Rain gutter options come with trade-offs

By Gene Austin
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Q: Because of nearby trees, I have to clean my aluminum rain gutters five or six times a year. I'm looking for an effective way to keep out leaves and debris. Can you help? --E. Rubacha

A: There are just two ways to keep leaves out of rain gutters, short of eliminating the nearby trees. You can use screens or solid covers, and my experience and research indicate that neither can be guaranteed to work perfectly.

Screens are generally less expensive and easier to install. Plastic screens are often too flimsy, although some fairly rigid plastic screens are available in three-foot sections. One problem with screens is that the small openings tend to get clogged with fine debris. I have seen screens that had accumulated a thick mat of debris that had to be scraped off. Metal screens seem to work somewhat better than plastic and are easier to clean.

Solid covers, sold under brand names like Gutter Helmet, aren't really solid. They have slots at the front edge to admit rain water, which is pulled into the slots by surface tension. The theory is that leaves and debris will simply tumble off the edge of the gutter while it sucks up the water, but this isn't always the case. Several years ago, I asked readers who owned solid-cover systems to give me their opinions of how well they worked. Some liked them and reported no problems. But others said they had so much trouble with the covers that they had them removed. One problem was that small debris sometimes blocked the slots or got into the gutters and clogged them.

Others said they worked well on some areas of their roofs, but at roof valleys or on very steep slopes the rain sometimes shot over the edge along with the leaves. You can buy solid covers at some home centers and building-supply outlets for do-it-yourself installation, but others require contractor installation and can be quite expensive.

There are also a few offbeat systems such as Rainhandler, a gutter substitute that is supposed to disperse rain over a wide area while shedding leaves, and gutters that are tilted to clean them.

Hand cleaning open gutters two or three times a year is usually adequate, but often requires dangerous ladder work. Gutter cleaning service, for a fee, is available in many areas. So virtually any choice means accepting some bad with the good.

Q: A small headstone for a member of our family was broken into two pieces by careless mowing. It is broken off near the base and is only about two inches thick. Can we fix it? --V. Wolfe

A: A two-part epoxy adhesive suitable for masonry is the best bet. Epoxy adhesive is waterproof and very strong. You will probably have to support the headstone while the adhesive dries, so bring four or five stakes and a hammer to drive them into the soil at the front and back of the stone. Two-part epoxy is mixed immediately before use. Leave the stakes in place for at least 24 hours while the adhesive dries to its maximum strength. You should be able to find a suitable epoxy at a home center or hardware store.

Q: A lot of flies settle on the railing of our porch. How do we get rid of them? --Brian

A: Since the flies are outdoors and congregate in a small area, you should be able to eliminate them quickly with an aerosol spray such as Raid Flying Insect Killer. You can buy Raid at many supermarkets, home centers and garden centers.

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QUICK TIP: Reader Mike Morton recommends baking soda on a damp, soft sponge and sometimes "elbow grease" to remove baked-on deposits on glass stove tops. "I usually follow up with a water-only sponging to remove residual baking soda, then finish by polishing with Cerama-Bryte."

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