Historic Home Project – Whitewater, WI

A few months ago, I received a call from Jerry Koehler, a friend who owns Southgate Gutter Services based in Fort Atkinson. He explained that he had a project that he thought was a good fit for Guttersmiths to tackle in Whitewater, WI, and forwarded to me homeowner Carol Christ’s contact information. Carol, a school teacher and active member of the Whitewater Landmarks Commission, currently owns and resides in the Smith-Allen House in downtown Whitewater.

The home is well-described in the following excerpt from Architectural and Historical Survey of Whitewater, WI, a publication of the Whitewater Landmarks Commission from 2008:

“The finest Italianate house in the city is both a Whitewater Landmark and located in the Main Street Historic District. The Smith-Allen House (445 W. Center Street) is an example of the Italian Villa Style, a more formal and decorative version of the Italianate style that usually includes a tower. The square form, wide eaves with brackets, cornice with dentils, round-arched openings and tall, narrow windows make this house an outstanding example of the style. It can, arguably, be stated that this is the finest nineteenth century house in the city.”

I was super-excited to get started on this project. The home originally had built-in gutters that, like so many homes in this region, had been roofed over with shingles. In place of the built-ins, a roof strap system was used. I typically try to avoid the use of roof straps, both for aesthetic reasons and also because they require us to fasten through the roof and create small holes where water could potentially infiltrate. There was beautiful crown molding fastened to the fascia board around this entire home, however, leaving us without a flat surface to mount our gutters to with fascia mount brackets (hidden hangers). The option to build out the fascia to give us a flat surface would have been more costly, and would not have been in line with preserving the historic integrity of this home. We decided to forego this woodwork and use roof straps.

When using roof straps, you cannot install the gutter behind the drip edge, which is standard. Tucking behind the drip edge forces the rainwater to flow into the gutter instead of behind the gutter. To ensure that the elaborate woodwork behind and just below the gutter shielded from runoff, we installed approximately 350 ft. of flashing (or, “gutter apron”) behind the d-edge and into the gutter. This essentially extended the drip edge down farther so it could do its job.

This flashing and the roof straps were painted to match the wood behind the gutter. The gutter coil was a special order product, available in that specific shade of red from only one manufacturer in the county – Berger Building Products. Berger is a wholesaler that manufactures historic and specialty roofing products. Downspouts needed to be hand painted to match the gutter coil, along with elbows, end caps, and all of the other accessories associated with the install.

We were fairly successful at mimicking the look of the original built-in gutters by installing larger 6” k-style gutter, with 4” round corrugated downspouts. I really like the look of round downspouts and recommend them as a reasonably priced means to achieve a distinct and historic feel. Anyway check out the pictures!

PS: Special thanks to Home Lumber Co., located just down the block from this job site. The guys there were generous enough to lend us a generator for a short time until we were able to get in contact with homeowner Carol and gain access to her power supply. Home Lumber Co. is a member of the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), and licensed Makita dealer.