Installing Half Round Gutters :: History, Planning and Prep
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 shedding 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, 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). First, Mrs. Moxie would have 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 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 generally believed to do a better job with catching and shedding rain water. They are also seen as being a little more maintenance free. This is essentially true since “gutter guards” are more widely available for k-style. 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. This allows 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. Fortunately, 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). They have 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 knew 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, 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 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. 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.
– Finalizing my Gutter Take-Off
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”). When measuring, you do not need to account for fall. 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 purchased the correct hardware I bought samples first for a number of the hangers in a variety of configurations. Then, I got up on the house and checked what would work.
Site Considerations and Prepping for Installing Half Round Gutters
To start, I removed … and recycled existing gutters. 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. This would 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.)
I did replace three sections of fascia board. This ensured a sturdy surface to mount gutters to. I wasn’t so committed though (and as this house is not our be-all) as to strip and re-paint. 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).
Planning for Mounting Gutter Hangers
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. The bracketing for the original gutters was installed up under the roofing (using straps), but 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 the thinking is 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, nailed and then lag-bolted to rafter ends.
Planning for Connecting DownSpouts with Ground Leaders
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 discovered that one is trickling water into my basement and is damaged. Point being – make sure to thoroughly test and re-test all leaders before tying in.
The Final Bits of Preparation – Do you Need a Drop Loop?
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
4 thoughts on “Installing Half Round Gutters :: History, Planning and Prep”
Wow, jb…Can’t say enough great things about this article. Really love all the detail you’ve provided about the process you went through, and the pics, too. They’re all great. And major kudos to you for having your utility power shut off before working near your service drop! Looking forward to Part II.
I agree with you very much that a half-round gutter was the right choice for your home, despite all the additional detailing you had to include in hanging them. A big effort, but certainly worth it in the end. To me, half-round says “Victorian”, and for any 19th century home with Victorian nuances (as yours appears to be, based on the photos), half-rounds are by far the most natural choice.
Oh, and just as a side note, along similar lines: What’s called “K-style” is actually the same contour as the bed moulding usually found on old classical cornices (e.g., Colonial / Federal / Greek Revival, but not so much Victorian). As a manufactured product, half-rounds go way back, as I’ve seen many old, weathered half-rounds (some made from lead sheeting) on a lot of the nineteenth century homes around here. But the K-style contour itself is actually a much older “trim shape”. So, in my own case, I’d selected K-style gutters for my old colonial, despite being told by history colleagues that they were the wrong choice, and that I should’ve used half-rounds, just because to them, the half-rounds just somehow “looked older”. For my own home, K-style was actually the only appropriate choice for a manufactured seamless gutter. So my situation was analogous to yours.
John excellent points of clarification here and thank you for adding to the discussion especially in regards to the history, rationale and significance of gutters as an architectural element. I trust wholly that you made the right choice for your house, while my guess is that this isn’t quite the end of the battle – Half Round vs K Style brews on. cheers.
Half round is demonstrably the best design of gutter. It drains better, does not collect debris in the bottom but tends to wash out. The flat bottom style (“K”) collects water and debris since it has a larger surface. The slant does little in eliminating debris collection problem. K style is prevalent because the contractors like it. It is easier to install, and therefore cheaper. Builders like it that way.
Cheers. James – thanks for the add. ~jb