This article explains how to tune-up your rain gutters and install bull-nose metal rain gutter covers. The gutter is cleaned, remounted with a proper slope for drainage and metal gutter covers installed.
Bullnose gutter covers are probably the best solution for keeping debris out of the rain gutter to minimize difficult and expensive gutter cleanings. There are many manufacturers of gutter covers and professional installation ranges from $8 to $20 or more per foot. I chose a low cost do-it-yourself product at $1.35 / foot per 4 foot long section of gutter cover. This product is also available in 10 foot sections at $1.90 / foot.
Update: MasterShield Gutter Guards
About 2 years after I wrote this article on bullnose gutter covers, my roof was badly damaged in severe hail storm. The bullnose gutter covers described here were removed during the roof replacement and I had the inexpensive clip-on wire gutter screens installed that are available at the home improvement stores. The clip-on / flip-up screens did poorly and I had problems with squirrels getting inside the gutters and pushing open the screens, especially at high unreachable sections of the roof. I decided to go with a professionally installed MasterShield Gutter Guards.
Rain Gutter Problems
The back of my home is surrounded by tall trees – oak, hickory, tulip poplar, sweet gum and walnut. The oak and hickory trees are the worst, dropping leaves in the fall and catkins in the spring. The stringy catkins turn brown, blow onto the roof forming brown clumps that get hung up on the smallest projection. The tulip poplar drops petals and seeds that fly like helicopters.
Gutter cleaning for my home costs about $175.00 per visit and I need to have it done every Spring and Fall for an annual cost of $350/year. The cleaning companies send a two or three man crew with leaf blowers. One guy holds a rope while the other guy scoots and slides on my two- and three story 12/12 pitch roof blowing debris out of the gutters. The problems with the leaf blower cleaning method are:
- They damage the singles.
I’ve watched the men surf down the roof wearing regular tennis shoes, instead of proper roofing boots like Cougar Paws, with the granules raining off the singles.
- They damage the turtle vents.
The rope can get snagged under the lip of the turtle vent and pull out a cover rivet. I recently replaced a turtle vent that was damaged just this way.
- The leaf blower forces debris under the shingles into the soffits and attic through the gap between roof deck and fascia.
- They don’t take extra care at the inside gutter corners at roof valleys.
The leaf blower can’t reach everything and the two cleaning companies I’ve used can’t be bothered to reach into the gutter with their hand to pull a wad of debris wedged in a gutter corner at the bottom of a roof valley. I once found a toy airplane and leaves lodged into the gutter corner that’d been there through three gutter cleanings.
- The leaf blower won’t get the sludge and shingle granules out.
I’m sure to get lot’s of flame comments from the gutter cleaning companies, saying this doesn’t happen with their service, but this is my personal experience.
Clip-On Gutter Screens
I tried the half-round flip-up gutter screens that clip to the gutter and lay against the shingles. The screens are inexpensive, install quickly and are widely available at home improvement stores. The screens do a good job of keeping debris out of the gutter, however the leaves and catkins get caught in the screens and pile up against the roof forming a dam. The theory is the debris will deteriorate over time, in my experience it just builds up season after season in a dense mat.
The matted debris on the gutter screen gets so bad that rain water flows over the screen, missing the gutter. Time to call the gutter cleaners, but wait – isn’t that why I installed gutter screens?!
Poorly Installed Gutters
I’ve found that about half of the gutters on my home are not installed correctly, the three main problems being:
- Insufficient slope (or pitch) for proper drainage and/or unevenly with a “hump” in the middle.
- Gutter is installed even with the top of the fascia board.
- Insufficient number of downspouts.
Insufficient Slope or Pitch
Homeowner’s don’t like seeing a gutter that is sloped to one side and uneven with the fascia, so home builder’s tend to hang the gutters even with the fascia board for appearances. A gutter should be sloped (or pitched) between 1/4″ to 1/2″ for every 20 feet gutter run toward the downspout.
This is due to sloppy work. A 27 foot run of gutter on my house with a single downspout was 1/2″ higher in the middle than the ends! A “hump” in the middle.
Gutter Installed Even with the Top of the Fascia Board
Many of my gutters are installed with the top of the gutter even with the fascia board. This tells me three things: 1) The gutter installer was lazy and/or incompetent; 2) The installed didn’t make a chalk line to set the gutter pitch; 2) If the gutter overflows, it will can run behind the fascia board and into the soffit.
Gutters should be installed at least 1/4″ to 1/2″ below the top of the fascia board so if it overflows, the water will run down the front of the fascia board instead of behind it.
If your gutter is installed like this one, it can overflow into the soffit and/or into the interior walls of the house if the gutter becomes clogged. The gutter should be remounted 1/2″ lower with a proper pitch.
Insufficient Quantity of Downspouts
A downspout is needed for every 20 feet or so of gutter, especially for a house with a large roof. I have a 29 foot section of gutter on the side of my house that is served by a single downspout on the front of the house after the gutter makes a 90 degree turn. The “headwater” part of the gutter tends to over flow in a very heavy rain – fortunately it spills over the front of the gutter instead of behind the fascia board. A new downspout is needed at the start of the gutter to fix this problem.
How to Install Bullnose Rain Gutter Covers
Coverall Gutter Covers
I purchased the “Coverall Gutter Cover” made by Woodstock Metal Roofing after visiting the Doraville, GA store and inspecting a product display. The product is available in 4- and 10 foot lengths, features a bullnose design that wicks water into the gutter while leaves and debris falls over the side. The Coverall Gutter Covers has a angled break to better meet the roof pitch – which is important to fit my steep 12/12 pitch roof. The 4-foot cover costs a couple of dollars per foot.
The Coverall Gutter Cover slides under the shingles and is fastened to the gutter with a small bracket and sheet metal screws.
I considered the plastic snap-on white gutter covers that are sold by home improvement stores, however that product was too narrow and couldn’t be tucked under the 2nd row of shingles on my house. This is the Coverall Gutter Cover compared to the plastic brand.
The Coverall Gutter Cover is attached to the gutter with a small aluminum bracket and sheet metal screws. A hex-head drill bit driver with a magnet holds the screw for fastening. The brackets are not pre-attached to allow for flexible placement to avoid the gutter hangers.
I pre-drilled holes in the front of the bracket where it attaches to the lip of the gutter. It’s easier to do work at ground level and minimizes dropping screws while working on a ladder.
The bracket is fastened to the inside of the gutter cover. I gambled here that the bracket wouldn’t have to be moved because of a conflict with a gutter hanger. It paid off because I had to move a bracket only once.
Bracket and gutter cover ready to be attached to the gutter:
A stack of gutter covers and brackets ready to be installed:
Miter Cut for Roof Ridges and Corners
The gutter covers are easy to cut with tin snips for a miter joint to fit a 90 degree outside gutter joint at a roof ridge. This piece is 1/2 of a section to cover for the outside gutter corner.
Unfortunately, the Coverall Gutter Cover doesn’t have a product for the inside gutter corners at a roof valley. The issue with a roof valley is the large amount of rain water being channeled down the valley will overshoot the gutter cover. The recommendation is to leave a gap and install a section of metal screen. Not the best appearance for the front of the house, but would be OK on the 2nd floor where it can’t be seen or the back of the house.
This project is continued in How to Install Bullnose Rain Gutter Covers – Part 2.
Thanks for reading,