Don’t be fooled by those home improvement shows you see on TV. They make it seem like installing gutters is so easy, but it’s a lot more complicated than simply mounting your gutters on the edge of your roof. As a rule of thumb, you should always let professionals install your new gutters. That is, unless you’ve had prior professional experience doing roofing work.
How complicated can mounting new gutters on your roof really be? In this post, our contractors at Barry Best Seamless Gutters explain why choosing the right material, calculating the right size and pitch for your gutters, and figuring out the ideal placement and spacing for gutter hangers aren’t jobs for amateurs.
Choosing the Right Size
A standard gutter system is 5 inches long and 6 inches wide, while the downspouts should measure 2 x 3 inches or 3 x 4 inches in length and width and 3 or 4 inches in diameter. Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to gutter installation projects. The appropriate size for your new gutters depends on the amount of rainfall your area receives as well as the slope of your roof. The higher the roof slope, the faster water slides down, and the larger your gutters need to be.
To give you an idea about how the size of a gutter replacement is calculated, here’s an overview of the process:
- Calculate the square footage of the gutter’s drainage area – The formula depends on the kind of roof you have.
- Measure the roof slope and look for the corresponding roof pitch factor – A roof pitch of 3 to 12 inches has a roof-pitch factor of 1, while roof pitches of 4 to 5 inches have a factor of 1.05. Roof pitches 6 to 12 inches have a factor of 1.1, while roof pitches of 9 to 11 inches have a factor of 1.2, and roof pitches 12 inches or higher have a factor of 1.3.
- Find out what the maximum rainfall intensity in your area is – The maximum rainfall intensity refers to the largest amount of rainfall your region can receive in a five-minute interval.
- Multiply the drainage area by the roof-pitch factor and the maximum rainfall intensity in your area to get the adjusted square footage – Listed below is a chart showing the recommended gutters and their upper limits:
- 5-inch K-Style Gutters – 5,520 square feet
- 6-inch K-Style Gutters – 7,960 square feet
- 5-inch Half-Round Gutters – 2,500 square feet
- 6-inch Half-Round Gutters- 3,840 square feet
Remember: Since your gutters’ primary function is to divert rainwater from your roof, your area’s climate will affect many aspects, including the size, pitch and placement of your gutters.
Choosing Gutter Materials That Are Suited to Your Area’s Climate
There’s also the issue of choosing a gutter material that can handle your area’s climate. Corrosion-resistant aluminum and galvanized steel gutters are the go-to choices for most homeowners. However, depending on your needs, you might be able to get better value for your money by choosing other types such as galvalume, zinc or vinyl gutters.
You’ll also need to make sure you purchase quality gutters, which can be challenging if you’re not too familiar with the warning signs of shoddy construction. For instance, if you’re looking for vinyl gutters, make sure to check the thickness of the gutters—thin vinyl gutters are brittle and susceptible to leaks.
Why Choose Seamless Gutters?
Most contractors recommend installing seamless gutters. That’s because conventional gutters have one common weak point: their seams. Seams or joints are the points where sections of your gutter system meet each other. Under excess weight load, sections of your gutters may start to pull away from each other at the seams, causing leaks. As the name suggests, seamless gutters lack seams and are therefore less susceptible to leaks.
Calculating Gutter Pitch
All you have to do is follow the rule that your gutter system is pitched ¼ inch for every 10 feet, right? Well, not exactly–that’s just one part of it. The aforementioned measurements are usually enough to ensure rainwater drains properly, but there’s no set starting point for the pitch. The point where the pitch starts varies depending on the length of the gutter system. For standard-size gutters, the slope or pitch should start from the highest tip of the guttering. (It should be inclined by one inch for every sixteen feet.) For gutters running 40 feet or more, the slope should start in the middle.
It’s important that the measurement for the gutter pitch be as accurate as possible. Remember: There’s little room for error in home improvement projects, and gutter installations are no exception. If the pitch isn’t steep enough, rainwater can stagnate in sections of your gutter until it overflows. And if the pitch is too sharp, rainwater might spill out of your gutters. Not to mention a steep slope is unpleasant to look at and may lower your home’s curb appeal.
Important note: You should have your gutters routinely cleaned. Otherwise, the additional weight load from accumulated leaves and debris can cause your gutters to sag and affect their pitch. If you just don’t have the time for gutter maintenance, gutter covers would be a smart investment. Gutter covers prevent leaves and other debris from entering your gutters, reducing maintenance needs.
Keep in mind that gutter covers can only reduce, not eliminate, your gutters’ maintenance needs. That one exception to that rule is Gutter Helmet®, the only brand on the market with Never Clean Your Gutters Again® guarantee. To learn more about the benefits of installing Gutter Helmet, consult your local professional contractor.
Figuring Out Gutter Placement
Gutters shouldn’t be installed on the roofline; they should actually be installed a few inches lower than the roof. Otherwise, rainwater might be diverted toward the back of your gutters and potentially damage the fascia boards, the long, narrow board at the edge of your roof.
Choosing Gutter Hangers and Spacing Them
Gutter hangers need to be adequately spaced from each other. Otherwise, parts of your gutters may start to sag. Your area’s climate can affect the recommended amount of space between gutter hangers. In warm climates, the gutters should be spaced no more than 36 inches or three feet apart from the center. (In areas with warm climates, the gutter hangers should be installed as close to the center as possible). In cold climates, gutter hangers should be spaced closer together to provide more support in case ice builds up in the gutters. In particular, gutter hangers in the northern regions shouldn’t be more than 18 inches apart.
Gutter Heating Cables and Ice Dams
To prevent ice dams from building up in your gutters, you can install heating cables in your gutters. If you’re considering installing a gutter heating system, we recommend Helmet Heat®, which is fully compatible with Gutter Helmet gutter covers. Helmet Heat features a self-regulating heat cable that automatically adjusts its temperature settings, ensuring your gutters are warm enough to prevent ice from forming but not hot to the touch.
Of course, even properly spaced gutter hangers won’t be able to provide enough support if they’re not suited to your area’s climate. For instance, spikes and ferrules are not the best choice for temperate climates, as abrupt changes in temperature can loosen the spike attached to the fascia board.
Given the different factors you need to take into account when installing standard and seamless gutters, it’s best that you let a professional contractor handle the installation. Don’t forget to vet a prospective contractor before hiring them. Here’s a tip: the number of years a contractor has been working in the industry should give you a good idea of their level of expertise.