Get the drop on rain gutters
Rain gutters are one of the most overlooked yet vitally important functional elements of a home's exterior. During a heavy rainstorm, gutters divert rainwater, gently draining it into contained spaces rather than letting it just pour off your roof. They also prevent very heavy rains from causing major problems like basement flooding.
The Parts of Rain Gutters
There is some rain-gutter terminology you should know so that you can get precisely what you're after when you head to the home improvement store. First, there are two main rain gutter profiles used in residential buildings: K-shaped and U-shaped rain gutters. The difference between the two is that K-shaped gutters have ogee-style fronts, whereas U-shaped gutters are clean and simple in design.
Here are some other terms related to house gutters that you should know:
- Sections. A rain gutter "section" is a long, narrow piece that attaches to your roof. Gutter sections are where rainwater collects before it is routed for draining. Keep in mind that while plastic sections are more inexpensive, copper gutters or other metal gutters have a longer life and superior durability.
- Hangers. A gutter hanger spans the inner and outer portion of the section, holding the section in place and helping it remain sturdy.
- End caps. An end cap is a piece that is used to close off a section and force rainwater to enter a drop outlet for draining.
- Leaf screens. Because leaves can easily clog gutters, leaf screens are used to keep them out of the drop outlets. You'll have to clean your leaf screens regularly – at least once per season in the spring and fall.
- Drop outlets. The drop outlet is the major routing mechanism that bridges the sections with the elbows and downspouts.
- Elbows. As the name implies, elbows are curved bridging pieces that help water travel from the drop outlet to the downspout more efficiently. The primary function of elbows is to prevent draining water from rushing through the system, which would create the potential for strain and breakage.
- Downspouts. Located close to ground level, downspouts are the last leg of the rainwater's journey. If you like, you can get downspout extensions that will allow you to route the rainwater to a nearby place for collection. Rain chains also provide an attractive and convenient alternative to metal or plastic downspouts if you want to route your water to a specific area.
- Splash blocks. Sometimes called gutter guards, splash blocks are tray-like extensions that spread the water coming out the downspout.
Installing House Gutters
The rule of thumb you should use if you're going to install your own rain gutters is to allow ½-inch of downward slope for every 10 feet of gutter section. If any continuous gutter section is greater than 40 feet in length, it is better to run slopes down from the middle of the section than it is to create a single, continuous slope in one direction.
The correct installation of house gutters can be a precarious balancing act, too. Hiring roofing contractors is certainly an option to consider if you think you can benefit from professional help.