Monday, September 22, 2008

Gutters, Day One

Today is the day it starts. The demolition begins. Nobody really knew how the roof and gutters were put together on our house. This is the really interesting part. How was the system designed? Did it work? What did people do to the gutters over the years to try and maintain them? I found out the answers to some of these today.

Ms. Huis called me at about 9:30 this morning to tell me that Roger and Dale were on site to tear off the gutters. They arrived at 8:00 and did set up. The fact that they showed up at 8:00 is great. I like contractors who show up at 8:00 and leave at 5:00. It means they are dependable. By the time Ms. Huis was done dropping off our eldest at school and dropping the car off at the mechanic, Roger had already torn into the gutters. His comment to her was that the gutters were pretty rusted and "this was going to be a bigger job than he thought." What a surprise.

About ten minutes later, she called me back again. The old spidey sense told me that this was not going to be a good phone call. She put Roger on the phone. The original plan was to rip out the interior gutter and save the exterior gutter. Then when it came time to put it all back together, we'd replace the interior gutter and reface it with the exterior gutter. Looks like that is not an option.

According to Roger, the exterior gutter was rusted through too and couldn't be saved, and that was on the east side - the good side. He was calling looking for direction. I told him I'd come home at lunch, take a look and we could discuss.

Once I got home, I crawled up onto the scaffolding to see what the situation was. It seems that in 1921, two pieces of galvanized sheet metal were used to create the gutter; an interior, functional gutter, and an exterior, half gutter used to make it look attractive. What I didn't know, was that when the previous owner said he replaced the gutters in the 80's, he didn't actually replace them. He took and created another interior gutter, also out of galvanized, and laid that on top of the existing 1921 gutter. There were actually three layers of metal, and they were all shot. One of the problems with that many layers of metal is that the water gets trapped between layers and then sits and rusts.

I had hoped to have a picture of the gutter and its onion-like layers on the fascia, but Roger was able to pull all of the gutter off today, leaving me with just the shots below. Tomorrow they'll be coming back to finish the clean up.

This first picture is a shot of the fascia on the west side of the house, looking south. It's possible to see the "L" they notched in the joists to accommodate the gutters now that the gutters are fully removed. It's also not apparent in this photo, but Roger and I are pretty certain that the fascia around the entire house is not original. The lumber is nominal sized pine, rather than a true 1" thick board.

The second picture shows the state of the roof once Roger removed the gutters. Because these are high backed gutters, they tuck under the shingles. The only way to take them off is to remove the shingles. Hopefully this won't cause us any grief. Roger really shouldn't have moved the shingles around much as he did. A government bureaucrat could have a fit as Roger is certified to handled asbestos materials. If necessary, I'll have to say that I removed them for him to do the job.

The third picture is to show what looks like a nice, dried up cow pie on the roof. We did not allow cattle on the roof. They make too much noise when they roll off the roof. Thud, thud, thud, mooooooooo, thud. This is all that's left of our 1921 roofing felt. Not great, but there you go.

The last picture is the best picture I could get of the many layers of gutter. It was clearer on the fascia. The layer of metal on the left is the exterior gutter. Next is the 1921 interior gutter and on top of that is the 1980's gutter.

We maybe could have saved some of the exterior gutter, but not much. Roger was trying to be careful, but the metal was bending, buckling, dimpling and breaking. When I considered that the visible gutter profile could be remade and that we were trying to save galvanized steel, it just seemed better to start over from scratch. Had the gutters been irreplaceable or the material no longer available, I'd have given it more thought. This leaves us with two options.

First is to abandon the concept of a double gutter. We'll use a single gutter, with the external face shaped to look like the old external, decorative element. The pros are that there is no increase in cost from the bid; the gutter is actually deeper than the original allowing more water to be channeled; and Ockham's Razor is satisfied. There are a few cons. First, if we put a slant to the gutter, there will be a gap between the bottom of the gutter and the top of the fascia. This is an ideal entry point for wasps and critters, who will happily fly into the attic or the floor joists of the attic. If we don't put a slant on the gutter, they won't perform as well. Second, painting stainless steel is not easy, nor always recommended. The name says it all, "stainless." This would leave use with a shiny gray gutter that would eventually fade to a gray. I do not find this appealing.

Second is to recreate the original, double wall gutter. The pros are that this allows us to slant the gutter, while keeping a nice tight seal between the exterior gutter and fascia. The external gutter can also be made of any material, as it doesn't need to function, just to look good. That means we can use Galvanneal so we can paint it more easily, or we could really go all out and use copper. The cons are that this will increase the cost of the project and it makes the entire gutter process more complicated. I've asked Roger to give me two "back of the napkin" type quotes for a double wall gutter; one with Galvanneal and one with copper.

Assuming we can overcome the technical issues with option one, we'll go that route. Alternately, if option two is not that much more (riiiiiight), we'll do that.

One little humorous tidbit is that Roger found a putty knife between the two interior gutters, probably left when the second insert was installed in the 80's. He tells me that it's a Craftsman, so I'm thinking I should be able to exchange it for a new one if it has a lifetime guarantee. Too bad I don't have the same guarantee for the gutters.

1 comment:

Liquid Roof Repair said...

You are right about the gutter installation. There are only few professional people who are aware of the proper gutter installation. Thanks for sharing.