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

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Advantages of Maintaining Your Gutters

Neglected gutters can cause unwanted problems. Most homeowners know that gutters need to be cleaned at least twice a year (spring and fall). It’s a chore no one really wants to do. So, as we head further into gutter cleaning season, let MHC Gutters remind you of the advantages of maintaining your gutter system throughout the year.

Curb Appeal

The saying “Appearance is everything” is very true when it comes to gutters. Standard gutters hang from the fascia and therefore are noticeable. A gutter system that is streaked, dented, worn, faded or sagging detracts from your home’s curb appeal and can make your home unwelcoming.

Improve Functionality

There is no denying that Vancouver gutters get a lot of rain. When a gutter system is cluttered with debris or has moss growing in the gutter channel, unimpeded water flow to the downspout is not possible. Maintaining your gutters and keeping them free of clogs improves functionality. Water that doesn’t drain properly from the gutter system can lead to a number of problems including:

  • standing water in the gutter channel (adds weight)
  • pooling water around the downspouts (flooding basement)
  • overflowing gutters (landscape erosion)

Increase Life Span

Regardless of the material gutters are made of, keeping them well-maintained increases their life span. When a gutter system is free of debris, it minimizes potential damage to gutter sections and downpipes. A gutter system that leaks, overflows, or doesn’t drain properly invites moisture-related problems such as mold, mildew and foundation damage.

Avoid Expensive Costs

Regularly maintaining gutters through scheduled gutter cleanings and periodic inspections are excellent preventive medicine. Making repairs, stopping leaks, and doing those other little tweaks that keep a gutter system running smoothly prevent problems from escalating and having to spend money to fix them.

Unwanted Guests

Don’t invite unwanted guests. Gutters filled with leaves, twigs, and other types of organic residue are attractive to pests like wasps, bees, birds, and squirrels looking for a home.

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.

How Gutters Protect Your Home

A gutter system is designed to do one thing – collect rainwater from the roof and drain it somewhere it won’t do any damage. In rainy weather, without gutters a visitor approaching your front door will get drenched; water pools just anywhere; and soil is washed away. But how do gutters protect your home year after year?

Quality Installation

It starts right from the start. From the material the gutters will be made of to bracket spacing to how many downspouts – all those decisions that go into selecting a gutter system for your home add up. A quality installation by a reputable, licensed gutter contractor using medium to high-end materials ensures that the gutters will do their job for a long time to come. A professional installer will also advise on the right size of gutter system, and match it to the climatic conditions of the area.

Not Too Close to Home

Proper downspout placement prevents water from draining or pooling too close to the foundation. When rainwater consistently collects on the ground near a home’s foundation, it can cause basement walls to crack, the corners to sink, or the foundation to shift. Optimum functioning gutters also help prevent a basement from flooding.

Siding

When water is not efficiently channeled from roof to ground, siding is prone to water damage that can mar the appearance of your otherwise well-maintained home. Rainwater seeping in behind siding panels is the ideal place for mold, mildew, and algae to grow.

Sloping Toward

Gutters play an even greater role in the protection of your home when the grade of soil slopes toward instead away from the foundation. Ideally, the land around a house should slope downward, but if it can’t be changed or altered, then installing a gutter system that specifically addresses the issue of the grading of soil is the best solution.

Landscaping

Flowers and shrubs close to a house improve curb appeal and create a welcoming atmosphere. Eaves typically extend anywhere from six to 12 inches away from the wall, providing protection for plants to grow strong. Gutters and downspouts prevent bald spots in the soil, exposed root systems, and standing water that can attract pests and insects.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

Lots of rain, a little snow, a sunny day but cold temperatures, then more snow – yes, it definitely feels like winter has arrived. While icicles and ice end up on the gutters, contrary to popular belief, a debris-filled gutter system is not the cause of ice damming. Several contributing factors occur in combination to create ice dams on roofs in the Lower Mainland. What are ice dams and what can you do about them?

Ice Dams

Ice dams generally form on the edge of a roof as the snow melts from the bottom up. They can also be found around skylights and vents and in roof valleys. A slight rise in temperature or heat escaping from the attic warms up the snow; when cold air meets the runoff, it can freeze again, preventing additional snowmelt from running freely off the roof and entering the gutters.

As temperatures fluctuate, more snowmelt occurs. Because of the ice dam, there’s nowhere for the water to go, causing it to back up behind the ridge of ice. Water being pushed in behind roofing shingles can result in water damage to interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and insulation. Ice dams can also cause structural damage to the roof itself.

Ice Dams and Gutters

Since ice dams typically run along the roofline, the process of water thawing and refreezing adds layers to the ice formations. While icicles might look pretty, they weigh the gutters down, putting more stress on fasteners and fascia where gutter sections are attached. When ice buildup dents the gutters, moisture can form in the damaged gutter sections, further weakening the gutter system.

Dealing with Ice Dams – Don’ts

Chipping away: It is not advisable to use a hammer, chisel, axe, ice pick or shovel, because they can potentially damage and/or dislodge roofing tiles, fascia, and gutters.

Salt: Using salt will actually do your landscaping more harm in the spring than have any noticeable effect on the ice dam.

Chemical deicers: Unless you are able to test specific areas and materials, it’s best to skip chemical deicers, particularly if you don’t know what the roof is made or the type of metal the brackets and fasteners are.

Dealing with Ice Dams – Dos

Snow removal: Remove snow with a roof rake to prevent further ice damming. If the house is two or more storeys, use a roof rake with an extension pole.

Heat: Install a deicing kit; it typically consists of a length of cable and hardware to secure it in place.

Roof temperature: Since the main cause of ice damming is heat escaping from the home, a long-term fix is to keep the roof the same temperature as the eaves. Ways to accomplish this include: adding insulation to the attic; increasing ventilation; and preventing air leakage from anywhere that will warm the underside of the roof.

Spring Gutter Cleaning Tips

It’s time to think about spring cleaning the gutters. While it’s survived the winter, your gutter system is most likely filled with decayed leaf sediment, pine needles, twigs and other miscellaneous bits and pieces. But before tackling the real work of cleaning the gutters, use these tips to make better use of your time and energy.

Start on the Roof

Clean the roof first, up to three days before cleaning the gutters. This will help prevent materials from entering back into your newly cleaned gutter system.

Use a rake or a broom to sweep away any dirt, leaves, twigs, etc. Pay special attention to places where debris can build up like around a chimney, vents or a skylight.

Be safe walking on the roof. Wear rubber soled shoes with good treads. Plan on cleaning the roof later in the morning; roofs are typically damp at the beginning of the day.

Ladder Inventory and Inspection

Take an inventory of the ladder you will be using. It should be sturdy and in good shape, preferably made of metal rather than wood. It is recommended that a step ladder (has four legs when opened) be used for a one-storey home, and an extension ladder for houses that are taller.

A ladder that has a shelf or hooks will allow you to have the immediate tools necessary for your gutter cleaning chore close at hand, reducing the number of times you need to climb up or down the rungs.

If your home has aluminum gutters, use a ladder standoff (for extension ladders) to avoid denting the gutter system.

Garden Hose Savvy

Once the heavier clumps of debris have been removed from the gutters, the best tool for rinsing out the gutter channel is a garden hose. Select a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle. It can be easily hung from the gutter or a ladder. Spray “downward;” the water should flow toward the downspout.

While it’s logical to think that you will get a more thorough clean with a pressure washer, it’s not recommended. Particularly if the gutters are five years old or more, water from a pressurized sprayer can dent aluminum gutters or crack vinyl gutters. Even on a low setting, water can be pushed in behind loose gutter sections, fascia boards or siding panels.

Reasons Downspouts Don’t Work Properly

Downspouts direct water away from the foundation of your home. Their importance is often downplayed, and they are frequently overlooked when the gutters are being maintained. Here are some reasons downspouts don’t work properly.

Not Free of Debris

Reason: When debris builds up in the downspout at the top, in the middle or above or below the elbow, it can hinder or stop water from exiting the gutter system.

Solution: Check the top of the downspout where it connects to the gutter. Clear away any debris. Look into the downspout and if you see a blockage, use a plumber’s snake to gently break up the debris. To prevent buildup from forming, install a leaf strainer over the gutter outlet. If there isn’t any clog around the gutter outlet and water is still just trickling out of the downspout, then the blockage is in the middle of the downpipe or just above/below the elbow where the water comes out. Try using a garden hose with a pressure nozzle or a plumber’s snake to loosen the clump. If water still isn’t running down the pipe the way it should, remove the middle section of the downpipe; clear away the obstruction.

Not the Right Size

Reason: Most residential structures with 5 inch gutters have 2 inch x 3 inch downpipes. But when the gutters overflow and clogging isn’t the issue, the downspout might be the guilty party.

Solution: Replace the existing downpipes with 3 x 4 inch downspouts. The larger downpipe size should be able to handle the amount of water being channeled through the gutter system without having to replace the gutters.

Not the Right Length

Reason: Another reason downpipes don’t work properly is because they are too short. When a downspout isn’t the right length, water is allowed to drain too close to the foundation.

Solution: Use the appropriate downspout accessories to help guide water exiting the downspouts further away from the basement. For example, if the downspout extender is going to cross a pathway, consider installing a hinged downspout that will allow you to fold it up and out of the way when it’s not raining.

Not the Right Number

Reason: There aren’t enough downspouts to effectively handle the runoff.

Solution: Install as many additional downpipes needed; ensure they are strategically placed. A general rule dictates that there should be on downspout for every 30 to 40 feet of gutter. But other considerations should be factored in such as the size of your home, the configuration of the roof and how much rain falls in your area.

Not Properly Installed

Reason: If your home is an older one, gutter outlets may not have been installed. In the past, to save money and time, some contractors skipped the drop outlets and simply cut a hole into the gutter to make room for the downpipe.

Solution: Replace gutter sections with new ones that include proper gutter outlets.

Fall Outdoor Home Maintenance Chores

Leaves are turning red, yellow and orange. The air is crisper. Kids are thinking about Halloween costumes and planning parties. Autumn is definitely here! This is also the time homeowners start thinking about getting their homes ready for the colder weather. Here are our top five home maintenance chores that should be on your to-do list this fall.

1. Gutters

Of course we’re going to say gutter cleaning is the most important outdoor home maintenance chore! Your gutters could be filled with debris and still be working okay. But it’s not just clogs or blockages you should be concerned about. When leaves and twigs are mixed with silt, mud and water, the debris can really weigh your gutters down. Heavy gutters can pull away from the fascia, leaving gaps between the edge of the roof and the back of the gutter allowing water to get in. Downspouts need to be cleaned too – check the gutter outlet (where gutter meets downpipe) and the mouth of the downspout, the places where clogs are most likely to form.

2. Roof

Inspect the roof for any repairs that need to be done ASAP. These include gaps in the flashing; damaged or loose roofing tiles or shingles; and vents/chimneys that have become loose, damaged or blocked.

3. Doors and Windows

Don’t let drafts leave you cold. Prevent heat from escaping your home by installing weatherstripping around doors. Caulk windows and trim to keep cold air out.

4. Front and Back Yards

Winterize your front and back yards by:

  • raking leaves; trimming branches of trees growing near the house; prepping flower beds for spring
  • inspecting fences for damage and/or rot
  • putting away outdoor furniture; properly storing yard equipment and tools used mainly in spring and summer
  • fixing leaking outdoor faucets; checking outdoor lights
  • repairing any cracks, holes, etc. on pathways and driveways that might get bigger or more problematic throughout fall and winter weather

5. Home Exterior

Inspect the foundation for signs of shifting. Check your home exterior for any damage such as rot, mold, dents and cracks. Fill visible holes and cracks wherever you find them – foundation, siding, exterior walls.

All about Downpipes

Downpipes are an integral part of your gutter system, designed to channel water from the gutters into the ground. They are often overlooked and added as an afterthought. But with careful planning and some practical knowledge, downpipes can improve the appearance of your home exterior.

Name Calling

Downpipes are referred to by several other names. A downpipe can be called a downspout, waterspout, drain spout, roof drain pipe, leader or conductor.

Sizes

Gutter sizes and corresponding downpipes depend on a number of factors including the amount of rainfall and other local climate conditions. For residential applications, typical Vancouver gutters are 5 inch channels with a 2 x 3 inch downspout. When a house needs a larger gutter system, 6 inch gutters with 3 x 4 inch downpipes would be used.

Parts of a Downpipe

Gutter outlet: Also called a drop outlet, it connects the downspout to the gutter.

Hangers: They hold the downpipe in place, typically one at the top, one at the bottom, and wherever there is a joint along the length of the downspout. Also know as fasteners or straps.

Elbow: Piece of pipe bent like an elbow; changes the direction of the flow of water.

Shoe: A type of elbow typically found at the base of the downspout to discharge rainwater from the gutter system.

Leader head: Used to capture water where the gutter drains into the downpipe. Usually used if the downspout is over 40’ long. Sometimes used as a decorative element in European gutter installations.

Downpipe Little Helpers

Downpipe accessories are often used to modify a downspout so that it can handle and/or manage rainwater in ways a standard downpipe might not be able to. Accessories include flex elbows, flex spouts, rain drains, splash blocks and filters that can strain debris and/or divert water.

Preventing Gutters from Overflowing

Overflowing gutters can cause a homeowner major problems that might be expensive to fix. If you’ve been dealing with water spilling out of the gutter channel for a while, it’s time to take action. Stopping them now or preventing gutters from overflowing in the future will protect your home from potentially serious water damage.

Regular Gutter Maintenance

It can’t be emphasized enough – cleaning the gutters and keeping downspouts free of debris is the best defense against overflowing gutters. While a semi-annual cleaning schedule (once in the spring, once in the fall) is a good guideline, take other factors into account. Twice a year might not be sufficient if you live in a high rainfall region; have a lot of trees growing near the house; or another microclimate condition (windier in the southwest corner of the roof) that adds more debris to your gutter system.

Gutter Pitch

Overflowing gutters can also be attributed to incorrect pitch. Like anything else in, on or around your home, gutters are prone to shifting. The pitch of the gutters should optimally slope toward the downpipe. Especially if you have two or more downpipes, the position of the gutters in relation to respective downspouts should be properly pitched and aligned to ensure correct drainage.

More or Larger Gutters

If the overflowing gutter problem isn’t improved by regular maintenance and/or checking the position of the gutters, consider installing more gutters or replacing the current gutter system with one that is larger. Installing gutters on all side of your house or increasing the size of the gutter channel can reduce the chance of overflow by increasing the amount of water being managed at one time.

Leaf Protection

When you’re hauling out the ladder every other weekend during the rainy season to de-gunk the gutters, perhaps it’s time to add some kind of leaf protection. While a gutter guard system should not entirely eliminate have to clean them, it will noticeably reduce the amount of debris and loose material entering the gutters. There are several kinds of gutter guards to choose from, including screens and filters: select the one that will best enhance your current gutter system.

Missing Gutters

It’s hard to image a home in the Lower Mainland without a gutter system of some kind. But houses that do not have gutters or have missing gutters are at risk. The uncontrolled flow of rainwater coming down from the roof can cause serious damage.

Gutters go missing for a number of reasons. High winds and heavy rainfall can loosen gutter sections. Extreme or constant weather conditions can completely detach gutters from the fascia. Fascia panels can become so soft with rot that they no longer retain nails or support the weight of the gutters. Gutters might have been installed on the main part of the house, but are missing from a secondary roof or another architectural feature unique to the roof.

Missing gutters have been known to cause a lot of mischief. Water that is not channeled properly can:

  • allow water to penetrate around windows and doors
  • cause dampness (the “right” environment for mold and mildew) in a basement or attic/crawlspace
  • crack the foundation
  • deteriorate the siding
  • damage landscaping

Missing gutters should be dealt with immediately. Check the roof configuration for places that are missing gutters and plan to have them installed. Re-attach or replace broken gutter sections. If gutters have been missing for a significant length of time, inspect the foundation, siding and roof for sustained damage.