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Archive for Gutters

Simple Gutter System Maintenance Tips

Cleaning the gutters twice a year is only one element of a total gutter maintenance plan. Homeowners often overlook the other parts of a gutter system, particularly the downspouts. Make your gutters last longer and function better by using these simple gutter system maintenance tips throughout the year.

Gutters

The first part of a gutter system is the gutter, the horizontal section that is the initial point of contact for water coming off of the roof. Hangers are used to attach gutter section to a house. To ensure gutters are in good shape:

  • keep the gutter channel free of debris
  • wash the outside of the gutters to remove dirt, streaks, and organic growth such as algae or moss
  • check that the hangers are not worn or loose – for older gutter systems using spikes or nails, replace them if they’re loose or rusted
  • check the seams and joints for leaks
  • remove nests and other signs of pest/insect activity
  • trim back trees close to the house to reduce the amount of debris entering the gutter system and to prevent potential damage to aluminum gutters

Downpipes

The second major part of the gutter system is the downspout. If you have more than one, don’t forget to check all of them. Inspect the downspouts once every two months and look for:

  • dents – can restrict water flow
  • scratches – can promote corrosion
  • loose brackets – shifting causes misalignment
  • clogs – they typically form in one of three places; gutter outlet, middle, and elbow

Removing a clog from a downspout is sometimes more problematic than cleaning the gutters. If flushing water through the downpipe doesn’t dislodge the blockage, try using a plumber’s auger.

Drainage

Drainage is the third integral part of any gutter system. Once water enters the gutters and exits through the downpipes, it must be routed safely away from the house. Check for the following:

  • pooled water underneath the downspout – it might be a landscaping issue or a blockage inside the pipe
  • rust, flaking, and peeling paint are possible signs of leaks or other kinds of water damage
  • distance – water should be deposited a minimum of 7 feet from the foundation
  • if using a downspout extender or splash block, make sure it is positioned correctly and is in good condition

How Neglected Gutters Harm Your Home

While it’s summer, the last thing you probably want to do is think about preparing your home’s exterior for fall, including cleaning the gutters. If they are still attached to your house, a little bit of dirt is obviously not bothering them. The reality is by the time they have fallen off the damage is most likely serious, affecting not just the gutters but other parts of your home as well.

Fascia and Soffit

The main reason for standing water inside a gutter is debris build-up. When inclement weather adds rain to a gutter system already filled with water, gutters can overflow. If water spills over the inner edge (side of the gutter closest to the house) and seeps into the fascia boards, damp fascia can slowly become rotting fascia. Overflowing gutters may also seep into soffit with a similar result.

Neglected gutters are heavy. Water combined with debris weighs down the gutters until they pull away from the fascia boards and/or put additional stress on soffit panels.

Algae, Moss, Mold, Mildew

Gutters not properly maintained are vulnerable to the formation of algae, moss, mold or mildew. When it can be seen on the gutter face, soffit or fascia, plant growth such as moss can be removed. When gutters overflow and rainwater seeps in behind the gutters or into soffit panels and fascia boards, algae, moss, mold or mildew are more difficult to deal with.

Mold, mildew, and moss can pose mild to serious health issues. Moss is very absorbent; once it takes hold inside the gutter channel, it retains water, adding extra weight to the gutter section. Most types of algae are not harmful to a person’s health like moss, mold, and mildew are. However, algae can stain and even ruin the protective finish of your gutters.

Effects of Standing Water

Neglected gutters filled with twigs, leaves, and dirt encourage standing water. The same goes for clogged downspouts; debris trapped inside downpipes stops rainwater from exiting the gutter system.

Pooled water beneath a downspout can cause flooding in a basement. Standing water inside the gutters creates an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes and other kinds of nagging insects. It can also cause rusting, pitting and leaks in aluminum gutters.

When and Where to Install Gutter Accessories

Gutter accessories are used for a number of reasons such as increasing functionality and protecting a home’s exterior from water damage. Gutter guards, splash blocks and flexible downspouts are just a few accessories for the gutters that are popular with homeowners. But if you purchase a gutter accessory and use it incorrectly, it’s going to defeat the purpose of installing it. Here is a brief guide on when and where to install gutter accessories.

Directional

Gutter accessories for downspouts are designed to direct water away from one place or direction to another.

Downspout Extenders

Downspout extensions are used when downpipes deposit water too close to the foundation. Different types of downpipe extenders are intended for specific uses.

  • A standard extender resembles a downspout installed horizontally instead of vertically, then fastened into place.
  • A flexible downspout has an “accordion” section that allows the downspout extender to be positioned around obstructions and areas where water shouldn’t be deposited.
  • A hinged downpipe resembles a standard extender except for the hinge mechanism that allows the downspout to be folded up when not in use.

Rainwater Diverters

Diverters for downpipes are available in a variety of types and styles. Some types of diverters direct rainwater from a gutter system into a rain barrel. Other types of diverters, often resembling a “Y” direct water from one downspout into two different places, such as around a sidewalk in one direction and into a landscaped area in the opposite direction. Some manufacturers use the term “diverter” interchangeably with “downspout extender/extension.” Make sure that the diverter is intended for the function you’re purchasing it for.

Gutter/Leaf Protectors

Many homeowners find some type of leaf protection handy in cutting down the time and cost of gutter maintenance. There are several different types of gutter protectors including all-in-one systems and leaf screens for downspouts and gutters.

Gutter Guards

If you’re considering purchasing a gutter guard system for your home, keep the following in mind:

  • be able to handle the volume of annual rainfall in your area
  • be compatible with your home’s exterior and/or roof
  • openings of screens or covers should match the type of trees growing on the property (wider for deciduous, narrower for pines)

Leaf Screen

Made of vinyl or metal mesh, leaf screens are placed over the top of the gutter. When buying a leaf strainer for a downspout, ensure it fits properly over the gutter outlet.

Preventing Erosion

Since a splash block typically resembles a long narrow tray, it’s sometimes used as a directional downspout accessory. While it does move water away from a foundation where the downspout is too close to the wall, a splash block helps prevent soil erosion. This maintains the landscape design and prevents the foundation from shifting.

Advice on Buying Gutter Guards

When gutter guards are selected to work with your home’s microclimate and climatic region, they do an excellent job of keeping debris from entering the gutter system. However, in order to get the most out of gutter covers that fully protect your home’s exterior, here are some things to consider.

Roof Warranty

While all types of gutter guards are designed to keep out leaves, twigs and other bits of debris, the installation process depends on what kind you’ve purchased. Some gutter covers are installed by placing the edge of the screen or protector under the row of shingles at the roofline. Before investing in this kind of gutter guard system check to see that it doesn’t void your current roof warranty.

Microclimate

You are most likely purchasing a leaf protection system because you have a lot of trees close to the house. Screens or other types of gutter covers with holes should match the kinds of trees growing on your property. For example, choose gutter guards with small holes if there are pine trees near the gutters; gutter covers with diamond-shaped holes are more effective in keeping out small to medium sized leaves, blossoms, pods, etc.

Maintenance

Yes, gutter guards do reduce the amount of debris that can clog up the gutters. But unfortunately, leaf protectors, whatever kind they might be, do not eliminate the need for cleaning the gutters at least once a year.

There are two categories of leaf protects – gutter covers and gutter screens. Gutter covers, as the name suggests, covers the top of the gutter. Gutter screens are typically attached to the sides or are placed inside the gutter channel. No matter what kind you select, the leaf protection system will have to be removed and then put back once you’ve finished cleaning the gutters.

If you are in the habit of cleaning the gutters yourself and your home is two or more storeys, you should consider hiring a professional gutter cleaning service after purchasing a gutter guard system. Since the gutter cleaning process will take longer, it increases the risk of falling off the ladder.

Home Improvements that Add Resale Value

The trick to selecting renovations that do increase the value of your home is to choose ones that fit in with the look and feel of the neighbourhood. Whether you plan to live in your home for many more years or you will be selling in the near future, here are some home improvements that add resale value whenever you decide to sell.

Redefining Space

Do the patio doors open onto just a grassy part of the backyard? Adding a deck or a flagstone patio will convert the area around the doors into usable space for relaxing and entertaining. Would enclosing the existing porch increase the house’s functionality? Is the attic filled with boxes of “treasures?” Turning an unused attic into a bedroom is a good investment. The same goes for the basement – if you’ve been meaning to refinish it for a while now, this is another home renovation that adds resale value.

Energy Efficient Upgrades

Any kitchen or laundry room renovations should include energy efficient appliances and insulated exterior walls.

Replacing single-pane windows will improve the energy efficiency of a home.

Home improvement projects involving the roof, the gutters, and HVAC systems should increase energy efficiency, be eco-friendly and be relatively easy to maintain.

Cosmetic Upgrades

Any part of a house, interior or exterior, that appears tired or worn will detract from a house’s market value. Painting a home’s exterior a new colour increases curb appeal. Replacing old wall-to-wall carpet with area rugs and laminate flooring will be more appealing to home buyers with small children. Swapping out an old front door for a new one can make the entrance to your home more welcoming.

Adding Storage

Increasing a home’s storage capacity is an excellent way to make your home attractive to prospective buyers. No closet by the front door? Build one. Adding shelves, bins and cabinets are good clutter-management solutions. But use built-ins judiciously: built-in shelving units in a laundry room will add more resale value than built-in bookcases in a living room.

Home Improvements that Don’t Add Value

It seems logical that anything a homeowner does to improve their home will increase its value. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some renovations end up not paying for themselves. Here are some home improvements that don’t add value to your home.

Niche Amenities

You might think amenities like a wine cellar, hot tub, regulation-size basketball court or a life-size chess set will entice home buyers. But what’s appealing to you might not be appealing to someone else. It’s not only the actual price tag for materials and installation: don’t forget to factor in long-term increased energy expenses for amenities such as a wine cellar, sauna or hot tub.

Swimming Pool

In-ground swimming pools are expensive to install and maintain. While most of us like the idea of taking a dip in our own pool, the reality is that many homeowners and prospective buyers don’t want the hassle. Home buyers today are looking for a house that looks good but is low maintenance. The amount of money you invest in your pool most likely won’t be recouped when you sell.

Water Features

No argument, water features add curb appeal. A koi pond, reflection pool or small waterfall lends ambience and tranquility to the surrounding landscape. But when it comes time to sell, a water feature could scare off homebuyers with small children.

Bedroom into Home Office

Having a permanent home office might seem like a good investment, but not if it’s at the expense of one less bedroom. When turning a bedroom into an office, skip the built-ins like bookshelves, a computer station or cubbies. This will give you the option of turning it back into a bedroom when you put your home on the market.

Unusual or Elaborate Landscaping

Multi-level terraces complete with stone retaining walls create an inviting place to entertain. Topiary is beautiful to look at. The same goes for exotic flowering shrubs and trees. However, in addition to increased curb appeal, a home buyer might also see increased time and cost to maintain such elaborate beauty.

High-End Kitchen

Probably counterintuitive, but it is possible to over-improve when doing a kitchen renovation. When it comes to kitchens, home buyers generally look for clean, contemporary lines, functionality and open concept. My idea of a dream kitchen will most likely be different from yours. Unless your house is in a high-end neighbourhood, skip the granite countertops, marble tile, and stainless steel appliances.

Gutters and Ladder Safety

The nice weather is calling your name, enticing you into the backyard to sit on the deck and relax. But summertime is also when homeowners become motivated to get home maintenance stuff done. If checking the siding or cleaning the gutters is on your to-do list, make sure if it involves a ladder, you’re using it safely.

Reasons People Fall off a Ladder

When cleaning out the gutters, cleaning off the roof or inspecting the roofing system, working on a ladder can be dangerous. Reasons people fall off ladders include:

  • wearing the wrong type of shoes
  • improper ladder placement
  • overreaching
  • standing on your toes
  • doesn’t heed the “three points of contact” rule

Choosing the Right Ladder

If it’s not the right type for the task at hand, you’re putting yourself in danger. Keep these tips in mind when buying a new ladder:

  • a step-ladder is fine for a one storey house but if your home is two or more floors, invest in an extension ladder to help you safely reach the gutters
  • if your house is two or more storeys, a straight ladder (leans but doesn’t extend) should be tall enough to reach
  • select metal over wood to avoid warping
  • purchase a ladder with a stabilizer to prevent denting aluminum gutters or buy the ladder standoff/stabilizer separately

Using the Ladder Safely

Most falls off a ladder are preventable. When doing gutter maintenance this summer or cleaning the gutters in the fall, use these tips suggested by professionals.

Place the ladder on even and stable ground. For example, avoid putting a ladder on shifting surfaces such as wet mud or gravel.

Shoes on ladders should have rubber soles or be made of some other non-slip material.

An extension or straight ladder should not be placed too far from the wall – to determine the maximum number of feet the ladder should be away from the house, divide the height of the ladder by four.

If you have to remove a clog just slightly out of reach, move the ladder instead of reaching too far.

Climbing the ladder, place the middle of the foot on the rung. When standing on the rungs, feet should be flat and slightly apart for added balance.

Always practice the “three points of contact” rule: two feet and one hand when cleaning the gutters or one foot and two hands when climbing the ladder.

Partner up with someone when using the ladder – one on it, one holding or standing nearby; never both on the ladder at the same time.

When is a Really Good Deal Just a Scam?

Home improvements not only make a house more functional, they also add beauty and resale value. While there are many dependable, highly skilled contractors, unfortunately, some are not. When planning renovations this summer, use these tips to tell a really good deal from just a scam.

Types of Home Improvement Fraud

Does the roof need replacing? Is the siding of your home a little worse for wear? Have you wanted to build a ground floor addition where the old garage used to be? Home improvement fraud comes in all kinds of guises such as driveway repair, replacing the roof, siding repairs or replacement and “fixing” structural issues.

Warning Signs

Fortunately, there are identifiable warning signs that can help a potential victim avoid home improvement fraud. The most common signs are fraudulent “contractors” will:

  • appear on your doorstep claiming they were in the neighbourhood or they had done renovations for someone on your street
  • quote a very low price
  • offer special deals – only good for one day; free paint; discount because materials were leftover from another job
  • tell you the work they do will be covered by your home insurance policy – most policies don’t cover the costs of home improvements
  • want payment before the work begins – possible indication that they don’t have the money to buy materials or they have no intention of doing the renovation
  • have no permanent indicators of a company affiliation like a truck with a logo, legitimate licenses/certifications, and proper contact information (YP listing, real website, etc.)

Ways to Prevent from being Scammed

Nice weather seems to bring out the itinerant roofers, pavers, landscapers, and gutters and siding installers intent on not providing the services they promise. To prevent from being scammed:

  • check all credentials, licenses and any other documentation they provide – if something doesn’t look or feel right, confirm with the appropriate board, agency or municipal office; legit businesses have a paper trail that can be followed
  • insist on an itemized estimate that clearly outlines what work is to be done, material costs, labour costs, and a stated percentage of how much more than the original estimate can be charged
  • avoid unsolicited offers; get a recommendation from a family member or co-worker
  • don’t cave into someone else’s sense of urgency – if they talk too fast, offer a low price if you sign right now, or pressure you into making a decision, ask yourself why or what are they hiding?

Ways to Make the Backyard Safe

Now that summer is officially here, the backyard is the most common outdoor gathering place for family and friends. Especially if you have children or children visiting throughout the summer, the ideal recreational space should be safe for everyone.

Trees

Trees are great for shade, a home for birds, and bringing nature into an urban setting. But sick, dying or dead trees make a backyard unsafe. If a tree has dead and/or broken branches, fungi growing at the base of its trunk, or patches of peeling bark, it needs attention, even possible removal. Call a landscaper or arborist for advice.

Animals and Insects

Is your backyard a magnet for wild animals and insects? They might be cute on television but animals such as raccoons, skunks, and badgers can cause mischief and even be dangerous. A wasp nest in the gutters is never a good thing. Here are some helpful ways to keep unwanted critters and pests out of the yard:

  • build a fence if you don’t already have one
  • if you do have a fence, keep it maintained – no holes or gaps
  • eliminate sources of standing water like buckets or unattended recyclables
  • put a cover on a sandbox
  • clean out the gutters

Backyard Amenities

Having a pool, fire pit or barbecue helps create the perfect place to hang out. But they do pose certain risks. Make sure the pool area is safe and secure. When the grill is still hot, keep children away from the barbecue. Fire pits should be located at least 10 feet away from the house and not positioned directly under an overhang.

Patio Furniture

Any outdoor furniture on the property should be able to handle fluctuating temperatures and changeable weather conditions. Particularly when being used by children, furniture pieces should have rounded edges or at least not be sharp. Replace any metal patio furniture that is rusting; breathing in particles or having them become embedded in a cut or on skin poses a health risk.

What to Expect from a Roof Inspection

Even if you keep an eye on the roof to see what it’s up to with every seasonal change, there might come a time when your roofing system needs the attention of a professional roofing contractor. For instance, a certified roof inspection might be required before selling your home. The following is a brief guide outlining what you can expect after calling a contractor for a roof inspection.

There’s No Charge

Many roofing companies provide a free estimate. The company will typically schedule an appointment. On the agreed-upon day, the contractor will come to inspect the roof, resulting in an estimate listing what needs fixing. The attic is often a part of the roof inspections – they will check for moisture and insulation issues. The estimate should also include cost breakdowns for materials and labour.

Should be on the Roof

It’s recommended for a homeowner to conduct regular roof inspections with binoculars. But for a thorough roofing inspection, the contractor should be on the roof. He or she will examine how all parts of the roof are working together; age and current condition of the roof; and whether the roof will need replacing now or in a few years’ time.

What a Roof Inspector Looks For

The main purpose of a roof inspection is to assure its structural integrity and to identify potential problems and current issues that will become worse if not addressed. A roofing contractor will check for:

  • improper installation of roof components
  • condition of existing shingles
  • condition of flashings around structures on the roof like vents, skylights and chimneys
  • whether or not fascia flashing/drip edge flashing needs to be added
  • appearance of mold/mildew or other signs of trapped moisture under roofing tiles

Don’t forget that the gutters are part of the roof too. Water coming off the roof needs to be properly channeled away from the house. Keeping gutters free of debris ensures that rainwater freely flows through the gutters and into the downspouts. A roof inspector will alert you to any potential gutter systems problems that require attention.