Gutters and Downspouts
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Gutters and downspouts are designed to collect water running off the roof and direct it away from the house's foundation. In this regard, the ground should slope away from the foundation so water doesn't pool. Water should also be carried as far as possible from the house by splash blocks, downspout extensions, flexible drains, or even underground drains.
Gutters, which are hung from the edge of the roof or attached to the fascia board, are made from vinyl, galvanized tin, aluminum, copper, and wood. Some come with baked-on enamel coatings, others are bare and must be painted. Among the many choices are seamless aluminum gutters that are custom formed at your house before they are mounted.
Standard sized residential gutters come in 10-foot lengths and are 5 inches and 6 inches wide. For roofs over 1,500 square feet, select the wider gutter. Most sections are connected with slip joints and end caps, and downspout connections are constructed in a similar fashion.
Standard slope for gutters is 1 inch for every 20 feet toward a downspout. Some installers, however, prefer to install gutters level with the roof edge because it looks better. Downspouts are placed at no more than 30-foot intervals, and sometimes at each end of a single 30-foot run. By using elbow connections, downspouts curve from the gutter back to the side of the house, where they are attached with straps.
Types of Gutters
- Seamless aluminum: These are among the best because they require no painting, as galvanized gutters do, and do not crack or bend, as vinyl gutters do. After the installer measures your roof perimeter, aluminum is fed from a spool into a special machine that extrudes the gutters on the spot. Despite the name, these gutters are not entirely seamless, but only have them at inside and outside corners.
- Galvanized tin: Among the most widely used of all gutters, galvanized tin has been around for years. Its only drawback is that it must be painted periodically to prevent rust from penetrating the galvanized coating. The gutters are stiff and strong and hold up well in areas with heavy snowfall.
- Vinyl: These gutters are the easiest for the do-it-yourselfers. They are sold at all large home centers, are light and easy to put up. They usually come in just brown or white colors. Although easy to install, they do not have the look of permanency of metal gutters and are subject to distortion from heat and cold.
- Wood: Although sometimes still found on old houses, wood gutters today are a custom design. They can be beautiful and long lasting with proper care, which means regular cleaning and painting.
- Copper: These are also custom gutters, but beautiful and long lasting.
- Over the years, gutter supports become loose, rusted, and broken. Check them periodically and replace or repair as necessary.
- Be sure to clean leaves and debris from the gutters each fall before the rains begin.
- Check that the downspouts are clear. If not, blast the debris out with a hose stream, or use a plumbing snake.
- Check during a rain for any leaks at the gutter joints. A bead of caulk will often be enough to seal the leak.
- Use leaf guards on the gutters to prevent accumulation. Use strainers over the downspout holes. These can be made from a short strip of rolled chicken wire that is inserted into the downspout hole.