The Great Box Gutter Repair Update!

When I was in high school, I became possessed of the notion that I wanted—nay, needed—to join the crew team. I was about 5’2″ at the time and around 100 pounds, yet still my main condition for joining the team was that I didn’t want to be a coxswain. Thinking back, I probably did it solely out of a misguided desire to develop more shapely arms (I did not), but at the time nobody asked any questions. The coach was also my math teacher, and in my school—where activities like theater and debate reigned supreme—it wasn’t so easy to get five kids to willingly spend hours rowing a boat together, especially if it was also part of competitive sport. As long as all of my limbs technically functioned, I was not only automatically accepted to the junior varsity team but also allowed to be a diva about it. And I demanded to row. Soon thereafter, I became the most absurd bowman the sport has ever seen, a position that evidently traditionally requires both strength and a certain amount of skill for things like steering and stuff.

The season started out alright. Practices took place often in the third floor hallway and the stairwell of our school, where we worked on getting in good shape or something. I’m not an especially strong person, physically, but I’ve always been good at things that require endurance and stamina, so practice time suited me. I could run up and down stairs until my legs fell off, or row thousands of fake meters on the rowing machine, and I remember thinking thoughts like “hey, look at me, I am a total athlete. I’m going to be awesome at this whole sports thing.” Many days we’d also go out onto the river to practice in the actual boats. I was less good at this part, but I chalked it up to being distracted by the scenery. We practiced on the Potomac River from a rock formation upstream of Key Bridge down to the Kennedy Center, and floating around in the middle of the Potomac on a beautiful fall day surrounded by, like, gorgeous trees and D.C.’s monumental landmarks was really very pleasant. The part where we got yelled at from a megaphone to work harder and row faster was less fun, but it seemed like a decent trade-off for getting to enjoy the outdoors.

We never did terribly well in the competitions, but that wasn’t all that surprising. Lots of schools seemed to have high school students who looked a lot like high school students on TV look—what with their adult-like bodies and actual muscles lurking between their bones and their skin—but our team was just a rag-tag bunch of kids who weren’t suited for any of the other sports. We never really expected to win, so we were OK with just spending a few hours out on the water playing along. The thing that we hadn’t really anticipated, though, was that fall would eventually give way to the early months of winter. This unrelenting march of time, combined with our ridiculous costumes of sleeveless spandex unitards, began to make everything progressively more miserable. That’s when things really began to fall apart.

One Saturday, we had to go to a competition on the Anacostia River. The thing that nobody tells you about with crew is all of the waiting involved in the meets. You put your boat in the water and row out to somewhere nearby where the race starts, and then you sit. You sit for a really long time in this holding zone until it’s time for your race, which only takes a couple of minutes. All of the sitting and the waiting wasn’t so bad in the warmer months on the Potomac, but it was essentially unbearable on this morning on the Anacostia. First of all, the Anacostia is a horrifically filthy waterway without much in the way of scenery, and on a grey rainy day, the whole thing is a total bummer. Second of all, what might feel like a slightly cold and drizzly November morning onshore felt something like being directed to stand outside naked during a blizzard whilst sitting stationary on a boat in the middle of the river. My shivering approached something not unlike a seizure, my teeth chattering so hard that, if I’d had fillings, I’m positive they would have come loose. I was so cold, and so wet, and so much of my body was exposed, and I was surrounded by so much garbage, and there was no way to make any of it better.

I have no real concept of how long we sat there, but it felt like days. It was long enough that I recall weighing the relative benefits of throwing myself into the trash-strewn water and drowning myself, or at least drinking the river water and waiting a minute or two for the toxic sludge to work its way through my system. I remember hoping that the rain might pick up and I’d be dealt the mercy of getting fatally struck by lightning—something, anything, to end it all in the sweet release of death. What I remember most was the feeling of certainty that this—right there, in that moment—was the most amount of misery I had the capacity to possibly feel. Nothing would ever be worse, and if I survived it, the rest of my life would be, essentially, easy. Until recently, that’s more or less held true.

gutterbefore

I think probably trying to fix this gutter was worse than that. It was worse than anything.

Here is the sequence of events that led to this moment:

1. We have a terrible time finding a contractor who would take the job of replacing our ancient roof who isn’t also trying to take every last penny of our entire renovation budget.

2. We finally find a contractor we can afford. We are able to finance the job and pay it off over several years, but still—it’s a roof. It’s like the most amount of money we’ve ever spent on anything (aside from the house itself), so we really, really want it to just go well. This seems like a reasonable hope to have when you are paying professionals to do the thing that they professionally do.

3. Workers begin job by tearing off majority of old roof. It quickly becomes clear that our poorly-maintained box gutters (which are gutters that are essentially built into the structure of the house rather than attached like a regular modern aluminum gutter) had undergone a lot of damage and deterioration and rot over the years, all of which I detailed in all its gory detail at the time. It is devastating.

4. Roofing contractor tells us that there isn’t anything he can do, and I need to find someone qualified to make the repair of re-framing, sheathing, and lining the gutters. No, he has no recommendations. Other than to get it done within the month, since winter’s a-coming. We are in deep shit, officially.

5. I go into panic-mode and delude myself into thinking I can probably rebuild a 34 foot long gutter, two stories in the air, by myself in a weekend. Not my finest moment.

6. I try really hard for like 4 days. It is very cold on the roof, but I spend essentially all daytime hours up there regardless. I have a bad cold. I realize I have very little clue what I’m doing, but I keep trying anyway. I panic more. I descend into madness and admit defeat. I am broken.

processporch

This is where things start to get lots better:

1. I talk to somewhere around 6 contractors. Some of them are very expensive. Some of them are only regular-expensive. I choose a regular-expensive contractor, who is vague about when he can start the job. It is getting more winter-y, and various structural components of my house are basically exposed to the elements. Finally, the contractor hands off the job to another contractor. I no longer really even know what’s going on, but I’ve stopped caring. As long as it gets done.

2. Other contractor, whose name is Shane, turns out to be terrific. He seems to fix things very well. He costs a little less than expected. Things are OK.

I didn’t want to get in Shane’s way, so I don’t really have many process photos, but the one above is the reconstructed structure of the box gutter over the front porch. Look at that! Because the gutters that he had to repair were various sizes and in various states of disrepair, each required different things. The sheathing on these gutters over the porches had completely rotted, but for the most part, the framing members were in decent and usable shape (though he did reinforce them where necessary). Then he sheathed the gutters in a mix of exterior-grade OSB and pressure-treated plywood.

So we went from this:

porchbefore

To this: (!)

porchafter

Check it out! Doing what it’s supposed to do!

OK, I know it’s not the most beautiful thing in the world, and old house purists might be screaming at their computer monitors in horror. There are a couple of different ways to address repairing box gutters, and there’s a lot of disagreement in the old-house-world on the best way. Traditionally, these gutters were lined with metal (either tin or copper), which was painted to help preserve their longevity. Lots of roofers or gutter people who work with box gutters will still line them this way—either with aluminum or copper. Obviously copper gets obscenely expensive, and was just completely out of the question for us, but both metal options have to deal with the issue of expansion and contraction. Properly lined gutters are done in sections with soldered joints to allow for expansion and contraction of the metal under different temperature conditions, but very often these joints fail over time, allowing for water to seep into the structure below. Which isn’t cool at all.

The other option is using a very thick rubber called EPDM (basically pool-liner), which is obviously not historically accurate, but seems to work. Lots of people seem to not like this solution because it’s so historically inaccurate and because using it goes against the manufacturer’s installation recommendations, BUT the general consensus seems to be that in terms of functionality and longevity, it works great. With all that in mind, we chose to go with EPDM, both because it was much less expensive and because it seemed like potentially a better material in terms of avoiding problems down the line. I really hope this was a good choice because I never want to deal with this bullshit again.

dooroverhangbefore

Here’s the overhang over the front door, after all the rotted bits had been removed.

after2

And here it is now! Cool, right? At some point, I’d REALLY like to get better-looking downspouts for this area, since those cheap modern aluminum ones aren’t really doing the house any favors visually, but that can wait. The water is draining like it’s supposed to, and also not rotting away the house from the inside. Success!

biggutterbefore

As for the HUGGGEEE gutter that I spent so long working on, it needed a much more comprehensive reconstruction, including all new framing, sheathing, and lining. Unfortunately this entire side of the house—including the soffit—has bowed out over time (probably an effect of our rafters not having collar-ties, which help keep the pressure of the roof structure from bearing down on the exterior walls), which really threw the pitch of the gutter off. We thought we might have to completely reconstruct the soffit, but luckily Shane was able to just fix the pitch of the gutter with the new framing and avoid a much more extensive re-build. Point is, now the water drains toward the downspout at the end instead of pooling toward the middle.

gutterafter

There she is! The beast. Again, not the most glamorous looking thing in the world, but it really does fine from the street, which is what’s important. Even though it might have been easier to just sheath right over the box gutters and attach regular modern gutters (which is what most people do in this situation), I’m still glad we decided to restore this original feature. Even though we didn’t go all-out and line them with fancy metal, we were still able to preserve the original shape and structure of the roof and cornice (sheathing over it would have meant a sudden change in the pitch of the roof because the angle of the edge of the roof to the edge of the gutter is different than the overall angle of the roof, if that makes sense…if it doesn’t, just trust that it would have looked totally awful). And instead of tacking on new gutters, we were able to maintain the original crown molding that tops off the cornice. Because I think the cornice is definitely one of the best architectural features of the house, I’m super happy it wasn’t compromised because of all this.

GutterBeforeafter

Speaking of the crown molding, you might notice that it’s missing! Unfortunately the original material was badly rotted and unsalvageable, so it’s being replicated now (so cool!), since it’s not exactly something you can find stock. In the spring, we’ll attach the new crown, finish fixing up a couple of damaged corbels (hello, generous slathering of Bondo in the after picture…), caulk, and paint everything.

postandbeam

Even though I really wish all of this hadn’t happened the way it did, there were a couple of silver linings. The first is that I really like the contractor who did the work, and it feels good to have a trusted professional in the arsenal when we need more stuff done that I can’t do myself. The second is that after trying to deal with the gutters myself, all the interior stuff feels like small potatoes. Maybe it’s not so fun to rip out a plaster ceiling, for instance, but it feels comparatively super easy and fun compared to crying on the roof. Third, it gave me a chance to really see and understand more about this house! I used to love old houses pretty much for completely superficial reasons (doors! moldings! pretty things!), but it’s fun learning more and more about how and why things were build the way they were. It’s sort of weirdly empowering to be able to explain and diagram exactly how our box gutters are built, and it’s kind of exciting to see the “guts” of the house that are usually covered up, even when the circumstances might suck. Take for instance this peek at the pegs joining together our timber framing! It’s cool because it further supports that our house is definitely older than we originally thought—the listing said 1895, but this style of post-and-beam construction went out of fashion in the mid-19th century, when sawmills brought about during the industrial revolution allowed for smaller, more precise dimensional lumber and homes became cheaper and faster to build as a result. The amount of craftsmanship that went into just the structure of this house is so remarkable.

We still have a ways to go with the roof (a couple more roof surfaces and a few more gutters haven’t yet been addressed…ugh), but I’m glad this stuff got taken care of in time for winter. Even though looking at these gutters might be way less satisfying than, say, the bathroom renovation that we might have spent the money on otherwise, this was an essential repair that needed to happen now, so I’m glad it did. Sorry, bathroom! I’ll aim to get to you by at least 2030.


70 Comments

  1. Actually, I think a properly done construction job IS one of the most beautiful things in the world. Wow. So happy you got this sorted out–it must feel really good having that off your shoulders.

  2. Yay! So glad to hear you (and your good old contractor) conquered that beast! It all turned out okay in the end, and looks fantastic!

  3. I feel the exact same way. We spent several thousand on repairing our fireplace, and in one hand it’s like all that money on something that essentially no one will really notice yet was really important for us to take care of asap because it WAS crumbling, and on the other hand I am relieved that it is over and that we are properly caring for the house. But yeah, goodbye money towards renovations and fun things for the house. It’s done, and may you not have to worry about the roof or gutters again for a very long time.

  4. I love and remember dearly those cold mornings on the rivers. I’m sorry you were SOOOO miserable. When I talked to you mid-roof crisis and it felt like I was trying to talk down a jumper, I see why now. It pretty much was just like that. Good thing you are usually able to somehow regain your equilibrium. It makes me think of those lyrics (by I’m not sure who but someone you probably don’t like) “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”….. Dare I guess Kelly Clarkson?

    • What a good mom! Sense (without overwrought sensibility) and humor. The source of some of Daniel’s narrative gifts becomes evident.

  5. see, that’s the difference between you and I (among several thousand, admittedly)–YOU enjoy seeing the guys of the house, not all covered up, whereas *I*…well, let’s just say that when I had to replace a vanity with a pedestal sink (think leaking water and plenty of mold) I may have hyperventilated at the thought that my house was going to FALL APART. I thought that maybe wall insulation is just something I’m never meant to see–it made me feel queasy and anxious. That’s why all my renovations are superficial–a little paint here, some baseboard there, and voila! “Renovated”.
    Seriously though I love reading about your updates here. I am so excited for the years down the road when we get to see how you decorate the place. It’s gonna be so good.

  6. also I meant “GUTS” of the house–because I’m sure we would both enjoy seeing guys of the house…uncovered….

  7. Would it be completely ridiculous to just add that metal detail over top of the EPDM at some point down the line when you’re in a better position to take on that expense? Wouldn’t that kind of be the best of both worlds (you keep the pool grade protection while taking on the gorgeous aesthetics of the metal lining)?

    • Oh…I can’t really imagine doing that, honestly. The rubber is very inconspicuous from the street (you can’t see it at all on the porch overhangs), and it would cost thousands of dollars. There’s pretty much always going to be a better use for thousands of dollars, I’m pretty sure! :)

  8. Nobel Prize to Shane! Also, I don’t understand why there are bricks and mortar in there? Are they part of the wall of the house-or am I hallucinating. Of course where I come from in California, bricks and mortar in a wall strike terror in our hearts because of Earthquakes.

    • I forgot to mention! The bricks and mortar are actually our insulation. It’s called nogging, and was done in a lot of houses until about 1900, both for heat and apparently to protect the house from rats and other pests. They’re basically all of the garbage bricks——bricks that broke in half during other construction jobs, bricks that weren’t fired at a high enough temperature, etc. Unfortunately it’s terrible insulation (it has an R-value of less than 1), so we planning to remove it when possible and replace it with modern insulation. Getting rid of all of it would mean either removing all of our clapboard and pulling it out from the outside or ripping our all of our plaster on exterior walls, so realistically we’ll never get rid of all of it, but insulating places like the attic with modern insulation should definitely help!

  9. Your gutters look great! I think the most important thing about the repair was finding something that maintained the intention of the gutter design and the structure of the house. Using a more expensive material is somewhat superfluous to this.

    I’m struggling with my gutter situation. I have none, and that is how the house was designed. Because we have a massive overhang gutters are mostly unnecessary – except for the section of roof that hangs directly over our basement stairwell and water runs off the roof, into the stairwell, and under the door into the basement. I have 2 options. Add a dry well to the base of the stairwell which may or may not be clogged by leaves and dirt all-the-time. Or add a section of gutter just to the rear of the house.

    We also have crown molding around the perimeter of our roof and i don’t know how to attach gutters without it looking like poop. The previous owner did install gutters once, but they were removed before we bought the house. Probably because they looked like poop.

    • Hmmm. Hmmmmmmm. Can you add cellar doors (like this kind of thing), or are your stairs not like that? Or could you incorporate a small roof over the basement stairs that ties in architecturally with the rest of the house, kind of like this? Just thoughts…I don’t think there’s a *great* way to attach gutters without either compromising the crown molding OR attaching them in a way that would allow water seepage behind the gutter, which would eventually rot the crown, too. What a conundrum!

  10. I just found your blog today by accident. I read about a metric ton of it and I have decided your beautiful home must be haunted. I think when you remove the outside stairs, you will hear a distinct knocking at the door that once opened to the steps. It is the baby who lived in the weird closet in a closet. The baby disappeared when he was 4 years old in 1941 and his family could never find it. Now the toddler ghost is back and wants in to get his binky he left behind in the closet. The old newspaper you found was from the day he disappeared- his parents never got around to reading it that day because they were to busy looking for him. Do not EVER open the door or his spirit will get in and you will never get him out.

    • OMG, Lee! I’m all alone here right now! You’re totally trying to kill me, and you only just met me!

      Our house is kind of a little haunted, but they seem nice. I’ll keep an eye out for kidnapped toddler ghosts, though!

      • Daniel – if you write a book i will buy it!
        (let lee write the Afterword)

        ps – i love your ma!

      • MUST TELL GHOST STORIES! Demanding a blog post on this topic!

  11. I absolutely love this post — tons of information for when we tackle the home we’re buying if anything needs addressed. So glad you have a fixed (for now) roof!!!

  12. I really like it when you get into the guts of your house. Please do more of these sorts of posts! The pretty stuff is pretty, but seeing construction and engineering techniques is interesting and fun as well as (sometimes) pretty.

    As for spending money on things nobody will ever see. . .I had to do a lot of that when I bought this place. It frustrated me at first, but the feeling of walking in to a room and knowing that it’s wired properly, the roof above it is sound, the floor below it won’t shift (expansive soil sucks), the pipes that run underneath it are new, is lovely and secure.

    Cosmetic stuff is easy. Structural stuff, while hard and dirty and expensive and not immediately rewarding, is what makes you feel cozy and safe.

    • Agreed. The cosmetic stuff can give you warm fuzzies, but the structural renovations can give you a sense of peace. Which is invaluable.

  13. Gutters, whatevs (no, not whatevs. We paid some horrific amount I’ve mentally blocked to replace the leaking aluminium gutters on our 19th century house. Not even sure what would have predated the aluminium ones. Probably lead pipe, so probably the update was a good one). But SPORTS.

    I landed on our interschool gymnastics team by much the same method. More along the lines of “We have insufficient gymnasts. You used to take ballet, therefore you will now train as a gymnast. You have an irrational fear of the vault, you say? Look, our situation is pretty desperate. Will you stay on the team if we let you forfeit the vault in every competition?”

    So yeah… my max possible score in any comp was 20/30, because I would forfeit 10 points every time… and they still preferred that to having one less participant. I think they were close to having insufficient numbers to actually participate at all, and that would have sucked for the one or two Olympic level gymnasts (overachieving school) who really were into it.

  14. Hello from another former rower! (West Side Rowing Club, Buffalo, NY.) It’s a great sport and it certainly does help prepare you for crappy situations from which there appears to be no escape.

  15. My parents were recently restoring the gutters in their 100+ year old farmhouse in NY. When they were pricing out different options with their contractor, he warned them against investing in copper because of a rash of copper gutter robberies. Robberies! When the price of copper went up, people were actually going around ripping other people’s gutters off their houses. Nuts.

    • I have seen copper roofing theft in action. Well, the aftermath in action. Not only does it (obviously) ruin the copper parts, it also destroys all of the materials around it. Awful…

    • In the roof post, I was surprised to see copper around your chimney, over here we use lead for that (as long as you don’t eat it that’s not a problem really) it is easier to work with (softer) and cheaper obviously. I love copper.
      I once had a driving-teacher and he was Islamic, we passed the Mosque and he said he didn’t like the copper roofs on it (it is a pretty new building so they were darkbrown) I told him they would be beautifully green at a certain point in time and that he could speed up the proces by climbing up on the roof and peeing on it. He laughed about that but rejected the idea.

    • When I lived deep in the country in France we would often suddenly have no phone service or internet due to the robbery of the phone lines which contain copper. This happened several times each year. It’s hard to monitor miles and miles of lines in the middle of no where.

  16. Your house loves you and is saying thank you for having found her.

  17. I think you know how I feel about historical accuracy in general, but at times it can be counter productive to replicate the good old ways when newer ways can do as well or better. I think you’ve found one of these instances. As long as you watch for punctures or tears you should be in good shape. Also, watch for squirrels, they like to snack on EPMD for some reason.

    When we moved into our house we found a roofer that we trust and feel about them like you do about your contractor. It’s been great to have them as a reliable resource, even just to bounce ideas off of or get other recommendations. It’s such a great safety net.

    That photo of the peg framing is also pretty amazing. It made the post for me. I’ve heard/read that the framing members were green but the pegs were already dried. When the pegs were put in place and the green lumber dried, it actually shrunk around the pegs so you could never get them out.

    • Fascinating about the pegs, thanks for sharing Alex. (And Daniel, loved this post. I was spellbound. Reading about gutters. Yup, you made that possible.)

  18. GUTTERSSSSSSS!!!! (+ PEG FRAMING!!!!!)

    You know I try to keep the exterior stuff historically accurate, but like Alex said, this is just once of those times when you gotta do what you gotta do. Kind of like the Hardie shingles on my porch roof. It’s fine. It’s better than fine. I’m so relieved that this is all taken care of.

    I’m definitely on board to help with your bathroom, by the way. And you don’t have to wait for 2030. x

  19. Daniel,

    This is a great post, and a great blog.

    I discovered it about a week or so ago, when a link to your post on lighting the front porch of your house in Kingston and from there delved into almost the entire blog.

    Love your work, and your style in your Brooklyn Apartment BTW as it is close to what I like, modern with a huge dash of the MCM.

    I recall reading your initial post on trying to do these gutters yourself, and then finally coming to the realization that you had to hire out for this one, and thus waited to hear the outcome of it.

    I like what was done, and it looks great!

    I’m even more interested in blogs like this since I may end up buying a home this year myself instead of trying to continue to rent in a crazy rental market.

    BTW, wanted to make a comment on an older post on incandescent lighting, the 40-100W Edison style incandescent bulb that we’ve known are phased out, the incandescent bulb isn’t dead, it’s just now a halogen bulb in an A type bulb and it’s essentially a tungsten filament fitted into a glass chamber filled with a gas instead of a vacuum of the old bulbs is all. However, all decorative incandescent bulbs will still exist as they have for decades, and that would mean the globe, the mirrored bulbs, flame tip etc, all will remain of the old Edison technology, just the common not always seen incandescent bulbs in the most common wattages are now gone.

    So now we have LED (which BTW, are looking quite nice these days), and CFL in most shapes/styles we are all familiar with. As one commenter on that thread indicated, go with bulbs with around 2700-3200K, or have Warm White on the package, and the color temperature should be very close to incandescent. I use CFL bulbs at home, and most are very close to incandescent in color temp.

    Keep it up and I love how you are doing the house and how you are approaching various rooms, like the kitchen.

  20. whatever that spouty thing is, would you get it in copper or brass or whatever they use that is that sort of colour?

    sorry I’m so vague

  21. Reading this made me feel so much better – I am ripping up pavers at the moment and found wood rot in the patio wall! One thing always leads to another :-(

  22. Hooray! We’re keeping Shane then. :) With the Vancouver house I haven’t found one person yet in the whole ridiculous floor replacement that I want to keep. I need to find a Shane too.

  23. I heard it is pretty cold over in your side of the world, so nice to have a watertight house (so things don’t freeze, freezing water in a construction is a killer). Over here we use Zinc for roofs and gutters like yours, you don’t mention that? I was thinking about your ceiling in the previous post, wouldn’t it be more efficient and cost effective to have the ceiling in the front room next to the dining room done at the same time as the one in the dining room?
    Also the downspout, I love the one Anna has at her house (the (bronze?) chain with flowerlike shapes). Beautiful. Good luck with everything. Happy new year!

  24. That is the sweetest introduction to a post I’ve ever read. I sincerely think the last time I felt so immersed in another’s suffering, I was reading Dickens. Thanks for taking us along on the ride, Daniel. I’m so pleased your trials with the roof are almost over :)

  25. I adore you, Daniel. You’re seriously the only person in the world who could capture my attention over box gutters. XO

    • okay yes, ditto. i initially though ‘meh’ when i saw the post picture and title but damn it you did it again. also, alex’s tidbit about the pegs, stellar.

  26. Ah, roofs. Glad you got this fixed and over with as you all are more safe, sound and warm for years to come! I stressed out over my roof but once it was redone, no more mental capacity used up chewing over it! Thank you for blogging about this as it was a very interesting post – not a conventional roof situation at all! And I loved seeing the roof details up close.

  27. I’m all for historical preservation for its own sake, but I’m also a fan of modernizing things for function’s sake when needed. To me, your ‘compromise’ of rubber gutter linings make perfect functional (and financial) sense. Also, pretty much all the money I’ve spent on my house for the past 5 years has been on stuff that no one will ever really see. We’re at the point now where we can finally think about paint colors and fixtures, which I’m often surprised to learn is what most people consider to be ‘renovating.’ (I am insanely jealous of those people.)

  28. GDS? Sheridan School? Other?
    Anyway, echoing Nicole, what a preface! You seem to find the sensible middle ground between historical authenticity and practicality, with maybe a slight edge for beauty and cost. Your house is getting healthier all the time. The gratitude and happiness of its not-cold, not-wet inhabitants will permeate the structure and radiate Good Stuff back to you, Max, and the pooches.
    Also, how great is it for us, your devoted readers, to see you upping number of the blog posts in 2014? Pretty swell.

  29. I agree with Alex, sometimes the old way of doing it, well kinda sucked.
    My flat roof originally had layers upon layers of sandwiched fabric and other roofing materials stuck together with tar and who knows what else. When it leaked they would just add on a few more layers. They never (not once) took off any of the roofing materials. This meant that we had 100 years of old ass roof, sandwiched almost a foot thick just hanging out.

  30. Agreed with Jen – functional solution is beautiful. COngratulations on tackling this major project!

  31. My nephew rowed for Gonzaga and he never talked about it. Now I know why. I’ve been living in a very, very old CT farmhouse left unnogged, by the way (what were they thinking with that retro practice?) so I feel I can commend you strongly for showing us a fine example of adeptly taking advantage of modern technology and materials to protect the gutter sections of your house. Really, timbers at the roof are the most important components to address in terms of longevity, if you lose the roof components over time, you will lose the whole house along with everything in it not gone to salvage. It must have been a common practice to lie about the age of these remaining early originals, if possible. So boastworthy at this time.

  32. Whew! I’ve been waiting for the outcome of this adventure for a while. And I feel sorry for your teenage freezing self. I drive past the local university rowers out on the river during my commute and I don’t envy them in the LEAST!

    For you (and Alex over at Old Town Home). I stumbled across a website that carries reproduction round gutters, downspouts and all the hanging gear. They make the copper ones, but also copper plated, alum, galvanized and steel, so lots of price points.

    THE Bungalow is getting new round gutters at least across the front of the house as soon as I can find a contractor who doesn’t insist on vinyl and will work with at least apparently historic materials.

    • Oh cool! Would you mind sharing the site?

      • I agree, would love to see other options out there. We used Classic Gutter Systems for our project. In our case about 20 feet of large half round gutter with hanging hardware plus 30 feed of 4″ round copper downspout was about $1300 shipped roughly seven years ago. I know this cost has gone up as copper has gotten more expensive. Since our downspout was stolen last year we had to buy an additional 20 feet of it from a local supplier, and that ran us about $400.

  33. Daniel, your introduction made me laugh out loud and then your mom’s comment made me tear up a bit. Your blog is an emotional roller coaster.
    Thanks for sharing.

  34. Oh thank god. I was afraid the post was going to spiral into despair when I first started reading but I am so glad you were able to get the gutters fixed! Such a relief.

  35. I so admire that you didn’t just throw your hands up and chuck it all or get completely overwhelmed and stop doing anything. You didn’t. I can imagine the dark days of house renovation, been there myself. I love that you can look back and see the positive, see the fun in all the chaos. So many people can’t do either of those things. That makes you a natural born renovator. Grace under fire. That’s what that is.

  36. I think you made an excellent call by using the pool liner material. I once restored a cottage. My electrician “Shane” was the best thing that ever happened. There was nothing he couldn’t do and if he couldn’t he knew who could. Congrats on another fine job.

  37. A fascinating, satisfying and beautifully told tale.

  38. Great news that you found someone who worked out well and that you were able to reach a sensitive solution for your house. It can be hard to make new repairs or improvements stay in keeping with period properties. I’ve been reading for a couple of years now and love your posts. I hope to be doing some remodelling and knocking down some walls later this year so will be looking to your archives for inspiration for our new living area!

  39. I find all of this so fascinating. I really never thought about box gutters and rot before. My house is only 67 years old (it had no gutters), and while I always enjoyed the architecture of old houses the workings of them didn’t really interest me until I owned a home. I now find the evolution of construction super interesting. And a little sad, but I try to ignore the sad part.

  40. Well, friend. I’ve been reading your blog for years, and you’ve been holding out on the rowing. I knew there was a reason I kept coming back, in addition to your design skills (of course). I feel your pain – my Anacostia was in my novice 8 on the Schuylkill in cold sideways rain. Years ago, back when I lived in Midtown, I rowed briefly with Kingston Rowing Club and met some amazing people. I did a drive by when visiting my sister a few weeks ago, and the boats are still down there…waiting for you. ;)

  41. You apologize way too much for great posts! I know nothing about old houses, and found the whole thing fascinating. I am glad that this is behind you. The rowing story was great, too. I was on the cross country team in high school, the only girl, and I was really only there because I liked the commraderie of the other runners — we were all sort of misfits. The running…not so much, but I did try and got into pretty good shape. Running in snow, rain and cold, can also be pretty miserable…

  42. I don’t see any reason to pay extra money for metal gutter linings that no one will see. You need to save your $ since you still gotta get a chandalier.

  43. There’s a lot to be said for 19th-century craftsmanship and building materials, but sometimes newer is better (and cheaper). And I think this is one of those times. Definitely think you made the right call on the EPDM gutter liner.
    (I also rowed in high school on a rag-tag, mostly losing crew team. And I had a similarly terrible experience at an early spring race where temperatures hovered just above freezing and it actually began to snow while we were on the water waiting for the race to start. So I know where you’re coming from here.)

  44. They are beautiful! Thanks for the lengthy posting. I think that the original builders were using state of the art technology balanced with financial practicalities and that your choice to use pool liner instead of metal while maintaining the overall aesthetic was consistent with that. Well done, Daniel!

  45. Congratulations! Looks great! I can only imagine how much this must have cost — as much as the house, possibly. We’ve also had this problem of contractors not wanting any of our jobs. Wonderful you found someone! And yeah definitely your house is older than 1895. Greek Revival-Italianate, so beautiful. Mid-19th century, probably 1840s-60s. The best style!

  46. I’m soooooo happy for you guys! This is probably one of the biggest nightmares you’ll face, so luckily it’s now resolved, and looking great! I’m pretty much an old house purist, but I have zero issues with the EPDM solution. It looks great (from indoors if it’s visible from certain windows), and low maintenance. Copper would have been nice, but insanely expensive (as you said).

  47. We recently had our roof replaced. It was the single most expensive purchase I have ever had to pay in full, and we have a pretty basic/small roof. A roof may not be the sexiest thing in the world, but it is probably the most important thing you can do for the long-term structural security of your home. Those box gutters sound terrifying, I don’t know if I could have dealt with that. But now that it’s dealt with, you can focus on other things and not worry about it! And now you have a contractor you trust, which is wonderful.

    • So true! Roofing is so expensive. We were luckily able to finance the whole thing (0% down, paying it off over 7 years), which saved us financially. We knew that the roof was going to be a problem when we bought the house so we accounted for it in our home loan, but we didn’t know how big of a deal the box gutters would be. So glad we saved the cash and were able to put it toward that instead!

      I wish I could say the roof is done, but there’s still a lot to be completed, unfortunately! It’s waiting until spring/summer, though, and shouldn’t be nearly the investment we’ve already had to make. We’re just watching the budget and crossing our fingers that it won’t be too bad…:/

  48. Hi Daniel! I don’t know anything about gutters, but i totally get the first part of this post. When i was 13 or 14 i went kayaking in Ireland, but the kind where your lower body is actually exposed to the water (i have no idea how it’s called)and i remember thinking: if i don’t move i will die of hypothermia! hahaha… but it was fun ;-)
    so my point is: i love your blog!

  49. “I really hope this was a good choice because I never want to deal with this bullshit again.” = my motto for life.

  50. What area of the country are you in? I am in Havre de Grace MD and have very similar issues. Looking for information on Shane or any other contractors you may have contacted that do this type of work.

    Margie

    • Hi Margie! Unfortunately I am in upstate New York, so a bit far for us to have the same circle of contractors. We actually had to get much more work done on other gutters around the house after this, and I found a local roofing company who was able to do the work. My best advice is to call as many roofers as you can and ask them if they have done work with box gutters or yankee gutters!

  51. Great post, Daniel. Found this searching for a way to get out of my yankee gutter purgatory. I’m upstate as well. How can I get in touch with Shane?

  52. In the midst of roofing/box gutter repair/replacement quotes and, holy sh*t! I’ve had the purist roofers quote and they’ll only quote copper…at $100 a linear foot! And now I think I may have found my roofer “Shane,” actually named Blaine, who uses and loves EPDM for box gutter lining. Glad to know there are purists that are amenable to this solution.

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