I have this one gutter that is hard to get to. Mainly because no ladders can reach it. Since most people don't have 28'+ extension ladders, years of biological material have accumulated in it to form a rich black soil that Buckthorn, Maples, and Dandelions were thriving in.
The fascia boards that supported the garden in a gutter had completely rotted through to where it was possible to see through them behind the gutter.
Luckily an acquaintance of mine stopped by while walking her Great Peyrenees and told me that her dad was a builder with tall ladders that he routinely lends out to neighbors.
I enlisted the help of my brother and set a time for him to come over on Wednesday night when I would have the ladders. I had 2 days to prepare.
Monday & Tuesday: The gutter garden would need to be dealt with before it could come down due to it's weight. Not yet having the ladders, I thought I could do some prep-work and have them cleaned out for when Andy showed up Wednesday night. After I got out of my day job, I went right to work at getting on my roof to clean the gutter.
Flashback to Sunday night when I had purchased a roofing safety system at Home Depot in hopes of hammering down a couple shingles and cleaning the gutter. It had 3 things in it for $100: Harness, 50' rope with lanyard, and roof ridge anchor. The kit was all well and good but I was left wondering how one safely gets the roof anchor to the ridge... Well I gave it a shot on Monday night. I pulled my short extension ladder up onto the balcony and then used it to get onto the roof. I never made it to the ridge. I was clinging for dear life onto the plumbing stack.
Luckily it started to rain and I wouldn't be able to risk life and limb on the way up to the ridge. I did some research on it and it looks like you're also supposed to install roof brackets along the length of the eave and every so often on the way up the roof. They're also great for holding tools. I would also be able to use the brackets to rest the ladder on while removing the gutter. Taking the gutter off while leaning on it suspended 21' in the air would provide a little more "action" than my brother or I were bargaining for.
The length of fascia I needed was almost 14' and if I could preserve the gutters I would need 2 layers of them (the previous patch job was a 1x4 tacked onto the front of the rotting 1x6). Of course Home Depot didn't have lumber lengths in 14' so I found 4 8'-long 1x6s that I could join together and cut to the right length. I started priming them in the garage and chose a trim color for the house (the same white as inside) and I enlisted mom in helping to paint a first coat the next day while I was at work.
Wednesday: I was excited to get home and get this project done before the sun set. I was somehow able to get one of the heavy fiberglass ladders extended to the right length and against the gutter without a rope or breaking a window. I started cleaning out the garden. The soil hit like a water balloon on the driveway below which was really cool to watch and listen to. Unfortunately, you can't reach very far on a ladder and I had to move it around a few times which takes a while.
Then I tried to install the roof brackets. Nothing ever goes as planned. Turns out the shingles are cemented down (which is nice for the roof) and I couldn't slide the brackets under them. I was able to jam them into some tight spots without cement about 4' apart and get a nail in. Then I had to nail the other nails in by trial and error since I couldn't pull the shingle up. Because I nailed through the shingle, the holes will need to be filled with roofing cement.
Once I got the first two brackets on, I tied a rope to one of the 2x6s and pulled it up. A few minutes later and I had nails into the 2x6s and a sturdy roof bracket in place. Andy arrived after his meeting at work was over. Installing the next bracket was much easier because he was able to send things up using a rope-and-pulley system.
We rigged up the ropes in a way that would allow us to lower the gutter down once it came loose without conking anyone on the head. Andy held on from the ground while I went to town trying to pry rusty gutter spikes out of the wood. I mangled the gutter in the process. It was in bad shape anyways. This also meant I would be learning about fixing gutters so that the fascia board width would visually match the rest of the house.
Once the gutter was down, we went to town on trying to pull off the fascia boards. I had an easier time of it than Andy because my side was rotting and his side was still in fair shape. He was able to slide the rope behind his side of the board and we climbed down and thought we could pull it off the house with brute strength.
To get a better angle we went into the neighbor's side yard. It took both of us pulling on the rope to get the board to break free. It came down in a spectacle--drip edge fluttering through the air and the board almost crashing into the halogen light (it was dark by this time). Some fascia was still left. This one wouldn't budge. We tried the same trick. I was wise and braced myself which allowed me to watch the board almost hit my car parked inside the garage. I heard Andy cursing and found him sitting on his rear end against the wall. Oh! The carnage! Apparently he was not so wise. I would not recommend this technique to anyone else but it was kind of fun... We were sore and hungry and it was dark so we quit for the night.
Thursday: The next day Andy was late again due to a staff meeting. While I waited for his arrival I started making measurements so that I could miter the ends of the boards using a circular saw. It makes for a nice seam between the boards when 2 mitered ends are joined together. This was kind of fun and I was proud of the job I did with it. Measure twice and cut once! I learned the mitering tip from a video on replacing fascia board.
Andy arrived and we hung the first board with a fair amount of trial and tribulation. It didn't want to stay level when we were trying to tack it in place while holding it above our heads. The nails took quite a bit of force to pound in and the vibrations tried to make the board bounce around. I bought 12d nails thinking I'd have to hammer through 2 boards but, with the gutter now needing to be totally replaced, only 8d nails would've been needed to get through the 1 board. I didn't feel like traveling to the store for smaller nails. I kind of wish I had though because the combination of the beefier nails and trying to hammer from awkward angles led to about a quarter of the nails bending.
After getting the first board up, we made measurements before cutting the final board to length. Darkness was falling and we were hustling to get the final board in place. I primed the freshly cut end while Andy drilled pilot holes and started the nails with the points just far enough through to tack into the ends of the rafters and hold the board in place. The nails went in a little easier this time but still with a couple bends and the board moving around so now the joint between the two boards is not quite flush (hopefully no one checks out my fascia with binoculars or a telescope and sees this).
I hate not having a perfect finish but at least the gutters will cover it. I also realized after re-watching the YouTube video that I didn't place the joint over a rafter end. Hopefully the gutter screws will provide enough force to hold the joint together, the drip edge will work, and I won't be having to repeat this job in the future as a result of that gaffe.
Right as we finished an unseen neighbor from the street behind me shouted out "Hey! Don't you know this is a neighborhood?! It's after 8 o' clock for crying out loud! Have some courtesy!" Andy wasn't ready to be so kind but I defused the situation by telling him we were finished anyways.
Friday: The next day my mom was my helper and we got off to a late start. It was frustrating because I couldn't get the drip edge to slide in under the shingles correctly and mom wasn't real excited about doing things atop the ladder. I could run a putty knife the entire length but it just wouldn't go in--especially where the roof brackets were. The weight of the ladder resting on them pushed the shingles tight to the fascia board.
Morale dropped along with the sun. A project that should've taken maybe 3 hours for a rookie DIYer was now stretching into the 6th hour. All I had to show for our labors were a marked up fascia board that was difficult to get in place correctly and a drip edge that was about to drip itself down to the driveway if I hadn't pounded some roofing nails through it to hold it through the night. It was enough to break a man's spirit. We took the ladders down and got something to eat.
This project needed to dovetail into the next which is to paint the trim on the house and get the windows in better shape before winter hits. For that project I will need to rent some scaffolding for the upper windows and cornice. Mom and I decided that it would be a lot easier to finish the job with some scaffolding and start washing and painting trim if we could. She was definitely more excited about paint than roofing. I was excited about the possibility of being able to work on something without having to worry about leaning too far one way or the other and falling to my death or having a tool fall to someone else's death.
We did some calling around. The box store wanted like $260 or something for a lift and $80 for scaffolding for one day. Saturday morning I called Evans Equipment Rental and got the same amount of scaffolding--for a month--for $280. It pays to call around. They even let me use a trailer to haul it with!
Saturday: I thought it would be difficult to put up scaffolding because, well, scaffolding looks difficult and everything about this little project has been difficult. But mom, dad, and I had it fully assembled and leveled within about 15 minutes! Dad went home and mom and I picked up the materials we would need for the gutters. Then we went to work on the drip edge. Now that it was daylight we could see that a rusty nail was holding us back. The drip edges were also slightly different shapes and wouldn't overlap correctly. Mom was a little nervous on the ladder again but I coached her into cutting the drip edge to avoid the nail. After about 20 minutes the drip edge was trimmed down and cemented in. This is good because it stormed early in the morning and was forecast to again that afternoon.
We started working on the gutter. We got frustrated and slowed down by a couple sheet metal screws that were hard to reach that wouldn't come out with pliers. I decided it was time for lunch and another trip to home depot for a small wrench (having all the correct tools on hand would sure be nice).
Once we got back it was time to hang the new gutter. I had bought this stuff that was supposed to glue them together tightly so I pre-assembled it on the ground. Long story short, the corners were not glued together tightly even after clamping. Maybe they would be if they were already pre-hung or clamped for a day or something but it didn't work for our application. I pre-drilled holes for the main length every couple feet and hung it on the fascia board with gutter screws. Screws seem sturdier to me than those gutter spikes that always seem to get loose and pull out.
Next we spent a good deal of time dealing with a corner that was out of both of our reaches. We started trimming the second length and struggled with the next corner. Plus, like an idiot, I measured once and cut once and this lead to me trying to fix a gutter length and a misplaced downspout opening by moving everything to the left an inch. Ugh. How many more times up and down the ladder/scaffolding? My patience was definitely wearing thin. And once again something wouldn't look as sharp as it should.
It started thundering in the distance. All we had left to do was to connect the downspout. I trimmed the extension piece to match the old one and stuck the elbow on it. 2" too long. GRR! Snipped it down further. Perfect! Put the elbow on. 3" gap between the gutter and the elbow. Why me? Could gutter pieces really be this difficult? Oh well. We had to leave it as it was and start cleaning up before it stormed. We finished cleaning up in just the right amount of time as sprinkles started to fall.
Things I would recommend after today's experience:
- A saw that can chop gutter pieces cleanly instead of tin snips which leave a bunch of pokey edges and make things a lot faster.
- Measure twice and cut once instead of measuring once and cutting twice. This would also make things a lot faster.
- Don't rely on a display shelf to tell you the best way to adhere gutter pieces to each other. Get tried and true sheet metal screws and then seal the seams.
Sunday: It rained quite a bit overnight but I didn't see anything that looked too bad afterwards from the new install. I had a $10 gift card to Menards so I went to see if I could find some #8 sheet metal screws. I came home with some sheet metal screws and 180' worth of snap-on vinyl gutter guards. Each 3' section cost $1.49...with a $1.49 rebate for a max of 60! I bought 60. That should be enough to cover the house and the garage with extra for mitered corners! All for the cost of sales tax!
I devised a method for using the tin snips to get a cleaner edge if you don't have a saw or have trouble cutting around the circumference. Once finished, you can crimp the corners in with a pair of needle nose pliers.
I removed the nails from the roof brackets, filled them with roof cement, applied more sealant to the gutters, and...got caught in a major downpour. I scrambled to get all my tools into the bucket and lowered them down under the scaffolding and then tried to squat against the house under the eave until the worst of it passed. It looked like a rainy Sunday which would be fine because the Lions were on and I like it when Sundays are a day of rest. The only thing left to do is screw in the downspout extension and caulk a seam.
This little project took entirely too much time due to my inexperience, lack of tool collection, and the inconvenient location on the house. But at least that little corner of the house and the driveway beneath it should last a lot longer now that nothing else is wet and rotting.