Picking gutters for the house.
August 2, 2011 12:21 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to know about having gutters installed on a house?

My Florida house doesn't have gutters and I want to add them. I'm pretty sure seamless is the way to go, but searching for advice/options seems to only bring up companies that do the install.

Assuming seamless is the way to go, what do I need to know besides the fact that I want them?
posted by StimulatingPixels to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You need to know that nearby trees will clog your gutters with leaves, needles, cones, etc., so you might want to screen them.
You need to have rock pits or similar drainage for the downspouts, so the water doesn't get into your basement.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:26 PM on August 2, 2011

You might also consider putting rain barrels below the downspouts, then you can use the rainwater for grass, plants, etc. Even if your house, like most Florida houses, lacks a basement, you still need to divert the water from the downspouts away from the house.

Is it a one-story house? How complex is your roof? Are you planning to install them yourself? If you're planning on hiring someone to install the gutters ask people in your neighborhood for recommendations.
posted by mareli at 12:47 PM on August 2, 2011

There are a LOT of different kinds of gutter guards/screens/strainers. If you'd like to see pictures, go here and choose Gutter Guards on the left side. Rain barrels, as mentioned above, rain chains, and other decorative elements are available, too.

You will need to decide if you want aluminum, copper or galvanized steel. Standard (in Northern IL) is 5" or 6" K-style aluminum gutters with 2"x3" rectangular downspouts. However, it rains a LOT in Florida, so you should really go with "oversized" downspouts, which are 3" x 4" and shouldn't cost too much more. ( We always recommends 3x4)

If you want to go a bit fancier (and pricier), you can go with half-round gutters and 4" round downspouts. (You can find all this stuff on that same page I linked). There are also custom-made gutters of varying sorts, but most people don't bother. Some people mix and match (fancier in front, plain in back).

With aluminum (any style) you have a choice of a LOT of colors, so you can either match your trim/house color, or you can choose a contrasting color.

Wow, I sound like a gutter dork. I've been office manager at a gutter company for about a year and a half (hooray two English degrees!). Feel free to MeMail if you have a more specific question and I can ask an expert. ;D
posted by Glinn at 12:55 PM on August 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

You need to know if you can handle very long pieces of gutter if it is seamless. To the best of my knowledge seamless gutters are made at the property where it is to be installed. They have those machines that form the gutter from plain material. I suspect that you will have to have it installed. I don't see how you can do it by yourself. So getting an 'installed' price is almost universal I think.
posted by JayRwv at 1:03 PM on August 2, 2011

Also, they need to slope towards the downspout. It's only a quarter inch or so per 10 feet, so if it looks ever so slightly unlevel, it's s'posed to!
posted by TinWhistle at 1:07 PM on August 2, 2011

Depending on how your yard slopes, you may also want to look into a french drain with inground tubing to catch rain water and divert it around the sides of the house...letting gravity do its work. You can then tie the gutter drains directly into the french drain tubing. This prevents standing water from accumulating around your house's foundation if the land is sloping towards it.
posted by samsara at 1:09 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you do decide to install gutter guards, make sure to go with a company that guarantees that they won't clog (and will clean them for you if they ever do).
posted by litnerd at 1:18 PM on August 2, 2011

Nthing the concerns about diverting the run-off. We had to spend a good bit of money last winter to deal with some foundation settling that occurred after a really, really wet spring. One of the upshots of the work was that the downspouts now drain into an underground pipe that extends a good bit away from the house with a small outflow vent on top and flush with the grass. It's invisible, damn sure keeps the water away from the foundation and it looks very neat and clean. I plan on having the other ones done the same way.

This video shows it, but laughingly neglects to fully account for digging the trench (or going under sidewalks, through roots, etc).

Gutter screens can apparently be something of a crapshoot. This guy claims to have tested them all and has some recommendations. Consumer Reports did some testing on them as well and asserts that the stuff you can buy in 3-foot sections from Lowes or Home Depot work just as well as expensive solutions. I found installing them to be a bit tricky - the clips that come with them assume a particular profile in the shape of the gutter. Mine didn't quite fit, so I had to sort of rig them in place.
posted by jquinby at 1:28 PM on August 2, 2011

Seamless gutters are installed by a crew—they show up with a big roll of flat stock and run it through an extruder as they go. You can get seamed gutters at Home Depot, but from what I've seen, it would have taken me about 10x as long to do a shitty job of hanging the stuff as the professionals took to do a good job.

There are different sizes of gutters, as mentioned above. When it rains here, it tends to rain hard, so we got big-ish gutters. I had rain barrels at my old house. Now, there are different rain barrels out there. The ones I had, I would not recommend: there was no screen between the incoming water and the barrel itself, so A) crud flowed in, clogging the valve at the bottom, and B) it became a mosquito farm. I've seen others with screens that should avoid this.

No gutter guard is going to stay free of crud if you've got enough tree-crap falling on your roof (I do), but it's a hell of a lot easier to sweep off a gutter guard than to scoop out gutters.
posted by adamrice at 1:34 PM on August 2, 2011

Installing gutters yourself is easy-peasy. I'm not a very handy person, but knocked out the 67 feet on the front of my house, including 4 corners, in about 3 hours. The whole thing cost me about $300 including the corner pieces, brackets, ends, downspouts, guards and a couple of tools I bought for the job.

I didn't have a good drill, but borrowed one from a friend. If you don't know anyone with a good 18v cordless drill you should price that in. I also bought a 4 foot level that has an adjustable angle vial. I actually put in two downspouts, so measured a quarter inch down from a corner that was almost the mid point to each side, strung some string and marked it. Used my level to make sure the brackets had a consistent gentle slope in between and I was off to the races.

I added a rain barrel to one of the downspouts later, the other location I chose doesn't really work for one, so if I were to do it over again I'd probably just go with one downspout.
posted by IanMorr at 1:51 PM on August 2, 2011

Response by poster: To clarify: I'm looking to hire someone to do the install. I'm pretty handy, but with this kinda stuff I find the time/money trade off well worth it to hire an expert. I should have pointed that out in the question. What I'm really looking for is what my options are and things to watch out for. Great stuff in here so far for me to research.
posted by StimulatingPixels at 2:38 PM on August 2, 2011

Do you live in an area with a Homeowners' Association? If so, you may have to get clearance from them regarding what kind of gutters and downspouts you can have. Also be aware that you can have different lengths of [the part of the downspout that curves onto the ground]. Make sure that you can easily maneuver around whichever length you choose, and that it's not directly in the path of where you (or your kids or pets) walk. (Or any landscaping or ground maintenance crew.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:25 PM on August 2, 2011

Do you have squirrels in your neighbourhood? We used to have to use a pressure-washer to spray out our downspouts every year because squirrels would try to climb down them, get stuck, and die. We had 3 or 4 one year.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:26 PM on August 2, 2011

If you get harder rain than your downpipes can handle, or if you get a leaf blockage in your downpipes, your gutters are going to overflow. Make sure you get gutters that will overflow outwards - either because the outer lip is lower than the inner, or because the outer wall is slotted. Having your entire roof area draining into your walls during the heaviest rain of the year is an experience you will not soon forget.
posted by flabdablet at 4:34 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

We considered getting a gutter guard system. After some research we found that no matter what you select - it will clog. We have a second story home and decided to pay someone to clean our gutters. The pricing to clean plain gutters was 1/5 less than the price to clean gutters with a guard. We decided to stick with gutters with out a guard and budget to have them cleaned annually.

When you get quotes:
*Make sure sales tax is included
*Get a quote from three different companies
*Those 3 companies you selected should have good ratings at your local bbb
*Ask when their day begins and ends
*Ask if they are insured, and for proof
*Ask if they provide their employees worker's comp
*If they are late or their quote is significantly under or over the others it is an example of how future business will be with that company.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:04 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

To add to what flabdablet said above, there's been a lot of press down under recently about problems with "high front" gutters. In these, the outer lip is as high as the lip that joins onto your house, or even higher. Not sure why they're designed this way, but I think it's a combination of aesthetics & preventing overflow.

Problem is, if they're not installed correctly, when the gutters fill up the water flows over the top into your ceiling space or wall cavity. They need to be lower down, so that the fascia (to which the gutters should be attached) act as the second wall, if that makes any sense.

Short version: be careful with high front gutters. If using them, ask the installers lots of questions & ensure there's no chance of water flowing into your house.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:18 PM on August 2, 2011

Lots of information about high front guttering, including a recent government report on it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:27 PM on August 2, 2011

Do a search for YouTube videos by Tim Carter, "Ask the Builder." His gutter advice and experience seems to be quite reasonable.

We had seamless 5" gutters, 4" downspouts installed last fall. I added the micromesh covered guards myself. They are cheap (<>
Also, make sure the new gutters are draining properly. One our new gutters had a slight, couldn't see it from the ground, dip where water pooled. The company came back out right away and fixed.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 5:35 AM on August 3, 2011

Hmm, that post got borked.

I meant to say... They are cheap (less than $2 per 3ft section at Lowes).
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 5:36 AM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: I appreciate all this. I'm off to do a little follow up and then call some companies for quotes. This is a great example of a thing where ask meta blows google out of the water. I could have spent hours trying to use search engines trying to come up with all this and wouldn't have found half of it.

Thanks again,
posted by StimulatingPixels at 7:44 AM on August 3, 2011

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