Q: Tim, the annual gutter cleaning campaign is about to happen. What’s your feeling about gutter guards? Have you tested any? There are so many different designs, how do you even begin to make a decision? Are they really worth it in the long run? Is there a cheaper alternative? — Molly B., Richmond.
A: Do you battle leaves in your gutters twice or three times a year? I used to. My last house in Cincinnati had more than 400 linear feet of gutter on it! It was a nightmare cleaning the gutters out.
Gutter guard products have been on the market for decades. There are probably as many design patents for them as there are power boats on my lake the last weekend of the summer season!
Years ago, I did an exhaustive test of just about every gutter guard design. I discovered that almost all of them fail. The reverse curve designs allow small pieces of debris to be carried into the gutter where it's impossible to clean out the decaying muck. Small debris of all sorts clogs the holes, slits and knockouts in the other designs. Most gutter guards fail miserably in the spring when the tiny debris drops from the trees like snow in a blizzard.
Years ago, I discovered a design that does work. It’s made with stainless-steel micro mesh that’s as fine, or finer, than the weave of pantyhose. Nothing but water gets into gutters protected by these guards.
However, many of these micromesh guards can only be installed by a dealer. The cost-per-foot bids you’ll get will take your breath away. Often the bids are thousands of dollars, and some salesmen incorporate lots of high pressure and tricky sales psychology to get you to sign a contract.
If you’re leaning toward going this route, you may be better off paying a handyman who has workers' compensation coverage to just clean out your gutters twice a year.
I did a simple math calculation and discovered that if you only plan to live in your home for 10 years or less, it makes better financial sense to not install the gutter guards. That may seem like a crazy idea, but if you only have a limited amount of money, you need to protect your capital instead of giving it to a local gutter guard dealer.
I taped several videos of gutter guards that have failed and have pictures of the micro mesh gutter guard that I ended up putting on my house. I have all of this amazing eye candy for you at my website. Go to: http://go.askthebuilder.com/gutterguards
Q: I’m about to tackle a ceramic-tile floor project. After doing some research, I’m quite confused about how to prevent cracks in the tile. I already know that my existing floor has some slight humps and low spots. What would you do to ensure the floor tile is crack-free for a long time? — Sarah M., Jacksonville, Fla.
A: I applaud your ambition — and the fact that you took the time to research the project before you got started! Several hours of each day I do autopsies on homeowner failures that tumble into my email box. The common cause of these snafus is the lack of knowing what to do before starting a project. Most homeowners dive in, start to flail and just hope things will work out.
Ceramic tile is a great product, but it's weak if you try to bend it. It will crack. The tile will bend or crack if you step on it where there's a tiny void space under it. You can eliminate these void spaces by installing the tile on a perfectly flat surface.
Note that flat doesn’t always mean the floor is level. Flat means the surface has no dips or humps in it. You can locate dips or shallow depressions in a floor using a long straightedge and a flashlight. Shine the light at a low angle to see if you see light beams passing under the straightedge.
You can save yourself lots of trouble and time by using self-leveling floor compounds. These are powdered products you mix with water to the consistency of a thin soup. Gravity allows the liquid compound to flow across the floor much like water might in a flood.
When the compounds set up and get hard, they create a perfectly flat surface that happens to be level, too. They’re a perfect substrate for ceramic tile. Professionals use these compounds frequently because they don’t want to have to come back to fix cracked tile. The compounds are not hard to work with, but they do require some moderate skill.
I assembled a handful of useful tips, sources of the floor leveling compounds, and some great how-to videos showing how to get your floor flat. Go here to discover all this great free information: http://go.askthebuilder.com/floorleveling
Tim Carter can call you on the phone for free to solve your problem. Go to his website and fill out the form on this page: https://www.askthebuilder.com/ask-tim/.