Mind in the gutter(s)
When it came time to paint, we piled on the financial pain by electing to replace gutters at the same time. It would have been nearly impossible to get a good coat of paint on the eaves of the roof if they’d been left in place. And since we anted up for an A+ paint job, skimping on one of the most vulnerable portions of the house would have been foolish.
The original gutters were galvanized steel half-rounds that had been painted white. The paint was peeling and the metal was beginning to rust through badly enough that one of the downspouts at the front of the house shot a geyser of water horizontally onto the front porch every time it rained. I don’t believe in steel gutters. They’re strong, but their zinc coating eventually breaks down in the continual presence of water. Leaky or badly installed gutters are worse than no gutters at all. They concentrate the flow of hundreds of gallons of water in a heavy rain – delivered to the wrong place, this amount of water can cause a lot of damage very quickly.
Just before the painters arrived, I had the gutter guys come pull down the old half-rounds. They ended up in a pile on the front lawn where their deteriorated state was even more obvious.
Aside from allowing the painters to apply a good layer of paint to the roof eaves, removing the gutters exposed several areas of rotted wood and a couple of squirrel entry points to the attic. Some lengths of the 1750s crown molding had succumbed to 250 years of continual exposure to the weather. We had replacement trim custom milled using sections of the old profiles as a template.
With the painters hard at work outside, I was inside wracking my brain to devise an attachment method for our new gutters. Because the eaves of the roof have deep crown moldings, installing gutters wasn’t straightforward like it is when there’s a flat fascia to screw into. The old ones were attached with metal strap hangers that were nailed directly to the roof sheathing below the shingles. The only good time to replace strap hangers is when you’re replacing a roof and all the shingles have been torn off. Our roof was replaced a little over a year ago, so I didn’t want to mess with it. One contractor I interviewed had no shame and suggested tearing off the crown and replacing it with a 2×4 since “nobody’d ever know”. Needless to say, that gentleman didn’t get the job. Another suggested using these strange looking hangers:
The tabs at the back of these hangers bend to hold the hanger vertically against the trim. But using these hangers presumes that you have solid wood backing behind the crown. The trim on our house is nailed in place with nothing behind it, so screwing hangers to it would have risked damaging the wood and would have resulted in a flimsy connection.
With no attachment solution after several weeks of head-scratching, I stumbled across a product sold by Classic Gutters Systems in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They sell a stainless steel rod hanger that turned out to be a perfect fit for our circumstances. The rods are a stout 3/16″ thick and are crafted of stainless steel, so they’ll never rust. One end of the rod is threaded for attaching a concealed gutter bracket with a couple of stainless steel nuts. The other end is flattened and has two holes for screwing the rod to the roof.
Using a special bending tool that I rented from Classic Gutters, the contractor bent each hanger to the pitch of the roof, tucked the flattened end of the rod under the second row of shingles and attached it with a pair of stainless steel pan-head screws with a very low head profile. Since the penetrations are hidden under the shingles, they won’t leak. The rods hold the gutters far enough forward from the roof that they don’t get in the way of the crown molding. Spaced at two foot intervals, the hangers are visible where they extend across the first row of shingles. But since the house is so tall, you have to stand far away to see the them, and I don’t mind them even where they’re visible. Surprisingly, the rods cost less than standard half-round hangers.
Attached to the ends of the rods are aluminum brackets that nest inside the gutter, supported by a pair of nuts. Adjusting the level of the nuts up or down allows the installer to pitch the gutters toward the downspouts.
The gutters are 6″ white aluminum half-rounds with 4″ round downspouts. They’re big enough to channel water away quickly and are less susceptible to clogging than smaller profiles. The aluminum won’t rust through and the support rods are extremely strong, so I expect the installation to last at least the lifetime of the roof.
Replacing the gutters was the right thing to do. The old ones would have looked positively awful against the fresh paint job, and the new ones will prolong the longevity of the paint. Our gutter man was a good sport about the installation, even though the hangers were a bit tedious. It took a few days longer than he anticipated, but we both feel good about the end result.