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Fun Facts about Gutters

There’s nothing fun about gutters, especially cleaning them and keeping a gutter system properly maintained. But perhaps you’d like to add some gargoyles to your roof or gutters to your car! Here are some amusing and fun facts about gutters you might not know.

First Appearances

Archaeologists have discovered that ancient civilizations throughout Asia and Europe, as early as 3000 B.C., used materials such as stones, bricks, and wood to create a drainage system designed to divert water from one place to another.

Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilizations used water spouts attached to the edges of roofs to direct water to the ground. They frequently took the shape of animals’ heads, typically the lion.

Gutters during the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, the French incorporated gargoyles into several styles of architecture, particularly Gothic style buildings. Gargoyles were designed to direct water from the roof away from the walls where moisture would harm the masonry. While gargoyles took many different shapes, they all have similar characteristics – scary faces, devil wings, long claws, and a menacing air about them. When it looks like a gargoyle but doesn’t spit water, it is known as a “grotesque.”

Gutters made of Wood

Before the 19th century, most gutters were made of wood. Historically speaking, wood was a common construction material because it was readily available and easy to work with, requiring few tools. Today, just the opposite is true – wood is one of the most expensive materials and not practical for the production of gutters systems.

One Person’s Treasure

Most gutter professionals are happy to entertain you with stories about the “weird” things they have discovered when cleaning the gutters. You’d expect balls of various kinds, but gutter cleaning techs have found a wide range of toys from Frisbees to dolls to racing cars to LEGO creations. Some pros reported finding high heeled shoes, sneakers, and lunch boxes.

Gutter System for Cars

Until they disappeared in the mid-80s, cars came with drip rails or rain gutters that kept rain and snow off drivers and passengers while keeping the upholstery free from damp. Sounds like a really good idea, right? The reason they are no longer used on cars is a combination of style and fuel economy. Die-hard designers claimed that the drip rail messed with aerodynamics, reducing fuel economy. One-piece body sides commonly used in the manufacture of automobiles eliminated the place where the drip rail once was located

Add Decorative Elements to Your Gutters

Most of us have seen those funny and outrageous downspout pics on social media. The Tin Man downspout is especially amusing. But even new standard gutters tend to be bland. By adding decorative elements such as leader heads or embossed brackets, homeowners can easily increase their curb appeal with a gutter system that looks as good as it is functional.

Rain Chains

Rain chains have been around for hundreds of years, originating in Japan. Today, they are typically used instead of downspouts. They can be incorporated into a gutter system in three main ways: by replacing all of the downpipes; by replacing just one downspout; or by adding to the existing number of downpipes. Rain chains consist of a string of shapes that interrupt the speed of the water as it flows down from the roof. The aesthetic appeal of a rain chain is its availability in a wide range of materials, designs, and themes.

Leader Heads

If downpipes can’t be directly connected to the gutters, leader heads are used to collect water and direct it into the downspouts. However, in the past few years, leader heads or conductor boxes have become a popular decorative element of gutter systems even when downpipes are connected to the gutters by a gutter outlet. A leader head is made of any type of material other types of gutter accessories are made from including copper, steel, and aluminum. Decorative leader heads offer elegant architectural detailing to a home exterior.

Decorative Downspouts

Decorative downspouts add a distinctive character to your home. They come in a number of options, including themed downspout add-ons that attach over the end of downpipe just below the elbow where the water exits or ones that fit over the bottom half of the downpipe, replacing the standard elbow.

Decorative Hangers and Brackets

You can further increase the visual impact of a gutter system with decorative hangers for gutters and brackets for downspouts. While many types of gutter accessories, including brackets and hangers, are made of copper designed to be used with copper gutters, you can find engraved or stamped hangers and brackets made of metals compatible with aluminum gutters.

Bad Things Happen to Good Gutters

A bright shiny new gutter system, unfortunately, doesn’t stay that way without being properly maintained. Gutters control water flow, directing it to the downspouts. When gutters aren’t cleaned regularly, other parts of your home’s exterior like the soffit, fascia, and foundation become vulnerable to water damage. Here are some bad things that can happen to good gutters.

Clogged Gutters

Gutters filled with twigs, leaves, dirt, and particles of other types of materials like shingle granules, pine cones, and needles stop water from exiting the downpipes. This allows debris to build up and encourages standing water. Rainwater breaks down organic matter and over time turns it into sludge, damaging the protective finish of any type of gutter. When the finish is compromised on aluminum gutters, it makes them susceptible to rust.

Overloaded Gutters

Standing water in the gutter channel also adds weight to the gutter system. When gutters become heavy with a combination of rainwater and debris, they can pull away from the fascia, resulting in sagging and even missing sections of guttering. Whole sections breaking loose render a gutter system non-functional.

Overloaded gutters typically put extra pressure on joints and seams, causing them to leak.

Onset of Rot

When rain falls into gutters already overloaded with standing water, they overflow. Overflowing gutters allow water to land undirected, creating a place for mould and/or moss to grow and moisture to get in behind soffit and siding panels where light and air can’t reach. When rot sets in, wood fascia becomes incapable of supporting a gutter system.

Warping

Aluminum gutters and vinyl gutters become warped for a number of reasons, but the two most common causes of warping are surface damage to the finish and expansion and contraction. When the protective finish on a gutter system wears away, it allows the gutter material to become exposed to the elements. This generally means the gutters will eventually become misshapen (warping for metal gutters and splitting or cracking for vinyl gutters).

Expansion and contraction is a gutter system’s response to heat and cold. It becomes a problem over time when caulking wears away and fasteners/screws/nails shift, setting the stage for more warping or splitting.

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.

Cleaning the Gutters in the Fall is Important

Gutter professionals typically advise cleaning the gutters twice a year. Cleaning a gutter system annually is preferable to not cleaning it at all. But choose the “right” season: there are several compelling reasons why it’s important to clean gutters in the fall.

Not Just Leaves

Temperature, sunlight, and soil moisture dictate when trees shed their leaves. A fall that is warm and mild will see the leaves stay on the trees anywhere from one to three weeks longer, while an autumn that is cold and dry will cause the trees to shed one to three weeks earlier.

Leaves are light, so how much of a threat can they be? But leaves that land in the gutters are generally mixed with twigs, dirt, miscellaneous objects, and bits of organic matter. Add water from rainfall or a periodic storm: the result can be clogged gutters that are heavy, putting additional stress on the fascia.

If pine trees grow close to the house, needles can also enter the gutter system. While they appear green year-round, pine trees shed their needles over a period of weeks rather than all at once like deciduous trees. When you have both types of trees on your property, try to clean the gutters as close to the end of the fall as possible.

In From the Cold

Roof overhangs and gutters filled with leaves and other organic materials look inviting to animals wanting to come in from the cold. Common winter nesters in the Lower Mainland include rodents, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. They can burrow into the attic space, and damage roof tiles, siding, and downspouts as they travel back and forth from nest to food source.

Prepping for Winter

Cleaning the gutters in the fall is an important step to prepping your home exterior for winter. Keeping the gutter system free of debris ensures that water can freely flow through the gutter channel to the downpipes. Fall gutter cleaning should also include an inspection of seams and joints, nails and fastens holding the gutter system in place, and damaged gutter sections that might not make it until spring.

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.

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.

More than Cleaning the Gutters

While it doesn’t seem much cooler, the kids are back at school and fall is on its way. Cleaning the gutters regularly is one of your home maintenance priorities. That’s why you hire a gutter cleaning service. But did you know that most gutter cleaning companies do more than just clean the gutters? If other areas of your home’s exterior need some attention too, ask your gutter contractor what other services they offer.

The Roof

Many gutter pros know their way around a roof. They can check for leaks, identify compromised shingles, repair damage, and replace missing roofing tiles. Some gutter companies might not be able to do the actual repairs, but will let you know if you need to call a roofer.

If it hasn’t been done in a while (or ever), they can inspect the flashings around vents, chimneys, roof valleys, and other roof protrusions like dormer windows or a sun roof.

A gutter contractor can also clean off the roof, which is a good place to start when getting your gutters cleaned.

Some gutter contractors will clean the chimney and remove any accumulated debris.

The Gutter System

In addition to the regular things a gutter contractor does such as installing gutter systems, gutter cleaning, and doing repairs, gutter cleaning services also conduct detailed inspections for troubleshooting purposes. They will inspect the gutters for leaks, sagging gutter sections, and cracking (mostly applicable to vinyl gutters), and then make any necessary repairs.

After cleaning the gutters, a gutter pro might make some suggestions as to how the downspouts might function more efficiently. Suggested changes could include:

  • adding downspout extenders to carry rainwater further away from the foundation
  • removing or repairing a damaged section of downpipe
  • adding more downspouts to the gutter system
  • upgrading from a 2 x 3 inch downpipe to a 3 x 4 inch downspout

Power Washing

While we here at MHC Gutters advise homeowners not to use a power washer on their gutters, siding, windows, etc., you can trust professional contractors to safely pressure wash the outside of your house.

If the driveway, steps, and sidewalks look dusty, grimy and dingy, spruce up the exterior of your home now by giving them a thorough cleaning.

Ditto the windows and shutters. Cleaning off exterior windows is especially important this time of year – you want to let as much light inside as possible before it gets dark earlier.

Improved Drainage

When surface rainwater collects in large pools on the lawn or near your foundation, it could be a sign that you are experiencing drainage problems. Gutter cleaning pros might also know how to install a French drain or some other type of drainage bed that moves runoff water away from the house and redirects it to avoid pooling.