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

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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.

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.

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

Gutters and Downspouts – Making them Work Well Together

A gutter system is designed to collect rainwater from the roof and channel it to the downspouts, where they direct water away from the foundation. But it’s not just about functionality: to improve your home’s exterior, gutter and downspout profiles should complement each other. Whether you’re having a new gutter system installed or plan to improve the functionality of your current gutters, understanding how they work together will help you choose what’s best for your home.

Corresponding Sizes

For 5-inch gutters, the typical corresponding downspout size is 2×3 inch rectangle or 3” round. Larger residences that use 6” inch gutters have 3×4” downpipes (rectangular) or round 4-inch downspouts.

Because of architectural design, roof configuration, climate, microclimate, or a combination of these factors, every house is unique. Standard gutter system guidelines can be adapted to accommodate specific situations. For example, a homeowner might install standard 5” gutters on an average sized home but need one 3×4” downpipe since there is no room for two downspouts.

Location, Location, Location

For gutters and downpipes to work optimally in conjunction with one another, the location of the downspout is especially important. Aesthetically speaking, downspouts should be placed discretely, out of eye-line, such as at the corners, on the side of the structure or at the back.

Functional considerations of downspout placement include enough space for the downpipe to deposit water safely away from the foundation; not too close to a neighbour’s property line; and sufficiently sloped downward from the house to avoid washing away soil.

Number of Downpipes

The general guideline is one downspout for every 35 feet to 40 feet of gutter. It also depends on the size of the roof – the larger the surface area, the more water enters the gutter system. A roof configuration that includes multiple levels might need a gutter system with more than the recommended number of downpipes per linear feet of guttering.

Connecting Gutters to Downspouts

In order for water to flow properly from the gutter channel and into the downspout, two key parts, the gutter outlet and a downspout elbow, are required.

The gutter outlet connects the downspout to the system. Whatever its shape, the outlet should correspond in size to the downspout being installed. A 3-inch round gutter outlet can be used on a 2×3” (rectangle) downpipe.

The downspout elbow, (where it joins to the outlet), dictates the direction of the downpipe, either directly onto the wall or away from it. The type of elbow selected for the downspout should be compatible with the gutter outlet.

Gutters Dos and Don’ts

Properly cared for, gutters manage rainwater, provide protection from water damage, and improve the overall appearance of your home’s exterior. Knowing basic gutters dos and don’ts can help you get the most out of your gutter system.

What to Do

Clean the gutters to keep them free from debris that can buildup and then form clogs in the gutter channels and/or downspouts.

Regularly maintain your gutters. Do repairs as needed or hire a contractor to do them for you. Putting off repairs can compromise the gutter system.

Incorporate some type of rain harvesting. Rain barrels, for example, store runoff from the downspouts; instead of just draining away, the collected rainwater can be used for non-potable applications.

If you inherited your gutter system or you are getting new gutters installed, ensure that the downpipe deposits water at least five feet from your home. Also check to see if you need more than one – a general guideline is one downspout for every 40 feet of gutter.

Do you have multiple roofs (one over the garage, a part of the second floor or porch)? Confirm if they have gutters; if they don’t, gutters should be installed along the edge of each roofline. Instead of downpipes depositing water onto a lower roof, redirect the flow into a lower gutter.

What to Avoid

Don’t fall for the leaf protection myth. Yes, gutter guards are a good thing, and most kinds do an adequate job of keeping debris from entering a gutter system. But you will still have to clean the gutters every so often and inspect them for other kinds of damage.

While it might be tempting as a reason to save money, DIY or host a barbecue to celebrate a job well done, installing your own gutters often isn’t as “easy” as it looks. Factors such as injury, incorrect calculations and improper slope can lead to complications that might end up costing you more than hiring a professional contractor right from the start.

Choose medium to high end materials. Cheaper isn’t always better. Plastic gutters will look good for a few years before they have to be replaced, but an aluminum gutter system will last for as long as you own your home.