Heated Gutter Guards

It is possible to install a gutter cover that will self clean if the gutter cover has a slope.

It is also possible to make a filter out of 316 stainless steel that only water (no organic matter) will go through.  It is possible to install it on a straight run gutter and have virtually no overrun of rain.  (Note that a roof valley requires special handling.)

It is also possible to get a transferable warranty that protects a home with a 100% money back factory warranty if your gutters clog with MasterShield (MS).

I install MS on hundreds of homes yearly.  I have received the BBB Integrity Award and Angie’s List Super Service Award.

Is MasterShield perfect? No.  All gutter covers create ice, including MS.  They make ice in freezing drizzle; they make ice when snow melts. Is that a concern?  Not to me.  A little ice is such a tiny problem. Only where people walk underneath the gutters is ice a legitimate concern.  This is when you may consider heated gutter guards.

There are several choices of heated gutter guards on the market.  The two groups are divided by several sub groups.

  • Wattage
    • Using 5 or 6 watts per foot, the electricity is normally run on a regular outside outlet (with existing GFI). They must be turned on before the need to melt ice.
    • Another option is to use a dedicated circuit for a heat cable installation at 20 watts per foot.  You turn this on only when you need it. The downside? This option can run $1200 in required electrical work in addition to installation costs plus material.
  • Placement of the heat cable.  All gutter covers install the cable on top of the cover. This is a horrible catch point for debris coming off the roof.  MasterShield is the exception.  MasterShield has a patent-applied-for-method of attaching the Danfoss Heat Cable on the bottom side of the micro mesh filter.  This allows free flow into the gutter.   Sleet and snow will melt on the outer edge of the gutter cover with gently applied heat.

Danfoss tells us that by 2016 they will have a moisture sensor that will turn your low wattage heat cable on only when you need it.

Contact us if you need more information.

Gutter Thickness

Aluminum gutters come in two basic thicknesses: .027 and .032.  The difference is much more than the metal.  The heavier (.032) will withstand a ladder or severe weather much easier.  The price difference is minimal.  Always require the heavier weight. The gutter hangers should always be hidden with screws that penetrate 2″ into the fascia.  To carry wind,snow,ice etc.  Most gutter companies have very limited labor (installation) warranties.  You should require a 2 year warranty to cover seasonal variations.

Your single most important first step is to verify the company you have contracted with has public liability and Workmans Comp. insurance.  WARNING: Your homeowners insurance in most cases does not cover you from liability.  In addition, most states allow handymen, lawn men, sub-contractors, etc. to self insure (This is a nifty way to say: “No Insurance”.  Be careful.)  Another true test of Craftsmanship is how the workman pitches (slopes) the gutters to drain the rainwater.  Industry standards suggest 1/4″ per 10 feet.  The critical tool is a level.  You can not accurately eyeball gutters’ slope.   Only a poorly trained installer eyeballs the slope.  Note installation of an advanced water filtration system (ie MasterShield)  allows the slope of gutter to be nominal.  Be aware that when water goes around a turn, flow is reduced.

Keep your gutters from clogging…Guaranteed! Heartland MasterShield: Servicing Lincoln, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and surrounding communities. For more information visit www.heartlandmastershield.com.

Downspouts: Size and Weight

Until recent times almost all homes featured 5” wide gutters with 2” by 3” downspouts.  They mostly got the job done. But modern homes have more corners, more ins and  outs, more valleys and gables. So your modern builder has gone upscale to 6” gutters, the old commercial size. The 6” gutter carries 59% more rainwater volume than the old 5”.  The larger size has the obvious benefit of allowing gutters under fancy shingles like wood (which usually overhang the gutter) to be used correctly.  The bigger size also allows your gutter installer to move up to larger downspouts without sacrificing carrying capacity.  The new norm is 3” by 4” downspouts,  twice the exterior size of the older downs.

FYI: the bottom of the trough on a 5” gutter is only 3” making it kind of tough to turn a 3” by 4” down sideways and restricting flow in most installs.   A 6” gutter trough bottom is 3 ¼” allowing a full draining with 3” by 4” downs.  Be aware almost all new downs are .019 aluminum which I call pop-can thickness.  If you are aware, note that virtually all colors can be special ordered in .024 aluminum–a much stronger downspout.  Some of the big trophy homes are even sporting the latest 4” by 5” downs because bigger is almost always better. The proper gutter hanging height is also a neglected area.  Most gutter guys will severely slope the gutter and almost universally hang it too high on the fascia.  The national guttering code recommends hang gutters lower in virtually all cases.

How much water can a downspout handle?  The rule of thumb is 40’ of gutter per downspout.  Every right angle can reduce capacity by 50%.  However,  a good field mechanic can weasel around this and still create a guttering system that can handle any normal HUGE rain.

While you are looking at your gutters, note that a neglected area on new gutter installation is the kick or gutter leader.  It  allows rainwater to be channeled further away from the vulnerable foundation and out into your yard.  There are three points to note.

#1 If your lawn and trees allow it, the primo way to move water away from the home is a buried downspout.  Like black field tile, it can be buried and day-lighted away into the lawn.  Just cut the tubing at a slope to match your lawn.  There are special adapters available at Big Box stores to transition your 3 by 4 down into this underground avenue. Also, consider underground French drains with river rock and drain tile.  They can be dug under the sod and will move massive amounts of surface water for you.

#2 Laws state you cannot make your neighbor’s water problem worse by channeling surface water at them. But if you are grandfathered in, you are an exception.  Traditionally a splash block was the extent of involvement in getting water away from your foundation. A downspout with 2 zip screws on each side can allow it to be flipped up until the screws fall out. Avoid this. Today we have high tech steel and aluminum hinges that we can install.  This will make your ground-laying gutters swing up.  You will love the swing-ups.  On a  7 foot downspout, for example, downspout hinges will allow your lawn parameter to be weed wacked without denting  the down extension.  A hinge will  also prevent your downspout extension from being  beaten up or blown away.   Or use a clear plastic slider to hold the down up during mowing and to ensure the wind does not flip it back down on you. This is nifty.  Also consider installing hard black plastic flat surface drains with extensions.  This will allow you to cross a sidewalk and not leave a huge trip up for guests.

#3 Use any means in freezing winter areas to avoid making your driveway a  dangerous family skating rink.   Chanel rainwater to the street whenever possible.  Change your downs direction or change the downs’ placement on your home.  For example, it’s possible to punch a new down opening in your gutter.  Or  change the existing down location and put a patch over old down hole.   Note most gutter contractors will not punch out a 2 by 3 opening in your gutter and install a 3 by 4; it is too hard on the punch.

Keep your gutters from clogging…Guaranteed! Heartland MasterShield: Servicing Lincoln, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and surrounding communities. For more information visit www.heartlandmastershield.com.

Water Overrunning Your Valleys?

Anybody with valleys on their roof knows the frustration of rain overrunning the gutters.  I call this a ricochet effect.   Water can pour down your valley 2 inches or more in waves that cascades over your gutter.  This is frustrating.

Solutions? An old fashioned remedy is a deflector (ie a shield) attached to the top of the gutter.  This device can redirect the water flow back into the gutter.  How big?  As long as you want with 12″ on each side.  This solution has a downside: it will trap debris heavily behind it and require frequent cleaning.  It may even generate snow build-up or ice dams.

The second solution an “L” shaped 36″ long two inch tall by one inch leg defuser (ie a “water lov”) made out of aluminum.  It has holes in it to allow the semi-defused water and will break up the heaviest water flow.  This defuser is generally installed under the 2nd row of shingles with silicone-like glue.  This second solution has the same negatives as a deflector.

The latest and greatest 21st century solution is a Barnett Valley Controller.  It is made out of impact-modified plastic appoximately 18″ long and 12″ wide it stands 1 1/2 ” tall and has slots in the top and down both sides.  It is mounted by screwing thru the leading edge of the gutter.  It can be painted to match roof color and the gutter color.  In a word it takes water like “quick sand” with little or no over-run.  Because it is made of plastic, the Barnett also helps control snow in the valley.  Kudos to Barnett.

Keep your gutters from clogging…Guaranteed! Heartland MasterShield: Servicing Lincoln, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and surrounding communities. For more information visit www.heartlandmastershield.com.

Gutter guards: questions to ask

Okay, you’re right: cleaning gutters is a pain.  You are looking for a silver bullet solution.  You want to avoid climbing a ladder all the time. Working on a gentle-slope roof can work if you are young enough not to lose your balance occasionally.  Still, beware–there are over 400,000 ladder falls a year.  Be careful.  Don’t be reckless.  You may decide to buy gutter guards or covers.  Who do you chose?  All contractors promote their own line, so do your homework. Then call one or several contractors.  While you analyze the products please beware of:

Overblown or false promises.  Be sure to question your salesperson.  If he mentions a lifetime guarantee, ask questions.  Be sure the guarantee covers more than the paint finish. Make sure you understand the difference of terms “warranty” and “service promise”.
Warranty has more muscle. What is covered is as important as who stands behind the warranty.  Few local companies have the where-with-all or life expectancy to issue a credible long-term guarantee.  Accept only a Manufacturers Warranty.  The manufacturer should have the deep pockets to survive local issues and be there if you ever need them.

Next: how will a gutter cover handle heavy rain?

Remember even a silver bullet can be misfired. So insist that your local installing company issue an extensive Labor Guarantee.  I suggest two (2) years is fair.

Keep your gutters from clogging…Guaranteed! Heartland MasterShield: Servicing Lincoln, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and surrounding communities. For more information visit www.heartlandmastershield.com.

Gutter Covers: What is the Price?

We at Heartland MasterShield, Inc. can guarantee your gutters will be clog-free for the life of your home with a factory money back agreement. Potential customers are curious and ask for costs before allowing a representative to their home.  They say, “You can tell me what an average home costs, can’t you?  I have a 1500 square foot home; what would it run? How do you charge?  What’s the cost per foot?  Why can’t you tell me?”

Here are the REAL answers to those questions: Every home is different.  They have different sizes, pitches of the roof, number of feet needing protection, degrees of difficulty, different access to gutters & roof, architectural oddities, different landscape problems, and possible gutter or downspout replacement.  A Home Improvement Contractor is not Walmart.  What does that mean?  We do not have a one-size-fits-all price.  We are a business.   Our products are tailored.

No one can ballpark accurately without looking at the project.  There is no reason to guess the cost of gutter covers when a FREE, exact quote is offered. Asking the price before the project is agreed on is not reasonable.   Any reputable contractor will give a consumer a fair amount of time to decide whether they wish to do business. (We at Heartland MasterShield give the rest of season.) In exchange for an on-site review and price, Heartland asks for the owners’ time.  If there are mutiple decision makers, they should both make themselves available to hear the ins and outs of the offer.

Someone who expects something for free with no committment gets exactly what they paid. Nothing.  So with all that said what does a prudent home owner expect for their time?

A professional trained expert in their home will 1) Explore their concerns 2) Inspect the job site, use professional judgement to anticipate problems and measure the home to provide a cost. 3) Leave a written agreement with the complete price spelled out.  This includes information on guarantees, products, colors, and specifications.  We do not accept deposits and bill only after a job is completed.  A written bill is mailed to you with an addressed, postage-paid envelope. I recommend that all small (under $10,000) home improvement projects be handled the same way.

Keep your gutters from clogging…Guaranteed! Heartland MasterShield: Servicing Lincoln, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and surrounding communities. For more information visit www.heartlandmastershield.com.

Angie’s List on GutterGuard, LeafFilter, & MasterShield

On September 9, 2013 as the #4 expert on Ask Angie’s List I received a request for info on LeafFilter.  While I was writing this blog Angie deleted the query.  Here is what I wrote.

I have been installing LeafFilter gutter guards for eight years.  I was also selling Gutter Topper when I started selling LeafFilter.  Five years ago I stopped selling Gutter Topper and became a MasterShield dealer.  Why all these products?  What have I discovered that will help you?

     Gutter Topper is the best reverse-curve type gutter cover.  It operates on the principle that water will follow a curve into the gutter and debris will fall off the covered gutter.  Obviously to make it work the gutter cover has to have an opening to let the water in.  This concept was patented in 1908 so it is not unique or cutting edge.  Unfortunately leaving an opening also allows small debris to follow with the rainwater into the covered gutter.  This, then, is virtually impossible to clean.  Hence only the very top end and expensive gutter covers (Gutter Topper, Gutter Glove and Gutter Helmut) can afford free cleaning service by the dealer when they clog.  If the dealer goes of out business (and I am aware of 5 in my market), the customer has a nifty fixed cover over his gutter that may be clogged with no help in sight.  Also, the leading edge of all reverse cover gutter systems must be kept clean or water will not follow the curve.  Water will then flow onto the ground.  In addition, a steeply pitched roof will overrun.  And old strap hung gutters that hang floating freely in the wind (mostly on Victorian homes) can not have an under-the-shingle type installation. Also the gutter’s backside will be open to birds and wasps.  These last two reasons are why I originally started selling LeafFilter—a product that solves the last two problems.

     LeafFilter (LF) is an invention of Alex Higginbotham who has all the basic patents on microfiltration.  This system uses a stainless steel 50 micron (three times smaller than a human hair) filter to keep any debris out of a gutter.  LF has a 4″ mesh over an underlayment of PVC (the same material vinyl siding is made of)  layed on top of the  gutter hangers.  The manufacturer warranties the original purchaser a material cost refund if the gutter ever needs to be cleaned.  Since nothing but water can enter the gutter, a properly installed LF system will give you clean gutters.  But there are several flaws in the system.  LF is flat and creates a “shelf” that debris rests on.  Someone should periodically blow off the shelf.  I have LF on my home, so I can speak from experience.  The other flaw–heavy rains tend to overrun the filter.

Hence Alex’s latest and greatest: MasterShield gutter covers. MS is placed under the first roof shingle. A method endorsed by 4 of the 5 major shingle manufactures It is pitched with the roof so it sheds debris during a rainstorm and when the wind blows.  Furthermore in all except a roof valley (the point where two roof pitches intersect), it does not overflow.  Both the manufacturer and the dealers (me) in writing will refund the purchase price or repair free of charge for the life the gutter if it clogs.

So I advise you enter MasterShield in your search engine.  Take a look.  Call LeafFilter if you have a Victorian strap hung gutter or flat EDPM roof.  And, yes, I sold a combo job September 8, 2013 with LeafFilter on 47 feet , the flat portion of the roof and MasterShield on 120 feet, the rest of the roof.  For roof valleys we install Barnett Valley Contollers to handle virtually 100% of the water.  Problems solved.

Keep your gutters from clogging…Guaranteed! Heartland MasterShield: Servicing Lincoln, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and surrounding communities. For more information visit www.heartlandmastershield.com.

Gutters With Lead Paint

If your home was constructed before January 1, 1978 and your gutters and/or downspouts do not have a factory finish paint job, beware.

A factory paint finish is a pristine smooth finish. It was applied before the gutter system was installed. Even if you have one, the federal government now requires that every time you touch more than 20 square feet (20 running feet of gutter or downspouts), you must hire a certified a Lead Paint Renovator (LRP) with several licenses.  Both individual and company licenses are required.

Some states like Iowa have additional licensing requirements.  With those 2 pieces of paper an LPR can test for lead paint on your home. Can you do the work yourself?  By federal law if you and your friends are NOT paid, it’s okay to scrape a house with lead paint or remove a gutter.  You may not pay someone unless he/she has the licenses. In Iowa (and in other states) even your friends and family are forbidden to work on a lead paint home.  Major fines can be issued.

So let’s say a LPR tests your home for the forbidden lead paint.  You agree to replace the 20+ square feet on the outside of your home.  First you should read and sign a Renovate Right book.  The lead paint test results will be codified on a six-part form. You get many copies. Work can commence OR you get the bad news, lead-safe practices must be used on your home.

These lead-safe practices are many & quite expensive.  1) 4 or 6 mill poly is required on the ground 10 feet out from every story of your home. 2) All the bushes, windows, doors, and A/C units must be polyed over. 3) Yellow warning tape is required 10′ out from the poly. And there are many more requirements.  My company does NOT do this work. We walk away. The most we will do it tell the homeowner to pull down the offending gutter material.  Only then will we be able to haul it away.  If you are in Iowa and/or a senior citizen–the non-paid work is extra burdensome.

Why all this concern about lead paint?  Children under age 6 and pregnant women are susceptible to learning disabilities from high lead paint ingestion.  The chances a gutter job would creat a significant amount of lead chips on the ground for children to eat is pretty remote. But peeling lead paint (it tastes sweet) with a vigorous scraping could be a receipe for disaster.  The EPA almost mandated an 8 foot high wall at the property line to contain potential blowing paint chips so things could get real exciting if the current adminstration is re-elected. FYI: the interior threshold is SIX square feet every time you hire a contractor. Why?  The fine is up to $35,000 for non-compliance.  In addition, currently the homeowner is NOT liable, the contractor is.  So if any child tests positive for high lead levels ANY contractor who worked on your home and did not take LPR steps is in the hot seat and potentially liable, forever.

What’s the solution?  Hire a reputable licensed LPR for your gutter work. Buy siding if you have lead paint on the exterior of your home.  Cover it up & avoid future problems.  Inside solution? None.  If the public wants to make this law work the homeowner must be made
liable. Otherwise we will continue to see dishonest and/or foreign laborers doing illegal remodeling jobs. Please be aware when testing for lead paint ALL of the layers must be tested.  On metal a sharp knife is scraped over the surface exposing all layers to testing. With current tests, 99% of LPR use a lead check test that turns the tip red to signal lead.  Ask to see the Lead Check Test if the contractor is suspect.

Why does a MasterShield gutter cover contractor care about the presence of lead paint when they are merely putting a cover on the existing gutters?  They don’t if the homeowner is lucky and the gutters do not have to be lowered. But in many instances gutters need to be moved. Why? Because MasterShield is designed to shed the debris during and after a rain. It is pitched on an angle not a flat shelf like Gutter Toper, LeafGuard, LeafFilter, etc.  In order to award MasterShield’s unique Money Back Warranty, correct installation techniques must be practiced.  There are no free lunchs, you get what you pay for.

Keep your gutters from clogging…Guaranteed! Heartland MasterShield: Servicing Lincoln, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and surrounding communities. For more information visit www.heartlandmastershield.com.

When To Replace Roof Shingles & Gutter Guards

Virtually every Homeowner faces the questions:“Are my roof and gutter covers worn out?  Do I need a new roof?” Almost always the source for these questions is an interested party–a roofer.

Why we continue to ask someone with a financial stake in our actions to operate as a neutral third party is mind blowing.  Roofers make money when you replace your roof. They make nothing if you don’t. So lets’s not expect them to give disinterested advice. Who can you trust? To my mind only two solid sources 1) Yourself or 2) A paid home inspector (if certified, home inspectors are forbidden to refer a repairman).  If you want to save the $100 to $250 an inspector charges, take a good look at the following roof features.

A roof that leaks is in need of the leak-stop not roof replacement.  A roof that has curled shingles still may have many years of useful service.  Curled shingles have broken on the curls, still may be 3 or 5 or more years left in roof.  If roof granules are coming off, remember, that is is part of a roof’s aging process.  If all roof shingle sand gone, whoops, you got 1 year or so to replacing roof. One major cavat as a roof ages it gets more fragile; and tiny hail that wouldn’t have harmed it before now pose another terminal risk.  But didn’t you pay homeowners insurance all these years so when that happens you can cheerfully pay an oversize deductable and get that new roof? Beware about insurance adjusters, too. If you have suffered a insurace loss, some of them are paid to say, “You have no problem, your roof is fine”. After weather-related events the roofer can be your best friend, showing damage to you and pointing it out to the insurance adjuster.  ALWAYS call roofer if the adjuster does not offer to replace your roof.

Why a big spiel on roofing from a gutter cover company?  MasterShield can be reinstalled on  a new roof with NO damage by your dealer or in my case by one of my skilled workers on the weekend for a minimal charge. Any under-the-shingle gutter covers like Gutter Topper and permenantly-afixed gutter covers like LeafGuard suffer pretty significant damage when an old roof is torn off and replaced.  So invest for the future if you can afford it.  In hail belt areas buy architectural shingles for the looks. But forgo the expensive ones as your insurance company will almost certainly buy you a new roof before a 35 year one has worn out.  FYI: if you can afford it do a complete tear off, replace flashing and all when reroofing.

For additional proof go to Money Magazine May 2012 page 53 “Redo Your Roof the Right Way”

Keep your gutters from clogging…Guaranteed! Heartland MasterShield: Servicing Lincoln, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and surrounding communities. For more information visit www.heartlandmastershield.com.

MasterShield Radiant Barrier

In March of 2011 I installed a MasterShield radiant barrier in my attic.  On advice of Oak Ridge National Testing Laboratory I stapled it to the roof rafters inside my attic.  Pre-cutting the quilted aluminum lengths makes installation easier.  I also carried a ten inch x ten foot one-inch thick board to stand on.  Starting at one end, I wallpapered the joists leaving the top one foot open to allow air movement thru my continious ridge vent.  I made sure that the chutes above the soffit vents were open to allow air movement thru the attic.  The gabled end of the house was also wallpapered with radiant barrier.  I noticed as the ceiling got more and more covered the temperature inside the attic dropped.  On a very warm, sunny early spring morning the temperature fell from about 100 degrees to about 65 degrees or so.

The rest of the story is a great success.   My power bills in the horribly hot summer 2011 in Omaha, Nebraska was a virtual clone of the bills in a mild 2010. What happened?  The total $ spent per month went down by 50% with NO life style changes.  I was amazed.   Even  a walk down the 2nd story hall was cooler than I remembered.  The southwest bedrooms were finally comfortable even in late afternoon and evening in our scorching hot July. So I saved a bunch in cooling bills.  Winter heating charges were lighter, too.

Would I recommend MasterShield double-sided radiant barrier?  Yes!  Will I sell it to the general public?  Probably not.  Why?  There is too much liability. Picture an employee crawling around inside an attic.  The chance he may be injured is a little to much.  In addition, the ever present liability of a worker slipping off a roof rafter and popping a hole in John Q Public’s bedroom ceiling is a little too real.  I ordered some product for a good customer’s college-age son to install.   It saved a ton on their electric heating bill.  Even more was saved on their A/C this scorcher of a summer (2012).  They installed the barrier by rolling it out over the existing insulation with a slight overlap at the seams.

For more information go directly to the manufacturer:  www.mastershield.com.  And thanks for working to make life more energy efficient.