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A guide to rain gutter installation, repair and maintenance



Rain gutters work with downspouts to provide a critical role for your home. You don’t want the water that comes off your home to fall directly around your foundation when it rains or the snow melts. Excess water around the foundation can increase soil erosion and make the home far more susceptible to leaks in the basement or the crawl space under the house. Direct dripping water can also cause damage to the siding around the exterior of your home.

Rain gutters direct water away from your home. They collect the rainwater coming off the roof and carry it through downspouts and pipes farther out into the yard, where it can be safely dispersed.

However, you must care for your gutters so your gutter system can work effectively. Failing to keep your gutters clean and maintained can make it difficult for them to do their job, thus placing your home at risk of damage.

We will explore what you need to know about installing rain gutters and how to keep them working optimally so you can protect your home.


How to install rain gutters in 6 steps

A gutter replacement or installing new gutters is a DIY home improvement project that many homeowners can take on if they have some basic construction skills. Those who do not feel comfortable working up high or just prefer to have a professional manage the job can call a gutter company or handyman who provides gutter services to help them install their rain gutters.

We will walk you through the step-by-step process of installing and positioning your gutters.

1. Measure the roof and acquire the right materials and tools

First, determine precisely how long your gutter needs to be to run completely along the edge of your roof. Your gutter will attach to the fascia board, which runs along the lower outer edge of your roof. Your gutter should run the entire length of your roof and end at a downspout. Procure enough gutter material to stretch this far and some extra in case you need it throughout the gutter repair process. 

A pivotal length to keep in mind is 40 feet. If your roof length is longer than 40 feet, have your gutter slowly pitch down from the middle and direct water toward two downspouts — one at each end of the gutter. If your roof needs a gutter less than 40 feet, have the gutter slowly slant toward a single downspout at one end. 

Once you know how long your gutter needs to be, decide the type of style and material you want. 

Here is a basic overview:

  • K-style gutters: These are very common on modern homes and resemble crown molding on the front edge. They are very affordable and easy to install but clog easily and need regular maintenance.
  • Half-round gutters: This is an older, more traditional type of gutter that looks like half a tube. They are easier to clean and less likely to corrode but take longer to install and cost more.
  • Box-style gutters: These are particularly big gutters designed for large amounts of water. They have to be installed when the building is built, or the roof will need to be reshingled after installation.
  • Aluminum gutters: These are cost-effective and easy to install but can warp in extreme temperatures.
  • Copper gutters: These are heavy-duty gutters, which means they weigh more and can come loose more often. They are also more expensive.
  • Galvanized-steel gutters: These are very strong and can handle large amounts of water, but they weigh a lot and can come loose. They also rust easily.
  • Vinyl gutters: These are very cost-effective, and people can typically DIY install them. However, they offer limited color options, and the material may not last as long as other options.

In addition to the gutters themselves, you’ll need:

  • End caps for the end of each gutter
  • Silicone glue sealant to connect the pieces
  • Hacksaw to cut the gutters to size
  • Machine screws to attach the pieces to the house
  • Drill to secure the screws
  • Tin snips, which you will use for precise cuts

2. Snap layout lines

Next, snap layout lines on the fascia. Mark the fascia about 1¼ inches below the metal drip-edge flashing. Then at the other end of the fascia, where the downspout will go, mark the lowest point of the gutter run. Remember to drop the slope about half an inch for every 10 feet. If this roof portion runs 20 feet, drop it a total of 1 inch so the point where the gutter will meet the downspout is 1 inch lower than where the gutter starts.

Snap a chalk line between them once you have these two points marked. Then follow this line as you install your gutters to make sure they line up correctly.

3. Attach the fascia brackets

Once you mark your chalk line, look for the rafter tails behind the fascia. Follow your chalk line and mark where you find every other rafter tail. You’ll use the marks to guide where to fasten your fascia brackets. 

Use quarter-inch stainless-steel lag screws long enough to allow you to go a full 2 inches into the rafter.

4. Cut the gutter to the correct length

Now that you have marked where your gutter will go and placed your brackets, cut your gutters to the correct size. You’ll need a hacksaw and a tape measure. 

Keep a few key ideas in mind as you mark the gutter and prepare to cut:

  • If you will continue your gutter around a corner, finish the length by cutting at an angle on that end. The most common angle you will need will be 45 degrees.
  • If this length of gutter is long enough to require two sections of gutter, overlap them by 8 inches. Account for this extra distance as you cut.
  • If you need to join together pieces of gutter, place your screws or rivets on the sides or top of the gutter, but not on the bottom.

Once you have cut the gutter to the appropriate size, you need to prepare it for installation. First, attach end caps on any gutter ends. In other words, if the gutter does not attach to another piece of the gutter but instead finishes, you need to attach an end cap. Secure the end cap with a rivet and use your siliconized glue or caulk to seal it properly.

You will also need to cut the downspout holes. Measure where your downspout will attach to the gutter. Place the downspout outlet against the gutter to mark where the downspout location will go and cut out this hole. You might find using your tin snips works best for this job, but others will want to use a hammer and a chisel. Then place the outlet in the hole, use rivets to attach them, and seal it with silicone glue.

5. Install the gutter

Now you will need to install your gutter by attaching it to the fascia brackets. Position your gutter until the back edge slips onto the hooks offered by the brackets. Then use machine screws and a flanged nut to secure the gutter in place appropriately.

Wherever you have two lengths of gutter that need to meet at a corner, create a strip miter joint at the corner. Cover the joint between the two pieces with a 3-inch-wide strip of aluminum known as a strip miter to accomplish this goal. Secure this strip miter to the bottom of the gutter with sheet-metal screws. To fold the flaps down around the top edge, use your snips to cut a triangle shape out of the strip miter. 

6. Connect the downspout to the gutter

For your final step, it’s time to connect the downspout to the gutter. You should already have your downspout outlet in place. If you need a downspout elbow to direct your downspout, attach this first. Otherwise, you will next connect your downspout to the outlet with screws. 

Have an idea of where you want to aim the other end of the downspout. You want the water to move away from the house (do not direct it toward any electrical meters). Some people elect to make their downspout run into a rain barrel. This option allows you to collect rainwater and use it for something else, such as watering plants and flowers.


How to clean rain gutters

Once you successfully install your gutters, make sure you don’t allow them to get clogged. If leaves and other debris pile up in the gutter, the water will not be able to flow freely. The water will likely start to flow over the gutters, leading to it flooding around the foundation of your home. The water might also creep in under your roof, causing potential issues. If the water builds up and becomes stagnant, you might also face problems with ice in the cold winter months.

Plan on cleaning your gutters a few times a year and after major storms. You may want to do it more often if your house is under trees that regularly drop leaves onto your home.

Follow these steps to clean your gutters:

  1. Place your ladder in a secure spot so you don’t have to worry about it moving as you work.
  2. Place a tarp under your workspace to avoid dropping piles of gunk onto your lawn.
  3. Use a small plastic scoop to remove any large chunks of dirt and debris from the gutter. You can get a specialized gutter scoop if you want, but it is not required to do the job.
  4. Once you have scooped out as much gunk as possible, use a hose to flush out any remaining dirt from the gutters and downspouts.
  5. After cleaning the gutters, step back from the home and check for areas where the gutters might sag. A sagging gutter will not drain water properly. If you see a sagging gutter, look at your brackets to find the source of the problem. A gutter hanger can also help you support the lower areas and raise them back up.


Rain gutter maintenance tips

Keeping your gutters well maintained can help prevent problems from piling up inside this critical home feature. Gutter maintenance can help protect the rest of your home from water damage and leaks. Taking just a few minutes throughout the year can go a long way in keeping gutters functioning optimally. 

Here are some great strategies for maintaining your gutters:

  • Stay on top of gutter cleanings. Make sure you clean out your gutters every few months and after major storms.
  • Regularly check your gutters and downspouts for clogs. You want to watch the water running through the gutters and downspouts to make sure it flows freely. 
  • Check your gutters about once per season. Walk around the home to look for damage to the gutters, such as rust, corrosion, drooping or leaking. If there are any cracks or holes, see if you need to replace a portion of the gutter.
  • Install gutter guards to protect your gutters from debris. A gutter guard will help keep leaves and other common sources of clogs from getting into your gutters, reducing how often you need to clean them.
  • Remember to check your downspouts as part of your inspection. Ensure that your splash blocks have not become displaced and the water still exits where you want it to go. If you notice any water accumulating near your home, consider adjusting the placement of your downspout endpoints or installing extensions to carry the moisture farther from your home and your foundation. 

Following these tips can go a long way in helping you better care for your gutters.


Protect your other home systems with Cinch

You work hard to protect your home, including maintaining your gutters. Take your protection a step further with a Cinch Home Services home warranty plan. These plans can help cover critical appliances and built-in systems throughout the home, including your washer and dryer or HVAC system. 

With a home warranty, Cinch will send a vetted service technician to get covered problems fixed as quickly as possible. Learn more about what Cinch can do for you. Reach out for a quote today! 


Your rain gutters play an important role in protecting your home. Learn more about how to install these essential features and maintain them.