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This article explains how gutters are attached to or supported on buildings, describing different sorts of gutter hangers and their pros and cons. We also discuss the recommended sized or capacity of roof gutters as a function of the size of roof area being drained. This article series discusses how to choose, install, diagnose & maintain roof gutters & downspouts, & roof drainage systems to prevent building leaks and water entry.
How Are Gutters Attached to the Building? Types of Gutter Hangers
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Gutters won't survive the occasional extra weight of water, wet leaves, ice or snow that weigh down gutters when they have not been kept cleaned. But you can increase the durability of the building's roof gutter system by using enough connections to fasten the gutters to the structure so that those occasional extra stresses can be endured.
The sketch at left informs us that
Roof gutters should slope at least 1-inch in every 200 inches of run
Roof gutters should be secured to the building every 2-3 feet.
Four-inch gutters are good for relatively small roof
areas; however, five-inch gutters are preferred because of their additional capacity. Five-inch
gutters are also less likely to allow water to overshoot the gutters when the water is draining
off a steeply pitched roof.
While "rules of thumb" for both gutter size and number of downspouts needed often are based simply on the length of roof edge that is being drained, this approach is flawed in that it fails to consider the total roof area that is being drained.
A roof that is very small in total area, even if very long, may get along just fine with a smaller 4-inch gutter, while a much larger roof area with the same length of roof eaves needs a 5-inch gutter or larger.
Also, as our (photographs below illustrate) odd roof shapes or complex multiple roof designs may end up sending a large volume of water from multiple surfaces into a relatively short gutter length that cannot possibly handle that volume. The result will be spillage by the building foundation and a high risk of a wet basement.
Some homeowners install larger gutters and leaders not because of difficulty handling the volume of water being drained, but because they believe that they'll have to clean the gutters less often. Nevertheless, it doesn't take a much larger handful of leaves or debris to clog a large downspout than a smaller one.
Before Installing a Larger Gutter System: Things to Check if Your Gutters are Overflowing
Double check that the overflow is not gutter back-flow due to a gutter or roof drip edge installation error
Check that the gutters are not loose and pulled away from the roof edge
Check that water is not "overshooting" the gutter, especially at or below roof valleys
Check that the gutters slope properly towards downspout drains
In sum, if the area of roof being drained is larger than usual and there are no defects in the gutter or downspout system, then if gutters still overflow during heavy rainfall you may need to install a larger gutter system.
Also see DRIP LINES INDICATE OVERFLOW This article describes ground-level visual clues that tell the story of the history and location of gutter overflows at a building.
Roof Gutter or Eaves Trough Inspection & Repair Articles
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"Flashing: the plain solution to leaky walls", Thomas E. Remmele, Manager, Technical Services, Sto Corporation, Building Standards, November/December 1999 p. 21-25.
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