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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.

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 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.

More than Cleaning the Gutters

While it doesn’t seem much cooler, the kids are back at school and fall is on its way. Cleaning the gutters regularly is one of your home maintenance priorities. That’s why you hire a gutter cleaning service. But did you know that most gutter cleaning companies do more than just clean the gutters? If other areas of your home’s exterior need some attention too, ask your gutter contractor what other services they offer.

The Roof

Many gutter pros know their way around a roof. They can check for leaks, identify compromised shingles, repair damage, and replace missing roofing tiles. Some gutter companies might not be able to do the actual repairs, but will let you know if you need to call a roofer.

If it hasn’t been done in a while (or ever), they can inspect the flashings around vents, chimneys, roof valleys, and other roof protrusions like dormer windows or a sun roof.

A gutter contractor can also clean off the roof, which is a good place to start when getting your gutters cleaned.

Some gutter contractors will clean the chimney and remove any accumulated debris.

The Gutter System

In addition to the regular things a gutter contractor does such as installing gutter systems, gutter cleaning, and doing repairs, gutter cleaning services also conduct detailed inspections for troubleshooting purposes. They will inspect the gutters for leaks, sagging gutter sections, and cracking (mostly applicable to vinyl gutters), and then make any necessary repairs.

After cleaning the gutters, a gutter pro might make some suggestions as to how the downspouts might function more efficiently. Suggested changes could include:

  • adding downspout extenders to carry rainwater further away from the foundation
  • removing or repairing a damaged section of downpipe
  • adding more downspouts to the gutter system
  • upgrading from a 2 x 3 inch downpipe to a 3 x 4 inch downspout

Power Washing

While we here at MHC Gutters advise homeowners not to use a power washer on their gutters, siding, windows, etc., you can trust professional contractors to safely pressure wash the outside of your house.

If the driveway, steps, and sidewalks look dusty, grimy and dingy, spruce up the exterior of your home now by giving them a thorough cleaning.

Ditto the windows and shutters. Cleaning off exterior windows is especially important this time of year – you want to let as much light inside as possible before it gets dark earlier.

Improved Drainage

When surface rainwater collects in large pools on the lawn or near your foundation, it could be a sign that you are experiencing drainage problems. Gutter cleaning pros might also know how to install a French drain or some other type of drainage bed that moves runoff water away from the house and redirects it to avoid pooling.

Tips for Buying Vinyl Gutters

Vinyl gutters are popular with homeowners for several reasons: they are relatively inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to maintain. A vinyl gutter system won’t rust, be easily damaged or need painting. While affordability makes them very attractive, if you’re considering installing vinyl gutters on your home, here are some tips to keep in mind.

DIY: Vinyl as a gutter material is ideal for the person who enjoys do-it-yourself projects. Most gutter installation companies don’t install vinyl gutters. But do your homework – while vinyl gutters are generally the least expensive per linear foot, be aware of the total cost of your DIY project after adding in the price of brackets, end caps, hangers, downspouts, etc.

Fire resistance: Of all of the gutter materials on the market, vinyl is the least fire resistant.

Not seamless: Vinyl gutters are only available in 10-foot sections; there are no seamless options. If you would like to achieve a smooth, professional appearance for your home exterior with seamless aluminum gutters, they will need to be installed by a licensed gutter contractor.

More joints: Because a vinyl gutter system is assembled from sections, there will be joints or seams every 10 feet. The more seams, the more places there are for leaks to form.

Not standard sizes: While some manufacturers do offer a standard 5-inch profile, many don’t. Since typical vinyl gutters and downspouts are smaller in size, they channel less water. In a region like the Lower Mainland that receives high volumes of rain, regular residential size aluminum gutters (either 5-inch or 6-inch) might be a better choice.

Ancillary buildings: For ancillary buildings on your property such as a garden shed, detached garage or greenhouse, vinyl gutters could be the ideal solution. Since a vinyl gutter system can be slightly smaller than standard gutters, sections can be easily customized to fit the eaves of an outbuilding.

Dos and Don’ts of Leaf Protection

Gutter guards can help keep your gutter system free of debris and reduce the amount of time you have to spend clearing out the gutters. If you already have some type of gutter protection in place, or if you’re thinking about investing in leaf guards, here are some dos and don’ts to help you get the most out of any system.

Dos of Leaf Protection

Make sure that the gutter guards are compatible with your gutters. Get the advice of a gutter contractor. They will be able to tell you:

  • what type of leaf protection works with your existing gutter system
  • if a certain kind is better suited to the climatic conditions of your area
  • it it will be compatible with the roof and its warranty

Cheaper is always better. Budget for a medium to high end leaf protection system. Select a material that is durable and easy to maintain.

Plan on having them installed by a licensed gutter contractor. Leaf catchers can do more harm than good if they are installed incorrectly.

Ensure that the gutter protection system you choose is the right one for your microclimate – holes in a leaf protector for a home surrounded by maple trees can be spaced further apart than for a system intended to keep pine needles out of the gutters.

Don’ts of Leaf Protection

Forgetting to check up on your gutters every so often might not be best for them in the long run. Inspect them from time to time for any damage they can incur from the elements.

You will still have to clean the gutters once in a while. Debris build-up will occur at a slower rate, but it will eventually have to be removed from the gutter channel.

Skip the kinds of leaf protectors that are made of low-grade plastics – they can dry out quickly and become brittle.

Avoid screens or grills that just are placed over the gutters; a good windstorm can make them AWOL.

How to Protect Your Gutters this Summer

It makes sense to check up on the gutter system after a winter storm or to remove debris from gutter sections in the spring. However, once the warm weather arrives, you might think that you and gutters can take a break. But summer can offer its own set of unique challenges. Use these tips to protect your gutters from unnecessary wear and tear during the upcoming summer months.

Insects and Pests

Make sure the gutters are dry. Standing water inside the gutter channel is an attractive breeding ground for mosquitoes. It also attracts other types of insects like ants, bees and wasps that require a moist environment in which to thrive.

Keep gutters free of debris. Pests such as squirrels, rats, mice and birds naturally head for the roof and use the loose materials to make nests. While you might welcome birds to your back yard, they’re more entertaining in the bird bath than they are under the eaves of your roof or nesting inside the walls of your home.

Fire Hazard

Debris build-up in a gutter system isn’t just about preventing clogs. It can be the ideal place for a fire to start, especially during long stretches of days without rain. All it takes is a spark. Clearing away piles of twigs and dry leaves will help eliminate a potential fire hazard.

Too Much Sun

Aluminum gutters and vinyl gutters exposed to too much sun can peel or become discolored, weakening them and decreasing their protection value. Ultraviolet rays actually do more damage to vinyl or plastic gutters by making them brittle and susceptible to any kind of pressure from wind, debris or leaning ladders, which can cause splitting, breaking or shattering. Applying a gutter protection product to the outside of your gutters helps reduce the effects of ultraviolet rays.

Just a Little Trim

Trees dropping leaves and twigs onto the roof and into the gutters encourage debris build-up. But branches scraping against gutter sections whenever it gets windy can put real strain on a gutter system. To prevent potential issues, trim back branches growing too close to the roof and gutters.

Gutters Holding Water

Image credit: Eric Schumuttenmaer/Flickr Creative Commons

Image credit: Eric Schumuttenmaer/Flickr Creative Commons

It is a common mindset for homeowners to equate gutter size with how much water a gutter system can hold – if they have 5 inch or 6 inch gutters, they might feel safe. But gutters should never hold water. When they do, it can cause all kinds of problems, including: damage to gutter sections; damage to soffit and fascia; creating an environment for dry rot, mold and algae growth; and landscape erosion.

Importance of Inspections

Gutters that hold water usually can’t be seen from ground level. Cleaning the gutters twice, or even just once, a year is a good thing. However, environmental conditions like storms, humidity and the amount of heat and sun exposure can impact a gutter system from one gutter cleaning session to the next. Periodic inspections will alert you to anything that’s not quite right.

Reasons for Gutters Holding Water

Gutters holding water are not draining properly and can reduce their life expectancy. Reasons for a gutter system not properly channeling water from the gutters to the ground are:

  • debris buildup is blocking the flow of rainwater due to insufficient number of gutter cleanings for local climatic conditions
  • clogs have formed at the gutter outlet
  • they were installed incorrectly – insufficient gutter/downspout size for size of house, inaccurate gutter slope, etc.
  • the downspout is clogged

Solutions for Gutters Holding Water

Standing water is the number one sign that your gutters are not as healthy as they should be. Some common solutions for gutters that hold water are:

  • cleaning the gutters more times than they are currently being cleaned
  • re-pitching – recalculating the gutter slope
  • re-fastening the downspout or re-positioning it
  • adding more downspouts

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.

How to Choose the Right Gutters for Your Home

While gutters play a critical role in protecting your home from water damage, they also have a significant impact on the overall appearance of a home’s exterior. What will they be made of? Which gutter profile? What color? With so many options, how do you know if you’re making the right choice? To choose the right gutters for your home, take these factors into consideration.

Gutter Material

Gutter materials include vinyl, aluminum, steel and copper. Vinyl gutters are the least expensive; European gutters look beautiful and will last a lifetime; continuous aluminum gutters are cost-effective and low maintenance. Although cost is certainly a deciding factor, when choosing the right gutters for your home, select a gutter material that is:

  • suited to the climate conditions of the local region
  • complements the architectural style of your home
  • durable and long-lasting but easy to maintain

Gutter Styles

Gutter style, also referred to as a gutter profile, is the shape of the outside surface of the gutter section. It is one of the elements that defines the personality of your home. The two most popular gutter profiles are K-style and half-round gutters. Other gutter styles include crown mold, two-step and colonial. In order for the gutter style to effectively contribute to the character of a home’s exterior, it should match or complement its architectural style.

Gutter Color

Select a colour for the gutters that will bring together all of the elements of your home’s exterior. If it’s too different from the tone of the roof, entry door and window trim, the gutters might clash, negatively affecting the aesthetics of the house’s exterior.

Gutter Size

When the gutters are too small, there is the risk of constant overflowing. If gutters are too large for a particular structure, they can ruin the smooth, continuous line of the eavestrough. For the gutter system to work efficiently, gutter size should be based on several considerations such as:

  • annual rainfall for the area in which you live
  • square footage of the roof
  • steepness of the roof