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How to Install Rain Gutters

The earliest record of rain gutters dates back to the Roman period. Indeed the Romans were pioneers with regard to the earliest forms of plumbing , sewer systems and guttering. 

All early civilizations had adapted their own methods of collecting rain water which was a necessary step for survival. In modern times, while there are still agricultural requirements for gathering and storing rain water; most city dwellers utilize rain gutters for the purpose of carrying roof water away from the foundation of their homes. 

And so the lowly rain gutter remains a vital component in the construction of our modern homes. To consider is that there are a variety of styles of rain gutters (also referred to in Canada as “eavestroughs”).There are a number of metals which are used to fabricate rain gutters including the use of plastic. 

For centuries in the British Isles and throughout much of Europe, rain gutters were fashioned from either tin,lead, or copper. Wooden gutters were commonly used on eastern U.S. homes dating back to the 1700’s. 

Today; throughout North America, the most commonly installed rain gutters are fabricated from aluminum coil. The flat stock coil which has a pre-finished paint coating, is fed into a mobile extruding machine, which forms a particular profile (shape) of the gutter. The machine can run out lengths of gutter which can theoretically be as long as the coil itself, which can be several hundred feet. 

This provides an advantage in that it eliminates the need for seams in the guttering and provides a continuous product which minimizes the potential for leaks. 

The rain gutter installers will typically remove the old guttering from the home and take them away for recycling. Measurements are taken from each side of roof eaves areas so that new sections of gutter can be extruded. Where fascia areas intersect at outside or inside corners, the extruder may provide for an extra foot of material at each end, in order for the installer to create a 45 degree joint where the trough sections may be joined together. 

Experienced gutter installers will fabricate a pattern for the inside and outside corners to be joined. The pattern is placed inside the extruded gutter section and is then scribed to mimic the required angular cuts that are necessary. 

Once the scribed pattern has been cut for both opposing gutter pieces, the corners are joined together , utilizing overlaps in the material, and custom trimming to account for any irregularities for corners which may be less than plumb or square. This is where experience makes for a neat and clean appearing corner joint and one which may not leak. The finished joint will receive a silicone sealant which is liberally applied and tooled on the inside of the gutter. 

Much of this work is performed off ladders which contributes to the time and effort involved to achieve the correct result. 

The higher the job is; the more time consuming the installation process can be, in light of being mindful for safety. Higher buildings or narrow access ways may require the use of scaffolding to be safety compliant and to provide a safe foot hold for working. Special equipment like man-lifts and articulating booms are often used where access may permit. 

When installing rain gutters, it is important to incorporate sloping so the gutters may drain effectively. 

It is typical to allow one eighth of an inch of slope for every eight feet of guttering. Where a a very long run of gutter exists as example on a church; the gutter may be installed to bow outward from the centre to each opposing end in order that water may travel to the downpipe locations at each end. 

Some complexity in the process of installing rain gutters can involve short runs of gutter, complex angles and dormers with independent trough sections. Much like the game of chutes and ladders (for those of us old enough to remember), these complex roof details can challenge the gutter installer to calculate how one section of trough many empty into another, so that carrying the rain water from the upper most gutter sections can drain efficiently into lower sections and carry the water around corners. The objective being that the water will flow under heavy rain load without spilling over the front of the guttering or behind the gutters. 

The gutter installer must also account for the amount of overhang of roofing materials at the roof eaves area. This is so water exiting the roof does not shoot past the gutter. 

In addition to sloping rain gutters correctly, making sure that they are secured properly is another key element of a quality installation. While trough spikes and furrels were once the most common method of attachment, the use of hidden brackets, that are screwed into fascia boards located behind the gutter ; are considered a preferred approach today. Such brackets lend added strength to the gutter and provide for a clean appearance on the front of the rain gutter. 

Gutter brackets should be installed at approximately two foot centres. Where regions may experience excessive ice and snow, gutter straps may be installed as an added measure of strength. Such straps are secured beneath the roof’s shingles and extend over the top of the gutter to help keep in in place under heavy weather conditions. 

Part of the process when changing or installing rain gutters involves the installation of downpipes, and rain water leaders. Downpipes typically carry rainwater vertically from the eavestrough to ground level. 

Rain water leaders, whether they are a pipe configuration, an open tray or a flexible tubing are used to carry the rain water away from the location of the foundation. Some downpipes will exit into in-ground drains where homes have limited options for carrying rain water away at the ground level. 

The size of the rain gutter can dictate the size of the downpipe to be used. Builder grade gutters are often termed a four inch gutter (referring to the top of the gutter-throat size). Better to use for retrofitting homes is a larger capacity five inch gutter. 

Four inch gutters will commonly be installed with two inch by three inch girth downpipes. In turn, five inch gutters are mated to three inch by three inch downpipes with three inch by four inch downpipes being considered an up-grade and which are suited to homes that have steep roofs and or long runs of guttering. 

Six inch eavestroughs are most commonly used on larger homes, churches and commercial projects mated to three by four inch downpipes. All downpipes are strapped to the exterior building walls using metal brackets which must be drilled and screwed into the wall surface. 

To install downpipes correctly, a level is used at the wall to insure they are straight. Connecting elbows are used to transition the downpipes from the exterior wall, and to angle up to the outlet which is cut into the rain gutter itself. 

Where a rain gutter is installed at the base of an independent roof slope, the gutter will require end caps to be installed on each opposing end. Such endcaps are manufactured as a left and right configuration. Similarly; elbows used for installing downpipes are manufactured as “A” or “B” elbows which designates a particular degree of bend angle. 

When choosing to replace one’s rain gutters, there are some decisions that need to be made in terms of both the size of gutter material and downpipe being used (capacity), but also the thickness of the aluminum (gauge). 

Aluminum is a commodity material that fluctuates in price given the supply and demand of the market. 

As a result choosing heavier guage and larger capacity aluimum guttering will incrementally cost more than the basic offering. 

One of the advantages of aluminum guttering is that it has a relatively maintenance free paint finish and it is the most economical choice among all gutters. The average useable life-cycle ia about twenty years on average. 

For those people that require a longer lasting or heavier quality of material; rain gutters that are made from steel ,copper, zinc , and lead coated copper are the preferred choices. 

Today, people who have heritage or historically significant properties, or who experience tough climate conditions , tend to choose guttering that utilizes these premium quality metals. 

Copper gutters as example, are designed to last for fifty years if done properly, with leaded copper and zinc being an option which can be durable for up to one hundred years. The installation of such guttering is considerably more labour intensive because they are soldered or braised to create water tight joints. 

While today there are some gutter vendors selling copper gutters below true market value; the purchaser needs to be aware if the guttering is being installed using sealant instead of proper solder attachment. 

The process of soldering gutter joints requires that the smith must clean the connecting metal joints well to avoid any contamination. A flux paste is used to butter the adjoining surfaces and which permits the solder to flow into the connecting joints. 

Once the joints to be soldered are prepared, the smith uses irons which must be at a high and consistent temperature to permit the lead solder to flow and adhere properly. A well done joint has the appearance of stitching. The objective is to create a neat but generous flow of molten solder to create a water-tight joint. 

Such work requires considerable experience to achieve optimal results that do not crack or split prematurely. Add to that the fact that some of this work must be completed at heights, so having a professional is imperative to achieving best results. 

In comparison to aluminum gutter installation, copper gutters cost roughly four to five times as much due to material and labour costs. The results are artisan however. 

To learn more about rain gutters and other exterior improvements contact AVENUE ROAD ROOFING® or visit : www.avenueroadroofing.com. 

Certainteed
FIRESTONE
VELUX
RAIN PRO
IKO
Heritage Contractors
BBB
Cadar Shake & Shingle Bureau
Select Shingle Roofer
ACMO
WSIB
Canadian Condominium Institute