Gutters & Downspouts 101

Here in Bel Air, MD we see a wide variety of weather conditions.  They can range from draught to hurricanes, from mild winter to “Snowmageddon”.   Things change rapidly here and we have to be prepared for the many extremes we encounter.  One of the things we can do to prepare for the variety of rapid weather changes is to check our gutters and downspouts regularly.  Sometimes monthly, depending on what kind of trees you have and how close they are to your home.

Most people think gutters are designed to keep water off our heads. While this is true, their main purpose is to protect our homes’ foundation and contents.  Gutters and downspouts work together as a system.  They collect the rain water from the roof and direct it away from your home.  Similar to the concept of trenching in the middle ages, to keep water out of your tents.  All rain water and sump pump water should be discharged and directed at least six feet from your home.

Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned and checked to ensure they are firmly attached, a loose or detached component will not only fail to direct water away, but can blow around and cause damage to your home’s windows, siding and fascia.  You should have rain leaders that extend at least six from your foundation and the ground should slope away from your home.  Splash blocks are a nice touch but do little to direct water away, they are designed to keep water that is exiting the downspouts from eroding a hole in your lawn by spreading it out and softening the splash.

In short rain leaders are extensions to your downspouts that take the water from your foundation.  There are three types;

  1. The simplest is, downspout pipe added to your existing spouts and laying on top of the ground.  These can be easily tripped over and crushed.  They also need to be moved to mow the lawn, and can kill the grass under it by blocking the sun.
  2. Plastic pipe that does the same as above but does not crush as easily. It is still on the surface and is unsightly.  I still trips people and kills grass.
  3. Finally plastic pipe that is buried in the ground and opened to the surface at least six feet from your foundation.  This method is the best, it is hidden from sight and damage and can’t be tripped over. You also don’t have to move them to mow.  They can also be extended to the road or far away in the yard to keep the lawn near the home dry.

Whichever method you choose there should never be holes in your rain leaders except for the outlet.

At BH Building Service, Inc., we can clean and inspect your gutters and repair them as needed.  We can also install rain leaders and gutter guards to keep out the leaves.

Give us a call. We don’t mind answering questions.

Brian Hastings, President



Spring Do’s and Dont’s, Check list for Maintenance

There are some maintenance items you should perform through out the year. The spring is a good time to check out your house’s exterior. Here is a list of items that you should check every spring.

First and most important

By this time you should have already changed your smoke detector batteries. They should be changed twice a year, once in the spring when the clocks change and then also when the clocks change in the fall. They all take 9 volt batteries and it is a small investment that saves lives, I usually save the batteries for the kids toys. They normally have a little life left in them but not enough for the smoke detector.

  1. You should clean your gutters, even if you cleaned them in the fall they will have debris in them from the new growth on the trees. Pine trees are famous for dropping there needles through the winter and spring and clogging the gutters. Cherry and maple trees drop seeds and flower stems that fill the gutters. While you are up there you should check to make sure they are attached securely.
  2. You should inspect your deck to make sure the it is securely attached to the house. Also, check the railings, they should not be loose.There should not be any loose boards or warped boards sticking up that could trip someone. Also look for loose nails, cracked boards, checking, splintering and algae. Algae, the green stuff that grows on your deck, can be slippery and cause a nasty fall.
  3. Check for loose shingles, siding, fascia and soffit. These items can blow off during the winter months and go unnoticed, because we are hiding from the cold. When they come loose you can have leaking that you may not know about and can cause thousands of dollars of damage if not repaired.

At BH Building Service, Inc. we specialize in all forms of home repairs and remodeling. We often inspect homes in the spring and find items that homeowners miss. The reason we see the items is that we have years of experience and some items may look fine to the untrained eye but, we can spot hidden damage that you may not see.

Please see our other posts on maintenance.

Call us for an inspection of your home, it will give you peace of mind, knowing that you don’t have any damage from Old Man Winter.

Brian Hastings, President
BH Building Service, Inc.
Bel Air, MD

Should I Use a Licensed Contractor? To MHIC or not to MHIC?

I have heard of a lot of people in the last couple of years that have been taken advantage of by so called contractors who are not contractors at all. In the state of Maryland you have to have an MHIC license to work on any home or any property adjacent to a home. It is illegal to represent yourself as a contractor if you are not, it is also illegal to do work for a fee or as a contractor if you are not licensed.

While the people who offer their services in this manner may be less expensive, they are working illegally and the customer has no recourse to go to the Home Improvement Commission. Also, the “client” may have no coverage under their own insurance or of the person performing the work, assuming they are even insured, because most insurances exclude acts performed in the commission of a crime. Furthermore, if you as the “client” gets audited by the IRS and you have paid substantial amounts of money to a person(You are acting as their employer, whether you know it or not.) and have not accounted for it as income to them you may be responsible for paying their back taxes along with penalties and interest.

Now, are they really cheaper?  Are you going to get taken advantage of?  Who knows?  Why take a chance?

On the other hand, If you use a licensed contractor the MHIC may assist you with issues that cannot be resolved between the home owner and the contractor.  Basically, Contractors who are licensed through the Maryland Home Improvement Commission are licensed and bonded and their credentials and experience have been verified and they have passed an examination based on the laws of the MHIC and of the state.

Now, we all know that just because you are licensed, it doesn’t mean you are competent.  There are a few that slip through the cracks, either by their craftsmanship, their ability to run a business and handle their financial affairs or their level of integrity.  But, this is what the MHIC is for.  These types of people don’t normally last very long and when they violate the standards of the MHIC they may grant compensation from the Guaranty Fund, not to mention the violator may have their license revoked.  The majority of MHIC licensed contractors are reputable.

All in all, it is best to deal with a Licensed Contractor, that is Bonded and Insured with the local jurisdiction.

You can follow the link below to check any MHIC #.  You should always verify the, Name, Trade Name and address. They should match the contact information the contractor gives you.  You can also ask the contractor for a copy of his license,  which should also match the contact information he gives you.  Licensees are required to notify the MHIC in writing by certified mail within ten (10) days of any change of address or name change.  Some unethical people have used numbers that were not theirs, so verifying all of the above will insure that you have a reputable contractor.

I have over 25 years of experience and my father has over 40 years of experience I worked with him for many years.  Neither one of us have ever had a complaint with the MHIC.

My MHIC# is 89116.  Search for me at the above website to view my license and credentials.