Late last fall, my company was asked to repair the roof on an older home—portions dated back to the mid- to late-18th century—that was an interesting mix of Federal style with Italianate influences. The clients had known when they purchased the house a couple of years earlier that the roof was in need of repair and that the built-in gutter on the main house was sagging and starting to pull away from the wall. A third, “emergency” downspout was added where the gutter sagged the most; the downspouts at the ends had become high and dry.
With winter fast approaching, we decided to fix only the problematic gutter and adjoining roof on the front side of the main house and to postpone repairing the remaining roofs and gutters until the following spring. The existing roof had three layers of asphalt shingles over a bottom layer of cedar shakes, so a complete tear-off was in order, though we planned to salvage the existing brackets, frieze, trim, and siding as best we could. The roof deck consisted of 1x10 boards spaced an inch or so apart to act as skip sheathing for the shakes.
When we ripped off the layers of leaded tin, tar, and aluminum coil stock that lined the existing fir gutter, we found that the original wood trough had deteriorated; where the gutter was sagging the most, it was cracked and severely rotted.
The gutter was big—8 inches deep, 12 inches wide, and 39 feet long—so we cut it into manageable pieces with a chain saw to safely get it to the ground.
The clients mentioned that the second-floor bedrooms in the front of the house were drafty and difficult to heat, and I suspected that the splayed ceilings in these rooms had little or no insulation. So I proposed sealing the rafter bays with spray foam from the outside while the roof was open. The clients agreed, and we removed the bottom five sheathing boards and sprayed closed-cell foam using Touch ’n Seal’s CPDS Series 2 portable two-part sprayer (touch-n-seal.com). We were able to spray, cure, and trim the foam to the top of the rafters in one day.
While removing the gutter, we managed to salvage most of the Italianate-style brackets, although the outer pendant profile snapped off a few of them. Also, we noticed that the brackets had pulled away from the frieze and that the subsequent gaps had been repeatedly caulked and painted over the years, which accounted for a fair amount of the gutter’s outward bowing.
We decided to remove and properly reattach the brackets, with an eye toward leveling them as well. They had been fastened to the existing board sheathing, which was in fairly good shape, and the frieze and associated trim had been installed between them. In a few locations, we added 2-by blocking behind the board sheathing where its ability to hold a screw was questionable.
Prior to reinstalling the brackets, I traced one that was undamaged on a scrap piece of plywood and cut it out to use as a template. Back in our shop, I repaired the damaged brackets, cutting replacement pendant profiles from scraps of salvaged heart pine, joining new to old with wood glue and multipurpose screws.
With the brackets reinstalled, we sheathed over the foamed area with 3/4-inch CDX to match the thickness of the board sheathing, then sheathed over the entire roof deck with 5/8-inch Zip System sheathing. For the sheathing layout, it worked out that the last course extended over the gutter, so we decided to use the sheathing to protect the gutter work area from the weather. Each night we tacked the last course of sheathing in place and taped the seams; then each morning, we peeled off the tape, removed the plywood, and continued working on the gutter. When the gutter work was done and we were ready for roofing, we ripped the last course of sheathing to width and fastened it permanently.