Common Reasons For Gutters to Fail

The most common reasons for your gutters to fail are due to material selection, incorrect installation, and prolonged maintenance and cleaning.

Gutter Material

Many gutter installers purchase steel gutter coil as it allows them to offer their customers a lower cost product. Steel material may offer a better price and it has good strength, but on the flip side is that steel will rust, corrode, paint will chip or peel away, and is almost three times heavier than aluminum. In a few years down the road the homeowner will be dealing with replacement, so for 10-15% more in quality materials the outcome would be completely different.

Gutter Spikes (Spike and Farrel)

Another way for a gutter installer to lower the price of the gutters is by using Spike and Farrels to attach the gutters to the home. The problem with gutter spikes is that they work loose within 1-5 years due to expansion and contraction as the nail has very little holding power. In addition spikes are usually installed every 4 feet which is not enough to handle the weight of the gutter and the weight of water and ice build up.

Incorrect Installation

This is probobly the most important part to having new gutters installed on to your home. If the gutters are not pitched at a proper pitch the water will stand in the bottom of the gutter and debris will build up and cause your gutters to either have water pouring over the top, or in the winter it will cause larger ice dams and problems. It is also important to have the hidden hanger brackets screwed in at about every 2 feet for strength and durability. Also need to make sure that the gutter installer uses outlets to attach the downspouts to the gutter, some gutter installers cut little flang to screw into which weakens the gutter and causes the bottom of the gutter to rip from where it was cut. Another thing is to make sure that the downspouts are fastened to the home with enough screws or cement anchors if in brick so the downs will not pull away with winds or other issues. If seamless rain gutters or any other type of rain gutter, if installed correct should last a minimum of 20 - 30 years.

Prolonged Maintenance

Gutters can have their lifespan cut by up to 70% if they are not kept clean of debris which can cause gutter clogs. If gutters are clogged and full to the top the create additional weight that results in stress on the miters, end caps, and spikes or hangers. Excess weight of water or ice build up, can cause gutters to leak at the end caps, seams and corners due to increased pressure which can cause considerable damage if not fixed in time. If gutters are not cleaned properly the gutter debris will begin to break down. The water becomes acidic and the gutter material begins to corrode and if left inthis state can cause permanent damage to the material and cause you to have your gutters replaced sooner.

The Solution

The best way to avoid these problems is to make aluminum your material of choice, also avoid gutter spikes all together and choose "hidden Hangers" with screws placed every 2 feet to provide optimal gutter holding power. Also select a contractor who provides these choices and then combines them with a written installation warranty of at least 5 years. Perhaps your initial cost for the gutters will be slightly more, but in the long run it will save you hundreds of dollars. Whether you clean the gutters yourself or have them cleaned keep on top of the debris that collects in your gutters. Another great way to eliminate gutter cleaning is to purchase Quality Gutter Covers or Guards along with your gutters.    

Aluminum Gutters vs. Steel Gutters

I have been asked a few times why choose aluminum over steel, here are some reasons.

Painted Steel


Most of the gutter coil sold here in our market is a mild steel sheet metal. This mild steel  is not a galvanized product so it is more suseptible to rusting and it scratches easily which invites rust to take over on cut edges like miters or end caps. The painted steel finishes tend to fade and chalk within 10 years so they will have a lower cosmetic life expectancy, unless of course you are willing to get up there every few years and give it a coat of car wax and put some elbow grease….Like that’s gonna happen, right?

Strength of Steel


Anyone who sells steel gutters is going to tell you that it is a stronger product. That would be true to a point, but what they dont tell you that the building code requires all professionally installed aluminum gutters to be formed with sheet metal that is almost twice as thick as its steel counterpart to compensate for this difference. The high grade aluminum alloy materials that we use to form our gutters are stiffer than just plain aluminum by itself. In addition to being equal in strength they will not rust if the paint were to completely flake off. Try that with a painted steel product. As long as it is properly installed and reasonable maintenance is performed such as cleaning etc. Aluminum gutters will last indefinately. They can be cleaned and repainted down the road. Damaged gutters from impacts like tree limbs and ladders etc represent less than 10% of all gutter replacements. Steel gutters will not resist any hard impact either. One thing to keep in mind is that if ladder standoffs are used by the homeowner or contractors when they perform work on the house, gutter damage due to impacts from ladders will not happen.They (steel gutters) cannot be repainted inside and they will fail much quicker as they will rust through the bottom of the gutter. 75% of all steel gutters eventually need to be replaced for this very reason. We call the use of steel “Planned Obsolescence”

Weight of Steel


Steel weighs significantly more than its aluminum counterpart. Wouldn’t it make sense that hanging a lighter weight material from the edge of your roof rafters make more sense from a sheer gravity standpoint?

Longevity of Steel


Painted steel gutters will rust through in 5-30 years depending on how they are affixed, sloped for runoff, and maintained. If you have trees or your neighbors have trees that shed often you will increase the life of your gutters if you clean them often. However most folks to do not clean their gutters often enough to avoid problems. Leaves and debris begins to break down and becomes acidic. If you have pine, fir or cedar trees the needles and buds are highly acidic and must be cleaned more often on steel gutters. This might be ok if you are cleaning them yourself, but if you are paying a service to clean them, it can get really expensive. It’s either clean them regularly or replace them sooner if you own steel gutters. Another way to extend the life of steel gutters is to purchase gutter protection or covers to keep the debris out.

Expansion & Contraction

Many sales reps who sell steel will tell you how aluminum will expand and contract more than steel, and that steel is more stable. There is some truth to the expansion comment however it is a barely detectable difference that can only be measured in minute increments over a 10ft length. Any gutter installation regardless of material choice needs to be factored for expansion and contraction, particularly with long runs of gutters. In short there are no real advantages to steel other than cost. With labor being the the majority of the overall cost, doesnt it make sense to use a material that will not require replacement?  Using this analogy steel is not worth the the disadvantages listed here. We will never install steel gutters for this reason. We feel that we would be doing our customers a disservice if we did. In our market there are some contractors who have been offering steel for many years and have very successful by offering “planned obsolescence to their customers. We provide our potential customers with this blog as a research tool to enlighten them on what to purchase if they want long term satisfaction with their gutter purchases. We hope that the above information will help you decide which way is the better route.

Seamless Gutters Leaking?

With the spring coming soon and the warm air starting, all the snow and ice begin to melt, which is a good time to see if your gutters are working properly or are your seamless gutters leaking. I have been looking around at houses to see things that are going wrong, the ice will make your seamless gutters expand, which if not installed correct will cause corners to break open and water will drip or leak through. You will also see icicles form on your seamless gutters and downspouts where the gutter has been leaking, then when it gets cold at night again it will freeze where it has been leaking. At that point it is a good idea to replace your seamless gutters, adding more caulk to these areas will not help, it would be like putting a band aid on it. It would only last for a little bit. So what I want you to do is go out and look at your gutters when it is raining while there is still snow on the roof or in the gutters and see if it is leaking, if it is not then you shouldn't have to worry. Here are some photo's to show you what I mean about gutters that need to be replaced, where seams have opened up and corners have split open.

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Seamless Gutters in La Crosse, WI

My experience in the installation of seamless gutters is well rounded, having seen and met all types of job challenges. I have seen many things in the La Crosse area that can be done better . For me I like to make sure there is a little stronger pitch on the seamless gutters so the water can exit the downspouts faster for better draining. I also like to use the larger 3x4 downspouts to ensure that the seamless gutters have a less chance of getting clogged. I also like to install my gutter brackets 2' on center to ensure that the seamless gutters have a strong face for ladders to be set on, and for the seamless gutters to be able to hold the ice dams that will occur through out the winter. Some gutter companies in the La Crosse area also use products like self leveling caulk and a silicone type caulk, which both will crack and leak. With the self leveling caulk, it will level out so smooth, that it cracks like the caulk used in the picture. Also with the seamless gutters I like to use strip mitres for the corners rather than box corners, which in the picture you can see that with this type of corner there will be 3 separate seams to caulk. With the strip mitre that I use, there is only one, and if installed correct and caulked with caulk that works well, your seamless gutters will never pull apart from ice and never leak! So make sure to know what is being used on your seamless gutters!

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