Spring has officially arrived, and that means a whole host of outdoor chores for homeowners. One of the most important-but often overlooked-tasks is checking gutters for winter debris and damage.
A properly functioning gutter system protects your home from water damage by draining water from the roof and funneling it away from the house. When the gutters and downspouts are clogged, however, water can back up and damage the roof, fascia, soffits, and siding.
Experts agree that regular examination and maintenance will help reduce the need for gutter repairs and replacement. “One of the biggest problems we see with regular gutters is that the problems are hidden from view for most homeowners,” points out Robert Lowe, director of operations for Englert LeafGuard, a leading manufacturer of covered one-piece gutter systems. “From the ground it is very difficult to see inside of the gutter; therefore, most problems with built-up debris are noticed only when it is too late and damage is occurring.
“The most common problem is the obvious leaves and debris clogging the gutters, making the water back up over the top and damaging the fascia board, then the decking, the rafters, and in some cases the foundation of the home itself,” Lowe continues. “If you have ever experienced gutters that are pulling away from the house, or if you have to keep pushing the spikes back into the gutters to hold them to the house, these are tell-tale signs of fascia board damage. The problems need to be fixed as soon as possible because damage ramps up fast-as the gutter starts to sag, it can cause more water to run over, which in turn leads to more and faster damage.”
A simple way to check on a gutter's performance is to wait for a rainy day and look to see if water is emptying from the downspouts. If water isn't flowing freely from the bottom of a downspout, or if you notice water overflowing the edges of the gutter, there is debris clogging the gutters or downspouts or both.
According to Lowe, the easiest answer to most gutter problems is to clean your gutters on a regular basis. Most debris consists of small leaves and twigs that can either be scooped out by hand or removed with a handheld leaf blower or wet/dry vacuum. Flushing the gutters with a garden hose removes dirt and small particles. For denser debris, you may want to invest in a gutter cleaning tool. Most clogged downspouts can be flushed with a garden hose; use a plumber's snake to break up those really stubborn clogs. (Note: If you are climbing a ladder, be sure to follow safety measures.)
Gutter cleaning may be needed much more frequently than just once a season, especially if you live in an area where there are many trees. “The one problem we find, other than procrastination, is that you go out on a Saturday and spend all day cleaning the gutters and sealing up holes only for a windstorm to come the following week and blow more debris right back into the gutters,” Lowe says. “Most people don't realize that more debris actually blows into the gutter system than gets washed in with rain.”
Other problems to look for when cleaning gutters include holes, corrosion, sagging sections, and loose, bent, or missing fasteners. Holes should be plugged or caulked immediately. Sagging is often the result of loose or missing spikes, which should be tightened or replaced.
In some cases, however, gutters may simply be too far gone and need to be replaced. “If you have problems with your gutters and you want to solve the problems once and for all, you have to ask the question, 'What do I want my gutters not to do ever again?' ” Lowe explains. “The top two answers should be, 'I don't want the water from my gutters to get to my house' and 'I don't want to have to clean them again.' ”
Lowe points out that LeafGuard Brand gutters solve both of these issues, due to the product's patented one-piece design and seamless construction. “LeafGuard Brand by Englert is the original and only one-piece gutter system, with a built-in hood that covers the gutter bottom and deflects leaves and other debris,” Lowe says. “This unique, seamless design keeps debris from collecting in your gutters, which prevents clogs from forming; keeps water flowing freely; eliminates leaks and the threat of water damage; and makes climbing ladders to clean gutters unnecessary. LeafGuard Brand gutters eliminate the problems homeowners worry about, because these gutters will not let water go anywhere but out the front or down the downspout.”
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