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

Archive for Homeowner Tips

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.

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.

Summer Roof Tips

Out-of-sight-out-of-mind is a dangerous game to play with your roof. Exposed to the elements 24/7 year-round, it can take a beating. Summer is an ideal time to get your roof in shape.

Cleaning Off the Roof

Keep the roof free of debris. Just like the gutters, a roof can be a great collector of leaves, pine needles, twigs, balls and other miscellaneous unexpected items. When using a broom or a rake, don’t press down.

Helpful hint: Don’t use a pressure washer – it can dislodge the granules from roofing tiles, force water in behind fascia boards and soffit panels, and do further damage to worn shingles.

Inspecting the Roof

Since a roof’s temperature is often higher than ground and air temperatures, this can make an asphalt roof more susceptible to damage when walked upon. Plan to conduct your roof inspection early in the morning or use binoculars first.

Look for:

  • debris build-up in valleys and around flashings
  • loose roofing shingles
  • loose flashings
  • damaged shingles
  • damaged shingles around roof protrusions such as dormer windows, skylights, etc.
  • stained shingles, soft spots, and wet patches that don’t dry up 36 hours after a rainfall
  • worn, damaged and/or water stained soffit and fascia

Helpful hint: After inspecting the roof, if you do need to make any repairs, plan on getting them done while the weather is still cooperating. Roofers and gutter contractors tend to be less busy during the summer months.

What are the Gutters Up To?

Inspect the gutters for any damage like dents, worn hardware, or leaking seams. Also look for leftover nests, evidence of insect infestation, and other signs of life (plant or animal) in the gutter system, including the downspouts. If you discover any residue, dead blossoms, and twig bits in the gutter channels, rinse out gently with a garden hose.

Helpful hint: Trim back any trees growing close to the house. This will help reduce the amount of debris deposited into the gutters or onto the roof.

Adding New Elements

Hire a contractor if you are thinking about adding a skylight, some dormer windows or decorative-detailed fascia. Depending on the project, cutting into the layers of a roof or piercing its surface with nails can prove challenging to even an experienced do-it-yourselfer.

Helpful hint: Get three estimates from roofing contractors – it will help you decide on who will be the best fit for your project.

Bring Style to Your Backyard this Summer

The backyard should be a place where you can relax, enjoy the company of friends, and spend some downtime with family. But if it’s missing that wow factor other yards in your neighbourhood seem to have this summer might be the perfect time to bring style to your backyard.

Place to Sit

A backyard sanctuary starts with the perfect place to sit. Charming wicker furniture can transform an urban space into a beachfront refuge. Loungers by a pool or on a deck provide an inviting way to soak up some sun. A porch swing doesn’t always need a porch – it can be hung from a tree or a wide overhang.

You don’t need to buy new – chairs can be repainted or furniture such as stools and wood benches no longer needed inside can be repurposed for outdoor use. Update patio furniture with new pillows and seat cushions in bold colors, patterns, and different textures.

Place to Dine

A deck, patio, or grassy area is ideal for a patio dining set. Choose one that reflects your hosting style and the people who will most likely be using it. Is it just for your family? Are you in the habit of inviting friends over but also include anyone who peers over the fence? When entertaining a large group, select an outdoor table that can be extended.

Give some thought to the theme of your outdoor table and chairs. A rustic farm table or classic picnic table has a casual, country feel. Openwork metal dining table and chairs will lend a backyard a vintage appearance. To give your back yard dining area a tropical vibe, choose a patio set made from wicker or rattan.

Place to Relax

Amp up the style factor of your back yard with an outdoor spa. Hot tubs are available in a wide range of types, materials, colours and sizes. There are even portable models. Yes, it’s fun, but health benefits include reducing stress, chronic pain, and sleeplessness.

An outdoor spa not in the budget? String a hammock between two trees.

Place to Entertain

An outdoor bar shines the light on your bartending skills. It’s also a great way to store everything you need in one convenient place.

Create a conversation area with a built-in or portable fire pit and some really comfortable chairs.