Got Your Mind in the Gutter? Ponder Our 8-Step Gutter-Installation Guide

by Michael Franco

Gutters are usually installed by professionals, but you can save a few bucks by installing them yourself — and why not? After all, we live in the glorious do-it-yourself age. As long as you have the knowledge and the right materials and tools, you don’t need to hire anyone to install or replace your gutters for you. This is a worthwhile project, especially if you live in an area that sees a lot of rain, snow, or (gasp!) both.

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Read on for a helpful guide on what you need to know to get started on your gutter installation, as well as a step-by-step overview of the process.

Does Your House Need Gutters?

As a homeowner, the last thing you want to see when you head down to your basement is a pool of water big enough to wade in — and that’s exactly what you risk when you don’t have gutters and downspouts installed during the rainy season. Gutters may not sound glamorous, but they’re an essential component of your house, responsible for collecting rainwater or melted snow coming down from the roof and steering it away from your house.

This is extremely important because, without house gutters, the water can pool around your foundation. This can lead to erosion of the house’s siding and even weaken the foundation’s structural integrity. The next thing you know, cracks have formed and water is seeping into your basement during heavy rains. This kind of damage can take thousands of dollars to fix.

While that’s the biggest concern, rainwater not properly diverted can stain the side of your house, and can also damage the paint and lead to mold and mildew growth. All that can seriously make your home look ugly, and even cause health concerns. It can also seriously devalue your home, which can put a damper (literally) on any eventual plans to put it on the market. Your home is a big investment, so by adding a gutter system, you’re actually doing some home improvement and home preservation at the same time.

Is It Hard to Install Gutters Yourself?

To DIY or not to DIY? That is the question. If the answer is the former, the next question is: Am I up for this? On a difficulty scale of 1 to 5 (1 being easy and 5 being hard), DIY gutter installation is about a 2.5. As long as you follow the instructions and have everything you need, you should be able to accomplish the project with minimal drama.

Overall, gutter installation can take you anywhere from an afternoon to an entire day. One way to make the project a little easier and faster is having a friend or family member help out.

Aluminum Vs. Vinyl Gutters

The most popular options for gutter materials are aluminum and vinyl. Vinyl gutters are the most affordable option, coming in at $3 to $5 per linear foot on average. On top of that, they’re lightweight, which makes them easier to install — but that also means they won’t last long in an environment with heavy rain and snow. If the climate is mild and you maintain them properly, vinyl gutters can last up to 20 years. Otherwise, you can expect to get eight to 10 years out of them.

On average, aluminum gutters cost about $4 to $5 per linear foot, which is slightly higher than vinyl, though the price difference may prove negligible. Their biggest benefit over vinyl gutters is that they’re more durable. Aluminum gutters can easily last up to 20 years in environments where vinyl would last half that long. So when it comes down to the two, you’re better off going with aluminum.

The benefit of both is that they come in varied colors. So you can easily get gutters that match the style of your home, no matter which type you choose.

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Step-by-Step Gutter Installation

If you’re replacing the gutters instead of installing them for the first time, start by removing the old gutters. Make sure to dispose of them responsibly. From there, the steps are the same.

1. Measure and Cut

Measure each section of the roof where you want to install the gutters. Gutters are usually sold in lengths of 10 feet, so depending on the measurement, you might need to cut the gutters or combine them so they cover the part of the roof you’ll be working on.

2. Gather Additional Components

Then, you need to purchase a few other implements to complete the job. These include corners, end caps, downspout connections, slip joints, gutter sealant, sheet metal screws, strapping, gutter elbows and gutter connections.

3. Assemble Gutter on Ground

With your measurements in hand, begin assembling the gutter on the ground. For example, if the roof section measures 24 feet in length, which is 2 linear feet, you’ll need two 10-foot pieces and another one cut to 4 feet to make it fit. To connect one gutter to the other, you can use a slip joint connector. This makes it easy to combine them since you just slide each gutter at each end of the connector. The problem is that it can be difficult to get the sections watertight this way — even if you place abundant sealant between them — because the pieces don’t overlap.

4. Connect Sections

The best way to connect the sections is to cut a few inches off the front lip of one gutter and slide the other one in. You can use a tin snip — a tool used to cut or trim sheet metal like aluminum or vinyl — for the cutting. Just be sure to also place some gutter sealant in the area the other gutter will be slid into. Next, to hold the two pieces together, just place two sheet metal screws on each side of the gutter near the top. Then, grab two gutter caps, add some sealant, and place one at each end of the gutter.

If you want to skip combining the gutters, you’re better off working with a seamless gutter, in which case you’d have one solid piece per roof section instead of combining prefabricated sections. Because it’s one long section, it eliminates the chance that water will start leaking through the weak points, which is generally where you connect the gutters. However, you have to get seamless gutters made, which can cost more.

5. Install Downspout Connectors

To finish combining the gutters, you need to install the downspout connector. Grab a downspout outlet and place it at 30 feet along the gutter. First, trace its outline and then drill a hole using a hole saw. Finish cutting out the shape with the tin snip. Add some sealant around the outlet and place it into the hole. Make sure you have a downspout installed at every 30 feet.

6. Attach Gutter to Roof

Now it’s time to install your self-assembled, house-protecting creation on the roof.

To begin, place gutter hangers along the gutter’s length with equal spacing in between them. Then, lift the gutter into place (here's where that helpful friend comes in handy), and drive in the screws of the hangers using a drill driver to secure the gutter to the fascia board.

7. Set Slope, Look for Leaks

Make sure that the gutter slopes every 10 feet toward the direction of the water spout; this will ensure that it drains properly. If the gutter has a run that’s longer than 40 feet, it’s best to start sloping the gutter from the midpoint. Now run water down the gutter using a hose to ensure that it’s draining adequately and that there are no leaks.

8. Attach the Downspout

To install the downspout, combine enough downspout elbows from the downspout outlet to reach the exterior wall. Place screws on the elbow that connects to the outlet for a stronger connection.

Then, measure the length of the downspout piece, from the edge of the elbow to about 3 feet from the foundation. If you’re using a barrel to collect the water, use a downspout that is shorter in length. Cut a piece of the downspout using those measurements and secure it to the wall with metal strapping.

Now You Know

Armed with this overview, you’re now ready to get out there and gather all the necessary materials and tools. If you can’t find all the tools in one place, consider borrowing some from your neighbor (and ask them if they wouldn’t mind helping out, while you’re at it). After you’re finished installing your new gutter, you won’t panic every time it rains or snow begins to melt. You can’t put a price on peace of mind — and if you can save money in the process, all the better.

You can amplify that peace of mind by being prepared with a home repair plan from HomeServe. Once you have a plan in place and a covered issue arises, you can simply call the 24/7 repair hotline. A local, licensed and highly trained contractor will be sent out to you to get the job done to your satisfaction.