Time To Brush-Up On Gutters

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Winter is here, and with it comes wetter weather from border-to-border and coast-to-coast in the form of snow and ice up North and in the Midwest and torrential rains for the Sunbelt states.

In either case, an effective combination of gutters and downspouts that efficiently channel water run-off from the roof is a must. That is, only if you want to prevent a myriad of potential problems, such as foundation leaks, stained or soaked walls, retained moisture problems (siding deterioration, mold, etc.), stuck windows and doors, and/or a substantial erosion in surrounding soil. Therefore, we strongly recommend having a top-quality gutter system in place instead.

As for the material of choice, we prefer 26-gauge galvanized sheet metal gutters and downspouts because, by comparison, sheet metal is stronger than aluminum, it is more watertight than plastic and it is, by far, much less expensive than copper.

With that said, the next important thing to remember is to keep gutters clean and running free. Wet debris lodged at the bottom of a metal gutter promotes rust and deterioration and will inevitably lead to premature replacement and needless higher home maintenance costs.

Debris settled in the gutters eventually washes downstream and often ends up clogging downspouts as well, creating a gutter flooding back-up, which is equivalent to not having gutters at all. This in turn, resumes the “no gutter” problems noted earlier —such as damage to wood surfaces, potential fungus growth and, in some instances, allowing pervasive water to back-up to start leaking into the home.

Gutter awareness and seasonal maintenance is most important in fall and winter due to leaves and debris that drop onto the roof from surrounding trees, and some species are more difficult to deal with and manage than others. For this, a wide variety of “gutter protectors” are offered to eliminate this problem.

Basically, gutter protectors prevent leaves from getting into your rain gutter (especially the full flat leaves that fall from trees like the mulberry, oak, birch and maple) while still allowing water to drain into the system and to be safely channeled away.

Almost all of the gutter protectors on the market work well with large flat leaves. Each allows water to seep into the gutter while keeping large leaves out.

However, pesky pine needles, small blossoms and berries present a different and special problem.

So, with that in mind, let’s review some options being offered today and the system we personally like best — exploring some of the pros and cons of ways to keep your gutters clean and running free.

The most common gutter protection device is the “tension-mount” screen type made from a pliable, flexible metal or plastic mesh that is slightly wider than the gutter opening. The pros: It is inexpensive, installation is simple and once snapped into place, the wider cut material arcs upward and it keeps wet or dry large leaves from falling through. The cons: Large leaves can pile up and smaller debris, like seeds, berries and the like, can clog the screen to the point where rainwater passes over the gutter instead of into it. Pine needles are especially tough as they wedge themselves into this type of screen. Thus, screen-type gutter protection anywhere near pine trees is a troublesome combination.

Snap-in screen gutter protectors are a bit more expensive and are self-supporting, meaning they simply snap into place on top of the gutter. They are easy to install and to remove for cleaning when debris falls through and into the gutter. While framed snap-in screen protectors cost more, easy removal makes them better in the long run. Removing pine needles is easier too.

A louvered-style gutter cap is also good for combating pine needles and other tiny debris. It is a “solid cover” type protector that mounts above the gutter and slides in below the roof shingles and felt. However, it is tricky to install, as nails must be driven through the flashing and into the roof frame from beneath the existing shingles. Thus, it is best done by experienced do-it-yourselfers or, better yet, by a sheet metal contractor — and pro installation makes this an even more expensive option.

So, what is the gutter protection we like best? After testing a number of alternatives, we recommend “GutterBrush.” It is inexpensive, easy to install, and most important of all it really works! GutterBrush is a series of big 5-inch or 6-inch round weather-resistant brushes; offered in three-foot or 18-inch lengths that are easily placed end-to-end throughout a rainwater system. It kind of resembles a bottlebrush on steroids. Debris that fall are suspended flat or on edge on top of GutterBrush, while the bottom remains open, allowing run-off water to easily pass through and flow freely. Maintenance is easy too, as over time, debris exposed to sun and wind simply blows off or it deteriorates and rinses away.

Remember, wet winter weather means it’s time for clean gutters to protect your home and preserve your pocketbook, even if vast quantities of leaves and pine needles are not a problem in your area. And if they are, then visit www.gutterbrush.com to brush-up on great protection that keeps gutters and downspouts clean and running free.

Either way, ensuring that gutters efficiently carry water run-off away from your home is a wise thing to do. ’Tis the season.

Question and Answer

Noise-Reducing Walls

Question: I live in a townhouse that has a wall that I share with my neighbor next door. Can I inject blown insulation into the wall space between our dwellings to reduce noise from one space to the other? I am very happy in my townhouse and enjoy my neighbors, but I would like to hear less of them at times and I am sure that they feel the same. Any suggestions?

Freeda

Answer: We appreciate your need for privacy and understand that a soiree next door can be grounds for a war on your end. Standby, relief is on the way.

Injecting blown insulation into the wall space between the dwellings is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, while it is one of the least disruptive and most inexpensive means of dealing with this problem, it also happens to be one of the least effective. It is nonetheless the point at which to begin since any other solution that we might recommend will also include this as the first step.

The most effective way to deal with this problem is by increasing the density of the space between the dwellings. There are several ways in which this can be done.

The first is by installing decorative wall panels, which are engineered to absorb noise. One of the major manufacturers of these products is the Homasote Corporation. Their panels come in a variety of finishes from cork to grass cloth and are sure to meet virtually any decorating need.

Another way to diminish the transfer of noise is by installing one or two layers of 5/8-inch gypsum wallboard over resilient mounting channel that is attached to the existing wall horizontally on 24-inch centers. The resilient channel will provide air space between the layers of wallboard and lessen the amount of noise transferred through vibration.

Where noise is a real problem, a new and separate party wall can be constructed that incorporates air space, insulation, and multiple layers of gypsum wallboard. The disadvantage here is that it is quite an undertaking and depending upon the space can be quite costly. It can also make what is already a small room even smaller.

Consult an architect or acoustical engineer if more information is needed.

For more home improvement tips and information visit the Web site at www.onthehouse.com.

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