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

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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.

Advantages of Maintaining Your Gutters

Neglected gutters can cause unwanted problems. Most homeowners know that gutters need to be cleaned at least twice a year (spring and fall). It’s a chore no one really wants to do. So, as we head further into gutter cleaning season, let MHC Gutters remind you of the advantages of maintaining your gutter system throughout the year.

Curb Appeal

The saying “Appearance is everything” is very true when it comes to gutters. Standard gutters hang from the fascia and therefore are noticeable. A gutter system that is streaked, dented, worn, faded or sagging detracts from your home’s curb appeal and can make your home unwelcoming.

Improve Functionality

There is no denying that Vancouver gutters get a lot of rain. When a gutter system is cluttered with debris or has moss growing in the gutter channel, unimpeded water flow to the downspout is not possible. Maintaining your gutters and keeping them free of clogs improves functionality. Water that doesn’t drain properly from the gutter system can lead to a number of problems including:

  • standing water in the gutter channel (adds weight)
  • pooling water around the downspouts (flooding basement)
  • overflowing gutters (landscape erosion)

Increase Life Span

Regardless of the material gutters are made of, keeping them well-maintained increases their life span. When a gutter system is free of debris, it minimizes potential damage to gutter sections and downpipes. A gutter system that leaks, overflows, or doesn’t drain properly invites moisture-related problems such as mold, mildew and foundation damage.

Avoid Expensive Costs

Regularly maintaining gutters through scheduled gutter cleanings and periodic inspections are excellent preventive medicine. Making repairs, stopping leaks, and doing those other little tweaks that keep a gutter system running smoothly prevent problems from escalating and having to spend money to fix them.

Unwanted Guests

Don’t invite unwanted guests. Gutters filled with leaves, twigs, and other types of organic residue are attractive to pests like wasps, bees, birds, and squirrels looking for a home.

How Gutters Change the Look of Your Home

Gutters manage rainwater, protecting the home’s exterior from water damage. Standard gutters attach to the fascia and are visible to the eye. This means gutters also have an aesthetic purpose. Whether you’re buying new in the near future or you plan to keep the current gutters for a while longer, here are some subtle ways a gutter system can impact the appearance of your home.

Clean Lines

The shape or profile of the gutter contributes to the overall personality of your home. Half-round copper gutters make a different statement than K-style aluminum gutters. While both profiles possess simple, clean lines, the visual impact of curved versus straight is individual. K-style and half-round are the two most common gutter profiles, but there is a wide range of profiles available, and each one will add or subtract from a home’s exterior.

Well Maintained

If gutters are not well maintained, they detract from your home’s curb appeal. Curb appeal isn’t just for other people; you have to enter and exit your property on a daily basis. Returning home to streaked gutters filled with twigs, leaves, and debris can adversely impact the mental and physical well-being of you and your family.

Colour Coordinated

Don’t let your chromophobia (fear of colour) get the best of you. When replacing the gutters, take time to select the best colour that will complement the other exterior finishing elements such as the roof, trim (windows and doors), and soffit and fascia. The colour of the gutter system can be used to:

  • make the gutters appear as an extension of the roof (complementary colour)
  • make the gutters a noticeable boundary between the gutter system and the roof (contrasting colour)
  • creates visual harmony

Focal Point

While most people shy away from making the gutters standing out, there are some good reasons for choosing the gutter system to be a focal point. Opting to paint or select a contrasting colour from the rest of the exterior expresses your individuality, accentuates the architectural style of the house, and adds a layer of visual interest to the home’s exterior.

Things You Should Know About Siding

Siding doesn’t just protect your home’s exterior; it also adds personality and creates curb appeal. It is one of the first things visitors and passersby notice. Whether you’re purchasing for the first time or you’re considering replacing existing cladding, here are some things you should know about siding.

The Purpose of Siding

Siding serves a number of purposes both aesthetic and functional. These include:

  • protection from the elements, anything from the sun beating down to driving rain to punishing winds
  • enhances the design of the structure
  • brings together all the aspects of the home’s exterior – visual harmony
  • expresses the character of your home while blending in with the community

Siding Material Variety

Vinyl siding is the number one siding choice in North America. Other popular siding materials are aluminum, wood, and fiber cement. But, according to sources, there are over 15 different types of siding available to the consumer. While aluminum is a typical siding material other metals such as steel are being used.

If you love the idea of cedar shingles but don’t want to commit to a high-maintenance material, there are fiber cement siding and vinyl siding finishes that imitate the look of real wood siding without the cost and upkeep. The same goes for real stone or brick – for almost every natural siding material there is a faux alternative. In today’s market, there are more options than ever, including an impressive range of colours to complement any residential style and design.

Siding and the Environment

Excluding wood siding, siding is generally low maintenance, being durable and requiring fewer resources to maintain.

Aluminum siding and steel siding are 100% recyclable.

Some manufacturers are environmentally conscious when manufacturing siding products, employing processes that do not consume too much energy and reduce the number of toxins released into the environment.

In the past, asbestos was commonly used in the construction industry because of its low cost and fireproofing properties. The manufacture of materials made of or containing asbestos such as siding, roofing, and insulation was banned in Canada in 1979. However, non-friable (cannot be reduced to powder) products containing asbestos continued to be used in the construction of homes well into the 1990s. If an older home with asbestos siding becomes damaged, it must be inspected, repaired, and/or removed according to strict guidelines by a licensed asbestos contractor. Canada is set to implement a complete asbestos ban by 2018.

While it is true that different types of siding better insulate your home than others, siding, in general, helps regulate heating and cooling cycles, reducing energy costs.

Taking Care of Your Soffit and Fascia

Soffit and fascia are constantly exposed to the elements year after year. While gutters play a major role in keeping water from gathering behind the fascia and seeping into soffit panels, simple maintenance can help prolong the lifespan of the exterior finishing elements that make up the roofline.

Inspect Soffit and Fascia

Prevention goes a long way to avoiding expensive repairs or replacement of soffit and fascia. Soffit panels cover the underside of a roof’s overhang; fascia boards seal off the ends of the roof rafters from the elements. Periodically inspect soffit and fascia for potential problems such as:

  • soft spots or rotting – applicable to wood soffit and fascia only
  • warping – applicable to wood soffit and fascia only
  • holes
  • peeling or bubbled paint
  • stained surfaces
  • cracking and splitting – applicable to vinyl and wood soffits and fascia
  • panels or boards separating from the house
  • missing fascia and/or soffit panels

The most common reason for water damage to soffit and fascia is overflowing gutters. Check to see if there are clogs in the gutter channel or blockages around the gutter outlet.

Clean Soffit and Fascia

Soffits are fabricated from three main types of material: wood, vinyl, and metal. While their key purpose is aesthetic, soffits also make the roofline stronger. Due to constant exposure to the elements, soffit boards can become grimy and collect bits of debris in corners, around vents, etc. Whatever they are made of, most surface dirt should be easily removed by washing with a solution of mild detergent. When stronger cleaning methods are needed, ensure that you use a cleaner that won’t damage the material the soffits are made from.

Fascia boards are also made from wood, vinyl, and metal, most commonly aluminum. Washing fascia at least once a year maintains their appearance. Removing streaks and grime reduces potential damage that environmental pollutants might harm the finish of the fascia boards, minimizing how well they protect your home.

Repair Soffit and Fascia

Small holes or cracks in wood soffit and fascia can be repaired, and warped sections of fascia or soffit panels can be removed then replaced. Even when repairs can be made to soffits and fascia made of wood, many roofing contractors advise replacement with comparable aluminum or vinyl products that require less maintenance and care.

In most cases, metal or aluminum soffit and fascia can be repaired or repainted. However, vinyl soffits and fascia typically have to be replaced when damaged.

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.

Why a Garage Needs Gutters

Installing gutters on a house make sense, but do you really need gutters on a detached garage? Whether the garage is built on a concrete slab or is supported by a full foundation, adding gutters to a garage’s roof does the same thing they do on your home – direct water safely away from the foundation.

Type of Garage

Backyard buildings, including garages, often serve a variety of purposes. When a garage is multi-purpose, it’s an even more compelling reason to install a gutter system. Today, many one-car and two-car garages include a combination of features such as garden tool storage, attached workshop, and loft storage. Properly channeling rainwater from the roof to the ground will protect not just your vehicle but your other possessions and projects kept inside the garage.

Location of Garage

Where the garage is located is a deciding factor when thinking about installing gutters on a detached garage. Without aluminum gutters or vinyl gutters, water pours off the roof from all sides. If the garage is close to your home, water from the garage roof could seep into the basement. The same applies to a garage without gutters that is near a patio, deck, fire pit or sidewalk.

Water Coming Down

Without gutters, when it rains, you might have to walk through a curtain of water when entering or leaving the garage. Depending on the fit and/or condition of the garage door, water not channeled through a gutter system might leak underneath the door and into the garage. This could especially be problematic if the roof slopes toward rather than away from the garage door.

Landscaping

If there are no gutters on a garage, the water exits directly onto the ground. Over time, this can seriously erode the soil around the building’s perimeter. You will be able to see it as a “trench” or deep depression. Soil erosion can make the concrete slab or garage foundation unstable and vulnerable to cracking, sinking or shifting.

Damage to Siding

Installing gutters on a garage prevents damage to siding. No matter what type of siding it is – wood siding, vinyl siding, cedar shingles – when water is allowed to go wherever it wants it can cause irreparable damage. Should moisture get in behind siding panels or cedar shingles, it can invite mold growth or insect infestation. Where siding is close to the ground, splash back can ruin its finish (discoloration, peeling, bubbling, etc.).

Tips for Cleaning Any Type of Siding

With summer heading toward fall, now is the time to do those seasonal home maintenance chores that will help your home survive the cooler, rainy weather ahead. When layers of dirt, sap, pollen, and dust accumulate, siding becomes dingy or stained, creating negative curb appeal. Take advantage of these tips for cleaning any type of siding to make the exterior of your home look new again.

Schedule a Time

Choose a day and time for cleaning the siding and let everyone know. This will help avoid the unexpected open window (after you made sure it was closed) or someone opening and closing the back door when you’re near by cleaning the siding.

Quick Inspection

The purpose of a quick inspection is to alert you to any potential problems you might need to fix or contact an exterior finishing contractor to fix them for you. Use binoculars if your house is more than one storey or if you don’t plan on using a ladder until you have to. Damaged siding – small holes, dents or missing panels – is vulnerable to water damage and moisture build-up. Before manually washing or spraying siding with a garden hose spray nozzle, look for: loose siding panels or cedar shingles; loose and/or missing nails; worn or damaged sections of siding; and missing siding panels.

Cleaning Siding Don’ts

Don’t skip prepping the area around the house. Cover sources of electricity; remove obstacles like toys and patio furniture; and protect landscaping, especially when using a bleach solution to clean mold/mildew/algae from siding.

Don’t use a pressure washer on “textured” siding or siding with a raised surface such cedar shingles, brick, and stucco.

Don’t use harsh cleaning products. It’s probably best to avoid anything with “industrial strength” on the label.

Don’t use abrasive cleaning tools such wire brushes, scrapers or steel wool. Avoid pressing down too hard.

Cleaning Siding Dos

Gather together all of your supplies before you begin. This includes giving the ladder you’ll be using a thorough safety check.

Start at the roofline and work your way down to the foundation. Clean one section at a time; this will help eliminate dried-on residue and streaking.

Most types of siding can be cleaned with a bucket of water and mild detergent. When cleaning mold, mildew or algae off siding use this popular homemade solution: 45 grams (1/3 cup) of powdered laundry detergent, 85 grams (2/3 cup) of powdered all-purpose household cleaner, 947 millilitres (1 quart) liquid bleach, 3.8 litres (1 gallon) of water.

Use a soft-bristle brush, especially on aluminum siding, vinyl siding, and stucco. Any cleaning tool used on siding panels and cedar shingles should be blunt-edged and non-abrasive.

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.

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.