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and maintenance of gutters and siding in the Vancouver Lower Mainland.

Archive for Homeowner Tips

Essential Gutter Cleaning Tools

Cleaning the gutters seems straightforward enough – gunk collected in the gutter system has to be removed. Most people agree that when you have the right tools for the job it makes the task at hand easier and more manageable. These essential gutter cleaning tools will help you get the results you want – thoroughly cleaned gutters free of debris.

Good Ladder

The ladder you choose for your gutter cleaning chore should be strong and sturdy. It should also be the right ladder for the job – a 10’ step ladder is great for a one-storey home, but not for a house that’s two or more storeys. A straight or extension ladder that has a standoff will protect aluminum gutters from being dented. A ladder that includes a shelf is the best place for a pail and the gutter cleaning tools you’re not using at the moment but need close to hand.

Garden Hose

Unless you’re a gutter cleaning professional, power and pressure washers might damage gutters and/or create damp areas ideal for moss/mold/mildew growth. In this case, a garden hose is the most economical and safe tool for cleaning the gutters. Attaching a pistol-grip spray nozzle allows you to control the direction and amount of water, and it can be hooked on the side of the ladder when not in use.

Gutter Scoop

A gutter scoop, unlike a garden trowel, is specifically designed with high sides to contain the debris until it can be disposed of. To avoid scratching the bottom of the gutter, select a plastic gutter scoop over a metal one.

Soft Bristle Brush

A soft all-purpose bristle brush can be used to scrub dirt, stains, and silt from the bottom of the gutter. You can also use it to clean the outside or face of the gutters. When choosing one with a handle, select a bristle brush with a handle on the top rather than the side – it will be easier to maneuver inside the gutter channel.

Protective Gear

A good pair of heavy work gloves will protect your hands from scrapes and germs. Wear safety glasses or safety goggles to guard against splashes and flying debris. Rubber-soled shoes help keep you from slipping when climbing a ladder or walking on the roof.

Fall Curb Appeal

Crisp air, leaves changing colour, orange pumpkins, and bright yellow chrysanthemums – there is something very special about autumn. Adding seasonal touches to your home’s exterior is a simple way to update your curb appeal.

Decorate the Front Door

Transform the front door by hanging a garland of autumn leaves, trailing vines, or branches combined with small gourds. Pair the garland with a matching wreath.

Window Boxes

Another way to bring the spirit of fall to your front yard is to add window boxes. Fall flowers and seasonal grasses give color to the landscaping and lend charm to your home. When choosing the kind of window box, consider the type of material that will fit in with your home’s exterior. Wood boxes tend to add a rustic feel, while copper and iron window boxes provide a more traditional look.

Cleaning the Exterior

Clean the exterior of your home to remove accumulated grime, dirt, and particles before they etch glass panes and scratch siding. You don’t have to do it all at once. Spraying the siding with water first will give you a better idea if you need a soft bristle brush and a pail of soapy water. Spruce up the windows, doors, trim, and steps on another day.

Thoroughly clean the gutter system inside and out. Yes, it’s more important to get rid of the debris inside the gutter channel. But removing surface dirt from the gutter face helps preserve the finish.

Don’t forget to clean hardscape elements such as a pathway, driveway, wood deck or paved patio, especially if they are visible from the street.

Lawn TLC

Leave the leaves for the trees. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics. Once they have fallen and are left on the ground, they can do your lawn more harm than good. A lawn must be allowed to breathe. Layers of leaves block sunlight, oxygen, and water required for a healthy lawn. Trapped moisture in the soil can lead to fungi growth. Rake the lawn, seed bald patches and add fertilizer.

Those Finishing Touches

Flank planters on either side of the door and on the stairs leading up to the house.

Add edging – plants, stone, brickwork – to sidewalks and driveways. Use fall plants and/or flowering shrubs.

Create an autumn-themed display by repurposing a little red wagon, old wheelbarrow, or vintage wash tub.

Protecting Your Home from Storm Damage

While it might seem windy now, soon we’ll be dealing with stronger winds and heavier rainfalls. Wild weather can impact a home’s exterior, resulting in repairs that cost time and money. Cleaning out the gutters and inspecting the roof for loose or missing shingles is a good place to start. Here are some useful tips to help you protect your home from storm damage this winter.

Store Seasonal Items

Store items you won’t be using during the winter months such as lawn furniture, the barbecue and yard tools. If it can’t be stored away, secure anything residing on a patio, sun deck or backyard that might be thrown up against the siding by the wind. Wherever possible, take down swings, wind chimes, etc.

Clean Up the Yard

Rake the yard. Twigs and bits of debris can become projectiles, chipping glass, denting siding, etc.

In and after storms, trees can pose a threat by smashing windows, dropping branches onto power lines, and collapsing a roof. Inspect the trees on your property, especially the ones near the house. Look for dead branches, broken branches, and holes or cracks in the trunk. These are some common signs of a dying tree that might have to be removed in order to keep your home safe.

Trim back any branches close to the roof, gutters, and siding. Dispose of any limbs and cuttings or secure them so that they can’t be blown around.

If they can’t be sheltered by a shed, overhang or garage, secure garbage and recycling bins.

Check Windows and Doors

Loose panes make windows vulnerable. Seals and caulking around doors and windows should be in good condition to help keep water and cold air out and warm air in. Repairing windows and doors now will avoid winter storms making the damage worse.

Home’s Exterior

Roof: Ensure that all roof protrusions and flashings are securely fastened. Check for missing and broken tiles. Repair as soon as possible to prevent moisture from getting in and creating problems such as leaks and mold.

Gutters: Clean the gutters. Gutters full of debris weigh them down, making them vulnerable to wind damage. Check that they are firmly fastened to the fascia.

Downspouts: Check the brackets; the downspout shouldn’t be able to move from side to side. Look for clogs and remove them.

Siding: Look for dents, scratches and worn or missing siding panels. Repair them if possible. During winter storms, damaged places on siding can be entry points for moisture.

Backup Plan

Power companies do their best to get everyone back to normal, but often this takes time. If you don’t have one already, invest in a portable generator. It will ensure that any electronics will continue to work once the power’s gone out. You can also hook up essential appliances such as the refrigerator, freezer and any other piece of equipment that has a plug.

Clean the Roof Before the Gutters

Fall is here and it’s time to start on that home maintenance checklist to get our homes ready for winter. Clearing off the roof first before the cleaning out the gutters should help reduce the amount of debris entering the gutter system.

DIY or Roofing Contractor

Before tackling a DIY roof cleaning, consider hiring a roofing pro. A roof contractor does much more than remove twigs and dirt. Most roof cleaning services include a thorough inspection, will reattach or replace loose and damaged flashings, do repairs, and replace damaged/missing roof tiles. A roofing contractor will also be able to tell if you have moss or algae growing on your roof – in the early stages, it can be invisible to the eye. Hire a professional when:

  • the house is two or more storeys
  • the roof configuration includes multiple levels
  • the roof is too steep
  • you don’t have the right tools, equipment and cleaning solutions on hand

Cleaning the Roof

When cleaning the roof, choose methods and cleaning solutions that won’t harm roofing shingles. Above all, be safe: use proper safety protocols; if possible, have someone helping you.

Begin by removing any loose debris such as leaves, branches and pine cones. Most types of debris can be lightly swept away with a broom or rake. Pay attention to roof valleys and roof protrusions (dormer window, skylight, etc.) where debris can build up.

If the roof is stained or streaked, it should be cleaned with a bleach solution or chemical cleaning product to kill the organisms responsible for the algae/mildew/moss growth.

Be patient – the solution, whether it’s homemade or store-bought, will have to sit for a while and might not seem to be working. If the algae doesn’t wash away in the next two or three rainfalls or the moss isn’t loose enough to be removed by hand or with a leaf blower, you might need another application.

Don’ts and Dos of Roof Cleaning

Don’t step on the roof before ensuring it’s sound and dry.
Do take safety precautions including using the ladder properly, wearing non-slip soled shoes, and choosing the right weather conditions to work in (e.g. not too windy).
 
Don’t use a pressure washer.
Do use a spray nozzle attached to a garden hose.
 
Don’t ignore moss growth – once it takes hold, it can weigh a roof down. It can’t just be cleaned; it must be removed.
Do take preventative measures once the moss has been removed. Trim back trees around the house to allow as much sunlight on the roof as possible.

Labour Day Weekend Safety Tips

The plan for this last long weekend of summer is to relax and have fun. But taking a vacation from safety could mean a trip to the ER, and that’s no fun at all. Stay safe this Labour Day weekend with these practical safety tips.

Driving Anywhere

Just assume any road – highway, street, major route – is going to be busier than normal. Whether you’re driving to the grocery store or on your way to an Okanagan wine tour, take your time. If you’ll be driving long distance, have the car checked before you go; don’t forget the tires and the spare.

When on a road trip: be well rested, schedule stops, and have a backup driver if possible. Make sure to include an emergency kit for your car – it should contain a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, flares or reflectors, containers of motor oil and coolant, tool kit, a blanket, and non-perishable foods/bottled water.

Outdoor Chores

Some homeowners like to get a head start on fall maintenance chores. If you plan on cleaning out the gutters, washing siding or clearing off the roof, be careful. Examine power tools for frayed cords, damaged casings, and loose prongs.

When using a ladder to clean gutters, trim trees or painting, check the ladder first, then use it safely. Place it on a flat surface; when on the ladder, don’t overreach and hold on with both hands when climbing up or down.

Backyard Entertaining

Place the barbecue at least 10 feet away from siding, tree branches, and flammable materials. When using the grill, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and never leave it unattended. Keep children and pets at a safe distance.

Plan on keeping pets mostly indoors, limiting their time with guests to brief visits. While they can handle regular visitors to your home, a backyard full of partying people might spook your pets. It will also help reduce the temptation to feed them people food.

Practice safe food handling. Don’t leave dairy foods or foods containing milk, mayonnaise, etc. out in the open for more than an hour. Cover containers of food with lids, foil or plastic wrap when not in use. Label common foods that can cause allergic reactions such as fish, nuts, milk, etc.

Getting Your Home Ready for Labour Day Weekend

Labour Day long weekend typically marks the last big celebration of summer. If you plan to spend it in the backyard with family and friends, getting organized now ensures plenty of fun for everyone later. Get outside and enjoy your patio or deck, but first get your home ready for Labour Day with these simple tips.

Home Exterior

Cleaning your home’s exterior will add instant curb appeal. It’s surprising how much grime, environmental pollutants, and tree residue can build-up up on siding and dull the windows. Skip the commercial or lightweight pressure washer. Instead, use a garden hose with a pressure nozzle. Plain water should be enough to remove surface dirt. Use a soft bristle brush and soapy water for stains and marks that need some extra attention.

Wash the driveway, stairs, and sidewalks. As with the siding, start off with plain water and then spot clean stubborn stains.

Windows and Doors

Even if they aren’t all that dusty, smudged glass panes aren’t welcoming. Clean windows with a mild solution or an environmentally friendly glass cleaner.

A sparkling front door can change the appearance of your home’s exterior.

Check door frames and window trim for cracks, gaps, warping and peeling paint. Do any minor repairs now if you have the time, such as caulking and sanding.

Deck and Porch

Wash your deck and/or porch. Wipe down the outdoor furniture. Replace or remove worn cushions, damaged patio furniture, and anything else needs repair. Add some decorative touches such as a seasonal wreath on the front door, colourful plant pots on the steps, or hanging baskets.

Clean the light fixtures and replace any bulbs that are burned out or not energy-efficient.

Get the grill ready for the long weekend. If you have a pool or fire pit, make them kid friendly and safe.

Backyard Prep

Before family, friends, and guests arrive, mow the lawn; trim back overgrown shrubs and trees near where you will be entertaining; and weed flower beds, tidy up landscaped areas.

Divide your backyard into well-defined zones. Rearrange outdoor furniture to create conversation areas. Add side tables for guests to use; add larger tables for serving food and drinks. Have a place for kids to play.

Make sure the grill is safely positioned away from the flow of foot traffic. It should not be placed close to siding or underneath an overhang.

Summer Curb Appeal Tips

Curb appeal isn’t just about real estate value. Whether entering from the backyard or through the front door, returning to a home that’s visually appealing is deeply rewarding. Here are a few summer curb appeal tips that will increase your sense of well-being, while those driving by will appreciate the view.

Exterior Cleaning Services

You clean the gutters regularly, wash the windows when they’re really dusty, and remove stains from the siding on an as-needed basis. But you can’t remember the last time you cleaned the roof and the only time the driveway gets “power washed” is when you water the flower beds. Consider hiring a professional exterior cleaning company at least once every two years. Typical services include:

  • roof cleaning
  • roof moss removal
  • gutter cleaning
  • siding soft wash
  • window cleaning
  • driveway cleaning

When a home’s exterior shines, it invites and welcomes visitors.

Painting the Trim

Painting the exterior of your home will definitely improve curb appeal. But who wants to spend the summer repainting the house? A high impact, low-cost trick is to paint just the trim. Selecting a complementary bold shade or intense earth tone will give your home an updated appearance.

Painting Concrete

Perhaps it’s time to paint the concrete driveway, walkway, or stairs if scrubbing doesn’t make a difference anymore. Applying one or two coats of paint to the front steps can greatly improve curb appeal. You don’t have to stop at “plain.” Explore Pinterest for some really creative DIY projects – pinstriped stairs, checkered porch floor, faux tile patio – all accomplished with tape, stencils, paint, and a little imagination!

Landscaping Tweaks

Flowering trees and shrubs automatically increase curb appeal. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Limit the number in a particular area, a small front yard for example, to under five.

Seed bald spots to bring a patchy lawn back to life.

When flower beds contain perennials, landscaping can be given a seasonal look by adding containers of annuals on either side of the front door, in the corner of a porch or by the steps.

There is a variety of landscape lighting available. Consider what type of light you would like to install. Sidewalk from the front gate to the entry door a bit dark after the sun sets? Choose lights designed to boarder a pathway. The porch lights don’t reach as far as the stairs? Add a down light so visitors can see the stair treads.

When to Install Oversized Downspouts

While downspouts are often overlooked by homeowners when they purchase or maintain a gutter system, downpipes play an important role in protecting a home’s exterior. Standard 5-inch gutters are typically paired with a 2 x 3-inch downspout. However, there are some instances where installing oversized downspouts as part of a standard gutter system is a better choice.

Cleaning the Gutters too Often

If you’re cleaning the gutters four times a year but everyone else in the community is only gutter cleaning once or twice annually, this might be an indicator larger downpipes are needed. When the gutters are generally in good shape, don’t exhibit signs of damage, and are not older than 7 years but seem to become clogged a lot, replacing 2 x 3-inch downpipes with 3 x 4-inch downspouts will improve the functionality of the gutters without the need for replacement.

Not the Right Fit

In Vancouver where a home’s exterior is subjected to a lot of rain, 6-inch gutters might seem more practical. But an oversized gutter system is quite noticeable and can detract from the aesthetics of the home exterior. When oversized gutters aren’t the right fit for the style, size or fascia of the house, oversized downspouts can provide a practical alternative.

Overflowing Gutters

Clogs in the gutter channel are not the only reason gutters overflow. Other reasons include improper slope, an insufficient number of downspouts and the size of either the gutters or downspout or both. When all other causes are ruled out, before upgrading to a 6” gutter system, try replacing just the downpipes first. The outlet of an oversized downspout is twice as wide as a 2 x 3-inch downpipe, allowing more water to exit the gutters and flow through the downspouts.

Blocked Downspouts

Standard downpipes for 5-inch gutters can easily become clogged around the elbows (top and bottom of the pipe) or in the middle due to debris building up around an object that hasn’t been washed out of the gutter system. The wider opening at the top of downspout where it connects with the gutters will handle larger volumes of water more efficiently.

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.