How to Cut Gutters

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Aluminum gutters are great to have on any home. They are long-lasting, but it takes time to install them. You will want your gutters to fit well, so that they can direct water away from your foundation properly. To do that, you will need to know how to cut gutters accurately and safely.

Required Tools

  • Leather work gloves
  • Protective goggles
  • Fine-tooth file
  • Work table (preferred) or work space
  • Pattern shears
  • Combination square
  • Carpenter’s pencil
  • Measuring tape

Setting Up

You will probably prefer to work on a table. While you can also accomplish this task on the ground, you can get better cuts standing up to work. Before you get cutting, make sure that you know all of the lengths you need to make.

Person using a measuring tape

You should measure the length around the edge of the roof where you plan to install your gutters. If you still have your old gutters up, make sure to record the entire length of the gutter run. You will need a ladder to get the most accurate measurements.

Once you have all of your numbers, you can take your gutter sections and tools, and set up in your work space.

How to Cut Gutters

Here are the steps to cut your aluminum gutters:

  1. Put on your leather work gloves and safety goggles.
  2. Turn the section of gutter upside down that you want to work on.
  3. Measure the length that you need to cut and mark it with your carpenter’s pencil.
  4. The combination square can be used to extend your mark around the gutter. Doing so makes it easier to know where to cut.
  5. Turn the gutter over onto its side, so it is easier to hold with one hand.
  6. Start by cutting a flange edge using your pattern shears.
  7. Cut through until you are at the bottom of the gutter.
  8. Start cutting on the other side, until you reach the bottom once again.
  9. Bend the gutter back until you can see the inside of the bottom section.
  10. Cut the bottom.
  11. Use your file to remove any sharp parts.
  12. Repeat these steps on every gutter section that you have to cut.

Cutting gutters is simple, but many people shy away from it. Once you cut through your first section, you will be surprised at how easy this project is to handle at home. We will be breaking the steps down further below.

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How to Cut Gutters for the First Time

Know What You Need

You do not want to skip out on wearing the protective gloves. Aluminum gutters can become very sharp when cut, making them easy to injure yourself. You likely have the rest of the materials if you often do DIY projects at home.

Pattern shears may also be referred to as snips or shears. They are strong and able to cut through some thinner metals, depending on the type you have. When you have all of the materials gathered, you are ready to begin.

Measuring the Cuts

Start by laying the gutter section down on the table. You will then measure the length that you want to cut off by marking it with your pencil.

We recommend that you always check your measurements before you cut- it is easier to move a pencil line than repair a wrong cut.

Once you have your measuring marks, you will want to continue that line the entire way around the gutter. Using the carpenter’s square will allow you to make a straight line on the bottom portion.

Make Your Cuts

Make sure you are comfortable using the shears before you make your cut. You will also want to wear protective equipment- including those strong gloves we mentioned.

Turn the gutter over so the open side is facing the sky. Then, cut all the way down the sides where you made your pencil lines. From there, you can bend the gutter to cut the bottom portions.

Your gloves protect you the most during this step because the freshly cut sections are very sharp!

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Filing the ends with your fine-tooth file is always a good idea. It removes those sharp edges and makes your cut gutters safer to handle. If you plan on installing them soon, make sure you file them down right away to avoid injury.

Finishing Up

When you are all finished cutting and filing, you can move onto painting your gutters. You should make sure they are cleaned thoroughly, then apply a primer and the appropriate types of paint.

The paint should resist water and other types of weather– never use paints with ammonia on aluminum.

Overall, painting is much easier before you install the gutters. You can stay safe on the ground and reach all areas of the gutter for an even coat.

Alternative Ways to Cut a Gutter

While metal shears are the most common tool used to cut a gutter, you can use other tools. Jigsaws are fast and quite easy to use on this project and a powerful jigsaw can work really well. When cutting with a jigsaw, you will want to follow all the same steps above, until you get to cutting.

From there:

  • Place your cutter over two sawhorses. It is a good idea to have someone help by holding everything steady for you.
  • Cut through your pencil marks with the jigsaw.
  • The cut section may drop on the floor- that is alright!
  • Again, we recommend that you file down the edges and wear gloves while you do it.

If you are having someone help you, make sure they are also wearing protective equipment. Work slowly to ensure your safety, as well as theirs.

Broken gutters filled with wet leaves

Cutting Vinyl Gutters

Vinyl is a different material than aluminum, although they can be cut in similar ways. If you are working with vinyl, make sure to follow these steps instead:

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  1. Measure how much gutter you need.
  2. Flip your gutter section over and mark where you plan to cut the bottom with a marker.
  3. Draw the line around the gutter using your square.
  4. Cut the gutter starting at the bottom. You should use a fine-toothed hacksaw.
  5. Use a sharp utility knife to remove burrs or sharp bumps caused from cutting.

If you don’t have a hacksaw, you should be able to use a good coping saw with the right blade. Take your time cutting and work from one end to the other; you want it to be as straight as possible.

Alternatively, you can use a sharp utility knife. Place the gutter section on a flat surface and score the lines that you made. After you have gone the entire way around, you can bend the gutter repeatedly until it breaks along the line. Be sure you are wearing gloves if you want to do this!

Cutting Other Materials

If your gutters are made from a stronger metal, such as copper, you will likely need to use a miter box or miter saw. Metal shears, snips, or a hacksaw also work, but they take more time. A miter box would be more accurate with strong materials like copper.

Some gutters can be made from wood. These are a bit tricker to install, but not at all impossible. When working with wood gutters make sure you have proper wood cutting tools. Handsaws are one of the best options and are simple to use.

How to Cut a Downspout Hole

You likely also will need to make a downspout hole in one of your gutter sections- this is much easier to do on the ground! Many people prefer to do this step while they are cutting the rest of the gutter, so we thought it would be a good idea to include it here.

The only additional tools you need will be a high-quality drill, screwdriver, and screws.

Steps for Cutting the Downspout Hole

  1. Determine where the downspout will go. It should be at the bottom of a slope, since this is where the water will flow and naturally want to exit the gutter.
  2. Use your pencil to trace the sleeve on the bottom of your gutter.
  3. Put on your protective equipment.
  4. Drill four holes; one in each corner of the sleeve outline you traced.
  5. Use your metal shears to cut out the outline. You will cut between the drill holes you made.
  6. Use your file to smooth down the edges. They are very sharp, so be careful.
  7. Apply sealant around the edges of the sleeve.
  8. Insert the sleeve into the hole and use the screwdriver and screws to secure it.
  9. Make sure the screws are tight, then allow the section to dry.

While it seems like a lot of steps, the process is quick and simple. You will want to make sure you use the proper amount of sealant, so your gutters don’t leak!

Summary

As we’ve outlined in this article, cutting your gutters can be an easy project. You need to make sure that you are doing so safely to avoid injury. Knowing how to cut your own gutters can save you a lot of money- even if you have a professional install them for you later.

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An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.