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Gutters: What Material Is Best?

If you’re putting gutters on your home for the first time, or replacing your existing gutters, you may be surprised by just how many options there are. While there may be numerous options to choose from, it’s important to understand the various costs associated with this type of project before making a decision. In fact, the experts at Improvenet.com say the cost to install gutters and related components like downspouts can vary widely, with installation rates ranging from a minimum of $3 to more than $17 per linear foot.

While gutters protect the sides of the house from mud—preventing erosion, reducing water damage to the foundation, and keeping visitors from getting wet—guttering can demand more maintenance and cleaning, distract from the profile or design of a home, and be a big expense when constructing or remodeling.

According to Improvenet, the four top gutter material options are aluminum, vinyl, copper and stainless steel.

While the decision is often personal, Roselyn Bette at Medium.com loves and recommends copper, because over time it develops a special lining that protects from rust and other potentially harmful elements. She says copper prevents algae and fungi growth, so blockages, with their related cleaning and maintenance expenses, will be significantly reduced.

And, Bette says, copper gutters can last well over 100 years due to their remarkable durability.

Turning to other materials, doityourself.com points out a few important things to know about aluminum gutters. While relatively weather resistant compared to vinyl—and very lightweight—aluminum is less durable than steel or copper.

Aluminum gutters need to be maintained to avoid corrosion and dents, so cleaning them and caulking them regularly is important. Since aluminum expands and contracts with the temperature, they’re prone to cracks, which need to be repaired in order to avoid leaks.

When it comes to affordability, vinyl tops the list because it’s lightweight and easy to install. Additional benefits include the fact that its color won’t fade, chip or crack over time. While it’s a top choice for DIYers, vinyl can get brittle and snap in cold extremes, so it may not be the best option for homes in cold climates.

Steel ranks second when it comes to affordability; however, it’s important to note that it can rust in certain climates. Not only is it sturdy, but also it can hold a lot of weight, so sagging is less common.

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How to Avoid Problems With Your Spring Renovations and Repairs

As soon as winter weather starts giving way to fairer days, folks start itching to get any planned repairs, maintenance and renovations started.

If you want to protect yourself from rogue and incompetent builders, take some advice from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau’s Howard Schwartz, who suggests a few time-honored procedures.

Schwartz says it is essential to obtain multiple estimates before signing a contract. Study these estimates to learn what type of work is needed, the quality of materials they plan to use, how long the job may take, and its total cost.

Schwartz says details may vary, but if one estimate is substantially lower than the others, ask why. Here are a few more tips:

Check bbb.org to learn how long a contractor has been in business, contact information, verified customer reviews, complaint details, and how the business responded.

Don’t be lured into signing a contract if someone offers a “today only” special. That is a sales tactic designed to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit without giving you an opportunity to do your research.

Obtain references from recent customers. You may want to speak with other property owners who had work done recently.

Get everything in writing. All verbal promises should be contained in the contract, as well as a detailed description of the type of work needed, the quality of materials, how long the job may take, specifics about the deposit and payment schedule, and guarantees for the quality of work and materials.

Pulling permits. Contractors should obtain necessary permits as part of the job. If they’d rather not go for permits, it might be a warning sign.

Compare apples to apples. Choosing a prospective contractor is simpler if you ask for quotes based on the number of hours needed and the same quality of materials.

Finally, avoid putting down a large deposit. Schwartz says a typical schedule follows the “Rule of Thirds.” The first payment is made when signing the contract, the second when work begins, and the final payment when the job is finished and you are satisfied with the quality of work.

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Home Laundry: To Vent or Not to Vent

I once believed it was a forgone conclusion that when adding certain laundry appliances to a home, it would mean installing exhaust ducting and cutting a hole to the outside for venting.

However, a recent report from Michele Weaver at Design Basics, LLC highlighted a growing trend in ventless dryers that can be easily located and relocated within a home because vent piping, exhaust holes and venting to the outside are not needed.

The mechanics of a home dryer can cause energy and safety problems if lint becomes trapped in the vent. This demands more energy use and frequent cleaning. Weaver believes one of the major trends consumers will be seeing in these key appliances will be the further refinement of ductless technology.

She says vent hoses snaking through a home’s framing have become a leading cause of the 2,900 (average) home clothes dryer fires reported annually, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

J.D. Wollf at HomeSteady.com recently explained that a ventless or condenser dryer— also known as a Heat Pump Clothes Dryer (HPCD)—doesn’t need a vent because instead of expelling the hot, moist air, a heat exchanger removes the moisture from the hot air and “recycles” it, passing it back through the drying clothes. The excess water is then drained away or caught in a container that is later emptied.

The trade-off for energy savings and safety is a requirement for slightly more maintenance than vented dryers. Wollf says the condensing unit must be cleaned about once a month to remove any lint.

A study at the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida states that while an unvented HPCD uses less electricity than a standard resistance dryer, it was found to release significantly more heat than a conventional dryer during operation, demanding additional cooling energy that may compromise overall savings.

However, the study points out that with a current retail cost of $948, there is only a small premium on the HPCD dryers, making them cost-effective when chosen at time of replacement.

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