Know anybody with wooden gutters? Chances are they enjoy talking about the character and beauty of them, but don’t want the conversation to sway towards the
maintenance of them. They do have many checkmarks in the “pros” column for the aesthetic appeal, but each “pro” is also offset but a baneful “con”.
I was referred to these particular homeowners in Rye, NH to replace rotten eave trim and porch trim before having their house painted. Upon arrival I asked the homeowner what his wishes were and what his analysis was, since they have owned the home for 26 years. I then applied this perspective and my professional perspective as I walked the exterior of the house, took measurements and
pictures, and made notations. I returned to discuss my findings and display pictures with the homeowner. I told him that we could certainly replace all of the rotten trimwork, replicate a couple of the decorative cornice brackets, and tighten things up ahead of a paint job. Unfortunately, I also had to gently disclose that it seemed clear that the wooden gutters were causing the rot all around the home, and it was likely to continue. I asked what his thoughts were about this and he
remarked, “I’ve resigned myself to the fact that rot is just going to continue to be a problem.” These particular homeowners are very intelligent and do an outstanding job trying to maintain the integrity of the home. I feel as though this response was a result of decades of conditioning by previous contractors stating exactly that. I also had to gently state that I didn’t share this same viewpoint with regards to this specific example, and that after providing a detailed proposal for replacing the rotten wood trim, I would also research to find a winning solution for conquering the age old wooden gutter problem.
By looking at these pictures, you can see that the gutters are placed over the fascia board, but starting to pull away. This creates a wonderful alternative for water seeking to hide. All of the joints in the gutters have separated like Heidi Klum and Seal, no chance of getting back together.
Compounding the problems greatly, one of my predecessors decided to resolve the issue of gutters pulling away by supporting them with another layer of wood trim applied to the fascia underneath the gutter, and then sealed it together with caulking and paint. While this looked terrific from the ground, it didn’t work out so well from a “water management” perspective. All of the moisture that ran behind the gutter was sealed in with no place to go. Of course it rotted the trimwork, layer by layer. If all this wasn’t bad enough, some of the original downspouts were eliminated and patched over for aesthetic reasons. Fine, except that the gutter still pitched in that direction and now the water would sit there until it evaporated. Another detail requiring attention was where the gutter sections butted into the exterior walls and siding. There was no endcap sealed on to the butt end of the gutter, nothing to protect the wall from this moisture. I showed the homeowner all of these pics and more, so he could see why I felt it deserved attention.
Finding the winning solution wasn’t so easy. I spent 2 full days talking with other building professionals, talking to the local suppliers of gutter and roofing products, in professional chatrooms, and spending countless hours poring through Google search results. The end result: There was no ready made solution. I was going to have to create one. We could have copper manufactured and soldered to be seamless in place, for over $8,000. Or we could use white rubber roofing and lead for ½ the price.
In order for the gutter to hold the water and direct it properly into the downspouts, we had to ensure that the white rubber roofing liner would be tucked all the way up under the roof-line. Then, we had to find a way to seal the rubber roofing to the top edge of
the gutter, where it wouldn’t be seen from the ground. By nailing the lead to the gutter, it gave us a nice, clean, smooth, and impermeable surface to bond the rubber roofing to… for all eternity, ahh, ahh, ahh. But, there was one more critical task we were going to ask the lead to perform. We needed to create a “drip edge” on the outside face of the gutter for overflow water to drip off of, rather than submit to it’s surface tension
and run all the way down the face of the building components. We did this by adding a
spacer to the top outer edge of the gutter and then hanging the lead slightly lower than it. We also added 3 new downspouts where the demand required.
I’m 100% certain that Meticulous Remodeling had not just boldly gone where no man has gone before, but proud of our extra effort and craftsmanship, nonetheless.
By John Bradshaw