Water we know is essential for living. Ironic, perhaps, that water too is especially powerful. In terms of the home, it can wreak havoc (in the form of rot and/or as a catalyst for mold) if left to do so. Because of this, it is important to keep water where it needs to be, i.e. within pipes or … in terms of the exterior, out and away from the house … especially at the foundation.
One simple way we manage water on the exterior of a home is by controlling the rain water that may shed from the home’s roof. We do this by employing a gutter system or . . . if you’re in Canada, and as Mike Holmes might have it … with eavestroughing.
Now, this story is a long and twisty one for me. When we purchased the under-loved and left-for-ruin 19th century farmhouse, the gutters, and the downspouts, on the home were pretty well rotted out. Steel, perhaps galvanized, had rusted and corroded over time. They were half-round and many of the lengths of downspout were what you would call corrugated round. I fell in love with them instantly.
Our painter at the time removed the downspouts while giving this house its first, rather temporary, re-coating. Still, I was dead set on re-doing them (in new half-round), but first I would have to get Mrs. Moxie to agree.
Half Round vs K Style
Essentially there are two types of gutters you’ll find in residential installations today, half-round and the more common k-style. Each takes its name, likely, from their cross section shape. K-style, in many cases, is easier to install and consequently is typically a lot cheaper. Half-round on the other hand surely pre-dates k-style and is often considered a little more historic.
Mrs. Moxie, with her always practical real estate sense, had maintained from the beginning, “Nobody even looks at the gutters. … K-Style!” I couldn’t help but disagree, and it was just like that that our home sat without downspouts for the good part of six years.
K-style gutters are both generally believed to do a better job with catching and shedding rain water, and they can be seen as being a little more maintenance free. This is essentially true since “gutter guards” are more widely available for k-style, and also because k-style is often more easily found in a seamless option.
“What is seamless?” “Why does that matter?”
Basically, an aluminum roll “coil stock” is run through a specialty gutter machine allowing for custom runs of gutters where no seams (read: points for failure) are present across a gutter’s length. Pretty important. For more information on half round vs. k style, maybe this article from doityourself.com.
– More Long and Short of My Backstory
When I looked initially I had no luck finding seamless half-round gutters. Over the course of a few years I did still have several companies out to give me estimates. In this group, one largish exterior company in my region … their quote $9k – not copper, but for aluminum. And this is probably a good point to mention that gutters are available in several different material choices. I was looking for white aluminum.
As I mentioned in this Google Hangout, I ultimately settled on the guy who did the gutters on Mrs. Moxie’s first flip project. But without going too deeply into it, it ended up being a horrible mess. He really was over-matched and I had to undo much of the work that he started. Up-siding though, I was fortunate he actually turned me onto my supplier for this job, Seamless Gutter Supply – their slogan: We Deliver … You Install.
Laying Out, Measuring and Ordering
After a little bit of research, years actually – I discovered that Seamless Gutter Supply (above) had the ability to run seamless 6” half-round gutter. I chose a low gloss white aluminum, a #30 (Eggshell) as they call it. With the steep pitch of my roof, and taking into consideration the total roof area, I had already been advised that 6” was in fact the way for me to go. (Half-round, as well as k-style, are also available in a smaller 5” option.)
The half-round gutter itself came in about 70 cents more a linear foot than k-style. And with about 115 linear foot to do, that added only about $80 to my total cost.
As a general rule of thumb, at least as I understand it, you want your gutter to extend around a ½ inch passed the edge of your roof. When working with gutters too, I have always used a ¼” fall over a ten-foot run rule. I was fortunate really in that I had the layout and lengths of gutter for most of the sections I needed (as they were still hung on the house). Many of these ran long of that ½” + ½” rule, but with the angle and depth of some of the roof lines, I decided to stay to true to these original measurements. I actually even ordered some a few inches longer, knowing that I could cut them on site just prior to installation.
I had lost my longest length of gutter in a snow storm in 2010, so … there, I did need to measure. For my order, I found that SGS was more than helpful. As advised, I measured from the edge of the shingles at one end to the other shingle edge and added an inch (½” + ½”). I was told that I did not need to account for the fall when measuring, and in fact – the gentlemen I spoke with actually discounted the ¼ inch over ten rule. He said instead: “Ahhh, something like an 1/8” every ten foot would work.” I would use his advice later.
One of my favorite things about working with SGS was the ease of which I could spec my job just from their website. Much of the hardware I needed, included both specification sheets and installations instructions right there. For half-round, and in most cases, you’ll be using an outside bracket to hang the gutters. And this is where a good part of the cost of a half-round job mounts – with the hardware.
For example – a simple pre-assembled #10 hanger (used with flat fascia) is currently going for $6.39. My angled fascia, which is mounted directly to rafter ends, required a built-up with a bracket, extension and gem circle (as they call them) to overcome the offset. By comparison, hidden hangers or spikes for k-style start at around only 50 cents a pop. SGS recommends a 2-foot spacing for gutter brackets on half-round, and though in some cases I stretched that space, I ordered accordingly.
I also needed outlets (this is the bit that the downspout attaches to): one each for each gutter run. End caps: two each for each gutter. Plus downspouting, and including elbows (I choose a corrugated round like the original downspouts), and I chose to mount them using a traditional rack and key method. I ordered plenty of zip screws in lengths ranging from ¾” all the way up to 3 inch. And you see how it adds up fast. Sealant, Rivets, etc. … too.
To ensure I was purchasing the correct hardware I bought samples first for a number of the hangers in a variety of configurations and got up on the house and checked what would work.
Site Considerations and Prepping for Installing Half Round Gutters
To start, existing gutters were removed … and recycled. These gutters were often mounted with a device called a strap hanger; these are installed prior to the laying of the roof. In a dance of delicate surgery, I cut out the aged metal straps using a sawzall fitted with a 12” metal bade. Once removed, I tucked a caulking-type backer rod up under the shingles to limit any possibility of water splashing back and making its way up under roof shingles. (Maybe it adds a wee-bit of insulation too, plus it was just neater.)
While I did replace three sections of fascia board, as to ensure I had a sturdy surface to mount gutters to, I wasn’t so committed (and as this house is not our be-all), in most cases – I prepped fascia with painting only. For painting, and since I was dealing with paint that was advancing in age, I cleaned with a TSP Substitute and primed with Peel Bond. (I’d recommend this high-build primer for a lot of projects).
Ironic I think that the roof on the home’s addition is slate, while the original structure had its roof converted to asphalt shingle some years ago. I bring this up because whereas the bracketing for the original gutters was installed up under the roofing (using straps), I wasn’t about to play around with that slate roof.
Instead of mounting hardware underneath the roofing, I chose the path of least resistance, installing bracketing to fascia. The problem in all of this … well, as a rule the thumb I have always gone using the thinking that a roof should extent appropriately a 1/3 of the way into a gutter. That is, it should meet a point at about 1/3 of the way across the gutter’s width. However, with the way these slate shingles were set, and even factoring in the depth of my hangers, I just wasn’t getting anywhere near that kind of set up. So, I had to build the fascia up at my slate roof. I did this by installing 1x stock … meaning I built –up (built-out) in one place about 2 ¼”, three additional pieces of 1x total – glued and nailed and then lag bolted to rafter ends.
In all locations where gutter existed previously, I had leaders buried at downspout locations. These leaders take the water from the roof and carry it away from the house. For me these leaders consisted of a buried three-inch clay pipe. (One of which I repaired some time ago.) Another had a damaged bell, which I repaired using anchor bolt epoxy. While I tested all using a garden hose, I have since discovered that one is dumping water into my basement and must be damaged. Another underneath our patio is leaking but will be addressed when we do the patio and adjoining walks, hopefully this summer.
Because one section of our gutter sat immediately above our main power drop, I called my utility provider and requested a “drop loop” as we did the work there. A drop loop essentially disconnects the main power from the house at the nearest pole. I ended up cutting the power twice when working in this location. For my electricity provider, this is free but required a four-day lead time.
This is pretty much the backstory with my gutter install, hopefully back later in the week to give you “How to Install Half Round Gutters.” Wish me luck and thanks for reading. ~jb