Yesterday, I had seamless gutters made for the Mansfield House. Ray from Advanced Seamless Gutters of Milford, Connecticut, stopped by and cut me two 42′ lengths of K-style extrusion, and also dropped off the leader sections and other accessories I’d spec’d out:
My new gutter system is just one component of a bulk water control strategy I’m developing for the house that should prove far more effective than what had been done here previously. And my approach not only respects historically significant exterior details, but also attempts to work in concert with them, wherever appropriate, as you’ll see in a few examples below.
The new gutters will have a leader at each end, whereas the previous system had one per gutter. Not only was having a single leader inadequate, given the gutters’ lengths, but it also rendered the rear gutter less effective at removing water from the rear lean-to roof, which represents a very large percentage of the total square area of the roof system of a typical saltbox style home:
The lean-to roof catches and sheds far more water than the front roof, and that water needs to be dispatched rather quickly. It’s my contention, in fact, that much of the water damage incurred at the rear of the house in the recent past had been due, in part, to an undersized or poorly maintained rear gutter system.
Another detail related to the rear roof is the fact that, since the property is quite narrow, and slopes significantly from rear to front, all of the rain water collected from the lean-to roof needs to be carried to the front of the property and properly diffused there. The existing single leader in the rear does indeed drain to an underground pipe, but it’s not at all clear to me where this pipe goes. So I’ll need to find out. I’ll also need to similarly route water away from the new rear leader:
One of the challenges of hanging a continuous gutter here will be aligning and fitting it to the rear eave in an optimal manner. As you can see from this photo, the rear eave has a rather interesting “shape”:
Meanwhile, the front presents its own challenges. The main cornice is moderate in projection and reasonably straight. However, at the gable ends, the rake is defined by an open rake board, or barge board, which is nailed to the roof planks and extends from the peak down to the eave line. These barge boards extend well beyond the cornice, suggesting they might interfere with a modern hanging gutter:
But considered from an historic perspective, barge boards were an early weatherization solution for the house. They provided something of a drip path for water at the gable end of the roof, and protected the exposed roof planks and roof/gable siding intersection from driving rains. Ideally, they should continue to function in this manner, while complementing any modern gutter system:
The most reasonable approach to unifying old and new, in this case, would seem to be to flash the upper edges of each gable barge board pair with a continuous drip edge, folded and mitered at the peak, and have the cornice end of the front barge board terminate above, and just within, the gutter end cap. The lower end of the front drip edge might need to be shaped so as to divert drips right into the gutter. It might also require (preservation gods forbid) shortening the barge board a bit by trimming its lower end, or perhaps positioning it just slightly farther up the rake.
It’s obvious from the previous photo that the barge boards are quite weathered, and should probably be removed, straightened, treated, refinished, and re-hung, as a prerequisite to getting any permanent and historically-sensitive rain water control system in place. So most likely, they’ll be coming down before the front gutter goes up.
My good friend John Nicholas of Efficient Energy Savers suggested (see comment below) using infrared imaging to trace the path of water through the below-grade leader. An excellent idea! And one I’ll try, as soon as temperatures here get above freezing.