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

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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.

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

Other Reasons to Call a Gutter Contractor

You’re in the habit of waiting until the gutters “really” need cleaning. Or you’ve noticed a couple of sagging gutter sections at the front of the house, but don’t think it’s worth calling a professional just yet. Waiting until a gutter emergency occurs can be expensive and might do real damage to your home’s exterior. Here are some sound reasons to call a gutter contractor before your gutters reach crisis mode.

Longevity

Repairing minor damage such as rust spots, loose brackets or leaking seams stops the problem from becoming worse. Leaking seams eventually lead to rusting, an indication of metal deterioration. The weight of water running through a system with loose nails or brackets puts extra stress on both the gutters and fascia.

Regular cleaning reduces the chance of clogs forming in the gutter channel, around the gutter outlet or in the downspouts. Whether it’s doing repairs right away or hiring a gutter cleaning service, regular maintenance will help extend the life of the gutters.

New Home

Even when the roofing system received a passing grade as part of the home inspection prior to the purchase of your new home, call a gutter contractor after living in the house for at least 18 months. Ask them to check:

  • the gutter slope
  • if more downpipes are needed
  • that the downspouts of a multi-level roof are draining directly into the gutters below and not onto the roof itself
  • if a drip edge needs to be added (applicable to homes 15 years and older)

Relocating Downspouts

Does the downspout snake inelegantly around your backyard deck? Do all the downpipes on the house manage to cross paved areas including the driveway? Ensuring that downspouts are being properly diverted will protect your home from potential foundation damage. Get advice and help from a gutter installation company on where the downspouts should be relocated or if downspout extenders or splash blocks are required.

Improve Downspout Efficiency

Call a gutter contractor to improve downspout efficiency when downpipes are:

  • situated too close to the house
  • draining into the neighbour’s yard
  • can’t seem to handle current water volume
  • keep clogging for no obvious reason

Should You Remove Gutter Guards?

Leaf screens, gutter guards or other types of gutter protectors are designed to filter rainwater, keep debris out of the gutter channel, and to reduce the amount of time spent in maintaining the gutters. In most cases, leaf screens or gutter guards are a useful tool in preserving a home’s exterior. However, there are reasons gutter guards can outlive their usefulness. When this happens, often the best solution is to remove the system if it’s doing more harm than good.

Installed Incorrectly

It doesn’t matter what it is made of, how much it cost, or how many good reviews it received, if it was installed incorrectly, it’s probably not doing the job it was intended for. Improper installation of gutter guards, specifically a closed leaf protection or an all-in-one gutter system, can lead to overflowing gutters, unwelcome nesters or mold/mildew/algae growth. A gutter professional will be able to advise whether the system can be repaired or if it’s in the best interest of the homeowner to have it removed.

Wrong Type of Leaf Protection

While there are many variations, gutter guards fall into three general categories – screens, inserts (typically foam) and covers. Any type of leaf protection should be compatible with your gutters, local climatic conditions, and roofing system. The material the leaf guard is made of should be able to withstand the elements. Signs that the wrong type of leaf protection has been installed for you and your home include:

  • gutters pulling away from the fascia because the gutter guard system is too heavy
  • having to constantly replace pieces or sections
  • not functioning as per the manufacturer’s documentation
  • becoming worn before life expectancy

Less Help, More Trouble

Leaf guards should improve the functionality of your existing gutters. If you end up troubleshooting the leaf guard system more often than not, perhaps it’s time to admit that it’s no longer efficient or cost-effective. Also, conditions, including microclimate (i.e. fewer trees, a new structure built near your property) might have changed since the gutter guard was installed. When it’s more trouble than it’s worth or if it no longer seems beneficial, consider removing the leaf guard system.

What to Look for When Inspecting a Roof

Inspecting the roof of your home before you clean the gutters will give you a better idea of how well it survived winter and if it’s in need of repairs, minor or otherwise. It can be done from the ground with binoculars or from a ladder – it’s always advisable to avoid walking on the roof itself. Here are some tips about what to look for when inspecting your roof this spring.

Appearance

Over time, environmental and climatic conditions such as wind erosion, pollution, heavy rains and the effect of UV rays can age a roofing system. Different roofing materials display different signs of aging.

Shingles: Ensure there are no raised nail heads; discoloration from algae, moss or lichens; and/or “bald” spots from washed away granules. Roofing shingles shouldn’t be cracked or curling at the edges.
Metal: Signs a metal roof has been compromised include warping, buckling, loose screws and worn caulking.
Tile: Make sure none of the tiles are chipped, broken or cracked. Look for algae, moss or mold that can harm the underlayment (layer of material between the tile and the roof).

Condition

No matter what the roof is made, it should be in good shape: no sagging, loose and missing tiles or shingles, or noticeable gaps in between each tile. Especially if trees grow nearby, check for pests using your roof as a highway and for other signs of animal damage. Flashings, the material around pipes, vents or other protrusions, should fit properly, be anchored correctly and show no signs of damage.

Fascia Board

Fascia is exterior trim covering parts of the roof such as the ends of the rafters that would otherwise be exposed. When fascia boards are rotted, the most probable cause is water damage; if split or warped, they’ve been exposed to too much sun or other causes of weathering. While not all gutter systems are attached to the fascia, it still has to be “healthy” enough to protect your roof.

Gutters

Gutters, an integral part of a roofing system, must be fully functional in order to prevent water damage. Outside the gutters, examine them for discoloration, surface damage like peeling or scratches, and sagging. Inside the gutters, check for clogs, nests and large deposits of roof granules.

Top 5 Reasons to Maintain Your Gutters

Ideally, gutters and downpipes should be inspected twice a year, once in spring before the season “officially” begins, and once in fall, after the leaves have fallen. You can time the inspections with the task of cleaning the gutters. It’s not just that they need to be cleaned: a careful and detailed examination your gutter system will alert you to other problem areas needing immediate attention.

1.  Overflowing

Taking the time to maintain your gutters and downpipes can significantly extend the life of your gutters. It can also save you a lot of time and money in repair costs – when rain gutters overflow, other things can get broken.

2.  Blockages

Debris build-up can act like a miniature dam in a gutter system, preventing the water entirely exiting the gutter channel like it’s supposed to.

3.  Weight

Water and gunk inside the channel weigh down the gutters, putting undue pressure and strain on the fascia and eaves (the roof edge). Damaged eaves compromise the roof’s effectiveness in protecting your home.

4.  Shortened Life Span

Water that doesn’t drain properly from the gutter system can lead to rapid corrosion if the gutters are made of metal. Debris build-up and pooling water also shorten the life span of vinyl or PVC gutters.

5.  Pests

Gutters filled with bits of leaves, twigs and needles can look very inviting to wild life like wasps, bees, birds and squirrels, especially at the corners of the roof. Once the nest builders moves in, they can find ways to burrow into the walls, damaging heating, plumbing or electrical systems.

Evaluating Your Roof

You know it’s not going to last forever, but how do you know when it’s time to have your roof replaced? The average lifespan of a roof is 20 years. A quick roof assessment you do yourself or a more detailed roof evaluation by a roofing contractor will give you an idea whether or not it needs replacing now or later.

Factors that might help age the roof of your home faster are:

  • lots of sun – roofs on southern exposures tend to experience more wear and tear
  • climatic conditions (wind, hail, pollution)
  • effects of microclimate (lots of trees growing around the house; east side is exposed to more downdraft)
  • size and configuration – shallow pitches weather faster; multiple valleys can attract birds and animals

When determining the condition of your roof, look for:

  • overall appearance – the roof should not sag, appear “tired,” or be faded
  • loose or missing roof tiles
  • roofing shingles that are cracked, curled at the edges, or shrinking
  • rusted or loose nails
  • more pronounced gaps between the roofing tiles
  • leakage – stained roofing tiles, moss growth, etc. can be indicators that the roof is being compromised by moisture
  • exposed roofing felt or damaged membrane

Every roof wears differently and areas of an individual roof typically age at different rates. However, there are specific signs you can look for. A preliminary roof evaluation can be done from the ground with a pair of binoculars. If you want to get up close and personal, make sure you use the ladder safely and plan on inspecting the roof when it’s dry.

How to Tell if Good Fascia is going Bad

Since vinyl and aluminum fascia rarely need replacing, this discussion deals mainly with wood fascia and how rot can compromise its ability to protect your home. Fascia boards cover the roof ends, keeping the elements from entering and resulting in damage to the roof. While it doesn’t have to be done annually, get into the habit of examining the fascia every 24 to 30 months. Another option is to check the fascias at the same time you clean the gutters.

Signs

Signs that rot might be setting in are:

  • peeling paint
  • stains and/or streaks
  • sagging gutter sections

Be aware that, unfortunately, by the time visual signs have appeared, material degradation has most likely already begun.

Simple Test

To check for rot and the extent of deterioration, follow these simple steps:

  • place the ladder where two fascia boards join at an angle and then work your way around the roof
  • with a screwdriver or another type of sharp tool, poke the surface of the fascia – if the surface “gives,”  feels soft or flakes the wood, rot has set in
  • decayed wood crumbles easily – if you can loosen or break off pieces of wood with your hand, this could be a sign that the rotting is advanced

Solutions

Replace damaged areas with new fascias.

Replace damaged wood fascia with vinyl fascia or aluminum fascia panels. Vinyl and aluminum fascias typically do not have to be replaced unless they have been physically damaged.

Consider replacing all the fascia on the side affected; not just the rotted boards. This will help increase the roof’s ability to protect your home.

Find the source of the leak; start with the usual suspect, the gutters. Rot is almost always the result of moisture getting in or behind the wood fascia.

Soffits and Your Home

While often overlooked, soffits are an important element of your home exterior. A roof typically extends several inches past the walls of a house: soffits cover the gap between the roofline and the walls. Properly installed soffits play an important role in the longevity of your roof and act as a secondary line of defense for protecting siding and interior walls when gutters leak or overflow. Knowing what kinds of soffit are available can help you choose the ones that will complement your home.

Wood Soffit

Wood soffit provides a classic look to exterior finishing. Whether they are made from real wood, engineered wood or composite wood products, they do require diligent maintenance to prevent them from deterioration, weathering and rot. Wood soffits are generally the most expensive kind. However, well-maintained wood soffits look great and can last a long time.

Vinyl Soffit

Vinyl soffit, including other kinds of plastics, is probably the most common because it is the least expensive and needs little or no upkeep. While vinyl and UPVC soffits don’t possess the longevity of other soffit materials, they can last up to 20 years depending on climatic conditions before they need replacing. Vinyl soffits have the added benefit of resisting weather elements since they are not prone to rot and other molds.

Aluminum Soffit

Aluminum soffit is extremely attractive and very durable. It is very effective at repelling moisture that can build up and eventually lead to rot. Aluminum soffits are popular with homeowners who don’t want to deal with pealing paint issues or rapid deterioration. They also provide a home’s exterior with a crisp, modern appearance.

Most types of soffits are available in a wide range of colors that can be matched to the roof and/or trim of your home. A professional exterior finishing company hired to install standard soffit can also advise you on whether or not you will require vented soffit, as well.

How to Save Money on Gutters

Especially in today’s economy, we’re always looking for ways we can save money. But home repairs and home improvement projects can be costly. Whether you need to buy new or you already have gutters, use these suggestions to help save you money.

If You Need New Gutters

Do some research. Knowing in advance what kind of gutter material will suit your home might give you a better idea how to budget for your home improvement project.

Decide if you will do-it-yourself (DIY) or if you will hire an exterior finishing company or gutters contractor to install the new gutters for you.

If you go the DIY route, shop around. Vinyl gutters are generally the least expensive; aluminum gutters are cost-effective; while copper and galvanized steel gutters are high-end.

Many home improvement stores offer different types of gutter installation kits in a variety of price ranges – make sure the one you select has everything you will need, while allowing you to stay within your budget.

Whether you hire a gutter professional or install them yourself, choose a gutter material that is both cost-effective and requires minimal upkeep.

When hiring an exterior finishing company to install your new gutters, get at least three estimates from three different companies.

Before signing a contact, read the document carefully – if you’re not sure exactly what is included, don’t be afraid to ask. You don’t want to have to deal with hidden costs or additional fees.

If You Already Have Gutters

Clean your gutters regularly to keep them free from debris that can build up and clog the gutters, eventually causing them to overflow. Hiring someone sounds like you will spend more money than you’ll save. But it could spare you the expense of costly repairs or having to replace the gutters.

Get into the habit of visually inspecting your gutter system. Don’t forget to include the downspouts. Sagging gutter sections or downpipes that are no longer flush against the wall are often signs nails, fasteners or brackets have become loose. Do minor repairs in a timely manner to keep them from becoming worse.

Install some kind of gutter guard or leaf screen to cut down the amount of debris that enters the gutter system.