If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve decided to forgo the help of a professional and do your own gutter replacement. Great job!
Gutters are one of the more DIY-friendly projects to do around the house, but it can still come with drawbacks for inexperienced homeowners. We think that as long as you are careful, precise, and follow these steps to ensure it’s done right the first time, you can handle it.
Before you tackle installing gutters on your home, there are some 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.
Step 1: Measure and Plan Your Gutter Project
Before purchasing materials or tackling any part of the project, you need to measure everything and plan ahead. This prep-work is vital to ensuring the gutter project runs smoothly from start to finish.
Without proper measurements and a well-thought-out plan, you can be stuck with too many materials, not enough materials, or a completely stalled project because you get stuck somewhere along the way. Here are a few ways you can start to plan this extensive undertaking.
Measure Your Roof
You’ll want to re-measure all of the edges of your roof where you’ll be installing your gutters. This includes where downspouts will be. You can also keep your old gutters for the same purpose—to reference size for the new ones.
To measure the roof, ensure you get the entire 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 the 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
Downspouts must go into your gutters every 30-40 feet. You will want to pre-cut these holes where they will be installed once you get to that point. But measuring them first will ensure you get enough material and length of gutters to install your downspouts when the time comes.
Additional Tips for Planning Your Gutter Installation
- Locate downspouts in areas where water will need to be directed away from the home: avoiding obstacles such as electric meters, hose bibs, or air conditioner units.
- Instead, inconspicuously place your downspouts around the house. This will make them less evident and unsightly while still doing the job.
- Install oversized downspouts on gutters that will drain the most rain or are near a steep slope of your roof. Also necessary if you live somewhere with frequent and heavy rains.
- For long gutters of 40 feet or more (on larger homes), slope them down at both ends with a downspout on either side.
- If you live in a neighborhood of similarly built homes, take a peek at the neighbor’s gutters. This could give you a good idea of what will work.
Step 2: Collect the Tools & Materials You’ll Need
Now that you have accurate measurements of your home and how much material you’ll need, you can make sure you have the tools you need to get the job done. If you don’t have any of these tools, you can pick them up at the hardware store when you get your gutter materials.
Tools needed for gutter-removal:
- Work gloves
- Sturdy ladder
- Pry bar/hammer
- Power drill
- Caulk & caulking gun
- Wood putty & putty knife
Tools needed for gutter installation:
- 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
Now, you’re ready to start!
Step 3: Remove Your Downspouts
Before you 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 complex 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.
Step 4: Remove the Old Gutters
Don’t make the mistake of damaging anything while removing the old gutters. This will just cause more work for you, so you will want to take your time to remove them carefully. Follow our steps to ensure you don’t strip any screws or damage the soffit that needs to be used to install the new gutters.
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.
Step 5: Fill in Gaps or Holes
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.
Step 6: Installing Your New Gutters
Now that you’ve managed to remove the old gutters, it’s time to install your brand new gutter system. Here is what you need to know to complete installation.
1) Cut Your Gutters
The 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, more minor cuts.
Before you start cutting, it’s good to consider 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 typical for DIYers because they are easy to work with but keep in mind they can become brittle in colder temperatures, making 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.
2) Mount Your Supports
You will begin 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 challenging to get through, so make sure your cordless drill has a full charge, and your ladder is nice and st
urdy before you begin.
- Note: these brackets will be installed using the initial chalk line for your downslope measurements as a guide.
3) Placing 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 for added protection. This is also when you install your gutter flashing (keeping water out of the seam between your gutter and the fascia) and any gutter guards.
4) Attach Your Downspouts Last
Once the gutters are in place, it is time to install your downspouts and elbows into the precut 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.
Common Gutter Installation Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some of the significant 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 challenging to cut and maneuver and are at risk of damage if you don’t know how to handle them.
DIY homeowners need to be extra diligent not to damage the fascia, soffits, or gutters themselves while moving and installing them during removal and installation. 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 broader or more narrow, and your climate and rainfall can determine which size you need. 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. Have someone with you when you are working up a ladder. They can keep you safe from harm, and if something does happen, they are there to help. Most people will help you out as long as you buy them some beer and pizza, right?
Why Hiring a Professional Might Be Your Best Option
Your home’s gutter system is imperative to how your home works as a whole. The gutters 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.
A professional contractor can install gutters properly because:
- They have the tools on hand needed to do it right.
- They are experts in roofing and gutter systems and know what to do vs. not to do.
- They have safety equipment to get up on a ladder and avoid injury.
- They often offer maintenance plans to ensure your gutters are kept clean and in good shape for years to come.
Gutter installation may seem easy at first glance, but it should not be taken lightly. 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!