Posts Tagged ‘gutter maintenance’

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.

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 to order today. To watch a video on how the system works, go to

Spring is here. We want to hear from you.

March 16th, 2010 No comments

Daylight savings is here. Spring is just around the corner — we hope — and homeowners across the country are emerging from hibernation to face the task of sprucing up their homes and yards. With the advent of spring comes the seasonal chore of cleaning your gutters — either what you put off from last fall or anticipating what’s to come after trees blossom and shed Maple seeds, Oak tassels and the like.

Since we started this conversation, we have received lots of great feedback and comments from homeowners trying to figure out the best gutter guard application for their homes. We’ve even heard from a handful of manufacturers commenting on reviews we’ve written about their products. It has been rewarding hearing from you, yet we’d like to hear more. We want your questions, comments and feedback.

If you’re contemplating a particular brand of gutter guard, we want to hear what you like about what you’ve seen and what concerns you. We realize that with so many choices in the marketplace, the more products you look at, the more confusing your decision can become.

In addition to scouring the Internet for information, how else do you search for gutter guards? Do you use the Yellow Pages, attend home shows, or seek referrals from friends?

Do you like solid reverse curve or micro mesh screen systems?

What do you like about each type?

What bugs you?

How much does price impact your buying decisions?

Reviews and requests for information about pricing are the most popular search terms we get on this blog. If you have received quotes for different products on your home, feel free to share that info with other readers. They want to learn from your experiences.

If you’ve bought something and love it, let us know. By the same token, if you bought something and regret your decision, readers want to know.

Don’t hesitate to ask us questions. If you like the topics we’re discussing, let us know. If you want us to write about something in particular, let us know that, too.

We’ve recently added a few features that allow you to easily share our blog stories with others. If you find the information helpful, be sure to select the “Like” icon at the bottom of each article. If you want to share our articles on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc., the links at the bottom of each story allow you to easily share the information with your friends, neighbors and colleagues.

Welcome to spring. Welcome to the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Flo-Free, Leaf Defier, GutterFill & Other Open Cell Gutter Inserts

September 27th, 2009 7 comments
Leaf Defier Open Cell Gutter Insert

Leaf Defier Open Cell Gutter Insert

Eric submitted an e-mail asking for my opinion about open cell gutter inserts. You’ve probably seen them at your local home show, home improvement store, or online. Maybe you have them installed on your home. They are black foam-like inserts that fit inside your gutter. By filling the cavity of your gutter, they prevent leaves and debris from entering the gutters, yet allow water to flow through. There are several brands on the market and they look remarkably similar to one another.

I was going to avoid writing about this style of gutter guard because I believe these products have design flaws that will render them ineffective over time, and I didn’t want to comment on them before I had a chance to test them. However, I’ve recently heard from people who are considering purchasing this style of protection for their homes, from homeowners who purchased and installed them, and from roofing and gutter contractors who have installed them in the past. Thanks to Eric’s questions, it’s time to write about open cell inserts.

I’m going on record to say that I have not tested these products yet, so my observations are based on my industry expertise, viewing the products, comments from dealers who have installed them, and homeowners who installed or had them installed on their homes.

The manufacturers claims that the open cell gutter inserts accept most-to-all water that drains off roofs, is a true statement, I believe — at least when the product is first installed. Since they’re relatively porous and will absorb water as it flows off the roof and down the valleys, they will most certainly work. Leaf Defier, GutterFill and a half-dozen look-a-likes are designed to fit in gutters like a wedge. Shaped like a right triangle (2 sides form a 90º angle, the third side is 45º), the narrow end of the wedge rests at the bottom of the gutter, and the wide end extends across the entire gutter opening, effectively sealing leaves and debris out of the gutters. As water flows off the roof, it lands on top of the porous material and drains through the cells into the gutter. Flo-Free Open Cell Gutter InsertFlo-Free incorporates a different design but the same drainage principle. Flo-Free is 3/4″ thick industrial-strength nylon, according to the manufacturer. One end of the product is designed to sit against the bottom of the gutter and the other end rests the back edge of the gutter, creating an upside down J-effect. Flo-free reminds me of a reusable furnace air filter or the colorful wiry round plastic pot and dish scrubbers, while Leaf Defier and GutterFill look more like the foam padding inserts that protect computers, TVs and audio systems.

The primary contention I have with the open cell gutter inserts is the product design. Most of the inserts look similar to a right triangle. Since the foam-like material is inserted inside the gutter, the area on which the water flows is flat, and it sits below the gutter lip, which will create a barrier that makes it difficult for small debris to wash off the surface. Hopefully, you see where I’m going. In order for a gutter guard to be effective at shedding debris, it needs to have an angle — essentially a downward slope from the back to the front of the gutter. With the exception of Flo-Free, these products have no slope; therefore, no ability to naturally shed the debris that is bound to land on the top surface. This is a significant problem because without a slope, it is likely that debris will not only collect, but will do so quickly. While some debris may blow or wash off the top surface, I suspect more debris than not will stick to the surface. When leaves get wet and dry, they have a tendency to bond together with other leaves and debris, which make it all the more likely that you’ll have to brush off the surface in order to dislodge the debris from the surface. While the manufacturers claim that pine needles will “roll off” the surface to the ground, I don’t buy it. Shingle granules will definitely not roll off the surface. If anything, they’ll lodge in the porous openings. Depending on the size of the cells, some granules may wash into the gutter like the manufacturers claim, but I believe that most will settle within the cells and the inserts will have to be removed from the gutters, cleaned and reinstalled on occasion. Even if these systems continue to allow water to get past the debris into the gutter, the fact that you’ll have to clean off the surface on a regular basis will likely outweigh the perceived benefits of the system. Flo-Free is arced across the gutter opening, so it looks like a dome. The good news is that the forward facing arc will help coax debris off the surface, but the rear-facing arc will cause debris to get stuck between the shingles and the peak of the arc. The only way you will avoid the rear-facing slope is if the shingles cover this area, in which case, Flo-Free may be the most effective of the open cell systems.

Let me tell you about three stories I have recently heard about these systems:

#1 — A homeowner in Seattle called telling me that he purchased open cell gutter inserts because he has a metal roof that limits the type of gutter guards he can install on his house; it was relatively inexpensive compared to professional grade gutter guards, and he could install them himself without special tools.

He said that pine needles build-up on the surface, which requires him to clean the surface, but his biggest complaint is that when the temperature drops below freezing, the water freezes within the cells and his gutters became like an ice tray.

#2 — A roofing company near Knoxville was asked by a customer to install Leaf Defier once they completed a roofing job. Within 2 weeks of the work being completed, the homeowner called the contractor asking them to remove the system because he was dissatisfied with the product’s performance. And the kicker was, since he made the mistake by selecting the product in the first place, he told the company that he would pay to have the gutter inserts removed.

#3 — A remodeling contractor in Chattanooga said that he installed the open cell inserts on his grandfather’s house, and his grandfather hasn’t forgiven him since! In fact, the contractor said that his grandfather used some choice words when he called his grandson telling him to remove gutter inserts from his house.

GutterFill Open Cell Gutter InsertI believe that open cell gutter inserts will keep leaves and most debris out of your gutters. I believe that water will be able to enter into your gutters freely for some period of time, but I believe over time that water flow will become restricted depending on how much debris lodges on top of and inside the inserts. I also believe that these systems have inherent design flaws will make them a higher maintenance solution than what most homeowners are willing to tolerate. While the cost of these systems is less than a typical solid gutter cover or micro-screen system, the cost savings will be offset by the higher upkeep and poorer performance over the life of the product. Considering two of the three homeowners cited in the stories above requested that the products be removed from their homes shortly after they were installed, I believe that it’s safe to say that unless you live in an area with very little debris affecting the performance of your gutters, steer clear of this option.

My gutters clog. Should I remove them?

February 23rd, 2009 No comments

Believe it or not, I have fielded this question many times over the years. It’s tempting and seems like it would be a cheaper alternative to continuously cleaning your gutters.  It’s true that removing gutters would eliminate a seasonal chore from your to-do list; however, gutters play a critical role on homes, and it will cause other headaches that are much more problematic and expensive to resolve.

When installed and working properly, gutters are the primary mechanism for moving water off a roof and away from a building’s foundation. This may not seem like a big deal, but moderate to heavy rainfall can produce hundreds of gallons of water around the perimeter of a home in a very short period of time. Not having gutters installed would mean that the water would simply stream off the roof, and it would seep into the ground at the point of entry. If your home has a basement or a crawl space, the water will find naturally occurring cracks in the foundation and enter the structure. If you have window wells, water can build up in the wells and seep through the window openings or broken seals around the window frames. In extremely heavy rains, as the ground becomes saturated, excess water will pool around the foundation until the ground can absorb it. The presence of this much moisture around a foundation can also lead to mold and mildew problems, which is costly to remediate, potentially hazardous to your home and health, and can negatively affect your home’s resale value.

The #1 cause of flooding basements and foundation damage is clogged gutters, so you can imagine that by not having gutters, you are creating a problem that is potentially much more damaging and expensive than cleaning your gutters on a regular basis or installing gutter guards, which can help remedy the problem once-and-for-all.

If you have been contemplating removing your gutters, don’t do it! If your gutters are damaged or are not performing as they should, have them replaced. If you don’t have gutters, and you live in most regions of the country where it rains on a regular basis, we strongly encourage you to add new gutters to avoid the problems mentioned in this blog. Make sure to consult with reputable installer to determine whether they should install 5″ or 6″ gutters. The larger the opening, the more water can flow through them, and the cost difference between the two sizes is negligible.

This is also the perfect time to install gutter guards; however, don’t assume your gutter installer will offer the best long-term solution or price. Take the opportunity to educate yourself about the different gutter guard options and talk with several dealers before making your final selection.