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

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Fall Curb Appeal

Crisp air, leaves changing colour, orange pumpkins, and bright yellow chrysanthemums – there is something very special about autumn. Adding seasonal touches to your home’s exterior is a simple way to update your curb appeal.

Decorate the Front Door

Transform the front door by hanging a garland of autumn leaves, trailing vines, or branches combined with small gourds. Pair the garland with a matching wreath.

Window Boxes

Another way to bring the spirit of fall to your front yard is to add window boxes. Fall flowers and seasonal grasses give color to the landscaping and lend charm to your home. When choosing the kind of window box, consider the type of material that will fit in with your home’s exterior. Wood boxes tend to add a rustic feel, while copper and iron window boxes provide a more traditional look.

Cleaning the Exterior

Clean the exterior of your home to remove accumulated grime, dirt, and particles before they etch glass panes and scratch siding. You don’t have to do it all at once. Spraying the siding with water first will give you a better idea if you need a soft bristle brush and a pail of soapy water. Spruce up the windows, doors, trim, and steps on another day.

Thoroughly clean the gutter system inside and out. Yes, it’s more important to get rid of the debris inside the gutter channel. But removing surface dirt from the gutter face helps preserve the finish.

Don’t forget to clean hardscape elements such as a pathway, driveway, wood deck or paved patio, especially if they are visible from the street.

Lawn TLC

Leave the leaves for the trees. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics. Once they have fallen and are left on the ground, they can do your lawn more harm than good. A lawn must be allowed to breathe. Layers of leaves block sunlight, oxygen, and water required for a healthy lawn. Trapped moisture in the soil can lead to fungi growth. Rake the lawn, seed bald patches and add fertilizer.

Those Finishing Touches

Flank planters on either side of the door and on the stairs leading up to the house.

Add edging – plants, stone, brickwork – to sidewalks and driveways. Use fall plants and/or flowering shrubs.

Create an autumn-themed display by repurposing a little red wagon, old wheelbarrow, or vintage wash tub.

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.

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.

Things You Should Know About Siding

Siding doesn’t just protect your home’s exterior; it also adds personality and creates curb appeal. It is one of the first things visitors and passersby notice. Whether you’re purchasing for the first time or you’re considering replacing existing cladding, here are some things you should know about siding.

The Purpose of Siding

Siding serves a number of purposes both aesthetic and functional. These include:

  • protection from the elements, anything from the sun beating down to driving rain to punishing winds
  • enhances the design of the structure
  • brings together all the aspects of the home’s exterior – visual harmony
  • expresses the character of your home while blending in with the community

Siding Material Variety

Vinyl siding is the number one siding choice in North America. Other popular siding materials are aluminum, wood, and fiber cement. But, according to sources, there are over 15 different types of siding available to the consumer. While aluminum is a typical siding material other metals such as steel are being used.

If you love the idea of cedar shingles but don’t want to commit to a high-maintenance material, there are fiber cement siding and vinyl siding finishes that imitate the look of real wood siding without the cost and upkeep. The same goes for real stone or brick – for almost every natural siding material there is a faux alternative. In today’s market, there are more options than ever, including an impressive range of colours to complement any residential style and design.

Siding and the Environment

Excluding wood siding, siding is generally low maintenance, being durable and requiring fewer resources to maintain.

Aluminum siding and steel siding are 100% recyclable.

Some manufacturers are environmentally conscious when manufacturing siding products, employing processes that do not consume too much energy and reduce the number of toxins released into the environment.

In the past, asbestos was commonly used in the construction industry because of its low cost and fireproofing properties. The manufacture of materials made of or containing asbestos such as siding, roofing, and insulation was banned in Canada in 1979. However, non-friable (cannot be reduced to powder) products containing asbestos continued to be used in the construction of homes well into the 1990s. If an older home with asbestos siding becomes damaged, it must be inspected, repaired, and/or removed according to strict guidelines by a licensed asbestos contractor. Canada is set to implement a complete asbestos ban by 2018.

While it is true that different types of siding better insulate your home than others, siding, in general, helps regulate heating and cooling cycles, reducing energy costs.

Labour Day Weekend Safety Tips

The plan for this last long weekend of summer is to relax and have fun. But taking a vacation from safety could mean a trip to the ER, and that’s no fun at all. Stay safe this Labour Day weekend with these practical safety tips.

Driving Anywhere

Just assume any road – highway, street, major route – is going to be busier than normal. Whether you’re driving to the grocery store or on your way to an Okanagan wine tour, take your time. If you’ll be driving long distance, have the car checked before you go; don’t forget the tires and the spare.

When on a road trip: be well rested, schedule stops, and have a backup driver if possible. Make sure to include an emergency kit for your car – it should contain a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, flares or reflectors, containers of motor oil and coolant, tool kit, a blanket, and non-perishable foods/bottled water.

Outdoor Chores

Some homeowners like to get a head start on fall maintenance chores. If you plan on cleaning out the gutters, washing siding or clearing off the roof, be careful. Examine power tools for frayed cords, damaged casings, and loose prongs.

When using a ladder to clean gutters, trim trees or painting, check the ladder first, then use it safely. Place it on a flat surface; when on the ladder, don’t overreach and hold on with both hands when climbing up or down.

Backyard Entertaining

Place the barbecue at least 10 feet away from siding, tree branches, and flammable materials. When using the grill, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and never leave it unattended. Keep children and pets at a safe distance.

Plan on keeping pets mostly indoors, limiting their time with guests to brief visits. While they can handle regular visitors to your home, a backyard full of partying people might spook your pets. It will also help reduce the temptation to feed them people food.

Practice safe food handling. Don’t leave dairy foods or foods containing milk, mayonnaise, etc. out in the open for more than an hour. Cover containers of food with lids, foil or plastic wrap when not in use. Label common foods that can cause allergic reactions such as fish, nuts, milk, etc.

Getting Your Home Ready for Labour Day Weekend

Labour Day long weekend typically marks the last big celebration of summer. If you plan to spend it in the backyard with family and friends, getting organized now ensures plenty of fun for everyone later. Get outside and enjoy your patio or deck, but first get your home ready for Labour Day with these simple tips.

Home Exterior

Cleaning your home’s exterior will add instant curb appeal. It’s surprising how much grime, environmental pollutants, and tree residue can build-up up on siding and dull the windows. Skip the commercial or lightweight pressure washer. Instead, use a garden hose with a pressure nozzle. Plain water should be enough to remove surface dirt. Use a soft bristle brush and soapy water for stains and marks that need some extra attention.

Wash the driveway, stairs, and sidewalks. As with the siding, start off with plain water and then spot clean stubborn stains.

Windows and Doors

Even if they aren’t all that dusty, smudged glass panes aren’t welcoming. Clean windows with a mild solution or an environmentally friendly glass cleaner.

A sparkling front door can change the appearance of your home’s exterior.

Check door frames and window trim for cracks, gaps, warping and peeling paint. Do any minor repairs now if you have the time, such as caulking and sanding.

Deck and Porch

Wash your deck and/or porch. Wipe down the outdoor furniture. Replace or remove worn cushions, damaged patio furniture, and anything else needs repair. Add some decorative touches such as a seasonal wreath on the front door, colourful plant pots on the steps, or hanging baskets.

Clean the light fixtures and replace any bulbs that are burned out or not energy-efficient.

Get the grill ready for the long weekend. If you have a pool or fire pit, make them kid friendly and safe.

Backyard Prep

Before family, friends, and guests arrive, mow the lawn; trim back overgrown shrubs and trees near where you will be entertaining; and weed flower beds, tidy up landscaped areas.

Divide your backyard into well-defined zones. Rearrange outdoor furniture to create conversation areas. Add side tables for guests to use; add larger tables for serving food and drinks. Have a place for kids to play.

Make sure the grill is safely positioned away from the flow of foot traffic. It should not be placed close to siding or underneath an overhang.

Why a Garage Needs Gutters

Installing gutters on a house make sense, but do you really need gutters on a detached garage? Whether the garage is built on a concrete slab or is supported by a full foundation, adding gutters to a garage’s roof does the same thing they do on your home – direct water safely away from the foundation.

Type of Garage

Backyard buildings, including garages, often serve a variety of purposes. When a garage is multi-purpose, it’s an even more compelling reason to install a gutter system. Today, many one-car and two-car garages include a combination of features such as garden tool storage, attached workshop, and loft storage. Properly channeling rainwater from the roof to the ground will protect not just your vehicle but your other possessions and projects kept inside the garage.

Location of Garage

Where the garage is located is a deciding factor when thinking about installing gutters on a detached garage. Without aluminum gutters or vinyl gutters, water pours off the roof from all sides. If the garage is close to your home, water from the garage roof could seep into the basement. The same applies to a garage without gutters that is near a patio, deck, fire pit or sidewalk.

Water Coming Down

Without gutters, when it rains, you might have to walk through a curtain of water when entering or leaving the garage. Depending on the fit and/or condition of the garage door, water not channeled through a gutter system might leak underneath the door and into the garage. This could especially be problematic if the roof slopes toward rather than away from the garage door.

Landscaping

If there are no gutters on a garage, the water exits directly onto the ground. Over time, this can seriously erode the soil around the building’s perimeter. You will be able to see it as a “trench” or deep depression. Soil erosion can make the concrete slab or garage foundation unstable and vulnerable to cracking, sinking or shifting.

Damage to Siding

Installing gutters on a garage prevents damage to siding. No matter what type of siding it is – wood siding, vinyl siding, cedar shingles – when water is allowed to go wherever it wants it can cause irreparable damage. Should moisture get in behind siding panels or cedar shingles, it can invite mold growth or insect infestation. Where siding is close to the ground, splash back can ruin its finish (discoloration, peeling, bubbling, etc.).

Simple Gutter System Maintenance Tips

Cleaning the gutters twice a year is only one element of a total gutter maintenance plan. Homeowners often overlook the other parts of a gutter system, particularly the downspouts. Make your gutters last longer and function better by using these simple gutter system maintenance tips throughout the year.

Gutters

The first part of a gutter system is the gutter, the horizontal section that is the initial point of contact for water coming off of the roof. Hangers are used to attach gutter section to a house. To ensure gutters are in good shape:

  • keep the gutter channel free of debris
  • wash the outside of the gutters to remove dirt, streaks, and organic growth such as algae or moss
  • check that the hangers are not worn or loose – for older gutter systems using spikes or nails, replace them if they’re loose or rusted
  • check the seams and joints for leaks
  • remove nests and other signs of pest/insect activity
  • trim back trees close to the house to reduce the amount of debris entering the gutter system and to prevent potential damage to aluminum gutters

Downpipes

The second major part of the gutter system is the downspout. If you have more than one, don’t forget to check all of them. Inspect the downspouts once every two months and look for:

  • dents – can restrict water flow
  • scratches – can promote corrosion
  • loose brackets – shifting causes misalignment
  • clogs – they typically form in one of three places; gutter outlet, middle, and elbow

Removing a clog from a downspout is sometimes more problematic than cleaning the gutters. If flushing water through the downpipe doesn’t dislodge the blockage, try using a plumber’s auger.

Drainage

Drainage is the third integral part of any gutter system. Once water enters the gutters and exits through the downpipes, it must be routed safely away from the house. Check for the following:

  • pooled water underneath the downspout – it might be a landscaping issue or a blockage inside the pipe
  • rust, flaking, and peeling paint are possible signs of leaks or other kinds of water damage
  • distance – water should be deposited a minimum of 7 feet from the foundation
  • if using a downspout extender or splash block, make sure it is positioned correctly and is in good condition

Tips for Cleaning Any Type of Siding

With summer heading toward fall, now is the time to do those seasonal home maintenance chores that will help your home survive the cooler, rainy weather ahead. When layers of dirt, sap, pollen, and dust accumulate, siding becomes dingy or stained, creating negative curb appeal. Take advantage of these tips for cleaning any type of siding to make the exterior of your home look new again.

Schedule a Time

Choose a day and time for cleaning the siding and let everyone know. This will help avoid the unexpected open window (after you made sure it was closed) or someone opening and closing the back door when you’re near by cleaning the siding.

Quick Inspection

The purpose of a quick inspection is to alert you to any potential problems you might need to fix or contact an exterior finishing contractor to fix them for you. Use binoculars if your house is more than one storey or if you don’t plan on using a ladder until you have to. Damaged siding – small holes, dents or missing panels – is vulnerable to water damage and moisture build-up. Before manually washing or spraying siding with a garden hose spray nozzle, look for: loose siding panels or cedar shingles; loose and/or missing nails; worn or damaged sections of siding; and missing siding panels.

Cleaning Siding Don’ts

Don’t skip prepping the area around the house. Cover sources of electricity; remove obstacles like toys and patio furniture; and protect landscaping, especially when using a bleach solution to clean mold/mildew/algae from siding.

Don’t use a pressure washer on “textured” siding or siding with a raised surface such cedar shingles, brick, and stucco.

Don’t use harsh cleaning products. It’s probably best to avoid anything with “industrial strength” on the label.

Don’t use abrasive cleaning tools such wire brushes, scrapers or steel wool. Avoid pressing down too hard.

Cleaning Siding Dos

Gather together all of your supplies before you begin. This includes giving the ladder you’ll be using a thorough safety check.

Start at the roofline and work your way down to the foundation. Clean one section at a time; this will help eliminate dried-on residue and streaking.

Most types of siding can be cleaned with a bucket of water and mild detergent. When cleaning mold, mildew or algae off siding use this popular homemade solution: 45 grams (1/3 cup) of powdered laundry detergent, 85 grams (2/3 cup) of powdered all-purpose household cleaner, 947 millilitres (1 quart) liquid bleach, 3.8 litres (1 gallon) of water.

Use a soft-bristle brush, especially on aluminum siding, vinyl siding, and stucco. Any cleaning tool used on siding panels and cedar shingles should be blunt-edged and non-abrasive.

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.