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Are Your Rain Gutters Ready for Spring?

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Just one inch of rain falling on the rooftop of an average 1,400 square foot house produces over 800 gallons of runoff. Where all that water ends up largely depends on your gutters. If they’re clogged, leaky or sagging, water cascading off the roof may penetrate the exterior siding and cause indoor water damage, undermine the foundation, or leak into the basement. To make sure your gutters are ready for spring and summer rain, here’s a primer on gutter maintenance.

If you’re not secure working on a ladder, for safety’s sake contact a professional gutter maintenance service to take on this job.

Gutter Cleaning

  • Put on gloves and remove larger loose debris stuck in the gutters such as twigs and leaves by hand.
  • If clogged gutters have retained stagnant water, you’ll usually find a layer of dirt, shingle particles and other smaller stuff accumulated in the lower portion of the gutter, underneath the larger debris. This can be scooped out using a trowel, putty knife or spoon.
  • Use a garden hose to flush out the cleaned segment of gutters.
  • Observe downspouts to verify free water flow. If downspouts are clogged, remove the nozzle from the hose, insert the hose into the bottom of the downspout and run it upwards to the roof with water running to flush out the clog.

Leaking End Caps

If water constantly leaks out the end of a gutter span, the end cap is defective. Remove the securing screw, pry off the old cap and take it to a home center to find a replacement. Remove any residue or debris on the end of the gutter. Fill the mating slot in the replacement cap with exterior silicone sealant and press the cap onto the end of the gutter. Install the screw to secure it.

Sagging Gutters

Replace failing attachments with new metal gutter hangers that extend around the exterior of the gutter and grip securely. Replace old brackets one at a time. Attach the new gutter hanger at a solid location on the fascia and secure with screws. Gutter hangers should be spaced three feet apart.

Controlling Moisture in Your Home’s Crawl Spaces

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Crawl space construction in a home offers several benefits over slab or basement. First, it’s less expensive. A crawl space also allows plumbing and HVAC ductwork to be more easily installed during construction as well as serviced later at a lower cost. In locales where termites thrive, a crawl space keeps wooden structural components off the ground to reduce potential damage.

However, a crawl space can also be an ongoing source of dampness in the form of actual moisture as well as accumulated water vapor that infiltrates the house. Crawl spaces provide a hospitable environment for toxic mold as temperature, darkness and moisture are friendly to fungal growth. Chronically wet conditions also inflict structural water damage, rotting wooden joists as well as the sub-floor.

To reduce moisture in a crawl space and avoid issues related to it, here are some suggestions:

  • Control drainage. Outdoor water sources may enter the crawl space if the ground around the perimeter of the house isn’t graded properly. The grade should slant away from the house at a rate of at least 0.5 inch per foot.
  • Maintain gutters. Water cascading from clogged overflowing gutters during rain penetrates deeply. Saturated soil spreads moisture into the crawl space.
  • Resolve plumbing issues. Drips from pinhole leaks in pipes, as well as seepage around pipe joints, keep the crawl space wet, 24/7/365. No leak, no matter how small, is “normal.” Schedule an inspection by a plumber and have necessary repairs made.
  • Install a vapor barrier. Water vapor rising from the soil often creates chronically moist conditions inside the crawl space. It also infiltrates through cracks and gaps into living spaces above. Excess moisture may be due to a naturally high water table in the area. A vapor barrier is usually heavy duty plastic that covers the entire floor of the crawl space to retain moisture in the soil.
  • Increase ventilation. Original crawl space vents may be too small to allow proper air circulation to dry out moisture inside the space. Wider vents can be installed to augment passive ventilation and can be closed when necessary during high humidity days.

Why Having Clean, Well-maintained Rain Gutters is Critical for Your Home

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

rain gutter maintenanceJust one inch of rain deposits over 1,200 gallons of water on the roof of a typical single family home. Unleashed, this volume of water can be a destructive force. Intact and properly maintained, gutters function to capture and divert rainwater into a manageable flow. When your gutters can’t get the job done, however, these are some of the consequences you can expect:

  • Exterior wall damage. A clogged, overflowing gutter releases a cascade of water that penetrates behind adjacent siding. Water infiltrates the void inside the exterior wall and causes wood rot and mold growth.
  • Foundation issues. Water from overflowing gutters hammers the ground below around the perimeter of the house. Pounding water permeates deep into the soil, undermining the foundation and seeping into the basement. During winter conditions, water penetrating concrete pores can freeze and expand, causing structural cracks.
  • Landscape erosion. Roof water not contained by functional gutters and downspouts floods across the landscape of your yard, removing soil, uprooting shrubbery and plants and creating ruts and sinkholes.
  • Mounting damage. The weight of standing water inside clogged gutters can pull gutters away from mounting points and damage the wooden fascia where gutter brackets attach.

Keeping Gutters Flowing Free

  • Twice a year gutters should be inspected and cleaned to remove clogging debris. This may be hazardous for anyone not accustomed to working up on a ladder, so hire a service if you’re uncomfortable with the job.
  • During rain, visually check for leaks that may occur at seams between gutter segments. These can be repaired by commercially available gutter sealants applied to the interior of the gutter.
  • Make sure gutter brackets are firmly attached to the fascia and all mountings are intact.
  • Downspouts should extend at least three feet or more from the house to ensure that discharged water does not undermine the foundation or leak into the basement. Downspout extensions are available at home centers.
  • Cutting back overhanging limbs reduces the amount of gutter-clogging leaves that fall on the roof.

How to Prevent Water Damage With Proper Home Drainage

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

water drainageRuptured indoor plumbing is a crisis with a high water damage potential to your home. Another less conspicuous external source, silent seepage, may be every bit as damaging over the long term to your home. Rainfall and/or ground water can be insidious natural forces that act against the structure of your house, 24/7/365—even when you’re unaware of it. Proper drainage that conveys water away from the home is the primary preventive measure against damage and deterioration.

Resolving drainage issues means dealing with three factors:

  • Improper grading around the perimeter of the house.
  • Inadequate/faulty dispersal of roof run-off during rainy conditions.
  • Natural ground water rising beneath the foundation.

Grade away from the house

Ideally, the ground around your house should slope downward to promote good drainage and minimize seepage into your house, foundation or basement. Most experts recommend creating a slope that extends at least three feet from the exterior wall at a descending grade of one inch per foot.

If your surrounding landscape contour slopes steeply toward your house, installation of a french drain adds additional drainage capacity. Consisting of a gravel-filled trench with a perforated pipe, the drain collects water and channels it elsewhere out onto the property or out to the street.

Clean gutters and extend downspouts

One inch of rainfall on a typical 1,000 sq. ft. roof creates over 600 gallons of runoff. Clogged gutters will overflow, over-saturating soil directly beneath, which deteriorates the foundation and basement walls. The cascading water also seeps behind siding and infiltrates exterior walls.

Gutter downspouts should extend at least three feet from the house. For better drainage and dispersal further away, bury downspout extensions six feet or longer into a gravel bed covered with topsoil.

Remove ground water

A high water table beneath the house may be a natural feature of local geology. Rising water deteriorates the foundation and causes basement seepage. A sump pump, installed into the house’s foundation or basement floor, collects rising ground water and automatically pumps it to a discharge point outdoors.

Preventing Common Types of Water Damage in Summer

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

water shutoff valveWater damage is a year-round event that doesn’t respect the calendar. As far as timing goes, the most predictable thing about water damage is it will happen at the least expected, most inconvenient time. Still, changing seasons make certain types of water damage more likely. Paying attention to those seasonal factors helps inform effective preventive measures. Here are some summer-related water damage issues to keep in mind:

A/C Overflows

On a humid summer day, the typical central air conditioner produces as much as 20 gallons of condensate. It’s collected in the drip pan beneath the indoor air handler, then diverted down a drain line to your sewer. If the condensate drain line clogs, however, the drip pan will rapidly overflow every time the A/C cycles on. Spillage can be substantial and cause extensive water damage before anyone’s aware of it.

Check the air handler drip pan weekly with a flashlight. It’s normal for it to be wet when the A/C is operating. However, if you see standing water in the pan, turn off the unit and call a qualified HVAC service technician.

Summer Storms

Keep your gutters clear and flowing free. Summer rains can be heavy. Water from clogged, overflowing gutters may seep behind exterior siding and into wall spaces. Soil directly below the gutters also becomes over-saturated from cascading water, potentially triggering basement leaks or foundation damage. If you have a basement sump pump, make sure the sump basin is clear of obstructions. Verify pump operation by pouring a few gallons of water into the basin.

Vacation Prep

There’s no good time for household water damage. An especially bad time, however, is when you’re away on vacation. A ruptured plumbing pipe, water heater or other leak can be literally catastrophic if nobody’s home to deal with it when it happens. Locate your main water shutoff valve and test it now to see that it operates smoothly. Then, just before you leave for that well-deserved summer getaway, turn off water to the house at the valve.