Seamless gutters are a beautiful addition to any home. Before you invest in a gutter company, we’ve answered a few common questions they may help you make a decision.
What Are Seamless Gutters?
Seamless gutters are a trough placed at the lowest horizontal edge of a roof to collect and control rain water. They are also known as eavestroughs, rain gutters, and house gutters. There are many different styles, sizes and materials used to create seamless gutters. “Seamless” specifically refers to the building and installation process that is done on site to prevent the need for seams in straight linear runs of house gutter.
Eavestroughs and rain gutters have been around since people first experienced rain. Whether you are rerouting rain away from your tent, home, or city, your goal is to move the rain water to a location that allows for comfort and prevents damage. Water and flood prevention using troughs and gutter systems have been an age old project all over the world.
Seamless Gutter History
In the early 1960’s, gutters were installed in sections. They were manufactured or fabricated at specified locations and then transported to a job site. Sometimes gutters would be shipped down the supply chain to a retailer. Shipping and transporting these sections of gutter generally limited their length to 10 or 20 feet long.
Around 1965 portable gutter machines became popular as a new way of installing “The New Seamless Gutter”. Now it is one of the most common methods of building and installing residential gutters. Seamless gutters are now made on site, cut to length, and carried by hand to be installed directly onto a structure. Prior to this technology, it would have been logistically impossible (difficult or expensive) to transport a 100 foot section of gutter for installation on a home that was 30 miles away. Now all styles, colors, and lengths can be brought to a residence or commercial building. Seamless gutters can now be made to whatever length is necessary. They are called seamless because there are no repetitive seams every 10 or 20 feet in the individual linear runs of gutter.
Seamless Gutters Are Commonly Used By Contractors
Seamless gutters refer to the linear sections that are uninterrupted in a given row to not segmented. One linear eavestrough from one end to another without a break to the left or right would be an area where you would use seamless gutters. The gutter would then be turned on the corner with the extra corner component.
Today if you needing house gutter replacement, it is commonly widespread and known that seamless gutters will probably be what is estimated to you by professionals. However, in commercial settings and even some residential settings you may find a contractor who still uses the older methods. Some do this due to lack of upgrades and others due to construction specifics and details. When replacing gutters, it is always good to consider using seamless gutters.
How to Install Seamless Gutters
As previously mentioned, portable machines are used to roll form the gutters at the location where the gutters are to be installed. The gutter materials are purchased from a supplier in a coil roll (not in 10 or 20 foot sections) that is manufactured to the correct width for the style. (5 inch K-style, 6inch K-style, or even 5 and or 6 inch half round gutter)
Measuring of a section of gutter is usually done on two ladders, one at each end and with the help of another person. Pulling the tape from the right end to the left because this is how the material comes out of the machine can help in marking additional measurements along the way such as outlets for spouts.
To begin, when looking at the house wall where the gutter will be installed, start pulling from the right end. Measure the center location of your first outlet at 2’1.” While moving the tape along to the center of the second outlet, mark it at 40’5.” At the end of the section, it will measure 42’6”. After these measurements are pulled they can be brought to the machine and laid out the exact same way.
As the gutter comes out of the machine you measure for outlet placements and gutter length from the right to the left. Usually outlets are cut in before cutting the length of gutter from the machine. This allows for the gutter to be held stationary while the outlets are being cut.
Additional measuring tips for when you are using box miters for your corners are as follows
- The seamless gutters that are measured from or to an outside corner are measured exactly to the length of the fascia.
- Gutters that are measured from or to an inside corner are measured 6” short of the end of the fascia for 5” gutter and 7” short of the end of the fascia on 6” gutter.
- Gutters that are measured end to end that do not turn a corner but terminates with an end cap are to be measured from the shingle’s edge. An additional 1/2” is to be added to the length for the that end cap. (End cap’s insert into the gutter a 1/2” and consumes part of the length of the gutter.)
- Measuring from the shingle edge is important in order to catch all the water that runs off at the roof’s horizontal edge. Measuring this way can be achieved by the person on the right holding the tape past the beginning shingle edge. It can also be done by the person on the right adding 1/2” to the measurement.
- For example: a section with a cap needed on each end would be 1” longer than the section measured from the shingle edge on the right to the shingle edge on the left.
At the machine, begin by running out 3 to four feet of gutter. If a right cap is needed install it first by crimping it on and sealing it. Then measure to your first outlet. If more gutter is needed to get a first outlet measurement, then run the seamless gutter to the desired length. Only run the gutter two or three feet longer than where you will be working on your outlet. Finally, mark the location and cut out your hole for your outlet.
Common Ways to Create Outlet Hole
There are two main ways for cutting or creating an outlet hole. One is splicing an X with a Stanley blade and tabbing down the four ears. The other is marking with an actual outlet the size of the hole on the bottom of the gutter, pre-drilling out the center, and snipping out the hole with tin snips.
After you have cut the hole for the outlet install the outlet and seal it. Measure your gutter to the next outlet and install it the same way. If there are no other outlets than run the gutter out and measure to your cut off point. Remember to run the gutter 1-3 feet out to give yourself room to cut the gutter to length. (exception to this is a machine with a guillotine. If so, run the gutter till the correct measurement is in the right side of the guillotine blade).
Hidden Gutter Brackets
Before making the cut install the hidden gutter brackets approx 24-32 inches apart. Gutter brackets are installed by hooking the front of the gutter’s lip and pushing them down into place. After they are hooked in the front and pushed into place, whether they clip to the back or are free floating, be sure that the gutter brackets are at a consistent height along the back edge to prevent any waves in the width of the seamless gutter’s mouth.
Pre-start your mounting screws through the gutter brackets into the back of the gutter. Be sure not to start them more than 1/4” into the gutter material. If they are started with too much penetration it will inhibit the installation process while adjusting the pitch. After the hanger screws have been started you can make your length cut. If the left end needs a left cap, then crimp on the end cap and seal it.
Gutters are designed to be installed level or pitched toward the outlet or downspout. A 1/8” – 1/4” per 10’ is ideal. More pitch can be used when and if water is accumulating too fast but leaning the gutter can ruin aesthetics very quickly. It should only be used when hidden or absolutely necessary.
Using a chalk line, mark a line on the fascia mounting board that will be your top edge or bottom edge of your seamless gutter. The bottom is usually easier since the shingles can prevent the top line from being snapped and from being seen while installing the seamless gutter.
Before marking, it is good to take into consideration what type of gutter covers you will be installing on your seamless gutters in the future. Gutter protection is important so even if it’s not in the plans now do not neglect thinking ahead here. The exact height of the seamless gutters on the mounting surface in reference to the roofing edge can affect the way many gutter cover products work. Read the installation instructions on your gutter covers before mounting your new seamless gutter system.
If you know that gutter protection is not going to be necessary, then move ahead. Seamless gutters with only one outlet will be pitched only one direction (usually 40’ or shorter). While gutters with two outlets will be pitched two directions, ½ and ½ toward each spout creating a crown in the horizontal line of the seamless gutters.
Installation Practices Based On Gutter Length
Now it’s time to install the seamless gutter on the line that has been marked. Sections of seamless gutters that are 40’ and under are usually better installed by 1 person. (Professional gutter installers only) This is because the first mounting screw needs to be in the center of the section. Next, set and screw each end to the line and then put in the screws between. Sections longer than 35’ are best installed with two people and their ladders should be set at the 1/3 and 2/3 distance of the section. The first mounting screws are to be at the 1/3 and 2/3’s locations. Followed by setting and screwing each end to the line, then setting the center, then setting and putting all the screws in between.
How Long Do Seamless Gutters Last?
The durability and longevity of seamless gutters is based on the type of materials used (coil and accessories) and the professionalism of the installation.
Seamless Gutter Coil and Sealers
Seamless gutters are most commonly made of 3 different product coils; Aluminum, galvanize (galvalume), and copper. Each one of these materials have a life span of their own. Galvanize has a lifespan of 40 years. Aluminum has a lifespan of 60 years. Copper has a lifespan of 80-100 years. This may seem like plenty of time, but in the grand scheme it is not. The truth is that seamless gutters have other factors that could cause their demise much earlier. Leaking is going to be the first complication. Due to chemical breakdown under UV light. Seamless gutter sealers are the weakest point. 15-30 years is all you will get from the best sealers that they sell for aluminum and galvanized seamless gutters. However, you could see 50 to 75 years on lead that was primarily used for sealing copper.
Now on to the second category of failure that occurs, it may be first when considering its importance. The professionalism of the installation is key to the durability and longevity of the system. It is best to tell you the short cuts you will see rather than explain the how to of the particular failures.
Usage of Sealer
Silicon is not a gutter sealer. It does not adhere long term to the inside of the gutter material. It is like it has a time release, It just lets go one day. This is categorized as professionalism because many sealers are not intended for gutters. Many installers know this but use it anyway to save money because it’s 1/3 of the cost of actual seamless gutter sealers. You can’t blame the sealer for an installation companies shortcomings. Also there is a lack of care taken when sealing with even with a good sealer. Following the sealers instructions is important. A bead of sealer needs to be wide enough and thick enough to withstand expansion and contraction of a metal seamless gutter system during temperature changes. Bad sealers and bad sealer application will give you a life span of 2 weeks to 2 years.
Usage of Fastener
Screw‘s/fastener’s length, diameter, and type of material they are made from or coated with is critical. Again, you will see gutter failure here because of short cuts for cost by the installation company. Steel fasteners are commonly used because of the strength needed to hold together a seamless gutter system. However, they must be zinc plated if they are going to have longevity with the amount of water that seamless gutters are exposed to. Plain steel screws and fasteners will give you a lifespan of 3-5 years.
Mounting Surface Inspection
A good examination of the mounting surface is key to having a seamless gutter system last. Inspection of the mounting surface’s current state and it’s future is the first thing to consider. Roofing that is damaged or installed poorly can deteriorate the mounting surface of the gutter over time and cause the gutter to fail early. Poor mounting surface will give your seamless gutters a lifespan of 2-5 years.
Where Can I Get Seamless Gutters?
This question has two answers. First of all, the gutter materials and coils are sold by gutter manufacturers such as Senox, Spectra Metals, Berger and a host of local distributors.
Unfortunately the purchase of seamless gutters takes another step. You would have to find your local distributor and purchase the coil by itself. You would also need to purchase a gutter machine in order to run your sections of seamless gutter. This approach would be very costly. The best way to buy seamless gutters is to contact a local installation company. They will come out and discuss the details of your specific needs and give you a free estimate.
So you know the deal, get three estimates and then pick the lesser of the three evils. I can feel the fear setting already so before I throw you to the wolves and wish you good luck I do have a few tips here to help you.
Tips for Choosing a Seamless Gutter Company
1. Never choose any one with less than 10 reviews if you want this company to stand behind their work. It takes a bit to get a company established and any one can get three or four friends to leave a review for their first day in business. 10 or more generally means they have been around a bit and intend to be around longer.
2. Confirm that they know about seamless gutter sealers and proper fastener types. The reason is, you want someone knowledgeable and secondly you want them to know you will be checking up on them.
3. Practice caution buying on day one of the estimate. If getting a good deal on your project matters, remember that discounts and offers to close a deal come on day two.
4. Request that their insurance company (not them) email you a certificate of their liability insurance. This is important because you need to know that your home is covered from any damage that may happen during the installation.
Seamless Gutter Tip #1
Before the portable gutter machine was even invented, any home where the sections of gutter did not exceed 20,’ contractors did a seamless gutter installation. Seams are now only introduced when a single section of gutter exceeds the common transport length of 10 and or 20 feet.
Seamless Gutter Tip #2
Seamless gutters actually do have seams. They are found at the ends and at transitional corners only. Transitional corner seams are found when you are turning an outside corner of the building or when turning at the inside corner of the building. Whenever the gutter has an L-shape in it’s plat map view, there is a corner created which by definition has been considered a seam.