Thursday, March 27, 2008


It's been another long hiatus. I try to leave no more than seven days between postings, but I failed this time around. Work has been extremely busy, and we lost five days visiting family in Minnesota over Easter. A good time was had by all.

We finally have all the bids in for the work we've identified and it is very disappointing. We won't be able to do all the major structural repairs this year. We basically can either replace the main asbestos roof, or we can repair the front and back entry. We might have been able to do it all, but the cost of the new main roof is higher than I expected and the cost of the gutters came in much higher than I expected. I'll be struggling the next few days with what to fix and in what order. It would be a lot easier if I was prescient.

The largest problem is that everything is interconnected. The house works as a system and if one piece gets changed, it affects the rest of the house. While we can afford to replace the shingles, when I figure in the cost to repair the gutters, the beadboard soffit and the fascia board, all of which should be done at the same time, the number starts to get big enough to make me squirm.

The gutters are probably the single cause of all the damage to the house. They are the first line of defense in getting water away from the house and they failed some time ago, doing a lot of water damage. The previous owner fixed them, but now they are just starting to fail in some areas.

Try looking here if you aren't familiar with any of the terms I'm using.

Most gutter systems are affixed directly to the fascia. Structurally, I'd say this is a superior design to my gutters. When water spills from the gutters, it tends to fall directly to the ground and leave the fascia untouched. The gutters on the House of 42 Doors, though are built slightly differently. See the image below for a modern gutter layout on the left and the House of 42 Doors layout on the right.

These gutters are built into the roof itself, by carving out a "shelf". The top half of the fascia board is removed and in it's place is a decorative, curved metal piece. The resulting void, between the end of the roof and the decorative metal element is where a metal liner is placed. The metal liner is the gutter. The interior gutter shape is essentially a rolled box bead shape, although the dimensions I measured indicate that they are not standard.

Unless seamless gutters are installed on the house, all gutters will probably have a seam pop at some time. In a normal installation, the water leaks through the seam, and falls to the ground where the homeowner can say, "Guess I better gets those gutter seams fixed." In this house, the seams leak into the soffit where the water can rot the wood from the inside out. The previous owner helped alleviate this problem by putting round vent holes in the soffit every few feet or so, and I think it's a great compromise. The other downside though, is that the gutters need to be custom fitted into the space between the decorative element and the roof. Stock gutter pieces won't fit. And as I've found out, custom metal work is expensive.

The whole purpose of the decorative metal element is to create a Tuscan entablature out of the roof profile. It certainly would be a lot cheaper to remove all of this gutter foolishness and replace it with something more modern. It would also destroy the look of the house.

Winter is by far the hardest on the house. There's insufficient insulation in the house, which means that heat from the house melts the snow and ice dams form. The freeze/thaw cycle, the slow trickle of water and the clogging of the gutters with ice causes a lot of water to leak into the soffits and onto the fascia. In the summer, rainwater generally moves fast enough to splash past the holes in the gutter and happily gurgle into the downspouts.

Resealing the seams is a bit tricky, from what I've been told. Unless the metal surfaces are clean, it's hard to get a get solder, and after almost 30 years of rain, detritus and rust, the gutters are definitely not clean. It is possible to patch with caulking and rubber, but they don't last as long as a solder and once those items are applied it is virtually impossible to solder the seams. There is also the issue of heating the gutters up to soldering temperature when they rest near or against wood. I'm told all of these things make it difficult to repair gutters in place. Unless they are made of copper. Copper is evidently a wonder material. It also happens to be one of the most expensive.

Realistically, we have three materials that that new gutters could be made from; galvanized steel, stainless steel or copper. Each step down in materials seem to reduce the cost of the quote by about 10% to 20%. As could be expected, the more expensive the material, the longer its lifespan. If the gutters are well taken care of though (kept clean of debris, well pitched to remove water, and painted to reduce rusting for the steel products), there's no reason why they shouldn't outlast me. After all, they almost outlasted the previous owner.


ShoNuff said...

I just thought, could the soffits and such be changed to a more modern style (no channel built in) maybe customer carpentry would be less than custom metal work (more people do it certainly)? Then you could use more conventional gutters with the facade piece on the outside to keep the proper look? Could also avoid much of the leek issues in the future? Trying to think outside the box bu I can't really look at the stuff so I don't know. Best of luck (and price) whatever you decide.

DiploWhat said...

Since you know the roof leaks, I would go with fixing that first and then maybe do some adjustments ala shonuff.