Wednesday, August 16, 2017  

The Dirt of Gutters

As sad as it seems to us all, summer is coming to a close. This means fall is approaching and with that, all of the outdoor fall chores that have you groaning, uumm, excited to get done to prepare for winter. Leaves will begin falling soon and so the dirty chore of cleaning out your gutters and preparing for wintertime will soon be upon us. Of course, if you do not have gutters on your home, this is the time to think about having them installed. Rain gutters are not only essential to the protection of your foundation, they are also a nice upgrade to the beautification of your home and overall appearance.

There are many reasons to add gutters to your home improvement list this fall. The most important reason to have gutters installed is to protect your homes’ foundation. Gutters that are installed properly will divert rainwater away from your foundation. This will in turn keep your crawl space or basement dry and ward off moisture that could possibly lead to mold, mildew and fungus growth that may endanger your family’s health. Gutters also protect the foundation of your home by limiting the amount of water that enters the foundations walls and thus preventing cracks and damage. Gutters protect the backfill that is around your foundation from washing away and creating structural damage, which is in itself a major plus.

Another important reason for adding gutters to your home is to direct the runoff of rainwater on your roof. If rainwater is left standing on your roof time after time, it will most certainly begin to leak into your home, causing interior damage as well as structural damage. This could turn into a major project to repair all of the water damage versus the small cost of installing rain gutters.

Gutters extend your roof overhang by up to six inches, which in turn helps to protect your doors and windows from rain and moisture damage. Raingutters also protect the landscaping that surrounds your homes’ foundation by diverting standing water that would be in your flowerbeds. This guards your precious flowers or ornamental trees from fungi that could cause harm and also from insects, such as roaches, ants and termites, that could not only harm your plantings but also your home. Gutters prevent splashback from the rain which keeps your siding and foundation looking clean and new. While also preventing this splashback, it stops minerals in the soil or mulch from damaging or staining your foundation or siding. You can also count on gutters to divert rain away from your wooden decks and steps which will help deter any major wood rot from excessive water damage.

After deciding to have rain gutters installed you will be faced with many possibilities of the various types of gutters. They come in many shapes, sizes, colors and materials. Make sure to hire a professional that is knowledgeable in all types of gutter systems so that you will get the maximum amount of protection for your investment. Ask your installer for references and also for pictures of previous work to better understand what type of gutter is the best look for your home. The environment where you live plays a large part in choosing the type of gutter material that is perfect for your home.

 There are several different shapes of raingutters to choose from and each is mainly for aesthetic appeal. The most common shape of gutter is the “K” style or ogee. This is the shape that gutter professionals can actually cut from their machine and make seamless. They can cut copper or aluminum into the “K” style. There are also box shaped gutters, beveled box gutters, half and quarter round gutters and amazingly some of those styles even come embossed with different designs on the front. Half round is a very popular style also and is more expensive to install because it is much more labor intensive.

Downspouts also come in different shapes depending on the type of gutter you choose. And when talking about how to attach the gutters you can find some really basic or highly decorative hangers to meet your needs. This is where a professional installer will be able to guide you to give your home improvement project the perfect style that you are looking for. Hidden screw hangers are the industry standard used today. They are put on the inside of the gutter and allow for gutter expansion in hot weather. Spaced and used properly, they can handle up to 100 feet of seamless gutter in a single run.

Another huge plus about hiring a professional is the option to have completely seamless gutters installed. The most popular type of gutter homeowners have installed today is the seamless gutter. Your professional gutter fabricator will bring a machine to your home site and actually measure each gutter run and make a completely seamless gutter custom fit to the size of your homes’ roofline. Hence the reason that seamless gutters are so popular, they will not leak at the seams. They are joined together by inside and outside corners and downspout outlets at the ends. All gutters will expand from the weather conditions, be it the rain or the heat. Seamless gutters will expand about 1” in 100 degree temperatures and with no seams to connect or caulk, there is no chance for them to leak.

There are sectional gutters that come in metal and vinyl that you can purchase from home improvement stores that most professionals will also install for you. These gutters come in sections ranging from ten to 22 feet in length and can also come pre-painted. The down side to sectional gutters is the propensity for leakage and also the additional cost of connectors and/or caulking to fit the sections together.

 A professional will also be well versed in the type and positioning of your downspouts for drainage. You want to make sure that the water is expelled well away from your house and foundation. This is usually suffice with the basic concrete splash blocks you are used to seeing. But it’s possible that you may also need to add downspout extenders, above or below ground, to carry the water away from your homes’ foundation. It is best to seek a professionals advice for the purpose of not causing more damage from your newly installed gutters that you are trying to avoid in the first place.
Gutter Materials Come in a Wide Variety

Gutter materials come in a very wide range, from wood to copper. Though rarely used today, except in restoration projects, wooden gutters were at one time the traditional material to use. Now they are practically obsolete. These also came with galvanized downspouts which are seldom used anymore due to the fact that they rust.

 Integral gutters became popular over three decades ago and are an extension at the end of the rafters and fascia and are actually attached to the roof system. This type isn’t used often on homes any longer due to the consistent upkeep and structural damage they may cause if not carefully inspected often. These are also lined with a roofing material that must be replaced or repaired every five to ten years. The drawbacks from this type of gutter include leaking which can cause structural damage to your fascia, soffit, framing and the actual sheathing of the roof.

Another out-dated type is box gutters. These gutters were prevalent in older homes, factories and multi-family homes. They are not actually added on past the roofline as gutters are today, they are built onto the bottom of the roof or the roof overhang. This style of gutter is fairly large, up to seven inches, and was designed to carry large amounts of water on commercial and/or industrial buildings. Such buildings that have very large roofs and lots of rainwater runoff. The downspouts are much larger and end caps and corners are custom made to fit.

When purchasing aluminum metal gutters .027 inches is standard for our weather conditions. Aluminum does come in .032 and .019 inches thick. These gutters all look similar but have different uses. You would use the .032 thickness further up north for heavier snows and rain. The .019 thickness would be more suitable for areas that do not receive harsh weather and get little rain. Always insist on primary aluminum which is the most consistent type, not secondary that is recycled and is often known for its inconsistent thickness. Depending on the size, five or six inch width, aluminum starts for as little as $3 per linear foot, installed by a professional.

Vinyl and plastic gutters are very popular now-a-days. The biggest concern with this material is the potential for leakage. Every seam is a potential leak. Vinyl and plastic swell much more than aluminum and there is no sure fire way to prevent the seams from leaking over time. They are also more prone to damage caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun which make the vinyl or plastic brittle and susceptible to breaking and damage from ladders. Aging and cold weather are also harmful to these types of materials. You will also experience bending and bowing with vinyl if they are subjected to heavy amounts of rain. A major plus is that they never rust or rot and are easy to cut and install and may even be painted if you so desire. Vinyl gutters average about $3-$6 per ten foot length, not including the hangers, end caps, corners, caulking, etc. It is best to save these materials for a single length run that you purchase, to avoid seams, like for a garden shed, a roof overhanging steps, or a playhouse.

Galvanized is still a popular rain gutter material used today and for the past several decades. They are economical and can stand up to tree branches that fall during normal storms. With prices ranging from $2 to $7 per linear foot, installed by a professional, they are very affordable. Galvanized cannot be run through a gutter fabricators machine so they must be ordered from a manufacturer. On the down side, these gutters can still rust over time. It is best to paint them, inside and out, to extend their life. This type of material is more recommended for barns and work shops than homes.

The toughest of the tough would have to be stainless steel gutters. These ultra strong gutters retain their shine for years and they are strong and completely rust-free. Stainless can also withstand ladders leaning on them and also normal wear and tear from storms and flying debris. But this resiliency comes at a price, averaging $20 and up, per linear foot. Stainless is a custom order because gutter fabricators machines cannot make these due to the thickness and therefore must be ordered from a manufacturer.

The gutter material with the most visual appeal would have to be copper. Gutters made out of copper add a lovely sense of style to your home and also to your homes’ value. There are some professional installers that will solder copper if it is a piece too long to be seamless. On the up side, copper is basically maintenance free and will never rust or rot. On the down side, if you don’t like the natural oxidation color of copper you must use a sealant on it to retain its original color. This is an easy payoff for such beauty. Copper is a material that can be made into seamless “K” style by a professional and is very popular in half round style as well. Copper is pricey starting $25 – $50 per linear foot.
An Excellent Add-On to your Gutter System

After deciding what type of raingutter material to use and how to install it, you have another important decision to make, do you want/need a type of gutter protection? Do you want to spend the time continuously cleaning your gutters several times a year, year after year, or do you want them to be basically maintenance free? Why haul a ladder around your house and risk falling off or worse, broken bones, just to clean out your gutters, when there is an incredible alternative? Gutter protection is a permanent solution to end a highly undesirable chore. It is a guard that is installed over your existing gutter to prevent leaves, dirt, twigs, acorns and debris from clogging your gutters so that the water flows correctly through your gutters. When your gutters get stopped up from leaves and other trash, it could possibly cause more damage than not having gutters at all, by causing rainwater to backup and cause structural damage. Gutters that are not kept clean and do not drain properly could wind up being very costly to repair. In the wintertime it is important to keep gutters free of debris so standing rain doesn’t freeze in your gutters. Besides the fact that rainwater thawing and re-freezing will damage your homes’ fascia boards and soffit, gutters are not made to hold that kind of weight and could possibly come unattached over time.

The advantages of gutter protection are many. If your gutters are not maintained properly then you risk the same type of damage from clogged gutters as not having gutters installed at all. If the rain cannot exit your gutter system properly, it will just flow over the sides of your gutters. These consequences could be damaging to your landscape below, aid in soil eroding away from your foundation, cause foundation damage and invite unwanted pests, mold and fungus. Another major disadvantage to clogged gutters is the opportunity for debris to dry out and become brittle which could become a fire hazard.
Types of Gutter Protection

You should look at reliable and well known types of gutter protection because this is a long term investment in your home. It will not only add value to your property it also will provide you with a high degree of safety in your home maintenance. There are several types of gutter protectors available to homeowners today and you should invest in one that has a proven track record. Your gutter expert can aid in that decision. The material used should match the type of gutter material you have installed. The best way to evaluate your need for using them is to look at your environment. If your home is surrounded by trees that lose their leaves in the fall or by evergreens that drop their needles, then your home is the perfect candidate for gutter protection. Another good indication would be if your home is in a region that is susceptible to windy conditions where debris is known to blow around.

Depending on the type of gutter installed on your home, there is a simple type of gutter protection that just snaps into your existing gutters. It can be found at most home improvement centers. This is the easiest to install and provides cover to block debris.

There is a screen or mesh type of protector that is caulked onto the back of the gutter and over the top of the gutter to filter out large debris. While allowing tiny debris into the gutter, it should not hamper water flow. This type is not maintenance free and will require some clean out and repair if twigs or larger debris damage the screen.

Also available are gutter shingles that keep debris from entering gutters in a very basic way. The shingles are attached under the roofing and extend out over the gutter, though not completely covering the gutter. The reasoning behind this is to divert twigs, acorns and leaves to the ground while the rainwater will flow from the roof into the gutter system. This will also require some cleaning and maintenance.

A fairly new product is gutter foam. This is advertised as being porous enough to allow water, dirt and small gravel to flow through the foam to the downspout but deter leaves and larger debris from entering your gutter system. The foam also contains chemicals that prevent mold and mildew and is freeze and fire resistant. This will have to be replaced and may not be cash wise.

By far the most popular form of gutter protection with the least amount of maintenance is a solid cover. This type works on the basis of water adhesion, where the water enters the gutter through slots or small holes on the vertical side. The rainwater will adhere to the top and flow over and into your gutters through the holes. Small debris is able to enter the holes but should flow smoothly out to the downspouts while leaves and larger debris just wash off the top of the protector. Any leaves or twigs that remain on the top of the protector will eventually be washed to the ground by the rainwater. This type of gutter protection is widely used and drastically cuts back the need to clean out your gutters several times a year. Most also come with a warranty that is good for as long as you own your house.

While it’s important to make sure your gutters are installed properly, it’s equally important to protect your homes’ structure and foundation. Improperly installed gutters could drastically damage your homes’ roof and/or foundation. It is amazing that many homeowners do not know the reasoning behind using gutters on their homes until the damage is done and it’s too late. This could turn into a costly mistake. Add the fact that you may now install gutter protection systems, to aid in keeping your gutters trash-free, and you have the perfect recipe for spending more quality time with your family and less time putting yourself in harms way by cleaning out your gutters.