Category: Roofing & Siding


3 Wacky Tricks for Cleaning Gutters—Plus 1 Good Idea

All in an effort to avoid climbing that ladder and cleaning those gutters, homeowners have come up with some pretty unorthodox techniques. In the end, though, none rivals the get-it-and-forget convenience of a storm drainage system that never clogs in the first place.

Photo: fotosearch.com

Of the many maintenance tasks that homeowners dread, cleaning the gutters may be the least favorite of all. But like it or not, regular gutter cleaning is a must. When properly functioning, gutters perform a largely unseen but absolutely critical function: they direct rain water—the natural enemy of any home—away from the foundation, siding, and trim. If not sufficiently maintained, gutters eventually clog and overflow, allowing moisture to go where it doesn’t belong. Often, inadequate storm drainage leads to extensive, expensive damage in the form of leaks and flooding or such related issues as mold growth and pest infestations. No matter where you live, it’s recommended that you clean the gutters twice per year—once at the end of fall, again in the early spring. If your house sits on a lot with lots of trees, it may be wise to do so even more frequently. So, how do you go about it? Well, there are plenty of ways to complete the job. Perhaps the most common method involves nothing more than an extension ladder, a thick pair of work gloves, and a bucket. But over the years, some creative do-it-yourselfers have developed their own unique approaches. Here are a few of our favorite among the unconventional tactics that people are using to wage the never-ending war against leaves.

1. Blown Away
You’re probably familiar with the leaf blower as a tool that makes quick work of collecting leaves on the ground. What you may not have considered: A leaf blower can also clear leaves out of your gutters. The trick is to extend the reach of the blower well beyond its usual length. Attachment kits for the purpose may be found at your local home center, or, if you’d rather not spend the money, you can always hack something together with basic plumbing supplies. Don’t have a leaf blower? Try a shop vacuum! It turns out that, simply by swapping hose locations, you can reverse the operation of a shop vacuum, turning the suction tool into a blower. The downside of either approach is that, while blown air can be effective with dry leaves and twigs, it cannot budge lodged-in dirt or decomposing organic material.

2. Manual Labor
With a long wooden handle and sturdy steel tines, cultivators belong in the arsenal of any serious gardener or landscaper. Often extending lengths up to five or six feet, such tools are most often used to break up weeds and till soil. And due to their size, they enable you to work across a broad expanse without bending or stretching to an uncomfortable degree. What makes the cultivator so handy in the yard also makes it viable for gutter cleaning. Unfortunately, when knocking debris out of your gutter with a cultivator, the gunk has nowhere to land but around your house. So, depending on your aesthetic sensitivities, you might wind up having to clean up the gutter debris not once, but twice. Another drawback: The cultivator does nothing to eradicate clogs from within the downspouts of the gutter system.

3. Water Wise
Ironically, water—concentrated, carefully controlled streams—can be very effective in gutter cleaning, especially when it comes to heavy, residual decaying debris. If you have a garden hose connected to an outdoor spigot, you’re halfway there. The other piece of equipment you need is a long, ideally telescoping, hose wand with an angled, down-pointing spray nozzle. If your hose attachment isn’t quite long enough or doesn’t have the right sort of nozzle, you can buy or make a suitable extender. Be warned: Though the method can be effective—for clearing out downspouts, in particular—it’s undoubtedly messy work. Put on rain gear before you get started, and expect to rinse or scrub, not only the roof and exterior walls, but also sections your lawn, hardscape (e.g., walkways and driveway), and planting areas.

None of the above are perfect techniques, but people put up with their disadvantages. Perhaps that’s because none requires a ladder. Every year, thousands of people fall from a ladder or roof when at working on a home project. Clearly, cleaning the gutters can be dangerous work. Yes, there’s the option of paying a professional to handle the job, but for a twice-yearly task, the associated costs quickly add up to a considerable sum. Homeowners are caught between ignoring the gutters, which puts their property at risk, and climbing a ladder to clean gutters the “right” way, thereby putting themselves at risk. So what’s the solution here?

Photo: leafguard.com

Install LeafGuard Brand Gutters, and you never have to think about your gutters again. Thanks to its unique, patented design, the LeafGuard storm drainage system prevents clogging, so you can rest assured your home is safe, while never again having to do seasonal cleaning. That’s right: Say goodbye to gutter cleaning—forever.

Here’s how it works: Water flows over the curved hood of LeafGuard, then falls into the gutter, where it gets carried to the downspouts and then finally deposited at a safe distance from the home. Leaves and twigs, meanwhile, hit the hood and are deflected. Unlike added-on gutter helmets or screens, LeafGuard offers a one-piece product with no seams and no flimsy connections. Stronger and more durable than any other, LeafGuard gutters are made from aluminum that’s 20% thicker than standard. Plus, the system features three-by-four-inch downspouts that are 30% larger than average. That means LeafGuard sheds more water, more quickly.

Custom-fabricated on-site by trained and certified dealers, LeafGuard usually installs within one day, and its sleek design, available in a wide variety of colors, perfectly matches any house style. All the while, its clog-free functionality eliminate all the many moisture-related problems that homeowners so often worry about.

Don’t let a bunch of wet leaves compromise your largest investment. If you want a safe, hassle-free solution to clogged gutters, choose LeafGuard Brand Gutters.

Photo: leafguard.com

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


Bob Vila Radio: Replace Rot-Damaged Trim ASAP

Rotted trim on the outside of your home is a small detail that can become a big problem, and water damage is the prime culprit. Follow these steps to replace your rotted trim—and keep it from happening again.

Exterior trim performs a couple of roles. Besides adding a decorative touch, it seals up corners and edges to keep out moisture. Given the exposure it gets from the weather, there’s no wonder that over time, it’s prone to damage from rot.

Replace Rotted Exterior Trim

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING ROTTED TRIM or read the text below:

To protect your home from further, non-cosmetic damage, check the condition of house trim regularly. Pay special attention to the top and bottom ends, as that’s where water seep in most. If you see rot in one spot, it’s best to replace the entire board. You can always save the undamaged sections for future repair jobs.

Once you’ve cut the new trim to size, apply a coat of primer to all sides, including the back and the ends. Use galvanized nails to fasten the new board into place, then finish off with at least two coats of a high-quality exterior paint.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.


Genius! Shingles Made of Beer Cans

Don't chuck those 12-ounce cans in the recycling bin! Instead, start saving up aluminum for this wonderfully offbeat backyard DIY project.

Beer Can Shingles

Photo: instructables.com

“Start drinking now if you plan to make this,” writes Instructables user robbtoberfest, the genius behind this wonderfully offbeat backyard DIY project.

For a 24″ x 24″ roof, about the size for a chicken coop or small shed, expect to use at least 40 cans (of the 12-ounce variety). To turn them into shingles, the first step is to build a die—that is, a simple hinged template that presses the aluminum into the desired shape. It’s all explained in the project guide, but suffice it to say that with 1′x6′ hardwood, two square metal rods, basic tools and some beginner woodworking skills, you ought to be on your way to nailing shingles within a half-day.

Installation is as simple as nail-gunning the newly formed shingles onto the plywood roof sheathing. Cover the bottom and side edges of the roof sturcture first, and as you go, be certain to overlap each successive shingle you apply. To cap the roof, bypass the die and simply fold a series of unpressed aluminum sheets in half, lengthwise. Nail those along the ridge to complete the job, and you’re finished. Not a bad way to recycle the refuse from the party last weekend, wouldn’t you say?

FOR MORE: Instructables

Beer Can Shingles 2

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Bob Vila Radio: Fix Ice Dams—Fast!

Though it's no substitute for comprehensive, permanent prevention measures, you can use this clever trick to resolve an ice dam problem before it leaves lasting damage.

If you live in an area of the country with cold winters, you are likely familiar with ice dams. These are the ridges of frozen water that form along the edges of roofs.

Ice Dam Solution

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FIXING ICE DAMS or read the text below:

Ice dams occur when heated air in your home rises, finding its way into the attic and settling on the underside of the roof. There, the presence of warm air causes any snow on the roof to melt. The snowmelt drains down the roof until it reaches the cold overhang of the roof, where if it refreezes, an ice dams forms.

Ice dams can lead to all sorts of damage, mostly stemming to the fact that, once the ice dams are entrenched, they prevent the roof from shedding any additional melted snow or rain. With nowhere else to go, the captive water can leak into the house, rotting wood or inciting the growth of mold.

Properly insulating the home—that means, in part, sealing the attic from rising warm air—is the best way to avoid ice dams. If you get an ice dam anyway, you’ll probably need to consult an energy-savvy contractor. But in the meantime, here’s a fix that may get you through a crisis:

Find a pair of old nylons and fill one of the legs with store-bought or homemade ice melt. Drape the nylons on the roof in such a way that the stuffed leg crosses the ice dam and the gutter. Eventually, the chemicals will melt that section of the ice, creating a gap through which water can slide down off the roof pitch.

Bob Vila Radio is a daily radio spot carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. 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: Locating a Leak in the Roof

Before you can repair a roof leak, you first need to locate the problem. That sort of detective work is rarely a cinch, but these tips can help you crack the case more quickly.

The toughest part of fixing a roof leak is often to figure out where the water is getting in. It’s not uncommon for water to enter the roof at one spot before traveling, by dint of gravity, to the spot where you finally notice it as a stain on the drywall, for example, or as a saturated panel of fiberglass insulation.

How to Find a Leak in the Roof

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LOCATING ROOF LEAKS, or read the text below:

The best way to spot a leak is to head up to the attic on a rainy day. Bring along a flashlight with a good, strong beam and use it to look for areas of wetness. Since water reflects light, so you should be able to find the spot pretty quickly. Once you’ve found it, remember to mark it so that you can find it again a day or two later.

When you have a clear day, make your way up to the roof. Meanwhile, ask a helper indoors to tap on the spot you marked in the attic. Working together, the two of you should be able to locate the shingles directly above the wet area. Communicating via speakerphone here may be prove faster than taking turns tapping.

If you don’t see signs of entry directly above the mark made in the attic, try looking a little further up the roof. Also, check to see if any of the “usual suspects” in roof leaks are located near to where you’re looking. These include dormer valleys, chimney flashing, and the gaskets surrounding pipes and wiring.

When it comes to making the repair, a little roofing cement can go a long way!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 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.


How Much Snow Can a Roof Hold?

Unusual amounts of snow lead to many things—stalled cars, snowball fights, and airport closings. They also lead to many homeowner concerns over the roof's ability to hold the weight. Find out what you can do to identify or prevent problems.

How Much Snow Can a Roof Hold

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Late last year, Buffalo, New York, recorded a record amount of snow—and winter hadn’t even begun yet. More than a few homeowners in the city may have been concerned that their roofs would collapse under the strain of a surprising snow load. Roof collapse is something that many people worry about, with or without several feet of snow heaped up beyond the front door. How much snow can a roof hold, anyway? And are there steps you can take to avoid a worst-case scenario?

Because there are so many variables involved, this isn’t a simple topic to address. The weight of the snow is a critical factor; half a foot of wet snow tips the scale about the same as a yard of dry, fluffy snow. And everything from a roof’s structural design to its shingling material ultimately influences its ability to support the weight. Generally speaking, steep and smooth roofs shed snow more easily than flat, or only slightly pitched, roofs. But ultimately, what amounts to a dangerous accumulation of snow on one roof would be just fine on another roof down the block. Like each snowflake is different, each roof can hold a different amount.

Warning Signs
While you can draw some conclusions by looking at your roof from the curb, it’s indoors where you’ll find the most instructive clues to a potential problem. Head up to the attic and examine the rafters for any noticeable bends or cracks. If you find anything that gives you pause, bear in mind that it’s not necessarily, and most likely isn’t, a sign of impending roof collapse. There are many possible explanations for damaged rafters—for example, termites. And even if snow is to blame, you may be looking at damage from a previous winter. In any case, ask a licensed structural engineer to evaluate the problem promptly.

How Much Snow Can a Roof Hold? - Roof Rake

Photo: northerntool.com

Elsewhere—particularly on the upper floors, toward the middle of the house—keep an eye out for new cracks in the drywall or plaster surrounding interior door frames. If those doors are suddenly sticking when they used to open and shut with ease, this could be an indication that the frame of your house has shifted due to a structural issue. Again, wall cracks and sticking doors are not cause for panic; rather, they are reasons to seek out the advice of a licensed professional.

Snow Removal
Some experts maintain that it’s unnecessary to remove snow from the roof, because any home built to the standards of the local building codes should be structurally equipped to handle virtually any snow load. Still, many homeowners wish to take every available precautionary step. Be aware, however, that climbing up on the roof is precarious in any weather; in snow, it’s almost definitely not a wise course of action unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. For everyone else, the safest path is to hire an insured pro, someone who has not only the proper equipment, but also the right experience for the job.

If you have a single-story house, though, one whose roof you can access while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground, then a roof rake can be an effective, user-friendly way to clear excess snow. Roof rakes are readily available online and in most brick-and-mortar home center. Before you start raking away, take heed of this important point: Don’t try to remove all the snow. In doing so, you could damage the roofing material, which would leave the roof vulnerable to leaks. To prevent this from happening, some roof rakes are fitted with rollers that keep the edge of the rake safely away from the shingles.

One last word of caution: Pay attention to where the snow you’re pulling off the roof is likely to wind up. You’ll want to pick a landing spot other than your head or the heads of bystanders!


Bob Vila Radio: Prevent Roof Collapse with a Snow Rake

In the unlikely event of a snow load testing the strength of your roof, use a snow rake to lighten the load up there.

When it comes to snow on the roof, how much is too much? That depends a lot on the way your roof was constructed.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SNOW RAKES or read the text below:

Steep and smooth roofs tend to shed snow loads easily, while roofs that are only slightly pitched or flat tend to collect big drifts. Another important factor is the weight of the snow. Half a foot of wet snow tips the scales about the same as a yard or more of fluffy flakes.

If you have a multi-story house, you’d best hire a licensed and insured pro who has the right equipment to get the job done right.

On the other hand, if you have a single-story home, you can pull snow off the roof with a long, telescoping snow rake. Look for sturdy models with small rollers that keep the edge of the rake away from your shingles—you don’t want to damage those.

Finally, before you start pulling snow off the roof, put some thought into where the snow’s going to land. You’ll want to pick a spot other than on your head or the heads of bystanders!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 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: Replacing Shingles the DIY Way

So long as you're comfortable working on the roof, you can replace a missing or damaged shingle on your own, saving the cost of hiring a contractor. Here are a few tips to help you get the job done right.

If you’ve got a broken shingle or two on your roof, it’s easy to repair the problem yourself. Most home centers sell shingles in small batches. Just take a broken shingle with you so you can pick a close match.

Replacing Shingles

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING SHINGLES or read the text below:

Once safely on the roof, gently nudge a pry bar, its full length, under the three tabs in the row of shingles just above the damaged shingle. Then use the claw on the pry bar to remove the nails you see under the tabs.

Do the same for the next row of shingles, the one that’s just above. Once you remove those two rows of nails, you’ll be able pull out the damaged shingle. Next, slide the new shingle into place and fasten it with six roofing nails, one under each of the tabs you loosened.

To finish off, squeeze a dab or two of roofing cement under the tabs of the new shingle, plus under all the tabs you loosened at the start. Apply a little pressure to ensure the tabs make solid contact with the cement.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 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.


How To: Find a Roof Leak

Leaky roof? Try these strategies for pinpointing the problem, in fair weather or foul.

How to Find a Roof Leak

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The hardest part of fixing a roof leak? A lot of times, it’s simply locating the problem. Sure, it’s easy enough to spot water stains or mold growth—sure signs of a leak. But once water has penetrated the roof, it’s easily diverted by such things as insulation. So even though you may notice the evidence of a leak in the corner bedroom, the vulnerable point in your roof may be quite far removed from that part of your house. That’s why roof repair jobs typically begin with a certain amount of detective work. Here are some tips to help you crack the case quickly, so you can plug the leak before the damage gets any worse.

Get a Good Look
Arm yourself with a flashlight and head up to the attic. Be careful up there: If there’s no proper flooring, step carefully from joist to joist. (If you step between the joists, you might put a foot through the ceiling of the room below!) Once you’ve got your bearings, use the flashlight to examine the underside of the roof. Look out for any areas that are darker than the surrounding roof sheathing. If there hasn’t been rain recently, moist spots may be too difficult to discern. Mold, on the other hand, has the tendency to linger. So if you encounter a patch of mold, which thrives on moisture, chances are you’ve found the vulnerable point in your roof.

Interfering Insulation
The underside of your roof may be obscured by insulation, and that’s helpful for the task at hand, because insulation deteriorates more noticeably and more quickly than wood does. If you’re seeing damage on one section of the insulation, however, you must remember that the leak itself may be several feet to either side. It’s best to carefully remove all insulation adjacent to the spot where you notice signs of a leak. That way, you can follow the path of the water from the damaged area all the way to the water’s entry point in the roof. Remember that whenever you are working with insulation, it’s important to wear the appropriate protective gear.

Foreign Objects
Most noticeable to the eye are leaks caused by an object (for example, an errant nail) that’s managed to pierce the roof. Failing any such obvious signs, check out the roof vents. If present, these vents are typically near ridges or gable ends, or both. Over time, the seals around vents can gradually weaken, allowing rainwater to seep in.

Dry Weather
What happens if you’re desperate to find a roof leak, but recent dry weather has made your search more challenging? Well, you can always simulate a storm. This method requires two people. While one person goes up on the roof, garden hose in tow, the other person remains in the attic, flashlight in hand. Section by section, the person on the roof wets down the roof, while the other carefully examines the roof’s underside for leakage. By simulating a downpour, you can witness firsthand how your roof withstands—or fails to withstand, as the case may be—conditions that mimic those of a natural storm.

The Next Step
Leaks only get worse. Act quickly once you’ve pinpointed the location of yours. Fortunately, in many instances it takes only a modest repair to fix the leak—for example, replacing a shingle. If you don’t feel comfortable on the roof, however, or if the leak seems extensive, do not hesitate to contact a professional.


Bob Vila Radio: What Exactly Are Architectural Shingles, Anyway?

If you've done a re-roofing project, chances are you've come across a term that, while commonly used, isn't commonly understood by those outside the trade. Here's the lowdown.

Ever wonder exactly what the difference is between conventional asphalt shingles and architectural shingles? Here’s the lowdown: Architectural shingles are essentially just a premium grade of conventional asphalt shingles. They’re thicker than conventional shingles and have a textured look that’s distinctive.

Architectural Shingles

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Listen to BOB VILA ON ARCHITECTURAL SHINGLES or read the text below:

Conventional asphalt shingles are referred to in the trade as “3-tab”—that is, each sheet of shingles has three tabs or flaps, separated by quarter-inch grooves. They’re usually installed in flat, even rows and have a uniform appearance. That’s compared with architectural shingles, which have a layered and three-dimensional look.

On average, conventional shingles last about 15 or 20 years. Architectural shingles can remain watertight for up to 30 years, but such quality comes at a cost. Typical architectural shingles cost about 25% more. If you’re willing to shell out the extra money, there’s little doubt your choice would dress up the appearance of your home exterior.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 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.