Cleaning out gutters is an important part of home maintenance.

Cleaning out gutters is an important part of home maintenance.

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Get gutters — and keep them clean — to protect your house

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published May 29, 2018

 Guards are an option to help keep debris from clogging gutters.

Guards are an option to help keep debris from clogging gutters.

Shutterstock image

METRO DETROIT — An essential part of maintaining a home, gutters can often be overlooked or neglected by homeowners — sometimes with disastrous results.

“Water is so damaging for a home that you want to keep all the water away from the house, and it’s important for insurance companies now for mold and water damage,” said Mark Zampino, operations manager for Preferred Seamless Gutters in Imlay City. 

Water damage has become such a problem, he said, that homeowners may find it difficult to get a mortgage or insurance on a home that doesn’t have a gutter system.

“It’s deteriorating to the foundation and the wood or the siding,” he said. “All of our gutter systems include removable extensions to get positive drainage away from the house.”

Zampino explained that the most common type of gutter system is the K-style gutter. It’s available in 5-inch, which fits most residential roofs, and in 6-inch, which is used for larger and steeper roofs.

Homeowners can choose from K-style gutters in aluminum or copper, or for a “classier” look, choose half-round gutters, which are more decorative. 

“The most effective gutter system is a K-style gutter system, just (because of) the way it captures the water,” Zampino said.

An entire house doesn’t have to have gutters replaced at once, said Keith Lawrence, of Advanced Gutters and Insulation in Sterling Heights. Especially with this past winter’s heavy snow, he said, “You don’t have to do the whole house — you can just replace that damaged area.”

Gutter guards are helpful, Zampino said, for keeping debris out of gutters, as debris will cause blockages in the gutters that can lead to water backing up under the roof of a home. He recommends ProFlo, because that product does not void warranties on a home’s roof as other gutter guard systems can. 

Guards that are installed under the shingles of a roof void the roof’s warranty, he said. ProFlo is not installed under shingles and also is not visible when it is installed, “so it doesn’t detract from the aesthetics of the home.”

“Any debris, when it lands on the gutter, when the winds pick up, it self-evacuates,” Zampino explained. “It keeps all the debris out so your gutters don’t get backed up and overflow and cause damage to your home.”

When having gutters installed, some homeowners are choosing to have rain barrels attached right to the downspouts, Lawrence said. The barrels can be purchased inexpensively at Costco and other large stores and then installed for a nominal fee by the gutter installer.

Then, he said, residents can use the collected rainwater to water gardens or for other uses.

When choosing a gutter company, Zampino said that residents should look for how long it has been in business, its ratings on Angie’s List and Google reviews, if the business has its own employees or subcontracts the work, and the warranty that comes with a product. He said a good company will guarantee its gutters for at least five years, as Preferred Seamless Gutters does. Companies should also be licensed, bonded and insured.

Installing gutters is something best left to the professionals, Zampino said. 

“Our company, we do all hand-formed corners, so the corners will never leak and start coming apart. Even our screws for our downspouts and elbows and everything are ceramic coated, so they don’t rust and fail on you,” Zampino said. “It comes in 10-foot lengths (at home hardware stores), and you’re going to have a seam every 10 feet that’s going to be leaking everywhere, and it does take a fair amount of technology to hang a gutter properly.”

The work doesn’t stop once a home has gutters installed. 

“A gutter cleaning is an essential part of home maintenance,” said Geoffrey Shaule, of G&S Window Washing and Gutter Cleaning in Troy. “(Getting) all that rainwater that’s falling on your roof to run off of your roof and to the ground properly is important.”

“You don’t want it overflowing and washing out your foundation or washing out the wood on the facia behind your gutter,” Shaule said.

Without something to protect the gutters from leaves, seeds and sticks, that debris can prevent water from flowing smoothly out of gutters and away from the house. Water backed up from clogged gutters can lead to ice dams in the winter, which lift the shingles off the roof. 

There is always new technology, like vacuums and other tools that come on the market to clean gutters, but Shaule said that in Michigan, the only truly effective way to remove debris from gutters is by hand.

“Hiring a professional, we think, is very important. Being on a ladder and being on a roof is also one of the No. 1 ways that homeowners are injured,” he said. 

When looking to hire a professional to clean the gutters on a home, make sure that the company is fully licensed and insured, and also provides a training program for its employees. Good customer service is also important.

“We get customers all the time that we end up with because they use a cheaper service provider and they call us the following year because he’s not answering his phone ... or they had a bad experience,” Shaule said. 

Shaule said quality gutter cleaning should cost between 80 cents and $1.50 per linear foot, and up, depending on the size of the house and the tree coverage surrounding it, as well as the height of the roof and how accessible it is.

Beware of companies that give estimates over the phone, he said, because they are likely just looking at the home through Google Maps street view. 

“They’re guessing at a price,” he said.

Gutter cleaning should be done at least twice per year: in the fall before Thanksgiving, even if the trees haven’t dropped all of their leaves, and then in the spring after the trees drop their seeds and foliage. 

“After Thanksgiving, you’re rolling the dice on when it’s going to freeze, and once (gutters are) frozen, you can’t clean them,” Shaule said. 

For more information, visit www.gswindowwashing.com, www.advancedguttersinsulation.com or www.preferredseamlessgutters.com.