If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve decided to forgo the help of a professional and do your own gutter replacement. Which is totally fine! As long as you are careful, precise, and follow these steps to ensure it’s done right the first time.
Before you tackle installing gutters on your home, there are definitely a few things you’ll want to know. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to install gutters, and we’re going to help you avoid common mistakes other homeowners have made. We’ll start with the first steps you should take.
Remove the Old Gutters
The last thing you want to do is make a mistake while removing the old gutters that cause damage and more work for you. You will want to carefully remove them to ensure you don’t strip any screws or damage the soffit that needs to be used to install the new gutters. First things first, here are the tools you’ll need for removal:
- Work gloves
- Sturdy ladder
- Pry bar/hammer
- Power drill
- Caulk & caulking gun
- Wood putty & putty knife
First, you’ll want to examine your gutters and determine where you will need to remove nails, screws, and brackets. These will take more time and care to remove. Go ahead and start prying out nails with your hammer or pry bar; drill out rivets and screws should need a handheld screwdriver to remove. Word to the wise: if there is rain in the forecast and you don’t have time to replace all the new gutters before then, don’t remove them all first.
Before you actually detach the gutters from the house, you’ll want to remove the downspouts first. If they’re still attached to the gutters upon removal, it can make it much more difficult and cumbersome to do so. Loosen the brackets that attach the downspouts to your house and remove the downspouts at the elbow. Then you can work on detaching the brackets holding up your gutters.
Once all pieces are carefully detached and removed, you should fill in any holes left behind in the fascia board. You can use your caulk for any vinyl penetrations. Put some caulk in the holes and smooth over with your finger. Any holes in the wood can be filled using wood putty and smoothed out with a putty knife. Sand down any rough edges so you can start nice and fresh with your new gutter system.
How to Install Gutters Yourself
Now that you’ve managed to remove the old gutters, it’s time to install your brand-spankin’ new gutter system. There are a few key tips to follow as you do this, and you can find a more detailed step-by-step installation process here.
Here is a list of tools you will need to install your new gutters:
- Cordless drill
- Duckbill tin snips
- Offset tin snips
- 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 & elbows
- Hanging strap
- Gutter sealant
- Work gloves
Measure Your Roof
You’ll want to measure and re-measure all of the edges of your roof where you will be installing your gutters. This includes where downspouts will be. This step can honestly be done before you remove the old gutters, especially if you are installing similar gutters but just an updated version. You can also keep your old gutters before installing your new ones for the same purpose—to have a reference of size for the new ones.
To measure the roof, make sure you get the full length from end to end for your gutters. And any measurement over 40 feet will require the placement of two downspouts. It’s recommended/required that you place a downspout every 30-40 feet around your gutters to ensure proper water flow.
Mark Your Slopes
Despite looking like it’s installed in a straight line, every gutter is installed at a gradual angle to ensure proper water flow (commonly referred to as gutter slope). The right way to measure your downslopes is to go down 1/4 inch every 10 feet. So if your longest side of your roof is 40 feet long, your gutter will be a whole inch lower on one end of the gutter than the other. This will not be noticeable, especially if you install a downspout at 30 feet and start the downslope of your gutter over from that point. Use a washable chalk line to mark these spots.
These slanted sections are essential for letting water flow out through the downspouts and away from the house. If they were perfectly straight, you might find yourself with standing water that won’t flow out.
Mark Where the Downspouts Will Be
As we said, downspouts must go into your gutters every 30-40 feet. You will want to pre-cut these holes where they will be installed. So once you have solidified the length of gutter you need, and it’s prepped how it would be installed, measure out where that downspout will go in and trace around it with a pencil to mark the spot to cut. Then, use your tin snips to cut out the shape you will insert and adhere to your downspout.
Cut Your Gutters
Chances are that the gutters you purchased will be a little long for what you need, and you will have to cut them to size. Based on the measurements you took at the beginning, and taking into account your downslope, cut your gutters to the size you need before you begin to install. A hacksaw should do the job, and tin snips can work well for more precise, smaller cuts.
Before you start cutting, it’s good to take into consideration the gutter material before you start handling and cutting your new gutters. Aluminum gutters are easy to cut, but dent very easily. Vinyl gutters are common for DIYers because they are so easy to work with, but keep in mind they can become brittle in colder temperatures which could make them more susceptible to breaking. Odds are you are not installing steel gutters, but if you are, you don’t need to worry about damaging them but cutting them might be a bit of a challenge unless you have the proper tools.
Mount Your Supports
You will begin the process of installing your gutters by first attaching the support brackets to the fascia. Start by drilling starter holes or pilot holes to more easily screw in the long hex head screws into the fascia. It can be a little difficult to get through, so make sure your cordless drill has a full charge and your ladder is nice and sturdy before you begin. Note: these brackets will be installed using the initial chalk line for your downslope measurements as a guide.
Install the Gutters
You will now lay your gutters into those support brackets. Then, screw the gutter itself into the fascia to secure them. You will then use caulk or gutter sealant to seal over any seals for added protection. This is also when you will install your gutter flashing (keeping water out of the seam between your gutter and the fascia) and any gutter guards.
Attach Your Downspouts Last
Once the gutters are in place, it is time to install your downspouts and elbows into the pre-cut holes you made earlier. You will need to do a few things here. First, insert the end of your downspout elbow into the pre-cut hole, adding a hefty bit of sealant around the seam to ensure it’s stable. Let this dry completely. Then, attach your support brackets to the side of the house that will guide your downspout along the side of the house and to the ground. Carefully install your pre-cut and measured downspouts, making sure to seal every seam.
Again, these are basic steps—more detailed steps can be found here.
Common Gutter Install Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some of the major DON’TS of DIY gutter installation.
#1 Damaging Gutters During Removal, Prep, or Installation
Gutters are heavy-duty structures that can be difficult to work with for the first-timer. They can be difficult to cut and maneuver and are at risk of damage if you don’t know how to handle them. Both during removal and installation DIY homeowners need to be extra diligent not to damage the fascia, soffits, or gutters themselves while moving and installing them. But the biggest risk of damaging the gutters comes from improper measurement and cutting techniques. Having the right tools and the proper direction will save you the pain of having to re-purchase gutters that were cut too short or crooked or dented during the process.
#2 Purchasing the Wrong Size Gutters
Yes, gutters come in different sizes. They can be wider or more narrow, and your climate and the amount of rainfall you get can determine which size you need to get. In most cases, the gutters you remove to replace with new ones will be the right size, so keep a section of that to ensure you get the right size. You could even bring it with you to the big box home improvement store for comparison. The last thing you want is to cut your gutter lengths and install your brackets and downspouts cut and everything, just to have the gutter not fit into your brackets. So always double-check your gutter size.
#3 Attempting to Work Alone
Do not try to do the DIY gutter installation on your own. Anytime you are working up on a ladder, you should have someone with you. Even if their only job is to hold the ladder steady or hand you tools, they must be there. They can keep you safe from harm, and if something does happen, they are there to help or call 911 in an emergency. Most people will help you out as long as you buy them some beer and pizza, right?
Your home’s gutter system is imperative to how your home works as a whole. They help shed rainwater, they keep your foundation and landscaping safe from harm and flooding, and they help when that snow thaw comes, and all of the snow melts at once. Therefore, it isn’t something that should be taken lightly, and if you don’t believe you can handle gutter installation on your own or worry about risking injury or damage to your home, please call the pros! At Northface Construction, we offer premium gutter installation on any home with any gutters. So give us a call today to get started!