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Staying out of the gutter: Gutter guards can help eliminate debris. But will they take the place of regular cleaning?

May 29th, 2011 No comments

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April 08, 2011|By William Hageman Tribune Newspapers

It’s one of the rites of spring. And of fall too. Homeowners drag out the ladder and spend the better part of a day cleaning debris from their gutters.

One way to avoid the chore is to install gutter guards, products that keep leaves, twigs and other materials from settling in the gutter and causing clogs. The problem is, there are a lot of products on the market. And almost every sales pitch ends with “you’ll never have to clean your gutters again.”

“The more products they look at, the more confused they become,” says Johnathan Skardon, a gutter expert and blogger who has been in the business for almost 15 years. “They hear the same rhetoric from everybody — this is the best product on the market, and you’ll never have to clean your gutters. You need to do your due diligence, so a year from now you won’t be wondering why you bought that product.”

Skardon is the managing director of Gutter Guards Direct, a company that sells and installs four types, from an entry-level product to a high-grade system. He also writes the GutterTalk blog (guttertalkblog.com), which he fashions as a consumer guide.

“From my perspective, I’d rather educate homeowners on what the possibilities are, what the options are,” he says. “It’s something that’s really confusing.”

He says that one reason he started the blog was that the industry had not advanced much, and consumers were getting the same old products in addition to that same old sales pitch. Traditionally, that product was a solid gutter cover. But in the last 10 years, stainless steel micromesh screens have appeared and are gaining favor.

Here are three types of products aimed at keeping gutters clear. Some work well. Some work less well. In many cases, it depends on the type and number of trees around your home. In other cases it depends on the installation. Remember, do your due diligence.

Screens

Made of everything from surgical stainless steel mesh to PVC, they will all work to some degree. It depends on the size of the holes in the screen and how much flotsam and jetsam comes washing down your roof.

Plastic screens, aimed at do-it-yourselfers and priced at less than 50 cents a foot, tend to have larger holes, so more debris slips through. If your home is surrounded by trees, pine needles, oak tassels and maple helicopters can fit through and clog the gutter; so will accumulated granules from shingles. In addition, in the summer, a combination of debris and heat can make the screen collapse into the gutter, though that could be a reflection on faulty installation, not the product.

A smaller mesh screen will block more debris, of course. A medium size screen can be installed for $13 or $14 a foot, Skardon says. But the best screen systems are the mesh ones (there are several manufacturers). They keep even the smallest particles of shingle detritus out. These are not do-it-yourself projects; they’re available only through dealers. Installation fees plus the cost of materials and the manufacturing process bring the price to around $20 a foot, Skardon says.

Surface tension

These systems fit over the gutter; water runs over them and into the gutter, but the debris goes over the edge. It works on the principle of surface adhesion, Skardon says. Water goes from roof to shingle to gutter guard and rolls over it into the gutter. But that small opening for the water can also let in a small percentage of the debris.

Methods of installation vary. Virtually all snap on the edge of the gutter, and some types are fitted under the edge of the shingles, while others are attached to the fascia.

Skardon says $21 a foot (installed) is a typical price, but he has seen prices as high as $30 or $40 a foot quoted. He says that homeowners generally can negotiate those prices down significantly.

Gutter filters or inserts

Made of foam or a brush-like material, these trap debris and let the water in. Installation is relatively easy; sections are simply placed in the gutter. Priced at about $4 a foot, these products can be ineffective if a home is surrounded by a large number of debris-dropping trees.

Copyright 2011. Tribune Newspapers. Courtesy of Chicago Tribune.

Why Cleaning Your Gutters is a Top Priority this Spring

March 1st, 2011 2 comments
Gutter dislodged from facia boards by snow, ice and leaves

Gutter dislodged from facia boards by snow, ice and leaves

After another cold and snowy winter, the last thing you probably want to do this spring is climb your ladder to clean your gutters. Here are several reasons why this unpopular seasonal chore is vital to the well-being of a healthy home.

Gutters are the primary mechanism for moving water off a roof and away from a home’s foundation. This may not seem like a big deal, but one inch of rain washing off the roof of a typical 2,000 square foot home can account for as much as 1,200 gallons of water. Based on the average rainfall for many regions of the country, that adds up to nearly 32,000 gallons of water per year — enough water to fill 2 average sized swimming pools!

The #1 cause of flooded basements and foundation damage is clogged gutters. When gutters clog, water is unable to flow freely, which results in the gutters filling with water and cascading over the front and back edges of the gutter. Overflowing water will stream down a home’s exterior walls and seep into the ground below. If your home has a basement or crawl space, the water will find naturally occurring cracks in the foundation and enter the structure. If you have window wells, water can accumulate in the wells and seep through the window openings or broken seals around the window frames. As the ground becomes saturated, excess water will pool around the foundation until the ground can absorb it. The presence of excessive moisture around a foundation can lead to mold and mildew problems, which is costly to remediate, potentially hazardous to your home and health, and can adversely affect your home’s resale value.

Leaves and sticks clogging gutter

Leaves and sticks clogging gutter

If left unchecked, clogged gutters can cause wood rot on your home’s facia boards, soffits and eaves. When this occurs, gutters must be removed from your home so the damaged wood can be replaced. Clogged gutters are also a popular breeding ground for mosquitoes!

The simple way to avoid these problems is to clean your gutters on a regular basis or add gutter guards that will permanently keep leaves and debris out of your gutters.

Each homeowner will have a different cleaning schedule based on the number and type of trees, and proximity of the trees to the house. In some cases, you may have to clean your gutters monthly, while other homeowners only have to do it a few times a year. The easiest way to see if your gutters are clogged is to visually inspect them and watch what happens when it rains. If you see water spilling over the gutters, then you know they are clogged and need to take action. Check the gutters seasonally to make sure they are flowing properly.

The two most important times to check and clean gutters are during the spring and fall. As trees and shrubs blossom in the spring, they drop flowers, seeds, and other organic matter that can quickly build-up in and clog your gutters. You may have to clean your gutters several times during the spring to keep them flowing properly. When leaves shed from trees in the fall, plan to clean the gutters again. It is very important that you clean your gutters before winter; otherwise, snow and ice is more likely to build-up in your gutters. Accumulating snow and ice can cause icicles to form on your gutters, and the excessive weight of the wet, compacted leaves and debris with the ice and snow can literally pull the gutters off of your home.

Now that you are ready to clean your gutters, grab a step- or extension-ladder, a 3” paint scraper, a garden hose with a high pressure nozzle, and a pair of rubber gloves. If you are using an extension ladder, invest in a ladder stabilizer that will keep the ladder securely positioned on the side of your home and allow you to work freely without damaging the gutters.

Once the ladder is securely positioned, clean out the loose leaves and debris, and then use the paint scraper to remove smaller debris and shingle granules along the bottom of the gutter. Next, position the ladder at the high side of the gutter and wash out the gutters working towards the downspout. Once you reach the downspout, make sure that you have removed any remaining debris from the mouth of the downspout and shoot water down the downspout to ensure that debris is not restricting water flow. If the downspout is clogged, you may need to disconnect it in order to remove the debris.

Before scaling the side of our home to clean your gutters, keep in mind that according to U.S. government issued statistics, 150,000 people are injured as a result of falling off of ladders and more than 150 people are killed annually.

Professional installing gutter guards on home

Professional installing gutter guards on home

If hiring a professional seems like the more prudent way to keep your gutters clean, set-up an annual maintenance contract or consider installing gutter guards as an alternative to regular cleanings. Not all gutter guards work effectively, so it is important to select the correct style of gutter guard for your home. The quantity and types of trees in your yard, your roof’s slope, and shingle style will determine the application that is best for you. Price will undoubtedly play a factor, too. With so many products on the market, use the Internet to do your homework, ask to view the manufacturers’ warranties, and then select the solution that is best for you. Click here to locate qualified installers in your area.

Regular cleanings or installing gutter guards will keep your gutters clog-free, prevent costly damage to your home’s exterior and interior, and increase your home’s resale value.

Gutter Guards Snow and Ice Video Review

January 25th, 2011 No comments

We have a pretty good sense about how gutter guards perform during the spring, summer and fall, but how do they stand up in the winter when temperatures drop below freezing and it’s snowing outside? Do gutter guards produce icicles? Will gutter guards collapse under the weight of snow and ice? Are exposed gutters less susceptible to the build-up of snow and ice than gutters that have gutter guards installed?

I spent time recently looking into these issues and recorded my experiences in a series of YouTube videos.

We tested micro mesh gutter guards from Leaf Solution, LeafFilter and Diamondback; a solid/reverse curve gutter guard from LeaFree; Amerimax’s popular plastic diamond pattern screen (model #86270); two perforated aluminum gutter screens from Leaf Relief and GutterRx, and a generic expanded metal screen. We also kept a portion of the gutter exposed to the elements to see how it would compare to the tested gutter guards.

Watch the videos in sequence to see how the gutter guards perform!

Testing Gutter Guards in Snow and Ice Introduction

Installing Gutter Guards for Snow and Ice Test

Gutter Guards Tested with Snow and Ice Loads

Gutter Guard Snow and Ice Test Results

We will keep the gutter guards installed for the winter, and will post updates and new videos when conditions change.

It is Time for a Better Mousetrap!

July 21st, 2010 No comments

I like to build companies from scratch. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment! If you have ever done it, you know how gratifying it can be. If you haven’t done it, I encourage you to try it someday. It’s hard but rewarding. It’s much easier to accept a job at an established company, buy into a franchise with a proven concept and customer base, or spin-off a hot product or service to form a new company. While there are aspects of this that are appealing, I’ve always enjoyed being the inventor, the creator, the guy who dreamed up the idea, built the product, technology or service and took it to market. The risks can be great, but so can the rewards. And it’s not just about money. It’s the idea of helping people, making a positive impact, being creative, resourceful, and solving problems that create many of the rewards.

So what does this have to do with gutter guards?

In 1996, I developed a Web site called GutterGuard.com. E-commerce was in its infancy. Ebay was just a year old. Google didn’t exist, and Amazon was figuring out how to sell books online. GutterGuard.com was a hobby, a sideline business, a way to earn extra income. We started out selling a gutter guard to homeowners across the U.S. and Canada. The site came along at a time when you could build it and they would come! There were only a handful of gutter guard companies in existence: GutterHelmet, Englert’s LeafGuard, Crane Plastics’ WaterFall, and a few others. In order for homeowners to access products from these companies, they had to agree to have them installed by dealers at a cost of $15, $20 or even $30 per foot. We thought this was outrageous. Our product, Cinch, now called “Solid Gutter Cover,” was a deal by comparison at $1.25 per foot. Homeowners would call and email us, they’d place orders online and by phone. We’d box the product in whatever quantities they wanted and ship it to them via UPS. We believed in the product so much, we gave homeowners 30-days to test and return it if they weren’t happy. If it didn’t rain for a while, we’d extend the return period until the first heavy rain. We knew the product worked and ultimately so did the homeowners who purchased the gutter guards from us.

During that same time, we began installing Cinch gutter guards on homes. We spent a lot of time on ladders and rooftops. We cleaned miles of gutter, and we installed a lot of product. We became subject matter experts very quickly. All of a sudden, we knew more about the gutter guards than the inventor who was a friend of ours. We would provide him with feedback and suggestions about how he could improve the product and grow the market. I remember sitting on the roof with my partner saying, ‘if we did this or that to this product, it would be a lot better.’ It’s been interesting to see so many products come onto the market. It appears that a lot of products have entered the market in much the same way we dreamed up improvements to the product we were selling and installing. Essentially, there have been a lot of “better mousetraps” developed. Some have been created by big corporations and many have been invented by gutter installers and frustrated homeowners. Many more gutter guards have been designed and patented than are on the market, and rightfully so because some designs are quirky and should never make it onto a production line.

What’s most interesting is that designs are mostly evolutionary and not very revolutionary. The first solid surface gutter guard, AKA reverse curve gutter guard was invented and patented in 1908 — 102 years ago! The same basic concept dominates the market today. You’ll find it in GutterHelmet and LeafGuard, Gutter Guardian and others. In 2003, LeafFilter was invented by Edward Higginbotham. Perhaps the first revolution in the industry in nearly 100 years, it was the biggest step towards creating the next generation gutter guard. Homeowners have responded positively since micromesh gutter guards entered the market. They do a better job keeping leaves and debris out of gutters. Higginbotham’s invention spawned a series of micro mesh gutter guards being developed from the likes of GutterGlove, Leaf Solution, and Mastershield (another Higginbotham design). I’ve tested and reviewed most of the micromesh screens, and they perform similarly well. Each has its pros and cons, but it’s the cons that bug me. I find myself asking rhetorically, “Why did they do that?” and the best answer I can come up with is that they didn’t know any better. Yet, these products sell like hot-cakes.

Why?

Perhaps homeowners are desperate for a solution that actually works — one that lives up to its promises and price-tag. They’re willing to “give it a shot” to see if this solution will be better than the last one they installed or the one their neighbors selected. And so I feel like it’s time for yet another “better mousetrap.”

My quest for a better mousetrap began in January 2008 — twelve years after I started GutterGuard.com. I woke up one morning and began sketching ideas for a new “revolutionary” gutter guard design — something the market had never seen before. I made a bunch of sketches, added notes and captions so I would remember the reasoning behind my inspiration; I dated the drawings and stuck the loose sheets of paper in my bedside table drawer. There they sat until June 2009 when I located and reviewed the drawings. What I found were nuggets of good ideas. As I learned more about other gutter guards on the market, I refined my ideas into something that I thought would work and be a winner in the marketplace. I listened to homeowners problems, I spent a lot of time analyzing other products, and I came to the conclusion that I could indeed build a better mousetrap.

And so my journey began…

Barnett’s Valley Controller Prevents Water Overflow on Roof Valleys

March 30th, 2010 3 comments
barnetts valley controller

Barnett's Valley Controller

I have to admit, this was a bit of a fortuitous phone call. I was traveling when I received a phone call from Lynn Barnett, a retired gutter installer and inventor from Ohio. He was calling to tell me about his new invention that replaces splash guards on roof valleys. See splash guards are great for keeping water from spilling over at the base of a valley, but terrible for allowing leaves and debris to fall to the ground. What invariably happens is that leaves, sticks and other matter work its way down the valley and lodge behind the splash guard. This creates a damming effect, and before you know it, you have to climb your ladder to clean the debris out from behind the splash guard. If you don’t clean this area, leaves and debris will build-up onto the roof surface, clog gutters, and water will eventually overflow around the splash guards. It’s a mess, a nuisance, and contributes to wood rot and foundation damage.

The choice until now has been to keep the splash guards in place and occasionally clean this area or remove the splash guards, which will allow leaves and debris to flow off the roof surface, but allow water to do the same, especially if you have gutter guards in place. Since this area of the roof acts more like a river due to the convergence of two roof surfaces, the water flows down the valley at a high rate of speed. This has been a classic problem for most gutter guard manufacturers. Whether your gutter guards are made from a solid material — such as aluminum or plastic — or screen, the water flow rate can be more intense than the gutter guards allow. We’ve always given our clients the option of keeping or removing the splash guards. Sure, there are things we can do to slow the water down if we remove splash guards, but it requires customization that is time consuming and difficult to consistently implement.

Nobody has ever come up with a better solution to solve this problem, until now. As it turns out, the inventor and I were both in the same town on the day of his phone call. He was visiting potential distributors throughout the southeast and I was visiting prospective clients. We agreed to meet in a Shoney’s parking lot, and when I showed up, he was sitting on the back of his camper trailer awaiting my arrival. He had set-up his sample display and I asked him to give me his sales pitch.

It didn’t take me more than 30-seconds to see how this product was going to make homeowners across the land happier. It was one of those “a ha” moments when you think to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that.” And, believe me, I have thought plenty about how to solve this problem! So has Lynn Barnett. For Lynn, this was the culmination of being in the guttering industry for 31-years. His design, which he has been working on for five years, is slowly making it’s way onto wholesale distributor’s store shelves and may make an appearance in a gutter near you soon.

barnett's valley controller

"Cheese grater" style pattern collects water in roof valley

Here are the details about Barnett’s Valley Controller:

  • It incorporates a patented cheese-grater style top and louvered sidewall design. Water flows through the open slots into the gutter, and debris washes over the top of the surface and falls to the ground.
  • It’s made of Kostrate®, the same material as plastic water bottles.
  • The plastic is pliable, will stand up to sub-zero temperatures, and has a memory so that it can take and hold a shape.
  • It will fit on any asphalt shingle roof with or without a metal valley, and secures under the second course of shingles.
  • It’s guaranteed for 12-years, and can be painted with any acrylic paint to match your roof and gutters.

I liked the product so much, I said that I wanted to make it available directly to homeowners online. Here’s your chance to get a headstart and take care of this problem once and for all. If you have gutter guards on your home or are contemplating putting them on, this system will work with any style gutter guard. It’ll actually make your gutter guard system work better since it solves one of the most nagging issues for homeowners — excess water flow in valleys.

If you want to purchase Barnett’s Valley Controller online, we’re offering it for $24.99 with FREE shipping. Discounts are available for quantities of 3 or more. Go to http://bit.ly/9v3hz6 to order today. To watch a video on how the system works, go to http://bit.ly/aXSiF3.

Are You a Consumer Reports Reader Looking for Info about Gutter Guards?

June 17th, 2009 No comments

If you are one of the thousands of readers who has looked to Consumer Reports for information about gutter guards only to find comments from other homeowners looking for the same info, I encourage you to read the posts contained in this blog. I started GutterTalk as a forum to educate homeowners about the array of gutter guard products on the market since there is little useful information available on the topic.

The purpose of this blog is to open a dialog with you, answer your questions, and steer you in the right direction. By reading the posts, you’ll find information you need to make an informed choice. The best way that I can help serve you is by responding to your questions and comments, and using your feedback to expand the content and relevancy of this blog. This will not only help you with your upcoming purchase decision, but benefit other homeowners who are facing the same issues that you are.

What are my qualifications?

In 1997, I became a distributor and installer of the Cinch solid surface gutter guard. A business partner and I launched a Web site and began selling this do-it-yourself product to homeowners and businesses across the country. We also installed the products we sold, so we quickly became experts in what works and what doesn’t. We helped the inventor and manufacturer refine the product design and improve its effectiveness based on real world issues. The inventor eventually struck a deal with large home improvement distributor, and it is now readily available in most Home Depot and Lowe’s stores.

Today, my company, Gutter Guards Direct, distributes LeafFilter, which is one of the premium micro-screen gutter protection systems on the market; however, I established this blog to provide you with an unbiased overview of several products on the market, to help you determine why you should or should not purchase gutter guards, and what issues to be aware of before making the decision to buy a gutter guard system for your home.

Finding the right solution is a significant issue for most homeowners. I receive e-mails and calls everyday from homeowners who are confused, frustrated, and looking for the best solution available. Most interestingly, about 40% of homeowners who contact us already have gutter guards on their homes, and they’re actually looking to replace what they have with a better, more reliable solution. 

This is an important point because it highlights that every product currently on the market has its pros and cons. In some cases, the same product may work great for one homeowner and be a huge disappointment to another. 

Now that you know a little more about me and the purpose of GutterTalk, please read on, and send me your feedback and questions. Comment on the individual posts, subscribe to our RSS feed or check back regularly for new posts.  You can also ask questions on our Twitter page at www.twitter.com/gutterguards.

Take care,

Johnathan

Let’s GutterTalk!

January 22nd, 2009 No comments

Welcome to GutterTalk. This is a place where we will talk all things gutters with a specific focus on gutter guard related issues. With many gutter guard products on the market today, consumers have many choices from which to choose, and we want help homeowners make decisions that are appropriate for their situation, separate fact from fiction, and be a sounding board for your questions, comments, and concerns. 

We encourage you to write us with your questions and comments so that we can share your stories with others. We will post the information on our blog and then we’ll invite user feedback. While we may not always agree, we want this to be a forum for conversation and debate. We simply request that your comments be respectful and on-topic.

You can subscribe to our blog simply by selecting the RSS Reader below. That way, our blog will hit your desktop anytime there’s something new to say.