Category: Roofing & Siding


5 Steps to Hiring the Right Roofer

Roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake, so take the time to be certain you find a roofing contractor you trust to put a roof over your head.

How to Find a Roofing Contractor

Photo: shutterstock.com

Whereas other home upgrades are purely elective, roof repairs aren’t a choice; they’re essential. Besides being critically important to personal comfort, structural integrity, and the resale value of your home, roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake. The significant costs involved motivate some ambitious do-it-yourselfers to do the work on their own. But for the majority of us, a roofing job means hiring a professional. So if you’re at an early stage of the process, take control by finding a qualified contractor with a solid reputation. Hire well, and you can expect the roofer not only to get the job done on time and on budget, but also to offer valuable insight on the best materials for your house style and the climate where you live. So rather than flip open the yellow pages and settle on the first company listed, follow these steps designed to help you find someone you can trust to put a roof over your head:

How to Find a Roofing Contractor - Shingles

Photo: Shutterstock.com

1. Get a referral
One tried-and-true method of finding a reliable contractor is to query your friends and neighbors. Within the past few years, has anyone in your life had work done on his roof? Make a list of names, reach out to each person, and ask two questions: Was he happy with the job done and would he work with that contractor again? Testimonials provide the most accurate picture of what your experience might be with a given company, and you can count on personal contacts to give you honest feedback. Outside of your circle, you can also get leads from lumber yards and hardware stores.

2. Do your research
If you’ve identified at least three qualified roofers, you can get started investigating each one. Start by verifying the businesses’ contact information. Next, confirm that each one is licensed and insured. Consult your chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau to be certain there are no red flags to be aware of. Then finally look for reports on contractor review sites, such as Angie’s List.

3. Meet face-to-face them
Having narrowed the field, invite the prospective contractors to visit your home and scope out the job. You’ll want to discuss roofing materials and the extent of work to be done, but don’t forget to ask about the time and manpower needed for completion. Observe the contractor: He should be enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and professional in demeanor. Certainly, you’re dealing with an authority on materials and methods, but don’t be deterred from participating in the decision-making process! Ask a lot of questions and before he leaves, remember to get a list of references (then remember to check them).

4. Get it in writing
Work shouldn’t begin until you have a signed contract detailing every aspect of the job. Make certain it covers safety procedures and liability, including workers’ compensation. The contract should also specify such things as clean-up methods, payment amounts, and the schedule. Consider requesting a lien waiver to protect against claims that could arise if the roofer fails to pay a vendor for materials.

5. You get what you pay for
The cheapest bid probably isn’t your best bet. Of course, the estimates issued are a factor to consider. But more important is your level of confidence in a given roofer’s ability to do an outstanding job. If you’re impressed by a company that isn’t the cheapest, ask yourself, “How much is peace of mind worth to me?” For many homeowners, it’s worth quite a lot.

Good luck!


Bob Vila Radio: Repointing Brick

Brick installations last quite a long time, but over the years mortar deteriorates. When that happens, at repointing brick becomes a necessity. Here's how it's done.

Brick is very low maintenance, but age and weather still take their toll. As a result, brick requires occasional repointing—removing and replacing deteriorated mortar. Fortunately, this is a task that a handy homeowner can tackle.

Repointing Brick

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON REPOINTING BRICK or read the text below:

Working in small sections, use a cold chisel, a handheld grout saw, or a joint raker to tap out the damaged mortar without harming the brick. Remove the mortar to a depth of at least half an inch, then clean up the dust with a broom, brush, or hose. (Be sure to wear a respirator.)

Soak the brick and let it dry overnight. If your house is less than 50 years old, you can probably repoint using standard Portland cement mortar; older brick may require a lime-and-sand mix. Consult a mason if you’re uncertain about the age of your bricks.

Mix the mortar in small batches. Lightly spritz the bricks, pick up some mortar on a large trowel, and work small amounts into the joints using a pointing trowel. Even out the mortar with the flat edge of the trowel and scrape off any mortar you get on the face of the bricks. After an hour or so, use a sturdy wire brush to carefully clean mortar off the brick face. Mist the wall daily for the next few days to help the mortar dry without cracking.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


5 Things to Consider When Choosing a New Roof

According to GAF, North America's largest roofing manufacturer, your roof can contribute 40 percent or more to the look of your home. Choose wisely and you'll create something that not only protects your home for the long-term, but immediately enhances its overall beauty and style.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home

Photo: GAF Sienna Shingles in Habor Mist

Every homeowner knows that a sound roof is an absolute must to protect your investment. That’s why routine roof maintenance—from cleaning out gutters to checking for missing shingles and leaks in the attic—is so important.

In general, roofs last between 15-20 years depending on the original materials used. So, if yours is approaching that age, it might not be a bad idea to have a professional roofer conduct an evaluation. If the inspection indicates a new roof is in order, you’ll have one of two options: installing the new roof directly over the old, or replacing it entirely.  In either case, you’ll have the opportunity to redefine and reinforce your home.

MATERIAL
While roofing is available in a wide variety of materials including wood, metal, tile and slate, far and away the most popular choice for homeowners is asphalt shingles. Today’s relatively lightweight and flexible shingles are typically made from a fiberglass mat, covered in asphalt and colored with mineral granules.  With manufacturing innovations that include everything from superior-strength Micro Weave™ Core construction to granules that lock in color and provide valuable UV protection against the sun’s damaging rays, you won’t have any trouble finding a good-looking, high-performing asphalt shingle to suit your home and budget.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home - Timberline Shingles

Photo: GAF Timberline American Harvest Shingles in Nantucket Morning

STYLE
Although driveways, lawns, siding and front doors get most of the attention when we think about curb appeal, the roof actually contributes mightily to the look of a house.  If you are considering a new roof, look for the shingle that best suits your home’s architectural style. You’ll also want to factor in the surface area, pitch and angle of the roof to determine whether a standard three-tab, dimensional or artisan-crafted shingle will deliver the look you want.

As you’ll discover, it’s no longer about choosing a standard square shape in a few different shades. Asphalt shingle products have evolved into a wide variety of patterns and colors so that your roof can truly elevate the appeal and longevity of your home.

One of the more interesting style choices today is Sienna® because the shingles are cut in a classic, old-world diamond shape. Part of GAF’s Value Collection, they carry a Class A fire-rating and feature unique Diamond Cut™ granules that reflect light, adding more depth to each shingle.

COLOR
Like style, color is also an important consideration when choosing a new roof.  Selecting a coloration that compliments your home’s exterior palette and surroundings will create a harmonious and elegant look. In general, if a large portion of your home’s roof is visible from the street, you might want to keep things subdued, as larger roofs look better in neutral tones. Also, avoid using a heavily patterned roof on a home that has brick or stone facing to keep things from getting too busy.

The palette for the Timberline® American Harvest™ line was designed specifically to complement a home’s exterior color scheme. Created exclusively for GAF by color-industry expert, Patricia Verlodt, the shingles feature subtle blends of contrasting colors that add an unexpected depth and beauty to the roof.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home - Grand Sequoia

Photo: GAF Grand Sequoia in Weathered Wood

DURABILITY
You’ll want to make certain that the roof you choose stands up to the elements and provides lasting beauty over the course of its lifetime.  One way to be sure—shop quality and brand.  When you install a GAF Advanced Protection Shingle, you are getting the very best combination of weight and performance that modern technology and testing can deliver.  With over 185 individual tests, GAF is the first manufacturer who can say all its shingles pass the AC438 requirements for long-term durability, wind-driven rain performance, and long-term extreme temperature resistance.

In addition to the shingle’s durability, you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s warranty. GAF offers a Lifetime Limited Warranty (that includes wind damage coverage of up to 130 MPH speeds*) on many of its premium products.  Since the warranty is transferable to the next owner, the roof can become a desirable selling feature to prospective buyers.

PRICE
Without a doubt, asphalt shingles are the most affordable and arguably the least maintenance-intensive option of covering your home’s roof.

Among these types of shingle you’ll pay more for extended lifespans, more robust warranties, and unique patterns and finishes—but not always much more. Case in point: Woodland® Shingles from GAF. Designed to imitate the look of hand-cut European shingles, they cost only pennies-a-day more than standard architectural shingles.

Thanks to web tools, like Virtual Home Remodeler, you can now test out which shingle best suits your house. Simply choose the style of your home—or upload a picture of your actual house—and try out different roofing products to find the one that fits the look you’re trying to achieve.

*Maximum wind coverage requires special installation. See Limited Warranty for complete coverage and restrictions.

This post has been paid for by GAF. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Bob Vila Radio: Maintaining Brick

Of all the commonly used materials in homebuilding, brick ranks among the most durable, but in order to look and perform its best, occasional maintenance is necessary. These tips can help you clean brick, whether it's inside or outdoors.

Stately and strong, brick has been a popular building material for centuries. Though it seems impervious, brick needs occasional attention to ensure its longevity and structural integrity.

How to Clean Brick

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON MAINTAINING BRICK or read the text below:

Once a year, clean your brick exterior with a garden hose fitted with a spray nozzle. If you notice moss, mold, or mildew—typically in low-sunlight areas—use a scrub brush to apply a solution of bleach (one cup) and water (one gallon). Give the brick a thorough soaking first to help prevent it from absorbing the bleach. Protect your plantings and use a natural- or synthetic-bristle brush. Don’t use a wire brush that could leave behind metal that would discolor the brick.

As you clean, check to make sure the weep holes are clear. These are typically vertical breaks in the mortar at intervals above the foundation (and often above and below windows and other openings). Also, be on the lookout for water damage, whether it’s soft or cracked mortar or flaked or chipped brick. Efflorescence—a white, chalky coating—can also be a sign of moisture. Water damage may be the result of weather, improper drainage, or rising damp (water wicking up the porous brick). Whatever the cause, it’s made worse by freeze-thaw cycles, so don’t wait long before having damaged brick replaced and repointed.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Gutter Guards

Gutter guards relieve you of the dirty, awkward responsibility of cleaning out the gutters—a seasonal task that many homeowners dread.

Cleaning out gutters is nobody’s idea of fun—it’s dirty and awkward, and it’s dangerous if you’re working high on a ladder. So it’s no wonder that homeowners look longingly at gutter covers, screens, and other systems that claim to relieve them of the task.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON GUTTER GUARDS or read the text below:

Gutter Guards

Photo: flickr.com

These systems fall into two general categories. There are permanent installations of covered gutters, which use surface tension to pull water in while shrugging off leaves and other debris. And then there are screens and guards that can be installed on existing gutters to keep all that junk out and the water running freely.

The surface tension models are expensive, but they have the advantage of being a one-time cost backed by a lifetime guarantee. If they do clog, the guarantee should cover any necessary clean-out or repair. They work well, although sometimes they overflow during an extremely heavy downpour (as all gutters do).

Guards that cover existing gutters are less expensive, and they’re an especially good choice if you have wooden gutters, which are susceptible to rot from the buildup of leaves and other debris. But they’re not foolproof, and some debris can work its way in. If you’re considering a screen system, start with placing guards right over downspout holes (where a clog can do the most damage) or on sections of your gutter that are directly underneath trees that shed leaves and needles.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


5 Upgrades to Consider When Re-Roofing Your Home

Although re-roofing is not necessarily a glamorous home improvement, it is certainly an important one. If you are planning a new roof, consider these 5 upgrades that will make your roof more beautiful, functional, and long-lived.

LeafGuard gutters

Photo: LeafGuard Brand Gutters

Re-roofing your home is not the most glamorous of home improvements. You’ll note that HGTV shows rarely even mention the roof. Unlike decks, kitchens, and baths, the roof is not really something you’d invite your friends over to admire. But re-roofing does present some appealing opportunities for the homeowner who wants to reduce maintenance and unnecessary expenses for years to come. Here are five roof upgrades to consider when you are about to reroof your home.

1. Install an airtight chimney cap
Unlike masonry and metal chimney caps that are designed to keep rain and (if screened) birds and other critters out of your chimney, airtight caps are about saving energy.

When your fireplace is not in use, warm air from inside your home is literally gushing out the chimney when the weather is cold. The damper in your firebox does little to stop it because it is not airtight.

Ask your roofer about installing an airtight chimney cap while the roof is being worked on. These units are spring-activated. To open the chimney cap, you just tug on a steel cable that’s attached to a bracket inside your fireplace. Pull it shut after your fire is completely out. An airtight cap has the added benefit of keeping animals from nesting inside your chimney.

2. Install eave flashing
If you’ve ever experienced damage from an ice dam, you might want to invest a little extra when re-roofing to install eave flashing. These peel-and-stick bituminous membranes are applied prior to shingling to a depth that is 2 feet inside the exterior wall plane (three feet on low-pitched roofs). The membranes self-seal around roofing fasteners, forming a watertight seal over the eaves, which are the portion of the roof most susceptible to ice dams. Bituminous eave flashing may also be specified for other vulnerable roof areas, such as over valleys and around skylights and dormers.

3. Improve roof ventilation
Attics become like furnaces in summer if they are not well ventilated. That heat buildup radiates to the rooms directly below the attic, making them uncomfortable. To keep the attic—and your home—cooler, be sure your roofing contractor installs ridge vents across the top of your roof. Barely noticeable from the street, ridge vents allow air movement beneath the ridge cap shingles. For ventilation to be effective, soffit vents located under the eaves draw cooler air into the attic as hot air is being expelled. Gable vents, which are located near the roof peak of exterior walls, may also be needed to ensure adequate airflow. A cooler attic means your home will be more comfortable during the summer without your having to spend a fortune on air conditioning.

4. Choose an energy-efficient shingle
The recommendation for a cooler roof used to be to select light-colored or white shingles. This option, however, wasn’t always aesthetically appealing to homeowners. Today’s new reflective shingles come in assorted colors, from popular slate to wood tones. The granules not only reflect the sun’s radiation but also quickly reemit much of the heat that is absorbed. Depending on your climate and your home’s construction, a cool roof can save between 7 and 15 percent of your cooling costs.

LeafGuard gutter

Photo: LeafGuard Brand Gutters

5. Install low-maintenance gutters
While you’re having your home reroofed, it’s also a good time to scrap your old gutters and install new ones—especially if your existing gutters are misaligned or unsightly. Gutter systems with built-in curved hoods, such as those from Englert LeafGuard, are designed to be maintenance-free. The patented design works on the scientific principle of water adhesion, allowing rainwater to travel down and around its curved hood and into the gutter while deflecting leaves. This prevents clogs and unsightly staining on gutters and siding due to gutter overflow. It also means you can forget about the messy and hazardous chore of climbing a ladder to clean your gutters. The one-piece, seamless LeafGuard Brand gutters are generously sized for the heaviest of downpours, and homeowners like the clean architectural way they define the roof eaves. They even come in a variety of colors, allowing you to choose a tone that will complement your trim, roofing, and siding. Use LeafGuard’s design tool to get a preview of how the gutters will look with your new roof.

With all these improvements, maybe a new roof is worth celebrating.

This post has been brought to you by Englert LeafGuard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Vinyl Siding vs. Fiber Cement: Which Is Right for Your Home?

Choosing the right siding material for your home is a decision that's based on many factors, from good looks to cost. But as you're weighing the options, don't ignore important considerations like durability and ease of maintenance. You want good looks that last!

Vinyl Clapboard Siding

Photo: Vinyl Siding Institute

Choosing the cladding material for the exterior of your home involves the careful evaluation of several factors. Of course, there’s the look. Cedar shake shingles will create a different look than aluminum siding, which will look different than painted wood planks. But there are also other factors to consider. First is the durability of the material. Second is the amount of maintenance your siding will require to keep it looking fresh and tidy. Third is the cost. And finally, consider the siding’s energy efficiency and eco-friendliness, and how well it will insulate your home from both heat and cold.

Two of the more popular siding choices for today’s homes are vinyl and fiber cement. To figure out which siding might be right for you, read this quick guide to each material’s characteristics and qualities.

BASICS
Fiber-cement siding is made from a mix of wood pulp and Portland cement that’s formed into long boards or shingles. It’s attached to your home directly with nails.

Vinyl siding is made primarily from PVC, a rigid plastic material, and is securely affixed to your home’s exterior in a manner that allows it to expand and contract with changing temperatures. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, vinyl is the number-one exterior wall material—and has been for 20 years.

Hand-Split Cedar Vinyl Siding

Hand-split cedar vinyl siding. Photo: Vinyl Siding Institute

LOOK
Both fiber-cement and vinyl siding have come a long way from their origins. It’s possible to buy fiber-cement boards as half-round, staggered, or square shingles as well as in long plank boards. It can be painted or stained, which means you can make it any color you’d like, and it’s also now possible to buy prepainted fiber cement siding in a range of colors so that you can eliminate this step.

Vinyl siding offers a much greater variety of decorative options, from maintaining the appearance of an historic home to creating a clean and modern facade. In fact, no other siding option offers such a range of styles and colors. Available are not only the shingle and plank looks of fiber-cement siding, but also a variety of panel designs including clapboard, board and batten, and Dutch lap. Among the most popular vinyl siding products are those with a grain-finished surface that mimics real wood, or those that look like cedar shake shingles. Certain vinyl siding panels can even be hung vertically for a unique and eye-catching look.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY
On their own, both vinyl and fiber-cement siding are relatively thin products that aren’t particularly good insulators, although they are both effective at keeping the elements away from your home.

Where vinyl siding takes the lead is that it is available in an insulated version in which there is a layer of foam adhered between the siding and the walls of your home. This type of vinyl siding increases the insulating ability, or R-value, of the walls by blanketing the house’s studs, which are poor insulators and a source of heat loss through a process known as thermal bridging. Insulated siding also helps keep your house cool in summer by preventing the sun’s heat from toasting the walls of your house.

In addition to the energy benefits you can get for your home from vinyl siding, it’s also a lightweight product. This means that it doesn’t take as much fuel to move the siding from its manufacturing facilities to your house, which ups the material’s eco-friendly factor.

Vinyl Shake Siding

Vinyl shake siding. Photo: Vinyl Siding Institute

DURABILITY
Compared with wood, both vinyl siding and fiber cement are very durable exterior cladding options. Vinyl siding, however, edges out its heavier cousin because fiber cement has been known to absorb water, which can cause it—and the walls of your home underneath—to rot.

Because of vinyl siding’s flexibility, it’s also virtually impervious to chips and cracks. That’s not the case for fiber cement, which is so rigid that it can easily crack both during the installation process and after it’s hanging on your home.

Vinyl siding, including insulated siding, is the only exterior cladding with a product certification program administered by an independent, accredited quality-control agency that ensures products and colors meet or exceed the industry standard for performance.

MAINTENANCE
Here’s where vinyl siding pulls way ahead of fiber cement. When fiber cement is installed, it needs to be caulked and painted (unless you opt for the prepainted version), unlike vinyl siding, which needs no additional work before or after installation. Over the long haul, you’ll need to paint fiber-cement siding periodically because it will fade due to the demands of Mother Nature. Likewise, you’ll need to ensure that the caulking in the joints maintains its integrity to avoid water intrusion.

Vinyl siding, on the other hand, needs little more than a periodic spray cleaning with your garden hose and some soapy water to retain its vibrant look.

Half-Round Vinyl Siding

Half-round vinyl siding. Photo: Vinyl Siding Institute

COST
According to the RSMeans 2014 Residential Cost Data report, the installed cost of vinyl siding is, on average, $201 per 100 square feet, while fiber cement totals $300 for the same area. The installation costs alone for vinyl are also lower, at an average of $104 versus $124.

In addition to saving on the initial cost of purchasing and installing vinyl siding, you’ll also save money over the lifetime of owning your home as it needs no painting or recaulking, unlike fiber cement. Plus, if you choose to use insulated vinyl siding, you’ll save additional money on your heating and cooling costs.

Finally, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2013–14 Cost vs. Value Report, vinyl siding and insulated siding will recoup more than 78 percent of their installed cost when it comes time to sell your house—a house whose siding will likely look just as good when you sell as the day you put it up!

 

This post has been brought to you by the Vinyl Siding Institute. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Choose the Right Gutters

There is so much to consider when choosing new gutters, including shape, material, and cost. But don't overlook performance and quality, which will over time reward you with reduced maintenance and lasting beauty.

LeafGuard

Photo: LeafGuard Brand Gutters

Gutters are a critical component of a home’s drainage system, and like many exterior features, they’re subject to wear and damage. An important item on your spring maintenance checklist should be to examine and clean out the gutters. Regular cleaning and maintenance will go a long way toward getting the maximum lifespan out of your gutters.

If, however, your gutters are showing signs of severe wear—cracks, holes, and leaks, for example—or if they’re sagging or pulling away from the house or have numerous missing, loose, or bent fasteners, it may be time to look into replacement gutters. Experts point out that water damage to the roof, fascia board, decking, or rafters is a sure sign that gutters are due for replacement. “Most ordinary gutters last about 10 to 15 years,” explains Robert Lowe, director of operations for Englert LeafGuard, originators and makers of the only one-piece, seamless gutter system with built-in hood. “Dangerous water leaks and overflows can cause tremendous damage to a home, sometimes before homeowners are even aware of the problem.”

There are many types and styles of gutters on the market today, with the primary materials being aluminum, copper, steel, galvanized steel, zinc, and vinyl. Aluminum is the most prevalent gutter material and offers several advantages over other types. Aluminum is lightweight, resistant to corrosion, and available in a wide range of colors—and it’s also often the least expensive option.

Copper Gutters

Copper gutters. Photo: shutterstock.com

Other choices among the metals include galvanized steel gutters, which are coated with a layer of zinc; these gutters are strong but may be prone to rusting. Steel gutters also are available with a coating of aluminum and zinc, which alleviates the rust problem but is more expensive. Zinc gutters, yet another option, are also strong and durable, and normally do not require painting or finishing. Copper gutters are an extremely upscale and attractive choice, but cost substantially more than other metals.

Another inexpensive option is vinyl, which is available in a wide range of colors to match many types of vinyl siding. Vinyl gutters are not as durable as metal, however; they break down over time with exposure to sunlight and will therefore need to be replaced much more frequently. Additionally, vinyl gutters typically come in 10-foot sections, and the rubber seals used to join the sections can become brittle and leak.

Most professionals note that aluminum gutters offer the best combination of style, durability, and price. “As far as replacement gutters go, you want seamless aluminum gutters with a minimum thickness of .025 inches,” asserts Lowe. “There also are numerous options for ‘toppers’ for those gutters; the most common are solid hoods and filters. The different toppers each have their good and bad points. The solid toppers are the best, because they use the reverse curve or liquid adhesion model, which works the best. The downside to these types of covers is the installation process, which is generally handled by a subcontractor. These products install under the shingles, which can cause problems with roof warranties.”

LeafGuard

Photo: LeafGuard Brand Gutters

Anyone in the market for new gutters not only has to choose a material, but also has to select among a range of shapes, or profiles. The most popular is the “K-style,” or ogee, gutter, which has a shape similar to decorative crown molding. Fascia gutters, another alternative, feature a smooth face that performs the same function as fascia boards, hiding the edges of the rafter tails from view. Half-round gutters have an open construction with the open side facing the roof. This style has fallen out of favor, because it easily clogs with debris and then overflows. European-style gutter systems are typically half-round gutters made from materials that weather naturally, such as copper.

All gutters come in either sectional or seamless constructions. Most do-it-yourself gutters are sold in 10-foot sections that must then be linked together with snap-in connectors. The drawback to sectional systems is that the joints eventually leak. Seamless gutters, on the other hand, have seams only at the corners. Seamless gutters are typically made of metal and are extruded to custom lengths by professional installers using a portable gutter machine.

 

LeafGuard Brand gutters combine many of the attributes recommended by professionals, according to Lowe. They also carry the Good Housekeeping Seal. “Patented LeafGuard Brand gutters allow homeowners to say goodbye forever to cleaning gutters clogged by leaves and debris, because the one-piece gutter system features a built-in hood that covers the gutter bottom and deflects leaves and other debris,” Lowe adds. “This unique, seamless design keeps debris from collecting in your gutters, which keeps rainwater running freely and safely away from your home—each and every time it rains.”

 

This post has been brought to you by Englert LeafGuard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Spring Home Maintenance? Don’t Overlook Your Gutters

With all the home maintenance tasks that pile up in the spring, it's easy to forget about cleaning the gutters. Don't ignore this important chore! If you don't clear debris from your gutters, you could be heading for roofing, siding, and foundation issues in the months ahead.

Spring Gutter Cleaning

Photo: LeafGuard

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.

Spring Gutter Cleaning - Damage

Photo: LeafGuard

“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.”

Spring Gutter Cleaning - After

Photo: LeafGuard

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.”

Spring Gutter Cleaning - Guard

Photo: LeafGuard

This post has been brought to you by Englert LeafGuard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


What Would Bob Do? Repairing Cracked Stucco

If you have a small crack in your exterior stucco, you can patch it pretty easily—and you definitely should, or you may be in for more extensive repairs down the line.

How to Repair Stucco

Photo: activerain.com

My house is 55 years old and still has the original stucco. On one exterior wall, there’s a fine crack with paint peeling away on either side. Is there a way to repair stucco quickly and easily before the rains come, and is it a job that I can do on my own?

A bit of good news: From your description, it sounds like your crack is not due to the foundation settling. If you had noticed larger cracks and such accompanying signs as sticking doors and windows, then I would have recommended that you call in a foundation specialist. As it is, yes, this is a job any do-it-yourselfer can handle. And it’s important work, so you’re right to have been vigilant. If rainwater were to penetrate behind the stucco, you might have a bigger problem on your hands.

How to Repair Stucco - Application

Photo: newhudsonvalley.com

To repair stucco, you can use any number of commercially sold products. While some are designed to remedy larger gouges and holes, others are meant specifically to fix cracks like the one you describe. Quikrete, for example, manufactures a sanded (textured) acrylic caulk that’s both easy to use and effective.

The first step may seem counterintuitive: Using a cold chisel and hammer, widen the crack to at least a quarter inch. The edges of the crack should be chiseled perpendicular to the wall. If possible, back cut the crack so that its base is slightly wider than its top. Then clear all loose debris from the crack with a wire brush.

Now use a standard caulk gun to apply the stucco repair compound along the crack. As you go along, trowel the patch so that it matches the surrounding stucco finish. Allow the repair to cure for 24 hours, then cover it with a water-based paint, preferably the same color as the home’s exterior.

You may notice that despite having cured, the finished job feels flexible to the touch. That elasticity actually attests to the strength of the repair. Should the wall move slightly in the future, the patch will adjust rather than come undone. With the crack now properly repaired, you can rest assured that precipitation will not be able to get behind the stucco.