Step 1: Evaluate your home and plan the project
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Finished gutter and downspout
Nicely installed gutters will complement the appearance of your home as well as solve water problems.
Almost all home centers and full-service hardware stores sell gutter systems that are designed
primarily for easy installation. But with just a little bit more work, you can use these same
parts to put together gutters and downspouts that are stronger and better looking too. We'll
show you how to minimize joints; assemble strong, sleek-looking seams; and add roof flashing to
keep water flowing into the gutters where it belongs, all with off-the-shelf metal gutter parts.
If you're comfortable with basic hand tools, assembling and installing gutters shouldn't present
any great challenge, but the job isn't for everyone. It requires that you know how to safely work
from ladders (good balance and staying within your reach) and are comfortable doing it. Rent
scaffolding for second-floor gutter work because it's much more stable than a ladder.
Installing your own gutters can save
you as much as $5 per linear foot
over professionally installed gutters,
but there are a few pitfalls to watch
out for. Inspect the fascia and soffit
(Figure B) for signs of rotted wood,
which will need to be replaced
before you put up the gutters. Many
houses have a trim board or crown
molding nailed to the fascia just
under the shingles. You'll have to
either remove this as we did or add
a continuous strip of wood under it
to create a flat plane for the gutters.
In either case, prime and paint bare
wood before you hang the gutters.
Step 2: Measure your house and draw a sketch
Figure A shows an example of a gutter
system for a typical house. Record
the length of the gutter runs and
mark the downspout locations.
Then count up the inside and outside
corners and end caps (note
whether they are right or left ends).
Measure the height of downspouts
and add 4 ft. to each for the extension
away from the house at the
bottom. Each downspout requires
three elbows. There are two types of
elbows that turn either to the front
or side of the downspout. Most
installations require only front
elbows, but occasionally you may
need a side elbow, usually to turn
the downspout extension sideways.
Here are a few planning tips:
- Locate downspouts in unobstructed
areas where water can be
directed away from the house.
Avoid locations with obstacles
like electric meters, hose bibs
- Place downspouts in inconspicuous
locations if possible.
- Install oversized 3 x 4-in. downspouts
on gutters that drain large
roof areas or if you live in an area
with torrential rains.
- Slope long gutter runs (40 ft. or
more) down both directions from
the middle and put a downspout
on each end.
- Buy special roof hanger mounting
straps for houses without fascia
boards or for fascias that aren't
Figure A: Gutter Parts
Your measurements and sketch will help you determine which parts you need. All the parts you need are widely available.
Step 3: Cut and assemble long sections
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Photo 1: Gutter cutting technique
Cut the front and back sides
with a tin snips. Bend the
gutter and cut the bottom.
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Photo 2: Notch the front lip
Cut a 2-in.-long notch in the
front lip of the gutter with a tin
snips to join a gutter section
with an inside or outside corner piece.
(Cut a 4-in.-long notch to overlap and
splice together gutter sections.)
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Photo 3: Add sealant and assemble
Lay a bead of gutter
sealant along the corner
1-1/2 in. back from the
edge. Hook the front lip of the corner
over the notched section of gutter
and snap it over the gutter.
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Photo 4: Rivet the joint
Join the gutter to the corner
with six rivets in the locations
shown. Start by drilling a 1/8-in.
hole (for 1/8-in. rivets) at the front of the
gutter and installing the first rivet with
the rivet gun. Now drill the remaining
holes and install the rivets.
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Photo 5: Caulk the seam
Caulk the seam on the
inside of the gutter with
gutter sealant. Put a dab
of sealant over each rivet.
It's much easier to join sections on
the ground than to work from the
top of a ladder. Photos 1 - 8 show
how. Instead of butting parts
together and covering the joints
with a seam cover as recommended
by the manufacturer, lap all seams
from 2 to 4 in. Then caulk and rivet
them together (Photos 3 - 5).
We've shown joining a gutter section
to a corner. Use the same
process to join two sections of gutter,
except overlap the pieces at least
4 in. When you're splicing gutter
sections, plan ahead to leave the
best-looking factory-cut end on the
outside if possible. Also lap the gutters
so the inside section is facing
downhill to prevent water from
being forced out the seam.
Where a gutter ends, cut it to
extend about an inch past the end of
the fascia board to catch water from
the overhanging shingles. Then
attach an end cap with rivets and
seal the joint from the inside with
Step 4: Cut in downspouts
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Photo 6: Mark the downspout hole
Mark the center of the downspout outlet on
the bottom of the gutter. Center the outlet,
flange side down, over the mark and trace
around the inside. Cut a V-shaped notch with an old
chisel as a starting hole for the tin snips.
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Photo 7: Cut the hole
Cut out the outlet hole with an offset tin
snips. Red tin snips cut counterclockwise.
Green snips cut clockwise. Either one will
work. Cut 1/16 in. outside the line.
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Photo 8: Install the outlet
Slip the outlet into the hole and predrill
1/8-in. holes for the rivets. Remove the
outlet and run a bead of gutter sealant
around the opening. Press the outlet into the
caulked opening and install the rivets.
First measure from the corner of the house to the
center of your chosen downspout location.
Double-check for obstructions. Transfer this
dimension to the gutter and cut in a downspout
outlet (Photos 6 - 8). This method takes a few
minutes longer than using one of the short gutter
sections with a preinstalled outlet, but it eliminates
two seams and looks much neater. You can
make this cutout with a duckbill tin snips, but a
special offset snips like we're using (from hardware
stores and home centers) is much easier
Place two short scraps of 2x4 side by
side under the gutter to support it
while you chisel the notch (Photo 6).
Step 5: Hang the gutter sections
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Photo 9: Set the slope
Set a slope by driving a nail
1/2 in. below the shingles on
the high side of the gutter
run. Measure and record the distance
from the bottom of the fascia board
to this nail. Subtract 1/4 in. for every
10 ft. of gutter from this measurement
and mark this distance at the
low end of the gutter run. Drive a nail
at this mark and stretch a chalk line
between the two nails. Align a level
with the string to check the slope.
The bubble should be off-center
toward the high side. If it's not,
adjust the string. Finally, snap the
string to mark a line on the fascia.
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Photo 10: Mount the sections
hex head sheet
metal screws through the back
of the gutter into the fascia.
Install one screw every 2 ft.
The number and size of downspouts
determines how fast your gutters will
empty. Sloping them helps eliminate
standing water that can cause corrosion
and leak through the seams. Slope each
gutter run down toward the downspout
about 1/4 in. for every 10 ft. of gutter. If
your fascia boards are level, you can use
them as a reference for sloping the gutters.
Check this by holding a level
against the bottom edge. If they aren't
level, adjust the string line until a level
aligned with it shows a slight slope
(Photo 9). Snap a chalk line to indicate
the top of the gutter. Then straighten
gutter sections as you screw them to the
fascia by aligning the top edge with the
chalk line (Photo 10).
Figure B: Mounting details
Figure B: Mounting Details
First install the gutter at the slope set by the chalk line. Then add the roof apron to protect the fascia board and finally the gutter hangers.
Step 6: Install the gutter apron and hangers
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Photo 11: Install gutter apron flashing
flashing under the
shingles and secure
with 1-in. roofing nails every 2 ft.
Lap sections about 2 in.
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Photo 12: Install hanging strips
Hook a hanger
under the front lip
of the gutter and
screw it through the flashing into
the fascia. (The gutter apron will
prevent you from slipping the
hangers over the back edge of the
gutter as intended.) Install hangers
every 2 ft.
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Photo 12A: Hanging strip close-up
Hidden hanging strips hook under the front edge of K-style gutters. The crimp in the back is to fit over the back of the gutter, which helps level it. But since we installed a gutter apron, ignore the crimp and screw the hanger through the apron.
Prevent water from running
behind your gutters by installing a
metal gutter apron flashing under
the shingles and over the back
edge of the gutter (Photo 11). If
your home center or hardware
store doesn't sell prebent flashing,
ask an aluminum siding contractor
or local sheet metal fabricator
to bend some for you.
Ideally the flashing should be
slid under both the shingles and
the roofing paper or ice and water
barrier. If this isn't possible
because the ice and water barrier
is stuck to the sheathing, or there
are too many nails and staples
along the edge of the roofing
paper, then just slip the flashing
under the shingles (Photo 11). If
the flashing you're using is too
short to reach down over the back
edge of the gutter, slip an additional
strip of sheet metal flashing
under the bent flashing and over
Install hidden hangers
With the gutters screwed to the
fascia, it's a simple job to install
the hidden gutter hangers (Photo
12). Install hangers every 2 ft. to
support the gutters and strengthen
the front edge. The hangers are
designed to slip over the back edge
of the gutter, but since we've covered
this edge with flashing, just
hold them level and drive the
screws through the flashing and
gutter back into the fascia. The
large screws included with the
hangers we used are a little tricky
to get started, especially through
steel gutters and flashing. Spin
them at high speed without applying
much pressure until the screw
tip bites into the metal. Then lean
on the drill and drive them into
Step 7: Install the downspouts
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Photo 13: Measure downspout sections
elbow to the
outlet. Hold another elbow
against the wall and measure
between them. Allow
for a 1-1/2-in. overlap at
each end. Use a hacksaw
to cut this length from the
uncrimped end of a downspout
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Photo 14: Crimp cut ends
end of the
of downspout with a special
sheet metal crimper.
With the three blades on
the inside of the tube, hold
the crimper against the
inside corner of the tube
and squeeze. Crimp three
times across both long
edges and twice on the
narrow sides. Attach this
short section of downspout
to the two elbows
with two 1/4-in. hex head
sheet metal screws into
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Photo 15: Make and mount brackets
Cut strips about 1-1/4-in.-
wide from the end of a downspout
with tin snips. Cut out
a U-shaped bracket and snip off the corners.
Measure from the corner of the building and
mark the locations of each bracket, spacing
them about 6 ft. apart. Attach the brackets
to the house with stainless steel screws.
(Drill a clearance hole through stucco siding
with a masonry bit. Use plastic anchors for
brick. Use 1/4-in.-long hex head screws for
vinyl siding.) Cut and screw downspout
sections to an elbow at the bottom. The
bottom of the elbow should be about 6 in.
above the ground. Slip this downspout
section over the crimped end of the
top elbow and secure it with two screws.
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Photo 16: Mount the downspouts
Drive screws through
the brackets into the
Complete the assembly by adding a
length of downspout tube to the bottom
elbow to direct water away from
Photos 13 - 16 show how to install
the downspouts. We're using standard
2 x 3-in. downspouts, but the
procedure for oversized 3 x 4-in.
ones is the same. Assemble the
elbows and downspout tube with
the crimped ends facing down to
prevent water from leaking out of
the joints. Use sheet metal screws
rather than rivets so you can disassemble
the downspouts to clean
them if necessary. Pros prefer prepainted
1/4-in. hex head screws
with very sharp points, called “zippers”
because they're easy to install.
We found these screws in the aluminum
siding section of a home
center, but a gutter supplier would
be another good source.
You can cut downspout tubing
with a 32-tooth hacksaw blade, but
the pro we talked to uses a circular
saw with a standard 24-tooth carbide
blade. A power miter box also
works great for cutting both gutters
and downspouts. Use an old blade,
though. Protect yourself from flying
bits of metal with goggles, leather
gloves, jeans and a long-sleeve shirt.
Each length of gutter and every
elbow is squeezed, or crimped, on
one end to allow the pieces to fit
together, one inside the other.
Since 10-ft. lengths of downspout
are only crimped on one end,
you'll have to crimp one end of
any cutoff piece to make it fit
inside the next elbow or downspout
section. If you only have
one or two downspouts to install,
you can use a needle-nose pliers to
twist crimps into the end. But a crimping tool will save you
tons of time and frustration
Finish the gutter job by attaching
the downspouts to the wall. If
you can't find U-shaped brackets,
make them from sections of
downspout (Photo 15). They look
better than the bands that wrap
around the outside and make it
easier to hang the downspouts.
is the key to
Clean leaves from your gutters
twice a year, or hire a company
that specializes in gutter cleaning
and maintenance. You'll extend
the life of your gutters and eliminate
problems like backed-up gutters
and plugged downspouts.
Ten-foot lengths of metal
gutters, downspouts and
accessories are available at
home centers, lumberyards and
full-service hardware stores.
Standard colors are brown and
white. Matching inside and outside
elbows and accessories are
also available. Buy special gutter
sealant to seal the seams.
It's available in small toothpaste-
type tubes or 12-oz. caulk
gun tubes. Complete gutter
systems cost about $2 per
Using many of the same
basic techniques we show in
this story, you can install your
own “seamless” gutters. Listed
under “Gutters” in the Yellow
Pages or online, many seamless gutter
companies will come to your
house, measure and form continuous
lengths of aluminum
gutter to fit, and sell you all the
installation accessories you'll
need. At about $3.50 per linear
foot, it costs a little more, but
you'll be able to choose from
dozens of colors and eliminate
seams in the gutter runs. You'll
also save the hassle of measuring,
shopping and hauling the
parts home in your VW bug.