs, some homeowners choose to install their new gutter system themselves. However, this almost always costs them more in the long run. That’s because first-time DIYers often make costly installation mistakes.
Here are some common mistakes.
Choosing the Wrong Type of Gutter System
No two homes are alike – each household has its own set of unique needs. That’s why there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to home improvement projects, and gutter installations are no exception. Before choosing a new gutter system for your home, you should take into account several factors, such as your area’s climate, the amount of rainfall your area receives and your household needs.
To help you get started on your research, here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular gutter profiles and materials:
- Half-round – This traditional gutter shape has been installed on houses since the 1900s and was the most common gutter shape back then. Due to their shape, half-round gutters can’t be installed onto the fascia board directly. They’re mounted on hangers instead.
- K-style – This gutter profile is the most popular one in American homes. Its popularity can be attributed to its many advantages. For instance, these gutters can hold more water than other profiles, making them a smart choice for homeowners living in rainy areas. They’re also easy to install: since they’re flat on one side, they can be easily attached to the fascia board or the long straight board that runs along the edge of your roof.
- Fascia – As the name suggests, fascia gutters, a common feature in parts of the western part of the country, double as the fascia board for homes that don’t have one.
- Aluminum – Thanks to their cost-effectiveness, resistance to corrosion and ease of installation, lightweight aluminum is one of the most commonly used gutter materials in the country.
- Zinc – Zinc gutters cost more than aluminum gutters, but can last twice as long and has fewer maintenance needs.
- Copper – When it comes to durability, few can rival copper. Copper gutters are exceptionally durable and have long lifespans. The only downside is that copper gutters are quite expensive, but if you’re looking for an exceptionally durable gutter system, they’re worth the cost.
- Galvanized steel – Galvanized steel is coated with a layer of zinc to protect it from rust. However, over time, the zinc coating will begin to fade, leaving your gutters vulnerable to corrosion. That’s why it’s important to regularly inspect and clean galvanized steel gutters.
- Galvalume® – In addition to zinc, Galvalume is coated with aluminum, giving it a lifespan that’s roughly nine times longer than galvanized steel.
- Vinyl – Vinyl is a versatile material that’s used to manufacture gutters and siding. It’s not as durable as the aforementioned gutter materials, but what it lacks in durability, it more than makes up for with its ease of installation and affordability. Vinyl gutters are the most affordable option on the market. However, they might not be the best choice for homes in cold climates as vinyl becomes brittle in subzero temperatures.
If you’re having trouble choosing the right gutter system for your home, you should consult your local contractor. Here’s a tip: it’s best to consult local contractors. Since they’re more familiar with your area’s climate and building codes, they can make better recommendations.
Choosing the Wrong Gutter Size
Another common DIY mistake is choosing gutters with the wrong dimensions. Gutters are responsible for diverting rainwater away from your roof, exterior and lumber decks, so installing a gutter that doesn’t have enough capacity to handle all the rainwater can damage your exterior.
How big is a conventional gutter system? A standard gutter system is five inches long and six inches wide while its downspouts are two by three inches or three by four inches in length and width, and three or four inches in diameter. As mentioned earlier, however, a one-size-fits-all approach just won’t work. The size of your gutters ultimately depends on the amount of rainfall your area receives as well as your roof’s pitch. A good rule of thumb would be the steeper the roof pitch, the more rainwater the roof can collect, the larger the gutters need to be.
How can you tell if your gutters aren’t big enough? By keeping an eye out for overflowing water even though there aren’t any leaves or debris in your gutters. Speaking of gutter maintenance, routine gutter cleaning is a must if you want to prevent gutter leaks and protect your roof and siding from moisture damage. However, if you just don’t have the time for gutter maintenance, you can install gutters guards or a gutter protection system. Gutter protection systems prevent leaves and other kinds of debris from entering and clogging your gutters.
Referencing Inaccurate Roof Pitches
Gutters are installed at a certain angle to allow rainwater to flow to the downspouts. If the slope is too steep, rainwater will rush to the downspouts too fast and overflow. And, if the angle is too low, water will pool in parts of the gutter, creating pockets where mold and mildew can start to grow or pests can nest. In general, the pitch should be adjusted by ¼-inch slope towards the downspouts for every 10 feet of gutters.
Spacing Gutter Hangers Too Far Apart
The gutter hangers supporting your gutter system shouldn’t be spaced too far apart. Otherwise, your gutters might start to sag. As a rule of thumb, the hangers should be spaced three feet or less next to each other. However, for homes in cold climates, the hangers should be spaced closer to each other, specifically two feet apart, to account for the added weight load from snow.
Poorly Installed Downspouts
Don’t forget about your gutter’s downspouts. If they’re not installed properly or were placed in the wrong location, rainwater might seep into the foundation. In general, downspouts should be diverting water 8 to 10 feet away from your home’s foundation.
Here’s a tip on how to make the most of your gutters while reducing your water consumption: install rain barrel diverters. Rain barrels are connected to the downspout and store excess rainwater for future use. You can use stored rainwater to water your lawn or garden without having to use a hose or your sprinklers. Once the barrel becomes full, a rain barrel diverter directs overflowing rainwater back to the downspout, protecting your pavement and any nearby lumber decks from moisture damage. To learn more about the different gutter accessories that can reduce your home’s maintenance needs, consult a professional contractor.
Why It’s Better to Leave Gutter Installation Work to the Professionals
Given all the different factors you need to take into account before choosing and installing your gutters, it’s almost a guarantee that first-time DIYers will make several costly installation errors. Remember: your gutter system forms part of your roof and your exterior’s first line of defense against the elements, which is why any error can leave your home vulnerable to moisture damage. If you decide to install your new gutters yourself, whatever savings you can get from labor costs will be quickly offset by repair and replacement costs in the future. That’s why it’s best to let professionals handle all the gutter installation work.
One more thing: make sure to vet a roofer before hiring one to make sure the pro is qualified for the job. Here’s a vetting tip: the number of years a roofer has been working in the industry should give you a good idea of the person’s level of expertise.