The kids are back in school and that means summer’s over. Autumn is coming and soon we’ll be climbing up our roofs and cleaning out the gutters before the fall leaves begin their damage. But how much damage can some leaves really do? Well, in my business, I’ve seen quite a bit.
I hate coming to what’s supposed to be a simple job, then, when I start to work and tear things down, I see tons more work thanks to water damage. Your home’s No. 1 enemy is water. Why? Because it causes things like mould and rot, which compromise the entire structural integrity of the house, not to mention your health. That water must flow away from your house. Gutters play an important role in that process. They’re supposed to collect the water from your roof and direct it as far away from your home’s foundation as possible — I suggest at least five feet, but it depends on how close your neighbour’s property line is. Seems simple, but there are a few things that can get in the way of gutters doing their job. Some examples:
Two Sides To Every Gutter Eavestroughs & Downspouts
Many of the newer homes being built have more than just a single roof. For example, there could be a roof over the garage, one over the second floor of the house, and smaller ones over rooms that extend from the house, such as a kitchen area or mud room. No matter what, there should be an eavestrough running along the bottom of every roofline on a house. Every eavestrough needs to have a downspout that drains the collected water away from its roof. You never want a downspout to drain water directly onto a lower-level roof; this will cause water and ice damage to the shingles and roof deck underneath. It must always drain into a lower roof’s eavestrough. You also never want a downspout to drain directly into the weeping tiles below ground or near the foundation — this causes water damage to the foundation. In either case, the result is water coming into the house at the roof or foundation level. Not a good thing.
Let The Pros Do Their Job
Some people think gutters can be a DIY project. Most DIY gutters are plastic and come in standard sections of about 10 to 12 feet. Plastic gets brittle, especially in the cold, and will need to be replaced. That’s why aluminum is the industry standard for gutters. It never rusts, unlike steel, and it’s weather resistant, unlike plastic. We also want to use a thick gauge for all metal gutters. The thicker the gauge, the longer they’ll last. When gutters are built in sections, there’s going to be seams, and seams can leak. And believe me, if it can leak, it will. That’s why I only recommend seamless eavestroughs.
Professionals use a forming machine to construct seamless eavestroughs — custom-sized to fit the length of any roof. It’s the only way an eavestrough should be done and it’s the only way to prevent leaks. Professionals also make sure the entire eavestrough is pitched correctly. Otherwise, water won’t drain properly. You want something that’s going to last. You don’t want something you’ll have to replace after the first winter. Doing it right the first time means we don’t have to do it again. You always need to bring in the right people for the right job, so get a professional to install your gutters.
Do Maintenance BEFORE The Temperature Drops
Before the temperature drops below freezing, our gutters need to be clear of any debris. If eavestroughs and downspouts are clogged, two things will happen: First, any debris and water caught in the eavestrough will freeze into a channel of frozen muck. This will overload the eavestrough and eventually it will warp (remember, water expands as it freezes).
Secondly, water can back up under the shingles and cause ice damming and water damage to the roof deck. I know it’s a pain to go up there and clean out the gutters, so some people put it off for as long as possible. Not a good idea if you want to preserve the integrity of your roof. A good way to prevent clogging is by installing a screen guard that sits over the eavestrough. This prevents any leaves or debris from falling in. It also eliminates the chore of having to clean your gutters. There are a few screen guard products you can install yourself. Just remember to brush off any leaves that get stuck on the screen so they don’t block the screen’s holes and prevent proper draining.
I’ve heard complaints about ice damming after installing a screen over eavestroughs. Let me be clear: The screen isn’t causing ice damming, it’s heat loss from the home that’s causing it. You know those icicles that hang off the gutters in the winter? Icicles are created when snow melts, and then the water refreezes before it drains through the eavestroughs. How can the snow on our roof be melting if the temperature outdoors is below freezing? Because heat is escaping from the roof and melting the snow. So if you want to prevent ice damming, think about insulating your attic better and double-checking your roof for heat loss.
It’s important to protect our homes in winter weather. A big part of that protection comes from our gutters. If we do our job and maintain them, they’ll do their job and protect our homes from precipitation and water.
Article by Mike Holmes posted in the National Post September 17, 2011. http://nationalpost.com/life/homes/mike-holmes-maintain-your-gutters-before-the-frost/wcm/8db785ee-9009-4629-abbc-6fabbfdfa4ec
Ice dam photo credit: Desi's Roofing