All About Gutters

When potential buyers scout a home, checking the gutters is probably not at the top of their priorities.  But gutters do serve a very important purpose to homes – they carry rainwater that falls off the edges of roofs away from the house, which is vital to maintain the integrity of a home’s exterior and foundation.  Over time they probably save homeowners a lot of money in repairs, provided they’re well-maintained.

In fact, gutters are so important to home maintenance that November 25 has been unofficially declared “National Gutters Day” in the UK.

And as fall settles in, dire warnings about leaf-clogged gutters can be seen all over social media (mostly by companies selling something to deal with the problem):

So what’s the worry? Why do gutters matter and what kind of maintenance do they need?

Having issues with my own gutters, I saw an opportunity to find out more about them by asking my friend and handyman, Wayne Morse, to see if he can find out what’s wrong.  Morse is a general contractor who has spent decades doing all kinds of construction and maintenance jobs, big and small, from building entire houses to something as minor as patching leaky gutters.

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Gutters available for sale at a Denver-area Home Depot store. Photo credit: Deepan Dutta

When I asked Morse why gutters are important, his explanation is pretty simple. “They carry water away from your house,” he says, “and that keeps your foundation free of moisture and makes sure that it’s not running into your house and damaging your siding, or foundation.”

Morse says a homeowner can tell there’s a problem if they start seeing water leak from under the gutters (like I was seeing with mine) or start seeing water damage outside the home from where roof water drainage is failing.  He put up a ladder and went up to assess what was wrong with mine.

“You’ve got a lot of rust in your gutter,” is the first thing he said after the initial inspection.  He explains it probably got that way because I let leaves sit in there over the years and didn’t clean them out often enough.  The leaves absorbed water and held moisture at the bottom of the gutter, eventually corroding the ‘galvanized’ coating.  It must have been a particularly poor job of maintenance, he said, since these were galvanized metal gutters – which means they are not supposed to rust at all.  Admittedly, I had neglected the gutters over the past few seasons, allowing the corrosion to get worse and worse.

Morse expanded on the possible reasons for the rust, saying water may have also been standing due to an improperly leveled or sagging gutter.  “It could also just be water standing, a lot of times people put gutters in and they don’t put it in with good drainage, and it’s not bad to have two drain spouts, one on each side and that helps keep your water drained.”

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Standing water in a gutter. Photo credit: Deepan Dutta

Miguel, a Home Depot sales associate who declined to give his last name, agreed with that assessment when I asked him what could cause rust in supposedly rust-proof gutters.

“If you get a lot of leaves, dirt, and other stuff in there, it will sit on the bottom and eventually rust out,” he explains.  Miguel recommended using silicone seals and other products to help with small holes should they appear in gutters, but said that eventually you’ll need to replace all of them if they’re already starting to rust.

To keep leaves and other debris out, he also suggested a product called Gutterstuff, which is basically a foam insert that filters leaves and debris while allowing water to flow through.

With my situation, the rust and neglect resulted in at least one visible hole in the gutter running in front of the house, over the garage.  It was visible as a little rust stain underneath the gutter, where water had been dripping through to the concrete driveway below.

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Standing water corroded my gutter, creating a hole.  Photo credit: Deepan Dutta

Morse’s recommendation to fix the hole was to ‘patch it up,’ which basically meant screwing a steel plate over the hole.

First, he measured a piece of stainless steel that would fit over the affected area.

Second, he would drill four holes through the bottom of the gutter where the steel would be placed.

Third, he used a caulking gun to spread silicone sealant over the holes to ensure that water would not leak through.

Finally, he installed the plate in place with four small screws.

Here’s a video of Morse going through these steps to repair the gutter:

The final result will (hopefully) be that the water stops leaking through the gutter.  With Denver seeing its first snow of the season over the past week, the fix couldn’t come soon enough.

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Wayne Morse finishes up his patch job of the gutter. Photo credit: Deepan Dutta

The lesson for homeowners: Don’t neglect your gutters.  Cleaning them out after the leaves drop in the fall is crucial to water irrigation from roofs. Morse estimates that gutters can last 20 years or more if they are properly maintained.  Otherwise, you may see a needless headache in having to replace gutters all around a house far earlier than needed.

Video Profile: GVR HOA President Rose Thomas

Green Valley Ranch is a booming community in far-northeast Denver, 15 minutes from Denver International Airport and now with direct commuter train access to downtown Denver.  One of the main neighborhoods is a covenant protected community overseen by the Green Valley Ranch Master Homeowners Association (GVR HOA).

Rose Thomas is the president of the GVR HOA. She has been in that position for several years, and oversees the board of the HOA, which enforces the community’s covenant bylaws to protect the area’s property values.  This video explains what her job entails as HOA president.

The video also explores what is driving the growth of Green Valley Ranch, which has become the fastest-growing community in Denver county.  Helping explain the growth is Leah Defelice, a New Home Counselor and sales agent for Oakwood Homes, the top new home developer in GVR.  She has sold 53 homes this year alone as GVR becomes one of the most desirable Denver suburbs.

How we came to America

While the story for many immigrants from South Asia involves a search for opportunity and wealth in the West, for some it involved the very real matter of life and death.  This was the case of my parents, Jyoti and Purabi.  Their decision to come to the United States very literally saved their lives.

My parents are both from a nation that is now known as Bangladesh, a small country to the east of India, bordered on three sides by India and opening out to the Bay of Bengal in the south.  Growing up, their homeland was first known to them as the British Eastern Bengal until the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, when the Brits quit their claims in the region and divided the former colony into two countries along religious lines, secular India and Islamic Pakistan – with the latter state being comprised of two regions separated by a thousand miles.  East Bengal became East Pakistan, with little binding it to West Pakistan aside from religion.  East Pakistan had a different language (Bengali vs. Urdu), a higher population, a more advanced economy, and its own native culture.  These factors contributed to an increasingly hostile relationship with West Pakistan, which became dictatorial in its attempt to control the culture and politics in the East.

By the 60’s, unrest in East Pakistan was reaching a boiling point, with Bengali nationalism growing in fervor and millions of people engaging in acts of civil obedience in order to defend their culture and gain equal representation in the shared government, which was largely controlled by the West.  My parents were both from minority Hindu families, putting them at particular risk of persecution by the West if and when the Islamist government attempted to forcibly assert its influence in the East.  They were also brought up in relative poverty, having to essentially support and raise themselves and their siblings with nothing but their hard work and intelligence.  Education was the vehicle that carried them both out of poverty and political turmoil, and into the United States of America.

My parents got married in Bangladesh in 1967, meeting barely a month before and only seeing each other only three times.  My father came to the U.S. in 1969 on a F-1 student visa to study at Temple University in Philadelphia.  My mother arrived a year later on the same F-1 visa to study at the Medical College of Pennsylvania.  They intended to pursue their studies in peace and safety, away from the turmoil that was starting to engulf their homeland.  My father had been able to come to the U.S. primarily because of the logistical and financial support of his adoptive father, Govinda Chandra Dev, who was a prominent intellectual in Bangladesh and one of the leaders of the nationalist movement.

They had barely settled in as young married students in Philly, when war broke out in their homeland – a war which would forever affect their lives and shaped the people they became, and brought with it a grief and sorrow so profound that it has crossed generations, even influencing who I am and what I believe as a first-generation American and second-generation immigrant.

On the night of March 26, 1971, the Pakistani army launched a surprise military operation in East Pakistan in an attempt to obliterate the nationalist movement – a systematic extermination of Bengali political and military leaders, intellectuals, and academics in an attempt to crush the movement by removing its leaders and destroying their morale.  In the first few days they had assassinated hundreds of the nation’s most important and beloved leaders and thinkers… including Govinda Chandra Dev, the man who adopted my father, and gave him the means to move to the U.S. so he could have a chance at a better life.  The Pakistani army broke into his faculty residence in the dark of night, shot him dead, and threw his corpse into a mass grave with dozens of other professors and students – people who had yearned for the right to call themselves Bengali.

That night, East Pakistan died.  Bangladesh was born.

 

Pakistan’s military junta believed that “Operation Searchlight” would once and for all crush the nationalist movement, and did not anticipate any prolonged resistance.  Instead, Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan and a nine-month-long war of independence was fought, during which time the Pakistani military engaged in one of the worst genocides in the post-WWII era:

By the time Pakistan unconditionally surrendered to the joint Bangladesh-Indian alliance in December (and 13 days after India entered the war), it is estimated that around three million people had been killed, 10 million refugees were displaced, and a few hundred thousand Bengali women had been raped by the Pakistani military – bringing an even more grotesque and vicious dimension to the savage war.

Particularly hard hit were religious minorities, especially Hindus.  My father affirms the fact that had he not been allowed into the U.S., he would have been among those students killed in the first few days of the genocide.

Instead, he and my mother made the most of the gift of life, and settled in the United States, both getting PhDs and teaching across the country.  They raised two children as American citizens, never letting us forget their ancestral homeland and the fundamental aspects of our cultural identity.  They brought me to live in Bangladesh for seven years, off and on – an experience that has exposed me to a completely different world and brought me in touch with a people and culture that I cherish dearly.  Along the way my mother also provided support for three of her siblings to immigrate to the U.S., giving up an excellent career in Bangladesh and restarting it in the U.S. to sponsor her youngest brother when he wished to immigrate here.  They did these things while also becoming literary legends in their homeland where they have spent many years off and on working to improve the country they still feel fundamentally a part of.

America’s willingness to welcome the world’s best and brightest students to study within its borders saved many people like my parents from conflict and potential disaster, and in turn these immigrants have brought a wealth of intellectual capital to this country – increasingly to the detriment to their homelands with staggering ‘brain drain.’  The American ideal of a multicultural society – where all are free to practice (or not practice) any religion without fear of persecution – has also provided safe haven for persecuted minorities around the world who would otherwise be in fear of their lives.  My parents are proof positive of the benefit this country gains for keeping its gates open to those who deserve its opportunities, and I intend to preach that lesson for as long as I live as an American citizen of Bengali descent.

Motion graphic critique: 250,000,000 people

The motion graphic I chose to critique is from an investigative piece in the NY Times, “China’s Great Uprooting: Moving 250 Million Into Cities.” The graphic itself can be seen here.

The piece and the graphic are about the Chinese government’s breathtakingly ambitious plan to migrate 250 million Chinese citizens from rural areas and farmlands into newly developed high rise cities over a span of 12-15 years.  The government’s reasoning seems to be based on trying to revitalize the Chinese economy by concentrating population areas and creating new mega-cities which will both be more productive, as well as creating new large consumer markets, as well as to wean farmers off from self-subsistence and the country off exports.  It is a massive and incredibly complex plan that is unprecedented.  While Western developed nations went through these migration changes to produce the economies they have today (going from rural, agrarian economies to industrialized efficient ones), those changes took place over centuries – not over the 12-15 years that China’s Communist Party is proposing.

The proposal is causing a lot of consternation among both economists and human rights watch groups, who are accusing the government of trying to “warehouse” its population into small easy to manage areas, as well as taking their homes and livelihoods away as farmlands are razed and converted into urban centers.

The graphic itself illustrates how large the migration is by showing how many major world cities would need to be counted to even reach 250 million people.  It passes over every major urban area in the United States and most of the major urban areas around the world – including New York, LA, London, and Tokyo.  It adds to the story by showing what a gargantuan undertaking a forced migration of 250 million people really is.  While China is known as the largest nation by population on the planet, and 250 million people wouldn’t seem too much in the scope of China’s population, once you compare it to how many major cities that equates to – and just how many people would be displaced under this policy – the scope is almost unbelievable.

I like graphics like this that gives a sense of size with comparison, as it visually tells a story that words are not as effective with at times.