Gutter installation is an easy-entry business that requires only a few tools and a $20,000 seamless-gutter machine. As a result, carefully choosing a pro is crucial on gutter projects. Check references, and drive by finished jobs. Always get more than one bid; if one is considerably lower than another, there's a good chance the gutters used by the contractor who made the lower bid are less than .032 in. thick. There are other ways to guarantee a good installation. Before you hire someone, insist on a free estimate, and be there when the pro checks out your project. Clearly point out where you want gutters and downspouts installed. Also make sure the bid includes all carpentry-repair work. Before installation starts, replace rotting fascia boards (the trim boards at the eaves). And for proper drainage, be sure the contractor slopes the gutter 1ยป4 in. for every 4 ft. of run. Finally, check the warranty. For gutters and accessories, look for a warranty that runs at least 20 years, though a lifetime backing is preferable. For labor, one-year coverage is the minimum. Also be sure the contractor has completion insurance, which continues coverage on the gutters if he goes out of business. DOING IT YOURSELF
If you install your own gutters, be sure to work on a calm day. Use sectional vinyl, which features snap-together pieces that are easy to figure out. The Rain Master system from Bemis, for example, is typical of what's available. Connectors with leak-proof silicone gaskets, which maintain their seal through both hot and cold weather, join the vinyl sections. Then the assembled gutters snap into hangers that attach to the fascia boards with galvanized wood screws. Sectional galvanized-steel gutters are also available as homeowner-installed systems. But components must be soldered together - a literal test of fire for any novice. And despite the galvanized finish, standing water or wet leaves will eventually cause the gutters to rust. "Bonderized steel" gutters, which are chemically treated for painting, are yet another option. Prep them by removing any chemical residue with a solution of distilled vinegar or galvanize wash, available in hardware stores. Then use an antirust primer and finish them with a good exterior-grade paint recommended for metal. If you're doing the installation yourself, stay away from spike-and-ferrule hangers, which tend to pull out over time. Instead, use screw-in hidden hangers or roof-strap versions for most gutters. You can also use snap-locks for most K-profile gutters. And be sure the ends of the downspouts run to a suitable drainage system or absorbent, properly graded soil.
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