Choosing the right gutter hanger, say expert installers, can be as important as choosing the right gutter. After all, a gutter system can’t do its jobs if the troughs are sagging, pulling away from the house or — at worst — on the ground.
But choosing hangers isn’t as simple as meets the eye.
General manager David Trefzger of AMSI Supply in Douglasville, Ga., describes some of the many factors installers should consider. “First, a high-quality hanger starts with quality materials,” he points out. “So you should verify that the material isn’t coming from secondary sources. In the case of our company, most of the steel we use comes from within the U.S.”
Material compatibility is another factor. “If you’re installing an aluminum gutter, use stainless steel hangers rather than galvanized,” relates Trefzger, “because if you have two dissimilar metals — like aluminum and galvanized steel — and then add moisture, it will accelerate corrosion at a high rate. Stainless, on the other hand, is compatible with aluminum and copper gutters.”
Then there’s cost. Though stainless steel boasts the advantage of being “relatively inert, so that it doesn’t corrode at a measurable rate and is stronger than regular steel or aluminum,” says Trefzger, “it’s twice the cost of galvanized hangers. You could use aluminum hangers with aluminum gutters, of course, but they’re not as strong as stainless steel.”
Strength is also related to the gauge of the metal. For steel hangers, Trefzger notes, “The common gauge is 18 — and you’re wasting time and money to go lighter. As for aluminum, .063-inch is the bare minimum. A good rule of thumb for hangers is that, if the architect doesn’t specify a gauge, then use the heaviest gauge available.”
Along with the metal and the gauge, a key factor in the strength of a gutter system is the spacing of the hangers. Trefzger believes hangers should be spaced not more than 36 inches apart. Closer spacing, however, is often dictated by the size of the gutters. Larger gutters carry more water, so that closer spacing of the hangers is needed to carry the increased weight. When in doubt, consult the standard manual available from the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).
Yet after considering all of the above, one more consideration remains. “Before choosing a supplier, ask for a sample of their product — and then check the quality,” Trefzger counsels. Have the hangers already been exposed to moisture? Are the 90-degree angles cleanly cut? If not, then the die being used by manufacturer may be past its prime. “Look at the packaging, too,” he adds. “Is the packaging sturdy and able to carry the weight? Or is the packaging mangled?”
In the end, Trefzger concludes, “There’s always a reason why someone will be cheaper. You should find out why. Then buy from a supplier you know, someone you can trust to be reliable now and in the future.”
More checklist items
To the list of considerations in choosing hangers, Mike Dispennett adds another. “Provided the hanger is strong enough, then ease of installation is something you should think about,” says Dispennett, who is national sales manager for Precision Fasteners & Components in Clearwater, Fla. “Anything that makes installation easier helps to lessen your labor costs, while at the same time minimizing your exposure to high-risk situations.”
Manufacturers today are “doing a lot of things to make hangers more user-friendly,” Dispennett reports. “Some suppliers offer a hanger with the screw already attached, in order to speed up the installation time.” Nor is style — yet another factor in choosing hangers — being ignored. For its part, Dispennett’s company is developing a new stainless steel hanger coated with copper.
Nevertheless, style is no good without substance. “It’s up to you, as the installer, to know how the hangers perform,” advises Dispennett. For example, Precision makes hangers for heavy-duty commercial gutter applications. And though architects are usually involved in designing the gutter system, Dispennett points out, “your local climatic conditions — and account for extreme rainfalls — and then relate that to roof area you’re draining.”
Still, installers should expect manufacturers are also doing their part to ensure the performance of their gutter hangers. “Extensive ongoing research is necessary for the long-term success of our company and our customers,” affirms sales manager Barry Spector of Raytec Manufacturing in Ephrata, Pa., a maker of building supplies that specializes in gutter and roofing products.
“Quality encompasses several factors,” believes Spector. “First, the design must hold the required weight. Second, the material itself must withstand the weight that the hanger is designed to hold. That means using metals not just because they’re readily available, but because they’re proven to hold the weight.” Raytec tests and re-tests its hangers on a specially designed test bench and in the field, simulating various roof lines and applying weight at different angles.
While Raytec continues to explore improvements, Spector expects that hidden hangers will remain the industry standard for the foreseeable future. “Although there are products on the market which claim to be an alternative to hidden hangers, they’re not widely accepted,” he relates.
Meanwhile, Spector adds another item of his own to the checklist for choosing hangers. “Strong gutter hangers will enhance your workmanship,” he states. In other words, he explains, “Choose proper hangers and other components that will leave a lasting impression, long after you leave the jobsite.”
Like other experts, Spector points out that hanger spacing is a vital aspect of good workmanship. His own rule of thumb for spacing hangers is 24 inches. “There are several factors that dictate the spacing,” he says. “The weather in a particular region of the country, for instance, may make snow and ice an issue. So spacing could be closer together.” Even where building codes allow wider spacing, he believes, installers should be guided by the maxim, “The closer the hangers, the stronger the installation.”
Hung up on options
At some point, however, “Your choice of hanger comes down to personal preference and what works best for your company,” suggests Rick Wysocki, general sales manager for Buchner Manufacturing in Pefferlaw, Ont., “and what works best can depend on your geographic area.” For that reason, the Canadian company offers a wide variety of hangers.
Yet despite the size of its product line, Buchner regularly tests its hangers and tries out new designs. Because trends in residential and commercial building change over time, products must be tested against new uses and applications. “More metal roofing is being used, especially in northern climates,” Wysocki relates. “Ice slides are a real danger and many gutter hangers won’t hold under those conditions.”
Still, continues Wysocki, under most conditions the ideal hanger spacing 16 to 24 inches on center. “It’s important you don’t space them further apart than that,” he says. “Aluminum expands and contracts. If the metal deforms and creates places for water to settle in, it can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.”
While installers develop preferences for certain hangers, Wysocki counsels contractors not to be taken for granted. “The key with any supplier is consistent quality,” he advises. “Make sure the product is manufactured to your specifications. And remember that stamping tools wear down. You should be assured by your supplier that your hangers will be the same quality today as when they first started production.”
At Rutland Gutter Supply in Orlando, Fla., Amy Fischer echoes the observation that gutter hangers must keep up with changing trends. “Architects are designing more buildings with a rake fascia detail and that type of design can cause difficulty for gutter installers,” she points out. “Roof-mounted hangers can overcome this situation. Or if the roof hasn’t been installed, the hangers can be screwed to the decking before the roofing is completed.”
According to Fischer, choosing the right hangers depends on “the type of gutter being hung, the type of roof and roof line that’s involved, the desired look and the geographic region or climate of the area.” Thus K-style hangers are used to hang K-style gutters and half-round hangers are used to hang half-round gutters.
Yet the list of gutter hangers on the market today continues. Among them, Fischer lists raked fascia hangers, stamped hangers, fascia-mount hangers, number-10 combination hangers, bar stock hangers, wrap-around hangers and cast decorative hangers.
For gutter installers who might get “hung up” on all the options, notes Wysocki, perhaps the best advice is to “locate a knowledgeable distributor who can help you find the right ones.” Even upscale gutter jobs soon lose their luster when the system begins to sag. For that reason, counsels Raytec’s Spector, “The components you use are a direct reflection on your business.”