Monday, November 30, 2009

Did Gutter Guards Cause My Ceiling Water Stains?

It was the day after Thanksgiving that I visited a customer who had the Waterloov Gutter Cover System for about ten years.

The wife noticed the beginning of a leak in the ceiling and wondered if the gutters could be the cause. She thought that the gutter covers had let enough debris in to clog the gutters.

We must get about two or three calls like this every year. I remember one on Mother's day a few years ago with a customer complaining that water was coming through the light socket in the middle of the ceiling. She too thought that the gutter guards were the culprit.

Even though it was a flat roof, I was certain the leak wasn't because of the leaf guards, but nonetheless, I checked because it's something we do--customer support. Sure enough the leak was caused by a tree limb that had been fallen from a nearby tree with such force that it penetrated the roofing. Finding the cause of a leak is usually not that easy.

With the Thanksgiving service call the culprit looked like it could be from a three inch vent pipe going through the roof. The flashing for the pipe was supposed to be installed under the shingles on the top portion of it. However, it was just laid on top of the shingles with caulk to seal it to the shingles--an obvious place for water to enter.

Fortunately the husband was home and what I suggested made sense to him even though his wife was still certain that the gutters were clogged and causing the problem. The good news for me was that the gutters where clean and open when I opened them up to check.

I'll keep posting new service calls as they come up and I'd like to hear about your experiences with roof leaks and gutter guards.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Last Step In Gutter Covers - Ask the Engineer

In my previous posts I wrote about gutter screens, micro mesh gutter guards, fin type gutter covers, fin type of gutter guards, dispersal units and flip clean gutters. In this post, we'll look at what one inventor patented in 1983 that takes the fin type gutter cover system to its logical endpoint.

The main problem with fin type covers is that they do not provide any way to filter out large debris from washing into the gutter along with the rainwater. This type of system also requires the use of some type of clip to connect the cover to the gutter and control the dimension of the opening.

This inventor in his original and subsequent patents envisioned a solid top and a rounded front nose just like the fin type leaf guards but instead of a single long fin he added a vertical front which has two rows of interspersed louvers or fins without creating a trough. So you might say it has many many fins of limited size each of which is approximately 3/4" in length and limits the size of debris that can enter into the gutter. The addition of a vertical front also enable the solid top portion to be attached to the gutter without the need for clips.

What makes this improved system work is a combination of gravity and surface adhesion plus a unique screening system. Gravity carries the water and debris downward and surface adhesion causes the downward flowing water to adhere to the louvers and be guided into the gutter. The interspersed fins effectively reject larger debris flowing along with the water into the gutter.

Because the amount and size of louvered openings debris entering the gutter is limited to such a small size that the gutters inside never accumulate sufficient debris to cause a problem or clog. There is no chance of any debris falling into the gutter and very little chance of debris blowing or washing into the gutter.

Other inventors have tried to overcome the fin type covers' problems by extending the lines of the nose curve into an S curve that attaches to the gutter lip. This approach eliminates the need for clips and somewhat filters the debris but the bottom portion of the S curve creates a trough which collects large debris that washes over the nose and either clogs or needs to be cleaned by hand from a ladder.

The inventors vertical faced multi-fin idea is now the Waterloov gutter protection system which has been successfully protecting raingutters in the harshest of conditions for twenty years. Where this design excels is in leaf and debris conditions that overtax the other types of gutter protection.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ask the Engineer about Flipping Gutters

In the last several posts I looked at what makes gutter screens, hooded fin type gutter guards, hooded fin type with a sieve trough gutter covers and rain dispersal units work. Now we'll look at what makes the flipping type of gutter work.

Some inventors reject the whole idea of using screens or covers to keep gutters clean in favor of finding better ways to clean gutters. Wouldn't it be nice if you could just empty the gutter all at once safely from the ground?

Gutters that flip just like with the rain dispersal units, the existing gutters need to be removed before the product can be installed.

And now as I think of it, one of the fin types that I discussed in an earlier post also requires that perfectly good existing gutters be removed and replaced with and all-in-one leaf guard. The gutter and the gutter cover are made of one continuous piece of aluminum. If you want to see how effective they are just click here to see photos of them after a year of two of service.

Back to the flip clean system. Existing gutters are removed, special brackets are installed to which the new gutters are attached. The hangers are hinged such that the entire gutter can flip downward and dump its contents by using a long pole to release the gutter. It then can be pushed back and locked into position.

What makes it work is gravity alone. Whatever falls into the gutter is simply dumped. The problems with this device are that you can't see what is in the gutter before you dump it so if you forgot to dump it last year, you might end up with a putrid dam of water on your head. The gutters are also known to warp rendering the invention useless. And of course if you have twenty gutters on your home, each one has to be dumped.

Where the old gutters turned a corner the new gutters cannot. In order to be dumped each run of gutter must be a separate unit which interrupts the smooth clean appearance that continuous gutters normally have. Also second and third story gutters may be very difficult to reach to unhinge.

This gutter flipping approach to cleaning gutters does keep the homeowner off ladders but it certainly doesn't eliminate cleaning gutters or make the chore much easier. Only solid top gutter covers can do that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ask the Engineer about what makes Rain Dispersal Units work.

In past posts I've been talking about the evolution of gutter covers. While most inventors were working to improve screens and solid top leaf guards there were a few who followed a different path. These few asked why improve on gutters when you can replace them with a product that forces rainwater away from the foundation and isn't a trough to collect debris.

Rain Dispersal units have been around for years. At first glance they look like they might be the answer to eliminating the chore of cleaning dirty smelly gutters. But they is a risk in that you have to remove your existing gutters completely in order to install the dispersers and if they don't work, then you're stuck with removing them and having to pay to have gutters reinstalled.
In other words, you'd be back to square one and out of pocket a considerable amount of water and money. At least if you choose the wrong gutter covers or leaf guards, you still have your gutters intact.

Well, let's take a look at rain dispersers and what makes them work. And then what could go wrong with them.

Basically the rain dispersal system is a series of angled vanes mounted horizontally to your fascia board. In theory as the rain water flows off the roof it hits the vanes with sufficient force (kinetic energy) to disperse the water droplets outward away from the foundation of the building.

They look promising until you ask yourself a couple of questions. What happens in slow rain fall when the rain water just drips off the roof-line? And what happens to the leaves and twigs that fall onto the dispersal fins?

Remember that what makes the device work is gravity and kinetic energy. Dripping water has insufficient kinetic energy to disperse in the vanes. It simply drips onto the vanes and drips from them straight down onto the ground leaving a drip line all around the foundation.

And what about the wet debris that lays on top of the unit? It blocks off the vanes so the rain water as it hits the dispersal unit is not dispersed but simply runs off onto the ground.

Again, maintenance involving the use of a ladder is required to clean off the top of the dispersal units. Certainly not a solution to ladder free maintenance.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ask the Engineer More about How Gutter Guards Work

In the last posts I covered screens, membranes, filters and the hooded fin type of gutter cover.

In search of the perfect gutter guard inventors needed to improve upon the fin type of gutter guard since it allowed too much debris into the gutter in mild-to-heavy debris conditions. What they did was add a trough along with a sieve in the bottom of the trough. They added it to portion of the gutter guard that extended downward into the gutter to limit the size of the debris that is allowed into the gutter. Basically it's a trough with openings to allow water into the gutter.

It seems like a step into the right direction. The inventors dilemma was what size to make the openings in the trough. If the openings were too small then all of the debris that would normally enter the gutter from the fin leaf guard accumulates in the trough and clogs. If the openings are too large than the debris can enter the gutter and clog. Each manufacture of this type of cover arrived at their own determination of what the optimum size of the openings should be. In reality there is no optimum size because what works for one type of debris (large leaves) doesn't necessarily work for another (pine needles) type of debris.

After it deteriorates in the trough a sufficient amount of debris still gets into the gutter to clog the gutter.

What makes the fin and trough type of gutter guard work is the use of surface adhesion just as with its predecessor (the fin) and gravity. The inventors reverted back to the screen type which operates only by gravity in the trough in their attempts to advance the the technology in a significant way but failed to doing so.

Again, maintenance involving the use of a ladder is required to remove the gutter guards and clean the downspouts and reinstall the gutter covers. Maybe a slight improvement over basic fin type gutter guard, but not a solution to ladder free maintenance.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More on How Gutter Guards Work with the Engineer

In previous posts I looked at the basic screening systems, filters, and membranes. These would be the simplest form of the logical approach to use gravity to separate debris from rain water. Even using the finest quality of stainless steel mesh still allows debris to accumulate on top of the gutter guard which must be cleaned off. Someone has to go up a ladder and clean the tops of these devices. Basic screens and membranes can be very difficult to clean. Some filters are much easier to clean, but none of them eliminate maintenance involving the use of a ladder.

In the mid part of the last century, inventors worked out how the principle of surface adhesion along with gravity could be applied to leaf guards. The goal was to get rid of openings in the top horizontal surface and the inventors found that they could use a solid top with a rounded front edge to guide the water into the gutter. They invented variations of a longitudinal fin.

Of course there had to be an opening to get the water into the gutter and that was located between the fin and the front gutter lip. It's a space about a quarter to three-eights of an inch wide that extends the entire length of the gutter.

The hopes of the inventors was to have the leaves and tree debris swept to the front of the fin and have them jettisoned onto the ground while the water adhered to the fin and went into the gutter. Certainly for much of the debris this happened, but often times the debris simply stuck to the surface of the gutter cover fin and followed the water into the gutter in sufficient quantity to clog the gutter.

Again, maintenance involving the use of a ladder is required to remove the gutter guards and clean the downspouts and reinstall the gutter covers. Certainly an improvement over basic screens and membranes, but not a solution to ladder free maintenance.

As we will see in future posts other inventors were following a different path because they saw the one extended opening as a potential problem and an obstacle to overcome.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

More with the Engineer about What Makes Gutter Guards Work

In my last post I looked at what makes gutter protection work -- gravity and some kind of screening product to keep the debris out.

The first approach to screening was exactly that--flat screening made of metal or plastic with large holes. Being that basic screening left a lot to be desired, inventors tried to make them more sophisticated.

They shrunk the size of the holes and tried different shape openings eventually making the screens into filters and permeable membranes. The membranes get glued into the gutter and may be an inch or more thick. The filters get installed on the top of the gutter and some are made of a fine stainless steel mesh.

The manufacturers of these improved screens have impressive displays of their gutter guards. But then the true display is how the product works after a few years of service. Since both of these types are flat to the top of the gutter, they collect debris on top of them. And yes, for a period of time the rain water finds its way through the debris and into the gutter but after a few years the debris becomes like mud. Yes the filters would work great if the debris were like coffee grinds, but it's not. The mud eventually blocks the openings in the filters and membranes and requires maintenance.

That means someone has to go up a ladder and flush the gutter guards or gutter covers to clean them. Another disadvantage is that some of the membranes break down after about five years rendering them useless in that they can't even be cleaned, they themselves become clogging debris in the gutter. And adding insult to injury, the parts of the membrane that might not break down, is glued into the gutter and often can not be removed without replacing the gutter.

Unlike the inexpensive traditional screening, these filters and membranes can cost as much as $20/foot.

These are just two more types of gutter covers and gutter guards that are great advertisements for more effective gutter protection I like Waterloov.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ask the Engineer What Makes Gutter Covers Work?

Sir Isaac Newton of the 17th and 18th centuries discovered the principle of gravity and gravity is the force that makes all rain gutter covers work.

Gravity pulls down the rain and the debris along with it. Where rain gutters are concerned the idea is to get the rain through any rain gutter guard and screen out the debris.

Screens were the most obvious first choice to accomplish this goal. The first screens had relatively large holes about 1/4" square in size. They certainly kept out large leaves but as the debris lay on top, dried, and became brittle, the rain water would pummel the brittle debris into the gutter in sufficient quantity to clog the gutter.

The only advantage is that these screens are inexpensive and millions of feet are sold and installed every year.

But after you've used them for a while and tried to clean them out at least once you would wonder why anyone would ever use them as they are more of a problem than they are helpful.

Screens are a major reason why homeowners purchase more sophisticated gutter protectors and are a great advertisement for the Waterloov Gutter Protection product.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Engineer discusses Self Cleaning Gutters?

In a recent post I wrote about self-leveling gutters. The fact that low spots in gutters that could otherwise be breeding grounds for mosquitoes get filled in to create a false bottom is amazing. No other gutter protection product does this.

This self-leveling feature helps to enable the gutters to clean themselves.

How can this be possible? A self cleaning Gutter?

There are two things that need to happen for gutters to clean themselves.

First, the size of any debris that can enter through the gutter guard must be limited to less than 3/4" in size. Debris this size or smaller is easier for the water to move along the flat bottom of the gutter unimpeded by larger leaves and sticks. Some gutter protection products like brush and foam inserts sit directly on the gutter bottom. The bottom needs to be unobstructed.

Second, all the water to enter the gutter needs to run down the gutters front wall. The water then sweeps across the flat bottom of the gutter causing a swirling that stirs any loose debris and carries it to the downspout. Water entering through screens and filter products tend to keep this fine debris on the bottom where it builds up.

Although some helmet type products allow the water to flow down the inside front wall of the gutter they do not restrict the size of the debris. The design of the nose of other helmet type products causes the water to bypass the front wall and fall directly on the flat gutter bottom. Both conditions make it impossible for the gutters to keep themselves clean over time.

If a gutter protection product stays clog free over as many as 20 years and when opened up is found to have only a small amount of fine grit on the bottom, only then can it be truely called self cleaning.

The gutter protection product that was designed with both of these features is the Waterloov gutter protector. It has a solid top as well as openings and louvers in the front face that restrict the debris to less than 3/4 of an inch and force the water down the inside of the front wall of the gutter.