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

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How Healthy are Your Gutters?

You know you should maintain your gutter system to prevent any potential problems. But even if you do clean the gutters regularly, there are a number of factors that can impact their functionality and durability. How healthy are your gutters? Take MHC Gutters’ fun informal quiz to find out.

1. How old are your gutters?

a) 5 years or younger (5 points)
b) 5 to 15 years (4 points)
c) 15 to 20 years (3 points)
d) 20 years plus (2 points)

2. What kind of material is your gutter system made of?

a) Aluminum (5 points)
b) Copper (5 points)
c) Other metals (4 points)
d) Vinyl (2 points)

3. Do trees grow close to the gutters?

a) No, there are no trees growing near the house (5 points)
b) Yes, within 10 to 15 meters (33 to 49 feet) (4 points)
c) Yes, within 5 to 10 meters (16.5 to 33 feet) (3 points)
d) Yes, within 5 meters (16.5 feet) (2 points)

4. How often do you clean the gutters or have them cleaned?

a) Twice or more a year (5 points)
b) Once a year (4 points)
c) Once every 18 months (3 points)
d) Can’t remember the last time or don’t know (0 points)

5. Does the exterior of your home show any signs of the following?

a) Tiger stripes or streaking (3 points)
b) Insect infestations (2 points)
c) Mold, mildew and/or decay (1 point)
d) Shifting foundation or bald patches in earth around basement (0 points)

6. Select the answer that is most applicable to your gutters.

a) If the gutter system is seamless and includes gutter guards (5 points)
b) If the gutter system is seamless (4 points)
c) If the gutter system is made of metal and includes some type of leaf protection (3 points)
d) If the gutters are sectional and made of metal (2 points)

How did your gutters do?

The higher the score, the healthier your gutters are; the lower the score, they need some TLC! Healthy gutters protect your home, reduce home maintenance costs, and save landscaping from soil erosion.

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

Gutters and Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is the impression your property gives a passerby from the street. While most homeowners wouldn’t consider gutters a focal point, they are noticeable whether by design or accident. Here are some ways gutters can improve a home’s exterior and increase curb appeal.

Appearance

Plan on keeping the gutter system as new looking as possible. Tiger striping or algae/moss/mildew growth detracts from the overall appearance of the gutters. Moss in the gutter channel retains water, weighing the gutter system down. Dented downspouts often encourage debris build-up.

If the gutters are 10 or more years old, consider replacing them at the same time you’re getting a new roof or having the house painted. Exterior finishing upgrades can emphasize flaws and signs of aging in your current gutter system, reducing curb appeal and defeating the purpose of the home improvements.

For that added level of curb appeal, when buying new gutters, choose a colour to complement existing architectural elements like the roof, entry door or window trim.

Gutter Material

Seamless gutters can give a home exterior a streamlined sleekness. They have fewer seams than sectional gutters, so lines tend to appear smoother and uninterrupted.

Copper gutters standout because of their timeless appearance. A copper gutter system is enhanced by the patina it develops over a period of time, the color ranging from grey-green to silver to green to blue-green.

As a gutter material, galvanized steel is a good choice for boosting curb appeal. It is durable, won’t rust and has a long-lasting shine.

Shape

The gutter profile or shape defines the gutter system, giving it character and uniqueness. A custom gutter profile is either designed specifically for your home or is offered as a limited product line by a specific manufacturer.

But you don’t need to invest in a custom gutter profile in order to make your home’s exterior more attractive. Standard profiles including K-style, crown mould, and half-round can be just as effective in increasing curb appeal when selected in a bold colour or eye-catching gutter material.

Being Invisible

For some homeowners, curb appeal would be greatly improved if they didn’t have to have gutters at all. Built-in gutters would be the next best thing. This type of gutter system can’t be seen from the street. Instead of being attached to the fascia, built-in or hidden gutters are integrated into the roof’s structure.

Should You Repair or Replace Gutters?

When something is wrong with the gutters, a common reaction is to fix the problem. But if you don’t know their history or when they were installed, how do you know if the gutters should be replaced rather than repaired? The deciding factor is the extent to which the gutters are damaged.

Age isn’t the Only Factor

Aluminum gutters and seamless aluminum gutters can last 25 to 30 years. Vinyl gutters, when well-maintained, have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. However, other factors come into play, such as the amount of annual rainfall a gutter system handles and daily environmental conditions. Just because gutters are “old” doesn’t automatically mean they can’t be repaired.

Common Gutter Problems

The three common gutter problems that impact the decision to repair or to replace a gutter system are: sagging gutter sections, leaks and poor pitch.

Sagging gutters: Gutters sag for a number of reasons including heavy rainfall and large amounts of debris adding weight to gutter sections. Gutters pulling away from the fascia compromise the whole gutter system.

Leaks: If seams become worn due to normal expansion and contraction, gaps between joints can appear, letting water escape. When leaking gutters are made of metal, rusting can occur. Rust eats away the gutter material; more than 5 to 10 rust spots might be an indication that the gutters are deteriorating past the point where patching is a cost-effective solution.

Poor pitch: Gutters should gradually slope downward to facilitate guiding rainwater toward the downspouts. Poor pitch is typically caused by improper calculations or misalignment. Calculating the correct pitch and then re-sloping the gutter system should fix the problem. However, if the gutters have become unaligned on their own, it could be an indication of a structural issue occurring somewhere else.

How Much Damage?

When deciding whether you should replace your gutters or repair them the best gauge is the degree of damage. If you are constantly re-sealing seams to stop leaks; or when readjusting the hangers doesn’t fix the standing water problem (poor pitch); or continually cleaning out the gutters makes no difference to the amount of strain put on nails and fasteners (sagging), then perhaps it’s time to consider replacing your gutters.

Leaking Gutter Corners

Homeowners examine gutter seams for wear and tear, but forget about the corners. It’s especially important for those who have seamless aluminum gutters to check the corners, since this is the only place where leaks will occur. Here are some signs that gutter corners have sprung a leak.

To see whether or not a gutter corner is leaking, look at it typically one to two hours after a consistent shower or heavy rainfall. This will help you differentiate between water escaping as a result of compromised caulking and rainwater running down the sides of the gutters. If the corner needs resealing, you will find water dripping from the underside of that particular corner.

When it’s not raining, look for these other signs that the gutter corners are leaking. These include:

  • mold, moss or mildew growing on the outside
  • pooling water and/or obvious soil erosion on the ground directly beneath
  • discoloured fascia board behind the corner
  • rotting soffit around the immediate area
  • paint peeling off the fascia and/or soffits

If the dripping corner isn’t causing problems such as creating a sink hole or a slipping hazard, it’s really not that big a deal, right? Bottom line, leaking gutters don’t work properly. Unchannelled rain water goes places you don’t want it to, like behind fascia boards and soffit panels. Corners that leak need to be fixed. Fresh caulking or sealant has to be applied to the inside of the gutter channel. When recaulking is not possible, the sections of gutter where they are joined together will have to be replaced.

Advantages of Seamless Gutters

Seamless aluminum gutters are gaining in popularity with home owners and construction professionals alike because they look good and are easy to care for. As the name implies, they have no seams since they are fabricated from a continuous piece of metal. If you are in the market for a new gutter system, there are distinct advantages to investing in seamless gutters.

Less leaks: A conventional gutter system is comprised of sections that are joined together. These joints become susceptible to leaks as the sealant joining the sections together ages. Seamless gutters only have seams at inside and outside corners, eliminating the number of potential leaks gutters can develop.

Increased esthetics: Fewer seams translate into increased esthetics. When looking at seamless gutters, all the eye sees are smooth lines; a view not interrupted by vertical seams.

Custom installation:  Seamless gutters are formed on site to the exact measurements of your home from a coil of metal that’s fed into a seamless gutter machine. Seamless gutters are typically made of aluminum, but can be fabricated from steel or copper. Whatever kind of metal is used, the colour or finish is part of the metal coil stock, which means it is more durable and won’t need painting.

Low maintenance:  Seamless gutters are low maintenance for a number of reasons. Because the color is a baked-on enamel finish, seamless gutters never need painting. Fewer seams mean fewer leaks to repair. Fewer seams also mean a seamless gutter system is stronger and less vulnerable to the effects of time.

Professional Installation: Since seamless gutters must be installed by professionals, most types of seamless gutter installations can be completed in one day.

Types of Gutters

Gutters come in all shapes and sizes. The appearance of a gutter is referred to as a gutter profile. The three main types of gutters used today are open gutters, hidden gutters and seamless gutters.

Gutter Profiles

Common gutter profiles include:

  • colonial gutter – wide channel; blends with a variety of architectural styles
  • crown mould fascia gutter – narrower channel; curves outward; classic lines
  • 2-step fascia gutter – narrower channel; straight lines
  • flat face fascia gutter – narrower channel; simple lines; minimal detail

Open Gutter

The most common type of gutter is the open gutter, characterized by two sides forming a channel and open at the top. They are available in sections and are attached to the fascia. Certain types of open gutters act as a replacement where fascia boards have not been installed. Open gutter systems for residential applications typically are 5” accompanied by 2 x 3 inch downspouts. For larger homes needing to handle more water, a 6” inch gutter with a 3 x 4 inch downpipe would be used.

Seamless Gutters

A kind of open gutter, seamless gutters eliminate the number of seams (which can potentially leak). Seams appear only where sections meet at the corners and where downspouts are attached. Instead of sections joined together, they are roll-formed from one piece of metal. To achieve that smooth, continuous look this type of guttering is known for, seamless gutters are installed by professional contractors with proper fabricating tools.

Hidden Gutters

Hidden gutters, also known as built-in gutters are appealing from an architectural standpoint because they can’t be seen. Instead of being attached to the exterior of a home, they are incorporated into the structure of the roof. Box gutters, often used for commercial applications because they handle large amounts of water, are also hidden from view, constructed as a roof component.

Warning Signs Gutters are Heading for Trouble

Even when you clean your gutters regularly, you should still inspect them from time to time in between scheduled maintenance. If you’re aware of the warning signs your gutters are heading for trouble, it might save you from a costly fix or two.

Look for Stains

Rust stains are an indicator that water has been hanging around instead of exiting the gutter system. Oxidation occurs when metal, water and air all get together for a little chat. It takes time for rust spots to develop. If you see rust stains or streaks, the probable cause is a blockage or clog (that’s been there for some time), preventing water from draining quickly.

Tiger striping or black streaks appear on the exterior surfaces when water spills over the edge of the gutter. Streaks of dirt might be a sign of clogs blocking proper water flow.

While the outside of gutters can be stained by water overflowing the gutter channel, water can also spill over the inside edge. When this occurs, water stains typically appear on the bottom sides of the eaves. If left unattended, the affected areas of soffit and fascia can become water damaged, making them susceptible to mold or rot.

Look for What’s There

Mold appearing on the outside of your gutters, or on the exterior or interior walls of you home, is a big indicator that rainwater isn’t being channeled the way it’s supposed to.

Sagging gutters could be a sign of too much weight. Water that’s not being properly drained from the gutters stands still, causing gutter sections to pull away from the fascia.

Look for What’s NOT There

Water exiting a gutter system shouldn’t create a small lake beneath your downspout. However, the ground should be damp for a while after a good rainfall and show small indications of soil erosion (earth being moved around by water). If the ground is dry around the bottom of a downpipe or the soil looks undisturbed, it could indicate that water is escaping and being deposited somewhere else.

DIY Gutter Installation Pros and Cons

Whether you’re a homeowner who is a skilled handyman or you have a friend who promises to help you with your gutter installation, doing it yourself can save you the cost of hiring a contractor. However, no matter how confident you feel or how prepared you are, the unexpected might happen, leaving you with mixed results. Take the following pros and cons into consideration before attempting to install your own gutters.

DIY Gutter Installation Pros

You’ll save money on materials and per-hour labour costs.

You will have more options. You can browse in a home improvement or hardware outlet until you find the gutters material, parts, accessories and exact color you want. Since a professional contractor’s supplier list is more limited than big box stores, often you’ll have access to a wider-range of products, at reasonable prices.

No special equipment is needed.

You dictate when and how the installation will be done.

DIY Gutter Installation Cons

It can be dangerous. Safety issues include: falling off the ladder; overreaching/overbalancing; and improper lifting and bending leading to strained muscles and/or bruising.

A gutter installation requires some detailed mathematics. You will need to calculate: how many lineal feet of gutters you will need; the proper pitch; and the number of downspouts. It can get complicated, depending on the configuration of the roof and how big the house is.

There are no warranties. When a professional exterior finishing company does the installation, typically products and services are guaranteed, as stipulated in the contract both you and the contractor will sign before the work begins.

You are on your own. It will be your responsibility to apply for any required permits or to recycle old materials and haul them away. You will also be liable for any injuries you or any of your helpers incur.