This site is backed by 26+ years experience and contains insider tricks for professionals and information for homeowners that can be found nowhere else. Visit my WEBSITE and " LIKE " us on Facebook to keep up on our products and activities.

My normal service range is from Santa Monica to San Diego but I have installed copper gutters and rainwater harvesting systems in California, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii and Rwanda.
I have a small but national customer base through my gutter products website @ where I offer rare items such has handmade weather vanes and hand carved and custom family crests for gates cast in aluminum or bronze. Through my websites you can gain knowledge, order products, beautify your home or help grow your business.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Expert Gutter Installations

Installation Instructions
For products by
The Copperworks of Don Miller, and other expert installations.

A photo alternative with differing methods is here.

Table of Contents


Ladder Accessories
An item that should be mandatory for all ladders is adjustable swivel feet. The main purpose of these feet is to adjust to uneven ground surfaces. The second purpose of these feet is that the ball joint type swivel pads provide excellent traction on uneven surfaces. These feet are called XTENDA LEG TM, and might be found at a painters supply store.
Also very useful in some situations is a special ladder jack that allows the ladder to rest against the roof surface, and allows a large enough gap between the edge of the roof and the ladder to pass the gutter through. The ladder jack might also work while leaned against the wall where the eave does not extend past the span of the ladder jack. It is important for stability that the ladder jack has a broad span of several times the ladder width between the ladder jack legs.

Be prepared to use properly installed scaffolding where it will improve safety or the ease of installation.

Fall Arrestors
Some companies produce fall arrestors for use with ladders, and other fall arrestors for other locations such as on the top of roofs and scaffolding. The unit mounts to a secure location, and a spring loaded cable attaches to the worker. If the cable pulls out too quickly, the arrestor locks up.
Aros Inc. - 883 South 200 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84111 (801)531-9279, fax 9966,
Miller / Dalloz - 1355 15th St., Franklin, PA 16323 (814)432-2118, fax 2415

Climbing Equipment
Sports climbing equipment can sometimes offer a vital safety backup system, or may provide a sole means of support in daring situations on rooftops.
Some basic climbing equipment which might be useful to an installer might be a harness, 100 feet or more of high quality perlon, a pair of Jumars (tm), and stirrups, 4 locking steel D shaped carabineers, and several 4 foot loops of webbing.
Climbing equipment should be carefully inspected before each use. Nylon is subject to degradation from excessive ultraviolet exposure, heat, and chemicals such as the acid in animal urine which can cause a 50% loss in strength with no visible damage. The carabineers should be of steel rather that the more common aluminum, because aluminum carabineers can develop invisible cracks over time, in an abusive environment, and have been known to fail without warning. (These cautions are garnered from scientific testing and real incidents from within the organized sport of hang gliding, and form part of their safety standards.

Fire Safety
Always keep a fire extinguisher at hand at your work site. Keep flammables away from the soldering furnace. Don’t leave a lit soldering furnace unattended. Keep soldering equipment in a well-ventilated environment. Solder occasionally splatters explosively. Always use eye protection while soldering.

Delicate Roofs
Some installation requires working and putting ladders on delicate roof surfaces such as Spanish tile and slate. It is good business for a contractor to consider this factor before entering into an agreement with the property owner, and to discuss how matter such as broken tiles will be dealt with. Sometimes one might photograph and document broken tiles before and after a contract, especially if other trades are concurrently working on the roof, in order to help delegate responsibility in the event of damage to the roof surface.
One should always have a strategy for walking on a particular roof surface. On Spanish tiles it is best to distribute the weight of each foot onto two tiles, with the toe on the center of one tile, and the heel on the center of the next one. Avoid stepping on tiles that are on the edge of the field and on hips and ridges.
One method that works well with many delicate roof situations is having a number of burlap bags loosely filled with wood chips, to distribute the load and avoid cracking tiles. Wood planks can be set on these bags, on which ladders with adjustable legs might also be secured. The wood planks might also be secured from sliding off of the roof in some manner


Following is a most important reference book for the raingutter installer. Most contractors’ size raingutters and downspouts based on experience of what works or doesn’t work in a particular region, however it is a good idea for the professional installer to have some solid math based sizing formulas to follow.
Architectural Sheet Metal Manual - (ASMM)
By the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractor’s National Association, Inc. (SMACNA)
4201 Lafayette Center Drive, Chantilly, VA 22021
(703) 803-2989 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (703) 803-2989      end_of_the_skype_highlighting,

Downspout Location
One of the first considerations in raingutter planning is downspout placement, which is largely an aesthetic consideration. In any given desired downspout location, there is a good chance that the location will work for the following reasons:
A) The roofline may be sloping towards the desired downspout location - Good.
B) The roofline may be level towards the desired downspout location - OK, perhaps.
C) The roofline may be sloping away from the desired downspout location, but perhaps the region is hot and dry, so that any standing water will dry fast, and maybe the roof area drained is small.
D) The roofline may be sloping away from the desired downspout location, but there is enough space on the fascia and esthetic considerations make sloping the gutter downward in relation to the roofline acceptable, or if the raingutter large enough, it may be possible to solder a second bottom into the raingutter to force the water to flow towards the downspout. (See instructions on this option later)
Having a little pitch to the gutter might slightly reduce the buildup of dirt and ice, but it is seldom practical or necessary; what is essential is that the gutter be able to dry out in a day or so, to reduce corrosion and to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes. Keeping a galvanized-steel gutter dry is key to its longevity; in a copper gutter, dryness is not as critical.
There is usually no way that a person can say which way a roofline is sloping by simply looking at it. Illusion will always predominate. The most practical way to determine pitch of a long or complex roofline is with a water-level. The results of a water-level survey might affect decisions about downspout placement.

How to make and use a Water-Level
There are various water levels available at hardware stores, but Don Miller found (during his contracting years) that his self-made water-level worked better than commercially available models. Don’s water-level with a reservoir and thin tubing has the advantage that a little water lost, or a little expansion or contraction in the tubing that occurs when the tubing drapes down to various heights, makes no significant change in the level of the water.
The reservoir on the water-level is a discarded disposable plastic I.V. plasma bottle with a large hole cut in the top. Attach to the IV bottle 100 feet of 1/4” clear flexible poly-tubing like that used as air tube in aquariums. At the other end of the tubing attach a brass aquarium valve.
Hang the reservoir filled with water in any convenient location near, but a little below, the level that you will be measuring. If the water has air dissolved into it, give plenty of time for all of the air bubbles to disappear. Set the other end of the tube down in a low area and open the valve. Be sure that absolutely every air bubble is expelled, and then close the valve. Carry the valve end of the tube up to several inches higher than the reservoir level and open the valve. Hold the valve to a point on the roofline that you wish to reference to, and with a marker, make a mark on the tube below the valve, of the level of the water in the tube.
For accuracy it is important to be patient with this small diameter tube and be sure that the level of the water has stopped changing. The first location is a reference point as you go around the fascia and measure how far any particular point is above or below the mark on the tube, and the reference point first measured.
In terms of installing Copperworks bronze brackets, here is a simple example. You may choose to make your first reference point at a location on the fascia furthest from a desired downspout location, and using one bracket held in its highest possible position, make a mark where the lag screw will need to penetrate the fascia. You could then find the same level position on the fascia where the desired downspout location will be, and figure out where a bracket would be positioned at that location for adequate flow, and chalk a line between the two points along which 3/16” diameter holes will be predrilled for the bracket lag screws.

Allow for Expansion and Contraction
A general formula for the rate of expansion and contraction of a copper gutter (in relation to some expansion also factored into the structure) is 1/8 inch per 10 lineal feet copper gutter per 100 degrees farenheight Fahrenheit temperature change. The gutter will lengthen as the temperature rises and shrink as the temperature drops. The temperature at the time of installation needs to be taken into account, as well as the highest and lowest expected temperatures. Be sure to allow for expansion seams in strategic locations along long straight lengths as detailed in the Architectural Sheet Metal Manual. The location of expansion seams may affect downspout placement.
Raingutters installed with Copperworks bronze brackets deal with expansion and contraction well. The back of the gutter is not fastened to the bracket, but can slide in the hook. The bracket can move back and forth somewhat at the front where the gutter is attached, and there is a 3/8” gap between the raingutter back and the fascia where the gutter goes around corners.

Galvanic Corrosion
Copper is at the top of the galvanic scale. Other metals, such as steel, aluminum, and zinc will corrode more quickly when in contact with copper or the flow from a copper pipe. Bronze, brass, some alloys of stainless steel and nickel are compatible with copper. If the copper is contacting a very thick piece of steel or iron in a dry location, the effect on the steel or iron may be negligible. If the surface of the other metal is large and the surface of the copper is small, the effect on the other metal may be negligible. If a copper gutter is being slipped behind a steel flashing, separate the metals electrically, and maybe the flashing will be OK until it is time to reroof. If a large surface of copper is contacting a small surface of the other metal, or if water drops from a copper surface onto the surface of another metal, the other metal may not last long. Be sure that all fasteners for a copper raingutter do not contain any mild steel. If it sticks to a magnet, then it has no place in a copper gutter system.


Bronze Gutter Bracket Installation

Gutter brackets should be not more than 36 inches apart. This 36 inch maximum spacing of gutter fasteners (brackets) is a standard that is recommended in various publications on the subject, and for various reasons. If the brackets were spaced farther apart, say 48 inches, the raingutter and brackets might still be able to support the weight of being full of water, but one may not be able to lean a ladder against the gutter without damaging it. In freezing areas, where the gutter is subject to ice loads from the roof, brackets are often placed closer to 24 inches apart.
The fascia or row of rafter tails should be fairly well aligned laterally, and be of a consistent vertical angle. Any bracket attachment point that is more than 1/4 inch out of alignment with its nearby attachment points must be adjusted in some manner.
Chalk a line on the fascia or rafter tails on which to drill the holes for the gutter bracket screws. Predrill the lag screw holes with a 3/16” by 12 inch extension drill bit before installing the lag screws.
If the brackets are being attached to masonry or stone, then lead caulk-in anchors and 1/4” stainless steel machine screws are used to bolt the brackets to the anchors.
Bolt the brackets to the surface with the lag screws.
The 1/4 inch lag screws should NOT be tightened snug! It should be tightened until the head of the screw just contacts the bracket, and the bracket is flush against the mounting surface, but the bracket retains some flexibility.
There are several reasons for this. 1) So that the bracket may be moved slightly to help with gutter to bracket fastener installation. 2) Gutter brackets that are slightly tipped up or down due to an uneven mounting surface will be naturally brought into line during the phase of attaching the gutter to the bracket if they are not tightened too tight. 3) As the raingutter expands and contracts, it is able to move the front end of the bracket where it is attached to the gutter.
Place the gutter in the brackets. The back portion of each bracket is inspected to see that the gutter is seated into the bracket hook. The bracket is held in a square and true position, and the gutter is held firmly into the bracket.

Further instructions for Moderne style gutter brackets only.
A 1/4” hole is drilled through the existing hole in the front of the bracket and through the gutter. Install the brass oval-head screw and locknut and washer.

Further instructions for ornate styles of gutter brackets only. (not Moderne styles)
The front bead of the gutter is pushed back just slightly to view the location of the screw hole in the front of the bracket. A sharply pointed scribe may be used to make a dimple in the outside face of the gutter directly over the small screw hole. A 1/4” hole is drilled through the front side of the gutter from the outside or from the inside of the gutter. The bracket is pushed enough to the side during drilling, to prevent drilling into the bracket.
If drilling from the inside of the gutter, use a small right angle drill and a 1/4” drill bit that has been ground down so that just 1/4” of drill bit extends from the chuck. Install the small stainless steel screw and brass washer from the inside of the gutter using a stubby screwdriver.

Further instructions for all gutter brackets.
When viewed up close, the installed gutter rarely contacts the gutter bracket along the entire inside bracket surface. These gaps are usually unnoticeable from normal viewing angles (and as the copper ages). If any such gap is bothersome, then carefully fill the gap with a small bead of dark brown silicone rubber.
Once the bracket and raingutter has been installed, if a bracket still looks a little crooked, then tip the bottom of the bracket to the left or right to improve the appearance.

During the placement of the gutter into the brackets and at other times, small dings may occur. Even large dings are often not noticeable once the gutter has patinaed, but on bright reflective copper even the smallest ding stands out when viewed from a distance. This can cause the client concern that is often seen to be unjustified as the copper ages, but is business problem non-the-less, because payments often need to be received while the material is still shiny. Dings can be reduced, if not eliminated, by massaging the gutter from the inside with the blunt plastic handle of a stubby screwdriver, or some similar device. Also the copper surface can be buffed with scotchbrite (tm) to reduce reflectivity.

Gutter Seams
A long lasting material such as copper should always get the best quality seam, which is one that has been riveted and soldered.
Hide the gutter seams behind the gutter brackets through a little advance planning. Overlap 2 lengths of gutter 1 inch at seams. Use CB42D rivets spaced on 1&1/2 inch centers. The seam should be soldered immediately upon installation of the rivets in order to prevent elongation of the rivet holes due to thermal expansion and contraction of the gutter. Care should be taken to see that the solder penetrates to the center of the rivet. Rinse the seam with water after soldering. Spray a stream of fresh water into the outside of the gutter seam. After plating and rinsing, a little high quality caulking might be placed where solder was not possible to access.

Copper Rivets
A copper rivet should not contain mild steel in the rivet or in the pin. Watch out for copper plated steel rivets or copper plated steel pins. If any part of the rivet sticks to a magnet, then the steel will expand and cause a leak or stain the copper. See Copperworks catalog for sources.

Gutter Miters
The cleanest looking gutter miter is cut into the stock material itself, using a gutter miter pattern. Leave a raw edge on one piece of gutter, and 3/4” tabs on the other piece of gutter. The overlap of the tabs should be cut so that they lay opposite to the way that the shingles of a roof would overlap, so that the solder will flow down into the seam easily. Approximately every third tab is riveted. The seam is soldered from the inside. Soldering starts with the upper vertical areas of the seam, and progresses down to the easier flat areas.
Prefabricated gutter miters are not recommended, but might be used if they meet the following qualifications.
1) The shape, size, and profile of the miter match that of the raingutter while the gutter sits in the gutter brackets being used.
2) Gutter brackets may hide the two gutter to miter seams on the prefabricated miter.
3) The factory seam in the middle of the miter must be soldered, and no other type of sealant should be used other than solder.

Roof-To-Wall Flashing
Most often, at locations where the end of a gutter butts into a wall, there should be a special roof-to-wall flashing. This flashing should pitch downward a little so that water will not drip back along its underside. Lay a bead of sealant along the top edge between the gutter end and the wall, and anywhere else that water might leak in this vulnerable area.

Gutter Mitered End Caps
A Return End is another name for this item. Gutter ends that do not about a flat surface are complimented by the style and grace of a mitered end cap.
A 3 piece Gutter Mitered End Cap Pattern Set is used to produce these ends in the field or in the shop. The end of the gutter length to be mitered is cut without tabs using the double ended template. A mitered end is cut from a small piece of scrap gutter material using the appropriate right or left end cap pattern. 1/2” inch tabs are allowed on the end caps. The tabs are cut in such a way so that the overlaps face upward. The tabs on the tubular gutter bead of a traditional half-round gutter are cut 1/4” apart, and 3/8” deep, and are formed with needle-nose pliers.
The end cap is clamped in place with a small c-clamp type vise grip(tm) placed just under the front bead. Align the bottom of the gutter end, and clamp a visegrip(tm) to the flange at the back of the gutter.
The gutter bead is set into a tight fit with the tap of a hammer, and then soldered on the top side of the gutter bead, near the area marked 1 on the pattern set. The c-clamp visegrip(tm) is removed.
The pointed part of the mitered end at the bottom (location 2) is fluxed. A small chunk of solder is set into it, and the location is held in place with a screwdriver, and gets tack soldered in place. The back part of the seam gets tack soldered 3 and the back visegrip(tm) is removed.
All the tabs are set more flush at this point by tapping from the inside. Two more locations may be tacked at 4 and 5. The entire seam is then very well fluxed and soldered primarily from the inside.
When doing this soldering, as well as when soldering gutter miters, it is important that the solder flow all the way out to the outside edge, so that the seam may be sanded flush on the outside surface later.
The seam is sanded smooth on the outside of the gutter first with a 24 grit sanding disk, and then with a 120 grit disk, and is then copper plated.

Double-Bottomed Gutter
One method for dealing with a low area in the gutter is to solder a second bottom into it. This method is best employed with a gutter that already has a deep bottom. A 5 inch half round gutter for example, has rather little capacity in most situations, and may not be a good candidate for this operation.
Start with the gutter completely installed and soldered. Fill the gutter with water and wait for the water to stop draining from the downspout. With a grease pencil mark the edge of the water line. Drain the water by drilling one or more 1/4” holes the lowest area of the gutter.
Mark 6 inch increment lines lengthwise along the low area and assign each mark a letter or number. Measure the width of the water line marks at each 6 inch line and note these measurements. The pieces of second bottom are produced of flat sheet. It is easiest for both production and installation, to keep the pieces less than 4 feet. Allow each piece to overlap the next at least 1 inch. Allow a 1/2 inch flange along the edge of each piece.
The pieces get soldered into the gutter. It helps in soldering to tack each piece in place every 6 inches, and then to solder each alternate 6 inch gap, and then go back and solder the remaining 6 inch gaps.

Radius Raingutter
Locations with curved roofs should have truly curved raingutter. Not a gutter composed of small straight pieces soldered together. The human eye is very discerning to lack of perfection in curved surfaces.
Radius gutter is custom produced at Copperworks in generally from 4 to 10 foot lengths. Shorter lengths not only are easier to ship, but any inconsistency or miscalculation in radius is divided up in finer increments. On one end of each piece is provided an internal sleeve to slip to the inside of the next piece, for a flush outside surface.

Radius Gutter Template
Using a water level, draw a line around the curved fascia which will represent the level of the upper back edge of the radius gutter. Cut a large sheet of cardboard into 4 to 6 foot long strips. The strips should be about 3 times as wide as the space that the curve will cross over for the given length of cardboard (see illustration). Start at one end of the fascia or a specific location marked by a short vertical line on the fascia. Label the first piece of cardboard A. Meticulously cut and trim the cardboard until it matches the curved fascia as perfectly as possible. One corner of cardboard A should align on the first line made on the fascia. Make another short vertical line on the fascia at the other corner of the cardboard. At approximately the center of the first two lines on the fascia make another line. Take a second piece of cardboard and label it B, and align one corner with the middle mark of A. Trim B until it is perfect and make another mark on the fascia at the other corner of cardboard B. Label a third piece of cardboard C, and align it with the existing mark that is the far edge of A, and the center point of B. Label the other side of the mark C. Trim C



  1. One of the wisest counsel to get is Keep flammables away from the soldering furnace.

  2. Thanks for the information! I have had some trouble with my gutters recently and have been looking into gutter installation in Kansas City MO, just to have them completely redone. Maybe these tips will come in handy.

  3. There is a lot more that goes into installing gutters than I thought. Being safe is always important to me. I think it's crucial to remember all the safety precautions when doing something like this.
    Gary Puntman |

  4. Lots of great tips here, especially keeping the flammables away from the soldering furnace. You'd think that'd be common sense, but people will surprise you for sure!

    Jim Tracy |