In many parts of the country, good rain gutters can be essential. In any rainy area, gutters can make a substantial difference in protecting eaves, fascia, and siding, and allow you to control and channel water to desired disposal sites.
There are lots of different gutter materials to choose from, including steel, aluminum, vinyl, copper, even wood, and many types of gutters - steel and vinyl in particular - are sold as a system of interlocking parts that are a tempting project for the do-it-yourselfer. But there's a downside to these gutter systems - seams. The gutters themselves are sold in definite lengths, and are connected with slip couplings at each joint and corner, resulting in dozens of seams around the perimeter of the average home, each one of which is a weak spot and a potential leak site.Another alternative well worth considering is the installation of seamless metal gutters. Seamless gutters must be fabricated on-site by a professional contractor, so there's no do-it-yourself savings to be had. But the improved performance of the entire gutter system is worth the additional investment, which usually is not that much more than a DIY system.
The seamless gutter system - also called a continuous gutter - is a little misleading in its name, since there actually are seams in the system. These occur only at the corners, however, and instead of slip fittings, these joints are typically riveted and sealed for stability and leak resistance. The gutter runs themselves are continuous, making them both strong and visually more appealing.Selecting a Contractor
Your first step is to select a contractor, which you can find by word of mouth or by looking in the Yellow Pages under "Gutters and Downspouts." As with any contractor selection, look for a company with an established reputation, and confirm their current status with your local licensing authority.The contractor will need to make a site visit in order to measure your home and discuss your options. At the time of the contractor's visit, request a sample of the proposed gutter so you can see the size, shape and quality of the material. You'll also want to look at a color chart, as well as a list of past-client references with addresses so you can drive by and take a look at the finished product.
Most seamless gutter contractors can offer you several options, including the size and sometimes the shape of the gutter, the size and shape of the downspout, and a palette of 20 or more color choices. If you want to paint the gutters to match your house, select a white or primed material for best paint coverage. If you can find a color you like, however, go with that instead - it saves you the time and expense of painting, and the factory colors are baked on for durability. For a truly distinctive look - at a rather distinctive price - most contractors also offer continuous copper gutters. Whatever your final choice, be sure and get a detailed estimate in writing.Installation
For the average house, installation will be done in one day. The contractor will arrive with a truck- or trailer-mounted forming machine and a coil of flat metal in the color you've selected. Each run of eave is measured individually, and the metal is rolled through the forming machine to create a continuous piece of gutter that is custom sized to that eave.
The contractor will typically also have a couple of attachment options to offer you. One is the spike and ferrule - a hollow tube is placed inside the gutter to keep it from bending, then a long spike is driven through the face of the gutter at the top, through the ferrule and into the wood fascia board. A better option is the eave hook - different companies will have different names for this - which interlocks into the gutter for a cleaner look and which is then attached to the roof under the shingles for superior strength. The eave hook option will probably be an extra charge, but the added strength is well worth the investment. In fact, some companies will offer a written guarantee against the gutters ever working loose from the house, a real plus in areas subject to lots of snow and ice.The crew will work their way around the house, fabricating, installing and sealing each length of gutter and each inside or outside corner as they go. The last step is the installation of the downspouts, which will be located as needed according to the amount of roof runoff each section of gutter has to handle, as well as the where the best location is for directing the runoff away from the house. The price of the downspouts will be included in your estimate, but make sure the contractor has discussed downspout locations and options for water disposal with you so you know what to expect before the job starts.