How to Install Gutters

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

One of the joys of owning your own home is learning how to do the little projects that help keep it functioning properly and looking its best. One job that's very important to your home's well being and fairly easy for the beginning DIYer to learn is installing gutters. However, before you jot down gutter installation as this weekend's project and run out to buy materials, there are a few issues to consider.

What shape are your gutters in?

The gutters and downspouts on your home move rain water and melted snow from your roof and direct it away from your home's foundation. If your home already has gutters, they should be inspected at least once a year for any damage or blockage that might prevent them from operating correctly. Overflowing water from blocked gutters can pool next to the house where it may eventually leak inside and could even cause expensive structural damage. If your home doesn't have gutters or the existing drainage system is so old that it appears beyond repair, you should install gutters as soon as possible.

Should you install new gutters on your own?

Doing your own gutter installation is fairly easy, but there are a few considerations before you start:

  1. Ladders: Gutters are installed at your home's roof eaves and that almost always requires working on a ladder. How tall the ladder is depends on how high your eaves are above ground level. Working on a tall ladder can be dangerous, and if you're uncomfortable with heights, you should hire a contractor to install your gutters.
  2. Assistance: Installing gutters is easier and safer with a second set of hands, even if they're just steadying the bottom of your ladder as you work.
  3. Materials: The most common materials for residential guttering are aluminum, steel, vinyl, and copper. They can vary in price, but expect a range that starts at about $1.40 per linear foot for vinyl gutters and goes all the way up to about $7.00 a foot for copper varieties. Prices can fluctuate depending on where you live. The two most common shapes are the "K" style that is found on most modern homes and the venerable half-round guttering--a popular choice for older houses.

Gutters should be sloped about 1/4 inch per 10 feet of run. If you have a long section of guttering, you may want to create a high point in the center and slope to a downspout at each end. Standard 2-inch-by-3-inch downspouts should be spaced not to drain more than 600 square feet of roof area and 3-inch-by-4-inch downspouts can be used for up to 1,200 square feet.