The Pressure Sale

Many clients explain to me that my competitors use many tactics to close a contract and one is the Pressure Sale.  This is using every possible tool they have in their bag to persuade a customer into signing a contract.  Homeowners need to remember that these contractors do not work for you, and you’re not obligated to listen to their pitch.  Recently, a customer of ours told me that a different company came out to look at a mold issue, and stayed in their home for hours, almost refusing to leave and urging them to sign a contract.  Now this may sound like an exaggeration, but it isn’t.  And in fact, it happens more than one would think.  The biggest key to dealing with a contractor like this, or any contractor for that matter, is to give them a window of time to explain what they can do and at what cost.  It’s to set the rules, since after all, it is your time and your home.  And when they overstay their welcome, do not feel guilty to ask them to leave, or just explain to them that, “your time is up.”  You don’t need to listen to a contractor that you know you’re already uncomfortable with, nor do you have to entertain their Pressure Sale.  The reason most of the companies use this tactic anyhow is because they’re not really busy and it’s the only way they can get jobs.  This first impression should also give you insight into knowing what it might be like to deal with them if they are hired.

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Rain Harvesting – Part 3

Harvesting Systems into Gardens

While through most of the year, outdoor water use accounts for just 7% of the total water we use, in the summer this rises dramatically to over 50% at peak times, according to Waterwise.

One rather unusual option would be follow the lead of former architectural technologist Jonathan McGee. His home looks, from the outside, like any other terraced house in a quiet corner of north Leeds. But this particular property, with its blooming flower beds, manicured front lawn and Victorian replica hand pump, is actually at the heart of a new revolution in rainwater harvesting technology. Because beneath the surface of that beautiful looking lawn is an underground tank full of self-cleaning rainwater – and the grass isn’t grass, either: it’s effectively a water filter, made from AstroTurf.

“Our garden is very small, and it used to get waterlogged and overgrown, because I couldn’t bring myself to buy a lawnmower just to mow a section of grass measuring 16 sq ft,” says the property’s owner, Jonathan McGee. “My wife, Jessica, and I wanted a nice, pretty garden that would allow us to water our flower beds without dragging a hosepipe round from the back or carrying water buckets through the front. So I started googling AstroTurf lawns and rainwater harvesting systems. ”

The solution that he discovered is an innovative type of rainwater harvesting tank, developed by AstroTurf supplier Bradleys Surfacing Systems, that now sits just 10cm before the surface of McGee’s AstroTurf lawn. Unlike a traditional rainwater harvesting system that, because it captures rainwater from the roof, needs to be plumbed into the guttering and downpipes, the Bradleys system captures rainwater from the lawn itself, and the blades of “grass” act as filters to trap the dirt.

Rain Harvesting – Part 2

Systems That Plumb Into Homes

If you’re looking for an RHS that will allow you to use the water to flush the toilet, wash clothes in the washing machine and even clean the house, as well as water the garden, and you’re prepared to excavate your garden, one of your best options is a Graf system, says Phil Barnard, from rainwater harvesting systems supplier Chandlers Building Supplies. “The tank has a self-cleaning filter that you only need to check on it once a year. It costs about $3,000 for a 2,700 liter tank, and a buried tank isn’t affected by heat change or light, so the water doesn’t go green and smelly.”

You should expect to pay no more than $1,500 for installation by a competent plumber or builder, and according to Chandlers no crane is required. The size of tank you should get varies according how much rainfall you usually get, and what you are planning to use the rainwater for. You’ll need energy to pump the water up out of the tank and around the house: this costs about $7 a week for a three-bedroom house using rainwater for ta toilet, washing machine and the garden, according to the RHA – but it does make the system as a whole less environmentally friendly.

The alternative, the Iiter rainwater harvesting system, is a gravity fed and installed in the loft. It collects water direct from the roof by substituting a drain for four roof panels and requires no electricity whatsoever, and costs $1,900 in total to buy and install.” It’s a very simple system and because of its simplicity it means the likes of a competent DIY-er can fit it themselves,” says designer Clive Hall. The internal fitting means that the size of the tank is limited to 455 liters – so in the summer, if it doesn’t rain for a long period, you may have to rely on your mains water system (which will automatically come into play in this situation).

The system is designed to be retro-fitted to existing homes and the maintenance required is low, although Hall does recommend putting a chlorine tablet in the tank before you go on holiday as the tank can start to smell when the water inside is stagnant. The benefits of the system, however, can be huge: “You’ll reduce your water usage by 35% to 40%,” says Hall. “In a rainy season, you can save as much as 55%.”

Rain Harvesting – Part 1

Rainwater harvesting systems (RHS) – as you might expect from the name – harvest the rainwater that has fallen freely from the sky, typically onto the roof of your home. In contrast to the humble water butt, which typically captures about 200 liters of rainwater, a rainwater harvesting tank can easily filter and store up to 6,500 liters of clean water.

What’s more, while these systems have traditionally been used to water the garden, new technology means an RHS can now be plumbed into your home’s existing pipework and the rainwater used to flush toilets and wash clothes. This means that you could reduce your water consumption by as much as 40%, according to the Rainwater Harvesting Association, which – if you switch to a water meter – will lower your water bills as well.

Rain Harvesting vs. Grey Water Recycling

The amount of water you save with one of these systems is lower than the 50% savings that you can potentially get with a greywater recycling system because rainwater supply is less certain. “You will need to be able to rely on your mains water system as a backup during periods where there is little rainfall”, says Derek Hunt, from Rainharvesting Systems.

However, unlike a greywater recycling system, RHS requires little specialist maintenance and the rainwater you harvest – as it has never been used to wash food or the human body – is likely to contain far less bacteria and contaminants than greywater. This can make RHS a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly choice for many homeowners, say the proponents of these schemes.

Residential Gutters – Part 3

Proper Pitch
Gutter installation should follow a couple basic rules. Gutters must be pitched so water will flow to the downspouts. The rule of thumb for this slope is a vertical 1/2 inch for every 10 feet of horizontal run. If the run is more than 35 feet long, some specialists recommend installing the high point of the system in the middle and sloping the gutter downward in both directions to downspouts on both ends of the run. Water exiting the downspout must always be directed away from the foundation.

Gutter Add-Ons
The gutter industry has seen an explosion in the accessory side of the business. Screens, barriers, and other devices used to keep foreign objects out of the gutter are literally everywhere. When considering such accessories, homeowners will want to evaluate the types of debris that may land on or in their gutter. “Homeowners will want to consider everything from the number of trees to the types of leaves,” says Milliman. “Will there be whirlybirds, or pine needles?”

Hybrid products that combine solid hoods with screens exist, as do the more recent gutter foam products like Gutter Stuff and GutterFill. These foam products actually fill the length of the gutter, allowing water to run through and drain while keeping solid objects out. Additionally, homeowners may look into splash blocks on the ground that guide water away from the foundation or “rain chains” that replace traditional downspouts with Japanese-themed decorative links or chains. Rain chains are aesthetically pleasing, and come in a number of design options.

Residential Gutters – Part 2

Shape, Size, Seamless

Homeowners will have two main gutter shapes to choose from: half-round and K-style. A smaller K-style gutter will drain the same amount of water as a larger half-round gutter. Half-round (also called U-shape) gutters are typically considered a traditional shape, as this was the original gutter shape dating back to the early 1900′s. K-style gutters didn’t emerge as an option until around the 1950s. Downspouts generally come in round or rectangular shapes.

When it comes to size, a homeowner will have to choose from gutter size (the measurement of the top opening), downspout size (length and width or diameter), and thickness. The most common gutter sizes are 5 inches and 6 inches, although 4 inches is available as well. Downspouts are commonly 2 x 3 inches and 3 x 4 inches in size or 3 or 4 inches in diameter.

When determining the size of a home’s gutter system, a homeowner should consider the area’s rainfall density. Such facts can usually be found on gutter supply websites. A home that sees a lot of rain or has a steep roof pitch should have a larger gutter system. Similarly, a home surrounded by tall trees will need a larger system to accommodate falling leaves without clogging.

Thickness is rated differently, depending on the material used. A thicker gutter system will be sturdier, more durable, and more expensive. Aluminum systems range from .019 to .032 inches in thickness. Copper is usually rated in weight, with a heavier weight indicating greater thickness. It is common to see 16-ounce and 20-ounce options for copper systems. Steel may be rated in inch-thickness or gauge.

Finally, a homeowner will have to decide between a sectional or seamless system. Traditionally, gutters came in sections that had to be pieced together, leaving seams. Today’s aluminum sectional systems require gutter sealant at the seams to prevent leakage. This sealant usually has to be re-applied as regular maintenance. Sectional copper or steel systems are actually soldered together at the seams, eliminating the need for a sealant. Proper installation of a sectional copper or steel system should include soldering, although some installers will use a metal sealant. Seamless systems are growing in popularity, and require professional installers. In a seamless system, an installer will use a special machine on-site to form long stretches of gutter (usually copper or aluminum) that will run the length of the roofline without a seam.

Residential Gutters

When shopping for a gutter system, a homeowner will have to choose among a variety of materials, including aluminum, galvanized steel, vinyl, copper, and wood. Installers price gutter systems per linear foot, but this price should include all the necessary components for a gutter system, including the gutters, downspouts (the vertical section), corner joints, end caps, and hanging brackets.

Aluminum is the most popular gutter on the market, as it is relatively inexpensive, durable, and easy to work with. Unlike steel, aluminum will not rust over time, and is available in a wide range of colors. Gutter installers will often quote a price (which includes installation) at a “per linear foot” price; although costs for an aluminum system will vary, homeowners may expect somewhere around $3-6 per linear foot.

Steel gutter systems are usually galvanized, although stainless steel options exist as well. Galvanized steel gutters will eventually rust after 20-25 years, but steel is strong and durable, making it a popular option for regions that experience extreme weather, heavy rains, and snow. Steel is slightly more expensive than aluminum; with prices averaging around $8-10 per linear foot. Stainless steel, which doesn’t rust, sells for upwards of $20 per linear foot.

Copper is also one of the more durable gutter options. Copper brings a certain aesthetic to a home’s facade, appealing to property owners looking to customize their home. “Copper is one of the strongest metals,” says Mike Milliman, a partner with theRainTrade Corporation. “It is suitable for any region.” Copper sits at the high-end of the gutter market, selling for anywhere from $12-25 per linear foot. Homeowners who are interested in a copper gutter system should consider the “patina” aspect of copper, which gradually ages and changes color with exposure to the elements. “A copper gutter system will only stay shiny for the first month or two,” Milliman says. “It will turn brown, dark brown, purple, and eventually a greenish color. Homeowners need to expect these changes.”

Vinyl is one of the least-expensive gutter options on the market, and is also very easy to cut and work with, making these gutters suitable for DIY installations. Vinyl gutter systems are prominent in home stores because of the easy of assembly and availability of component parts. At around $3-5 per linear foot, vinyl is most affordable option for gutter installations. Vinyl tends to become brittle and break in colder climates. It is also not as sturdy or durable as metal counterparts.