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"High-quality gutter guards eliminate gutter cleaning, clogs"

Dear Jim: My gutters get dirty and overflow. The ground near the house gets soggy and causes high humidity during summer. I've tried cheap wire gutter guards, but to no avail. Do the more expensive solid ones work? - Kim G.

A: Gutters are one of the most often forgotten maintenance areas of a home, yet are one of the most important. Faulty, overflowing gutters can lead to damaged insulation (lower energy efficiency), damaged structural lumber, termite infestations, excessive mold, and unhealthy landscaping.

If you open your windows during the spring and summer instead of running your air conditioner continuously, excessively damp soil can be a problem. Moisture- and mold-laden air is drawn into your house and this increases indoor humidity. It is not the same effect as having plants near the house which act as natural mini-air conditioners during peak daytime heat.

The inexpensive metal or plastic mesh gutter guards are better than nothing to keep gutters clean. I installed them on my own gutters and the leaves, pine needles and seeds gradually piled up on them. The water eventually still overflowed, but I did not have to clean the gutters as often as before.

There are several designs of gutter guards that are much more effective. They are permanently attached over the gutters because cleaning should not be required after they are installed. They are made of either aluminum or plastic and are available in many colors. Aluminum ones are most durable.

Most of these are solid covers that rely on the principle of "water adhesion". Slots or small holes for the water to enter the gutter are located underneath a lip or on the vertical side. The leaves and other large debris fall over the edge to the ground. Any tiny debris that remains in the water just flows through the gutter and out the downspout.

The natural surface tension of water causes it to cling to the guard edge and flow into the slots. You can see this same effect by holding a glass horizontally underneath your kitchen faucet. You will see how the water flow clings and follows the glass surface instead of dripping off the side.

Another design uses a thick plastic mesh. It fits inside against the back of the gutter and across the top. It is caulked securely in place. Any tiny debris that gets through it will easily flow down the downspout. This design is easy to install and less expensive than the solid types.

The best method is to install an entire gutter system with an integral guard. This method is particularly effective in areas of the country with heavy rainfalls. In these areas, gutters are often sloped toward the downspout and adding guards over the old gutters may be less effective.

Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 403 - buyer's guide of 12 gutter guard, flexible downspouts and complete gutter system manufacturers listing materials, colors, warranties, dealer-installed or DIY, features, installation instructions, many illustrations, and photos.

Dear Jim: The bathtub faucet is leaking. I installed two new o-rings and springs and it still drips. The water is cold, so at least it is not wasting energy. How can I get it to stop dripping? - Bob R.

A: First, it may not be just cold water leaking. If it is a slow drip from the hot water side, the water will cool down long before it gets to the faucet. You may be wasting a lot of energy in addition to water.

Take the faucet apart again and inspect the flat surface that mates with the rubber o-rings. It made have some hard water deposits on it. Carefully clean it so it is smooth. This should stop your leak.

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