DEAR MIKE: Every time it rains, I see a beautiful cascading waterfall. Unfortunately, the waterfall is right above my front door. Help me keep the rain off my head, and explain how to install rain gutters. -- Kirk H.
DEAR KIRK: So, you want to ruin one of nature's most prized spectacles. The coveted urban waterfall is almost legendary and brings with it dirt, rocks and leaves from the roof right to your door. If you want to deprive the neighbors of this majestic sight, so be it.
Gutters will catch the rainfall and divert it to another location. There are aluminum gutters, which are inexpensive, but require rivets or screws to assemble. I prefer vinyl gutters because they are durable, don't corrode, are permanently colored, and assemble by snapping the pieces together.
My instructions are for vinyl gutters although the installation of aluminum gutters is similar.
First, decide where you want to put the downspout (the vertical tube that carries the water from the roof to the ground). Normally, it's located at a corner of the house and near the end of the run of gutter. Depending upon the length of the run, you could have two downspouts (one on either end of the run), however, this would only be for runs of 40 feet or more.
Second, you need to map out which areas need gutters. Draw a sketch of your roof line and determine the amount of materials that are needed. The gutters come in lengths of 10 feet, but you'll probably also need to buy inside and outside corners, end caps, downspout assemblies, slip connectors, chalk line, etc.
Next, lay out a reference line on the fascia boards so that the gutters are installed at the proper slope. Start about an inch down from the roof overhang (just beneath the metal drip edge) and mark a reference point. Move your ladder to the downspout location and mark a second reference point, which will be lower than the first so that the water runs toward the downspout.
Measure the distance between the downspout and the beginning of the run. For every 10 feet of distance, the gutters should slope one-quarter inch toward the downspout. For example, if you have 30 feet between these reference points, you'll have three-quarters of an inch drop between the end of the run and the downspout.
Take the chalk line (about $10) and snap a line between these points. A chalk line is a piece of string inside of a flat metal container. Inside is chalk that sticks to the string. To snap a chalk line, attach one end of the line to the first point (usually with a small nail), stretch the string taut then lift it off the surface and let it go. The string snaps against the surface leaving a chalk residue, giving you a straight line every time. You'll have to snap several chalk lines if there are inside or outside corners to navigate.
Once the chalk lines are done, secure the downspout outlets and the inside and outside corners using the recommended screws. Make sure that the tops of these pieces are flush with the chalk line so that the gutter's slope stays consistent. Also, install gutter hangers along the slope line. Gutter hangers are connected to the fascia every 2 to 2 1/2 feet, and support the straight lengths of the gutters.
Start at the downspout outlet and slide a piece of gutter into the outlet. Snap the gutter into the hangers by first inserting the back side and pushing down on the front side to snap it into place. Use a connector to connect two pieces of straight gutter. The connector (as well as the corner pieces) has a flexible rubber gasket to allow the gutter to be pushed into place.
When you've finished with the entire run, install the end caps. If you need to trim a length of gutter, a hacksaw will cut it quickly.
Install an elbow to the downspout outlet with a couple of screws, then measure the distance from the elbow to the wall. Cut a length of downspout to this distance and add another elbow to direct the downspout to the ground. You'll probably have to trim the downspout to get it to sit flush against the wall.
Continue running the downspout to about 1 foot above the ground. Use downspout bands to hold the downspout to the wall. Add another elbow to the downspout to direct the water away from the house. You might consider a flexible spout or a splash block to further direct water away.
Finally, consider adding gutter guards to keep debris from clogging the gutters and downspouts. Gutter guards are screens that snap into the tops of the gutters, and allow water in but keep debris out.