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How Neglected Gutters Harm Your Home

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

Fascia and Soffit

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

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

Algae, Moss, Mold, Mildew

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

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

Effects of Standing Water

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

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

When 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.

Damaged Gutters and What You can do about Them

Gutters are designed to withstand the elements, protect your home and be strong and durable. But as they age, they become vulnerable. Fortunately, the signs are easy to identify. If your gutter system is damaged, here is what you can do to prevent the situation from becoming worse.

Signs of Damaged Gutters

Damage to gutters occurs in a variety of ways. It can be as simple as leaning a ladder against aluminum gutters or as complicated as a tree crashing onto the roof during a storm. Common signs of damaged gutters are:

  • sagging
  • warping
  • dents
  • rusting
  • separation of seams
  • fading gutter colour
  • water stains

When Gutters are Damaged

If the gutter system hasn’t been cleaned in a while leaves, twigs and other bits of debris build up inside the gutter channel. As the gutters become weighed down they can sag and warp. If the gutter sections are held in place by brackets, these might pull away from the fascia, allowing the gutters to sag even more.

Dents “cave” inward, reducing the amount of water flowing through that section of the system. The more pronounced the dent the more likely debris will snag creating clogs.

Fading gutter colour isn’t just about appearance. The colour of metal gutters, including aluminum gutters, is baked on. Fading indicates the finish has been compromised or weakened, allowing further damage to occur.

Rusting and the separation of seams are typical signs of a deteriorating gutter system.

Water stains on siding, soffit, and fascia might indicate overflowing gutters. If left unchecked, overflowing can cause soffit and/or fascia to rot. It can also be responsible for the appearance of mold or mildew on your home’s exterior.

Taking Action

When deciding on what course of action to take, first assess how severe the damage is. A small dent or a handful of pinholes due to rust can be repaired. On the other hand, if you’ve had to reseal leaking or separated seams five times in one season, it’s probably time to replace the gutter system. Any damage such as sagging, dents, or the separation of seams that obstructs the gutters’ ability to efficiently move water to the downspouts should be fixed as soon as possible.

Sagging, warping and water stains can be fixed by:

  • thoroughly cleaning the gutter system
  • reattaching or replacing loose nails or fasteners
  • checking the gutter slope and readjusting if required

Sections affected by dents and fading gutter colour can be replaced. Where there are too many dents or the colour has faded in three or more areas, consider replacing all of the gutters

Faux Copper Gutters

Copper gutters have a distinctive curb appeal that puts them in a category all their own. If you’ve always admired the appearance of a copper gutter system, but it’s just not in your budget, here are some alternatives to achieving the look you want at half the cost.

Spray Paint

Using spray paint to create faux copper gutters is one way to get a real copper look. When choosing a type of spray paint, consider the end result. A copper metallic spray paint contains metal pigments that will oxidize (the colour becomes darker over time). There are non-metallic copper spray paint colours available. While they mimic the different shades of copper’s patina aging process, they stay the same colour as when first applied.

Before applying spray paint to aluminum gutters, consider the following:

  • As with any painting project, you’ll need the appropriate primer.
  • Results can be inconsistent due to how long the nozzle is depressed, variations in thickness, the slightest movement of air when applying the paint, etc.
  • There will be overspray (no matter how well you tape off the area).
  • Depending on where you live, it could flake off sooner than later.

Liquid Paint

Another paint option is a can of liquid paint. It goes on truer to colour and any leftover paint can be used for touch ups. As with spray paint, liquid paint for copper-looking gutters is available with or without copper particles. Copper-containing paint will gradually turn into a blue-green patina. But you can speed up the process by applying a patina medium or aging solution.

It’s Already Painted

Some manufacturers of sectional steel and aluminum gutters offer products designed to imitate copper gutters. The gutter colour is typically baked on during the manufacturing process. Faux copper gutter finishes range from new copper (very shiny) to darkening copper (shades of brown) to patinated copper (blue-green or green-blue).

Tips for Buying Seamless Gutters

Seamless gutters are a popular choice with homeowners because they have a smooth appearance and are low maintenance. They are fabricated on site from a continuous length of metal, reducing the number of seams and places leaks can form. Use these tips to get the most out of your new seamless gutter system.

Gutter Installation Process

Take your time finding a good contractor that will reliably guide you through the gutter installation process from start to finish. When selecting a contractor, things to avoid include:

  • someone who appears to have their own agenda (pushing certain products, overselling, etc.)
  • a quote that’s too high
  • a quote that’s too low
  • not given a firm time frame for when the gutters will be installed

Get at least three estimates. A gutter installation company will make suggestions and give advice regarding the specific details of the seamless gutter system you want to buy. But before asking for an estimate, decide on the basics first, such as gutter width, profile, gutter material, and colour.

Materials

Seamless gutters, also known as continuous gutters, are manufactured from metals such as aluminum, copper, and steel. They come in different gauges or thicknesses. While higher gauges of metal are usually more expensive, they also tend to last longer and to be stronger than the same metal of a lower gauge.

Colour

Gutter systems made from copper or galvanized steel typically aren’t available in other colours (the gutter material is the colour). Seamless aluminum gutters are made from feeding flat aluminum on a coil into a gutter machine. A gutter installation company typically offers a range of colours that will complement your home’s exterior.

Cost

The cost of seamless gutters is generally based on how many linear feet of guttering needed. Other factors that help determine the total cost are:

  • type of gutter material used
  • gutter width – 6” gutters are more expensive than 5”
  • the number of storeys (height of your home)
  • if the roof has multiple levels
  • two or more downspouts

K-Style Gutters for Your Home

During the gutter-buying process, there are several factors a homeowner must consider in order to get the right gutter system for their home. The shape of the gutters or the gutter profile is one of those major decisions. For residential applications, K-style gutters are the most popular for several practical reasons.

Standardized Profiles

There is a differing opinion on why they are called K-style. Majority rule claims it’s because the shape loosely mimics the letter K; others in the industry state it reflects back to when gutter profiles slowly became standardized in the 1970s. A range of channeled gutters that could be formed on factory or portable (on site) gutter machines were designated with letters of the alphabet: “K” became the most popular. Who knows? Both could be true.

Characteristics

When viewing the gutter from the side, starting from the bottom, the outer edge consists of a short, straight line, followed by two curves (opposing), then followed by another short straight line to form the top or lip of the gutter.

A K-style gutter system typically channels more water than some other gutter profile systems, including half-round.

Because the shape is comprised of multiple bends, it makes the metal stronger and more resistant to damage by impact.

Versatility

K-style gutters, also known as OG (for Old Gothic) or ogee (meaning double curve), resemble the crown molding found on interior walls adjacent to the ceiling. While it might seem that a K-style gutter system would be better suited to traditional and heritage architectural style homes, just the opposite is true. In today’s market, where there are more material and colour choices, K-style gutters are able to complement a wide range of residential styles from Revival to Craftsman to Modern.

Choice of Materials

K-style gutters are available in a number of material choices, including aluminum, galvanized steel, and copper. K-style aluminum gutters are low maintenance, lightweight, and economical. A galvanized steel k-style gutters system is durable, strong and corrosion-resistant. Copper k-style gutters are long-lasting, beautiful to look at, and strong.

Advantages

Regardless of what type of metal is chosen for the gutter system, there are definite advantages to K-style gutters. These include:

  • channels more water per linear foot than other types of gutter profiles
  • since it’s the most popular gutter profile, the seamless option is readily available
  • versatile, classic shape that resembles crown moulding
  • possesses a flat back, which makes it easier to attach directly to fascia

Eco-Friendly Gutter Systems

Eco-friendly gutter systems are ones manufactured from sustainable recycled materials like aluminum, steel or copper. Popular perception of green living and environmentally friendly products is that they are more expensive and time-consuming. But actually, the opposite is true. Sustainable gutters generally have a longer lifespan.

Being Eco-Friendly

When talking about gutters systems, what does eco-friendly really mean? Aluminum gutters, copper gutters and steel gutters made from new or recycled metals are eco-friendly because new materials can be recycled and recycled materials can be recycled again. Earth-friendly gutters require fewer resources to maintain them.

Advantages of Eco-Friendly Gutters

Gutters are designed to channel water off the roof then away from the foundation of a building. While properly functioning gutters don’t hold water, they aren’t immune to the weight of rainwater and debris being channeled through them over time. Advantages of eco-friendly gutters include:

  • durability – can withstand changing weather conditions; resist corrosion and moisture
  • have a low carbon footprint – because metal gutters are durable and recyclable, materials are kept out of landfills longer
  • low maintenance – reducing the number of times a gutter system needs maintaining means less water and cleaning solutions are being used

Eco-Friendly Gutter Buying Tips

Metal gutter systems such as aluminum gutters or copper gutters might seem more expensive but are cost-effective in the long run due to their being strong, durable and low maintenance. When purchasing new gutters with greener options in mind consider the following:

  • invest in the highest grade of metal you can afford
  • even if you’re an avid do-it-yourselfer, hiring a reputable contractor will help ensure longevity and maximum functionality
  • seamless instead of sectional – sectional aluminum gutters, copper gutters and steel gutters have more seams (more places to develop leaks)

Existing Gutters

What if you don’t have any plans to buy new gutters? They are ways to make an existing gutter system more eco-friendly.

Leaf protection: Install gutter guards or some other type of leaf protection to decrease the amount of debris entering the gutters.

Cleaning solutions: Choose earth-friendly products when cleaning your home’s exterior.

Rain barrels: Add a rain barrel or tank to collect water that can be used to water (inedible) parts or your garden.

Maximizing downspouts: Consider using a downspout drainage pipe (check before digging) or a downspout extension that directs water from the gutter system to a landscaped area.

Decorating Your Home’s Exterior for Winter

As we head into the holiday season, a little curb appeal goes a long way. Garlands and twinkling white lights create a seasonal charm and warm welcome for your family, guests, and visitors. Whether you want to transform your property into a winter wonderland or hang just a few strings of lights from the roof, here are some tips for decorating your home’s exterior this winter.

Make a Plan

From a wide variety of lights to Christmas inflatables to winter-themed animatronics, retail, DIY and big box stores offer so many holiday decorating options. Your plan should include:

  • a budget
  • a power strategy – where outlets are located, how many extension cords you’ll need, etc.
  • how much energy you will be using to make it all work
  • method – high tech or low tech or a mix of both
  • area of focus

Decorate Smart

Use a ladder safely. Avoid leaning it directly against the gutters.

Show electricity the respect it deserves: don’t overload outlets/power bars; keep extension cords out of the gutters; use timers to help reduce the energy bill and prevent lights and other display elements from overheating.

Incorporate as many green options as possible.

Choose LED lights – they use less energy, don’t emit heat, and burn brighter than traditional bulbs.

No holes in gutters, roof or siding. Use non-evasive methods like all-purpose light clips and hooks when hanging lights and decorations.

Secure inflatables so that they won’t be blown around, tripped over, or walked into.

Limit the running time of sound effects and music. No matter how cute or festive, your neighbours will thank you.

In the Details

You don’t have to have the most lights or the biggest laughing Santa to make the outside of your home festive. Less is more when evergreen boughs line window sills and topped with pine cones or Christmas ball ornaments.

The front door is your home’s way of saying “hello.” Decorate it by hanging one wreath or two or three. Don’t forget to liven up the doorframe with some lights or garlands of greenery.

Place small or miniature fir trees in large containers by the front door – decorate with bows and lights. Use pots of ornamental cabbage plants, poinsettias, and winter-flowering heather to bring splashes of colour to dormant window boxes.

When Replacing Soffit and Fascia

Soffit and fascia are part of the roofing system, protecting your home from stormy weather. They can become damaged by environmental pollution, squirrel invasions, insects, and repeated exposure to heavy winds. When replacing soffit and fascia, here are some things to keep in mind.

Appearance

Loose soffit boards or fascia panels allow animals and birds to get in behind soffits and into the attic or crawlspace. While the elements are mostly responsible for soffit and fascia damage, visible gaps in soffit and fascia can also be attributed to being installed incorrectly. When having soffit and fascia replaced, ensure that the contractor uses quality materials and industry-standard installation methods.

New Materials

If your home is older, the soffit panels and fascia boards are most likely made of wood. Over time, they can become warped, split, or rotted. Today, popular materials for soffit and fascia are aluminum, vinyl, and fiber cement because they are more durable than wood, aren’t prone to rotting and insect infestations, and require less maintenance. Upgrading sooner rather than later will help better protect your home and increase its resale value.

Cover or Remove

One of the installation choices is to cover the old soffit and fascia with new vinyl, aluminum or fiber cement soffit panels and fascia boards. Before deciding upon this installation method, a thorough inspection of the existing soffit and fascia will have to be done. This will determine:

  • the presence of rot
  • how much rotting has occurred
  • whether soffit venting needs to be repositioned and/or increased
  • leaks and where they’re coming from

If no problems are found, then the old fascia and soffit can directly be covered with new panels.

Colour Choice

You might not be aware of the visual impact soffit boards and fascia panels have on your home’s exterior. While soffit and fascia are designed to keep water out, they are an exterior finishing detail (aesthetics). Take the opportunity to select a new colour. More curb appeal is never a bad thing.

Things You Need to Know Before Buying Gutters

Gutters are an important investment. They should look good, add value to your property, and last for as long as you own your home. But even before you decide on details like type of material, size, and shape, there are other things you should consider prior to purchasing a new gutter system.

Annual Rainfall

While it might seem like the Lower Mainland gets a lot of rain, it’s good to know the specifics. Before buying gutters, look up the annual rainfall for the past ten years. This will give you an indication of the consistency of the amount of rain per year that falls in your local area. In addition to the average annual rainfall for a particular time frame, a gutter contractor will also need to know the square footage of the roof. The size of the gutters and downspouts will be based on the volume of water the gutter system can be expected to handle.

Codes or Regulations

When having new gutters installed, you might be required to meet certain building codes, either municipal or provincial. If you live in a certain type of community or own a historic home, ensure all applicable regulations will be met.

Appearance

Give some thought to how you want the gutters to look: paying attention to visual impact improves curb appeal and increases property values. Factors governing the overall appearance of a gutter system include:

  • colour choice
  • certain combinations – for example, a large gutter size paired with an intricate gutter profile might have a negative effect on the home’s exterior
  • whether the gutter installation is seamless or sectional

Warranty

Is a warranty is included? The two main kinds of warranty applicable to a gutter installation are product and workmanship. When a manufacturer (product) offers different options, choose a lifetime warranty that is transferable to the new homeowner should you have to sell your house.