Gutter Replacement: Should You DIY or Hire a Professional?
Safety concerns, water damage inspection, and proper pitch measurements are just a few reasons why you’ll want to consider hiring a pro for your next gutter replacement.
A well-installed rain gutter protects a home and its foundation from water that could seep into the walls or pool on the ground and cause damage. Over time, a gutter may wear out or get damaged, putting your house at risk. Gutter replacement is not considered as difficult a task as some home improvement jobs can be, so many homeowners choose to go the DIY route. While there are some advantages to replacing a gutter on your own, a professional installation is also worth considering—and in most cases, advised. Installing a gutter on your own can cost less than hiring a professional, but if the gutters are installed at the wrong pitch or are the wrong style for your house or region, structural damage could occur to the house over time.
Difficulty: Intermediate to difficult. Tackling a gutter replacement can require special equipment rental, and it will require caution when working on a ladder or roof. Extra care is needed to ensure the gutters are properly measured, pitched, and installed to prevent future water damage.
When to DIY
Many homeowners clean out their own gutters, which also inclines them to want to replace old gutters themselves. Choosing to complete a gutter installation without the help of a professional will depend on several factors: comfort level on a ladder at the height of the home’s gutters, ownership of basic tools, ability to use tools while standing on a ladder, available time to complete the task, and potentially the assistance from a capable friend or family member.
You are familiar with your home’s gutters.
Installing rain gutters isn’t as cut and dried as it seems, but it helps to be familiar with how gutters are carefully installed to encourage water flow away from the house. If you’ve done small gutter repairs over the years, you may already be familiar with how they work. Downspouts should be properly placed to avoid allowing water to pool close to the foundation. If this is not the case or there aren’t enough downspouts, you’ll need to consider the best place to add them. Homeowners can quickly choose replacement gutters from a local hardware store.
You have the right tools and equipment.
Homeowners who complete a lot of DIY outdoor projects likely own the necessary tools and equipment to complete a gutter replacement. An extension ladder that reaches the roof is a piece of equipment needed to complete the task. Beyond that, homeowners should also have a cordless drill, tape measure, caulk gun, duckbill tin snips, a crimper, a hex head driver, and offset tin snips. A pop rivet gun can also be helpful to drive the rivets into the holes. Otherwise a hammer and nails may be sufficient, depending on the type of gutters being installed. If available, a miter saw could also be used to cut gutters more quickly.
You have the time to dedicate to gutter installation or gutter replacement.
The size of the house and the number of rain gutters that need to be replaced will affect the total installation time. It’s also important to consider the extra time needed to decide which gutters are best for the house, especially if they’ll be customized. On average, most homeowners with an average-size home can install their own gutters in a day or less if they have all the materials and equipment. For comparison’s sake, a professional company can complete up to 150 linear feet of gutter installation in 7 hours. If replacing gutters is new to you, and you feel capable of going the DIY route, it’s best to plan extra time to complete the job.
You have someone to assist you.
DIY gutter replacement is best done with at least one extra person to help. Vinyl gutters are usually lightweight, but a steel or copper gutter is much heavier. Having an additional person hold or steady an unwieldy length of gutter can help homeowners remain safe on a ladder. Falling off a ladder is an all-too-common accident, so it’s best to avoid as many precarious positions as possible while holding heavy or cumbersome objects. A second pair of eyes can also come in handy to measure the pitch on both ends of the gutter as it’s being adjusted before placement.
When to Hire a Professional
A common mistake some homeowners make when replacing their own gutters is choosing a gutter style or material that isn’t suitable for the house. Having a pro’s help in selecting rain gutters for your house can prevent future problems. Homeowners may also prefer to hire a gutter company if their gutters are still under warranty, especially if they are not comfortable working on extension ladders or if they are unfamiliar with the technical process to properly cut, pitch, and seal gutters. The total retail cost to purchase each necessary item for a complete gutter system can also surprise some homeowners.
Your gutters are still under a warranty.
In some cases, old gutters can be replaced at no cost if they are still covered under a warranty. Professionally installed gutters might be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty as well as a labor warranty by the installation company. Generally, these warranties can last 5 or 10 years, and they may require the homeowner to keep a regular maintenance schedule to prevent the gutters from wearing out quickly. If gutters are damaged by the sun or weather other than a catastrophic event such as a hurricane or tornado, they may qualify for a free warranty replacement.
You don’t know which gutters to buy.
Choosing the right gutter is a much more challenging process than it seems. The top four factors to consider when choosing new gutters are house size, roof pitch, yearly amount of rainfall, and mounting options. Three kinds of gutters are standard: half-round style, which requires hooks mounted on the underside; K-style, which have a flat side that’s easily mounted to the fascia boards; and fascia gutters, which double as the fascia for a house. Choosing the right size of gutter depends on the amount of rainfall in your region and the pitch of the roof. A gutter that’s too small for heavy rainfall or snow may create leaks under pressure or spill water into the house structure or foundation, but oversize gutters could reduce curb appeal or pull away from the house if improperly fastened.
Material costs can rise quicker than you think.
Replacing all the gutters on a house can be a bigger job than anticipated. Initially, it may seem more cost-effective to buy the materials on your own, but it could end up costing more than what a gutter company would charge. Typically, gutter installation materials include the gutters, hanging brackets or fasteners, downspouts, elbows, end caps, gutter flashing, gutter sealant, and nails or rivets depending on the gutter style. Retail prices on these materials can add up quickly. A pro installation company usually buys gutter installation parts in bulk to get wholesale pricing cheaper than a homeowner can.
Making a mistake is easy—and it can be hard and expensive to repair.
For homeowners unfamiliar with the process of replacing gutters, it’s important to be aware of two common pitfalls that can end up costing more money in the long run. A pro will know how and what to inspect for existing water damage to the house, and failing to install the right gutter at the correct pitch can cause water to flow onto the house and foundation instead of the downspout. A gentle pitch is best for proper water flow into the downspout so that water doesn’t pool up improperly. If gutters are installed on wood that’s already rotting on the inside, future repairs will likely be more extensive and costly.
You are unsteady on a ladder or don’t feel confident using one.
A fear of heights is not uncommon—even among DIY enthusiasts. Some homeowners may be comfortable climbing on a ladder to the height of a single-level house, but others may feel unsafe climbing as high as a two-story roof. The challenge with a gutter replacement is that homeowners will need to be comfortable not only climbing the ladder but also holding materials and working at that height. Since ladder accidents are an unfortunate, common occurrence, it’s best to leave this job to the pros if ladders are a cause for concern.
Verdict: DIY or Hire a Professional?
DIY gutter replacement can be a fun and challenging task for many homeowners who are familiar with more technical work and operating on ladders. However, it’s not a one-man job, nor are gutters a one-size-fits-all type of product. Making the mistake of installing the wrong gutter or installing it improperly can have lasting consequences.
Gutters are not designed to suit every house style or climate. A local gutter installation company will be familiar with the best gutter style for your house and weather conditions. These pros will know how to securely fasten the gutter to the house using hooks or fasteners to make sure it withstands heavy rainfall, strong winds, or snow and ice. A gutter that is poorly fastened, oversized, or pitched improperly can bring down the curb appeal of the house.
Professionals are trained to spot any water damage on a house caused by a leaky gutter. Fixing the problem immediately can help prevent significant damage in the future. They can also identify any areas on existing gutters that have performed poorly and how to remedy them when replaced. Proper placement of downspouts will help prevent water from pooling near the house foundation as well.
Most importantly, safety is a primary consideration for homeowners considering DIY gutter replacement. Some homes have multiple roof levels, steep pitches, or a lot of linear square feet on which to install a gutter. All of these situations can be easily and professionally handled by trained professionals who are comfortable working on roofs of all shapes and sizes. They are also insured against accidents and often carry warranties on their work as well—an added bonus.
Verdict: Hire a professional
Why Skip This DIY Project
In most cases, it’s recommended to prioritize homeowner safety and structural integrity of the house by having a professional company complete a gutter replacement. Doing a gutter replacement on your own may not save money in the long run if the wrong materials are purchased, the new gutters leak, or someone is injured by falling off a ladder. A pro will be able to adequately assess the house to select the correct gutter style, inspect the house for water damage to the walls or foundation, and install the gutters at the proper pitch with the right connections and seals to prevent leaks.
Benefits of Hiring a Professional
Since gutters play an important role in the structural integrity of a house, replacing worn-out gutters should be a priority. Hiring a professional to do the job for you has many benefits.
- Proper home protection: A pro gutter installation company will know the best style of gutters to collect rain and snow and prevent damage to the house.
- Inspection and damage control: Professionals can quickly identify hidden damage in soffits, fascia, roofs, walls, or foundations and make repairs before replacing your gutters.
- Warranty: A DIY gutter replacement doesn’t offer a warranty, whereas a professional can.
- Quality guarantee: With a professional, you can get the job right the first time and up to code.
- Curb appeal and value boost: Properly sized gutters that are fastened securely to the house will appear nearly invisible and boost the curb appeal of the house.
Homeowners who utilize the expertise of a gutter installation company can expect to maintain or even increase their property value without having to worry about malfunctioning gutters, water damage, or odd-size gutters that detract from the home’s appearance.
For professional gutter replacement, hire a HomeAdvisor gutter installation expert in your area.