Whether you’re installing new gutters for the first time or adjusting existing ones, understanding how to pitch a gutter correctly is essential to ensuring that it drains properly.
It might be the most overlooked and misunderstood part of DIY gutter installation, but the premise is pretty simple: Water flows downhill, so achieving the correct pitch is critical to the performance of your entire gutter system.
What Exactly is Gutter Pitch?
Gutter pitch is the angle or slope at which gutters are set in order to direct water to downspouts. If you don’t pitch or slope the gutter, water will sit inside, become stagnant and eventually overflow.
An improperly pitched gutter can also lead to dripping end caps, sludge buildup, and even guttering brackets coming loose. But the good news is that pitching gutters correctly is actually pretty easy!
Understanding the Correct Slope
How much slope do you need? Most professionals recommend between ¼ to ½ inch per 10 feet for maximum efficiency. For 20 feet of gutter, that comes to a 1-inch difference between the ends and downspouts.
The end with the downspout should be lower, while the opposite end should be higher (gravity is a thing). But don’t go crazy. If your gutters are angled too steeply, it can cause other problems like overflowing gutters, and faster runoff – which can lead to soil erosion.
Why the Slope Can Be Off
Should you experience a gutter pitch problem, it could be that your gutters were installed incorrectly from the get-go, either because the installer made a mistake (it happens!) or you hired an unreliable gutter company.
But it isn’t always the installer’s fault. Over time, gutters can droop from age, wind, the weight of water, snow, ice, or tree branches and other debris battering them. In addition, the screws that hold your gutter brackets in place may come loose from rotting fascia boards. Any of these things can cause your gutters to sag slightly or droop a lot.
High-quality, durable gutters and good installation are your best defenses against these issues. You should also inspect them every time you clean them to check for damage and correct pitch.
How To Tell if Your Gutter Pitch Is Wrong
Here are some ways to tell if your pitch is off:
1. Visual Inspection
The best way to spot a gutter pitch problem is a good old-fashioned visual inspection. Is your gutter slanted away from the downspouts? If so, your pitch is off. Small sections of gutters extending past the downspouts can be especially tricky.
In these cases, it’s better to take out a level and do a more detailed check. Water overflowing the end cap is a dead giveaway that your gutter slope isn’t right.
2. Standing Water in Your Gutters
This is an obvious sign: standing water in your gutters. Water isn’t meant to sit still; it needs to move toward the downspouts. If you spot any standing water in an otherwise dry gutter, chances are you have a gutter pitch problem.
Make sure to rule out any potential blockage in the downspouts before investigating other possibilities.
3. Shingle Grit and Sludge
The presence of shingle grit in your gutters is usually a sign of improper pitch. Also, sludge left behind after the water dries can indicate gutter pitch problems or clogs in the downspouts. Make sure to check for any blockage before turning your attention to the pitch.
4. Gutter Overflow
Are your gutters overflowing even after a little bit of rain? Chances are, it’s time to readjust your pitch.
Also, this spillage can be a sign that the downspouts are blocked, or your gutters are loose; check those possibilities before you fix the pitch.
How To Adjust the Pitch
Now that you know what to look out for, let’s get to the how-to of pitching a gutter. It all starts with figuring out which way the gutter should be pitched. This largely depends on the downspout location. For a single gutter with no miters to worry about, it’ll be fairly straightforward. All you have to do is:
1. Decide Where the High and Low Points Should Be
Start at the end with the downspout (or, if you don’t already have one installed, note where it should be). That’s usually the low point; the opposite end would be your high point.
2. Remove Gutter Brackets/Spikes and Raise the Gutter
You don’t necessarily have to remove all the brackets. Leave one in the middle of your gutter, and take out at least two at each end for the gutter to move freely.
Then, grab the gutter at its high point and raise it up until you have the slope you desire. Once you’re satisfied, secure it with a bracket or screw at that new high point.
3. Do the Same for the Downspouts
When you’ve got your desired gutter pitch, it’s time to adjust the downspout. Shake out the gutter and push it slightly downward in front of the bracket before you re-secure it—after all, your downspout should slope lower than the gutter, or else your gutters won’t work as effectively.
4. Re-Secure The Brackets
Once you’ve got the desired pitch, make sure that the fasteners and spacers you used for suspending your gutter are tightly secured so that your gutters won’t move. Space each bracket out every two to four feet, and your gutters should be secure!
5. Double-Check it With a Level
Now for the final touch: Double-check your gutter pitch with a level. We strongly advise you to check the entire length of the gutter each time to make sure that everything is in line. Aluminum and plastic gutters, in particular, have some flexibility, so you can find minor deviations in the pitch along a 10-foot length of gutter if you’re not careful.
What About When There Are Two Downspouts?
If your home has two downspouts for one gutter, a different strategy applies. You won’t give each end its own low and high point; instead, you’ll set the middle as the high point so that water can be evenly distributed to each downspout.
Doing this is slightly more challenging than setting up one long gutter, so here are the steps one more time:
- Set the ends of the gutters in a level position first.
- At the middle of the gutter, raise it up against the drip edge so that it’s not too high.
- Insert a bracket once you have set the middle adequately.
- At both of the low ends and the middle, check that all brackets are securely in place once more.
- Finally, re-secure any other gutter brackets in between the end pieces, making sure they’re 2-4 feet apart.
How to Test Your Gutter Pitch
Once you’re done with your gutter pitch project, it’s still a good idea to test it out. Pour water from a bucket or hose into different parts of the gutters to make sure the water flows smoothly and in the right direction. Check for any blockages, clogs, or anything else that might be impeding the flow.
Additionally, it reveals any weaknesses in your newly-pitched gutters, which will give you time to fix or replace them without furthering the damage.
Tips To Get the Most From Your Gutters
1. Use the Right Tools
When readjusting gutters, make sure you wear latex gloves to keep dirt and debris away from gutter surfaces as much as possible. There’s also a wide range of specialized gutter tools that can come in handy such as a bit holder and hand driver, adjustable clip, wire cutters, siliconized caulk, etc.
Make sure to get the right size and type for your job.
2. Don’t Forget the Downspouts
Downspouts are as important as gutters. A clogged downspout can negate all the hard work you put into readjusting your gutter pitch. To make sure your downspouts are working correctly, periodically check for blockages in the elbows and pipes.
3. Choose Quality Gutters
It’s not just about gutter pitch; quality gutters will go a long way toward making sure that your home is protected from excessive water damage. High-quality materials such as copper or aluminum should be used to maximize the durability and lifetime of your home’s gutters.
For extra insurance against clogs and structural damage, you can also go for leaf filters or gutter guards that sit atop the gutters and filter out debris before it ever reaches the gutters.
4. One Downspout for Every 20-40 Feet
No matter how well you have pitched your gutters, it’s important to install one downspout for every 20-40 feet of guttering. Other factors such as roof slope, height and distance of trees and foliage, and roof valleys, should also be taken into account to ensure the best performance.
The ¼-inch slope for every 10 feet of gutter is an industry rule of thumb, so make sure you incorporate that into your calculations as well.
FAQ About Gutter Pitch
Most experts recommend a ¼-inch slope for every 10 feet, so if you have a 25-foot gutter run, that comes to 5/8 of an inch between the higher end and the downspout end. This ensures a gentle but steady flow of water into the gutter downspout.
Yes, and too low as well. Too much pitch will mean faster runoff and can lead to soil erosion, whereas a gutter pitched too low won’t be able to collect or direct rainwater properly. It’s best to stay within the recommended rules and guidelines for correct gutter pitch.
Gutters can be damaged for a variety of reasons, including age, rust, impact damage, clogs, and debris buildup, overhanging trees and branches, poorly installed brackets or fasteners—and, of course, poor gutter pitch. While gutter problems can be repaired, prevention is always better than cure.
Very! A properly installed and pitched gutter system can provide effective run-off for water, keeping your home safe from damage such as soil erosion, basement flooding, or roof and wall damage.
Gutter Pitching – Let the Pouring Begin!
Water has a nasty habit of making its way into vulnerable spots no matter what you do, even if your rain gutters are perfectly pitched. So make sure to double-check your gutters regularly for damage or clog build-ups .
If you know how to pitch a gutter correctly, half the battle is already won! With proper technique and regular maintenance, you can ensure long-lasting performance and full efficiency from your gutters. So get pitching, and let the pouring begin!Don’t want to take the plunge and pitch your own gutters? No worries! We can help you connect with local gutter repair experts who can get the job done quickly and safely.