Note: For a quick comparison of leaf-proof gutter systems used to avoid clogging and subsequent cleaning, skip to the bulleted section of this writeup. Otherwise, be prepared to endure one unremitting incessant paragraph after another of typical bullshit rambling from senior citizen noder.
So, I've finally sold this house I've been renting for the past year since we moved into the House of Love, high up here on the hill. Being a landlord has been a very enlightening experience. There's one thing I've learned, above all else. I don't ever want to be a goddamned landlord again. Oh, don't get me wrong. Our renters have been the nicest folks you can imagine. They have lots of money and are renting the house while they build a fortress out in the country somewhere. They have always paid their rent on time and have never complained about anything out of the ordinary. Still and all, there is that occasional call which starts out, "Hey, dannye. There's something I need to tell you..." And then it will come. The thing that has gone wrong. The leak that has sprung. The appliance that has burned out. The floor that is buckling. The dead trees that need cutting down. I'm sure they hate making those calls as much as I hate getting them.
For me, it's not so much the money any longer. My goal in life is to be stress-free for as many hours that turn into days that turn into months that (hopefully) will turn into a few good years before the dirt nap. I just want as few hassles in my life as possible. And owning rental property would not have been on my Wish List for Best New Result. It just turned out that way. But now it has finally come to an end.
As all good consumers do, when we got a solid offer on the house we calculated closing costs and then came up with a figure that represents the profit we'll make on this deal. And, like all good consumers, we immediately spent that money in our heads. My wife wants a hot tub, my daughter wants her car painted, and I don't want anything except to be rid of that nagging nightmare of trying to keep up two houses. But my lovely and gracious wife insists that I spend some of this windfall in my head and has even suggested a method. She says I'm going to kill myself getting up on ladders and cleaning out these gutters every month (which is how often it has to be done when your home is surrounded by lots of trees, as ours is). So I've started getting estimates on gutter systems which don't require cleaning. That process has led me to a reaffirmation of a longstanding attitude of mine. I hate shifty salespeople.
The first guy who came out was hawking Gutter Helmet. This is a system where you don't need to "remove your perfectly good gutters" -- you just need to put a covering over them which attaches to your roof. This covering is "patented and foolproof and it's the only system which works!" See, there it is. There's the first thing that I hate about shifty salespeople. I sell stuff for a living, and I learned long ago that you do not dog your competition to a potential customer. They are not going to buy from you because you have convinced them that nothing does the job except what you have to sell. Only an idiot would believe that. There is lots of stuff sold to idiots every day, but I don't want to be dealing with idiots all my life. I'd much rather be dealing with folks I like who trust me to tell them the truth. And that's the bottom line here, because when this fucknut tells me that his system is the only one that works, I know it is a lie. He should have told me that it was cheaper, easier to maintain, nicer looking, etc. But he should not have told me that it was the only one which works. He should not have started telling me all the things wrong with other systems on the market. And he did so with that tone in his voice that implied, "Only an idiot would buy that other crap." I hated him right then and there.
He was a small man about my age driving a big Dodge penis extender pickup truck. He had a well-trimmed but not "pencil thin" moustache. He measured the gutters and then gave me his spiel. As I said, the first thing that put me off was the dogging of his competition when I asked questions. (I had done some research on different products.) The second mistake he made was when he started giving me the cost. When I tell someone what something costs, I just flat out tell them. I tell them in as brutal language as I can imagine, because I do not want them to have second thoughts after I've left. I want them to know exactly what the cost is and that it is not negotiable. That way, if they can't afford it, I know that immediately and can either offer them a cheaper product or assume that I'm in a house which has no disposable income and that I've made a mistake by coming to that house.
This little bastard insulted me by starting with the "ridiculously high number" and then telling me the actual cost. That fried my bacon. I hate that trick. After telling me about the product, he says, "And all of this for less than four thousand dollars! Isn't that a great deal?" Of course, I said, "How much less?" Then he started telling me about all the discounts I was getting. That's fuck-up number four. He has now told me that the price is negotiable. I don't want to dicker. I just want to pay someone to do a job that costs whatever the salesman tells me it costs. The cost, in this case, after all the mumbo jumbo, was right at $1100. (In case you're not good at math, that's a whole lot less than $4000. A great deal less. An insultingly large difference.)
However, even after all of this, the slimy bastard managed to fuck up even worse. Let me tell you how. I have some yuppies living next door. They have become fairly good friends of mine. They are childless and still very young enough to change their minds about that. He's a good-looking scratch golfer who was on his golf team at the Univ. of Miami. She's a pharmaceutical rep who is a good-looking brunette with long legs. I like these kids, especially her. But the reason I like her is not because of her long legs; it's because we can talk about selling stuff for a living and swap stories (like I'm doing with you now). So the Gutter Helmet guy and I walk out of my office after this less-than-satisfying discussion (even though, at this point, I'm the only one of us who knows that I won't be buying jack shit from him) and my female neighbor and a colleague of hers (another good-looking girl) are walking from their house to the car. This little weasel locks his horny eyes on them and starts saying stuff like, "Man, if I lived here I think I'd stay outside more." All the way to his car, he has his eyes locked on these two innocent and unaware girls. He's practically salivating. He's obviously undressing them in his fevered little mind. It made me sick to my stomach, but I didn't say a word. I just let him get in his big pick-up and drive off. I cannot wait until he calls me to see what I've decided to do about this gutter problem. I am going to ask him if he'd ever seen a live woman before he came to my house that day, and if he thought he might be able to buy a real live woman for "less than four thousand dollars!"
The other two salespeople from whom I got quotes were professionals who were much more pleasant to deal with. So here is the breakdown of the good and bad about different popular guttering systems. I am leaning toward the more expensive last item at this point.
You could just say "Fuck it" and not have any gutters at all. This is what you would do if you didn't care how wet you got when you were going in and out during a hard rain, and you didn't care about your landscaping, and you didn't care about water causing cracks in your foundation leading to future problems in your basement. In other words, if you're living in a mess of empty pizza boxes and beer can pyramids and spilled bong water on the rug, you might not want to mess with gutters at all. This would lead to the inevitable question: Why have you bothered to get this far in this writeup? Just bored, eh?
Screen mesh. This is the stuff you can buy at Home Depot for next to nothing and install yourself if you like. The good news is that it's cheap. The bad news is plentiful. High winds can rip it off. Stuff accumulates on top on it and you still have to get up there and clean it off. Smaller stuff falls through the holes and you have to remove it to clean out your gutters, still. I don't know anyone who's had success with this. I see plenty of examples of why it doesn't work very well now that I'm noticing gutters as I drive around. Total cost for this item: Less than $50 but a lot of work on your part putting it up.
Gutter Helmet. The good news is that you can use your existing gutters. This is a topping which comes in strips and is attached underneath the shingles on your roof. As with all of these products, the principal idea is "water adhesion" which carries the rainwater off of your roof into your gutters with a curved cover which also forces the leaves and other debris to flow over the gutter to the ground. The bad news is that they have to mess with your existing roof to install it, and you can imagine how many problems that might cause. Also, if you ever needed your roof replaced afterwards, the entire process would have to be repeated. The approximate cost is $12 per foot of gutter. (But don’t forget those Discounts!) As I said, my total estimate (for approximately 80 ft. of guttering) was $1063.
Gutter Topper. This is just like Gutter Helmet except that it has spaced openings between the front of your gutter and the overhanging topping. That probably makes a better connection with your existing gutter, but it also creates spaces where debris can accumulate during a hard rain. With either of these two systems, you're probably going to have to use a garden hose to clean out the little area between the topping and the gutter every once in a while. They both say a "couple of times a year." The approximate cost of Gutter Topper is $11 per foot. My total estimate was $902.
Leaf Guard. This is a one-piece system where they tear down your existing gutters and replace the whole deal. They bring a truck out and build the gutters right at your house with machinery in the specially equipped trucks. You might have seen these trucks in your neighborhood. In the end, it looks similar to what Gutter Helmet or Gutter Topper would have looked like with your old gutters, but it would be attached directly to your house and not underneath your shingles. They claim that the screws they use are much better in preventing sagging or tearing away from the house than are the nails with which your old gutters are most likely attached now. The approximate cost is $14 per foot of gutter. My total estimate was $1140.
I'll have to wait until this all gets done to tell you how well whatever system I actually buy works. Perhaps I'll post that addendum from the new hot tub. I'm sure my wife will be glad to lower that light socket down low enough for me to work in the dark.
ADDENDUM, Summer 2006:
The Leaf Guard product has been on the house for almost two years now. I have no serious complaints. I think they are working as well as could be expected. There has been some build-up of leaves and debris in the corners which really should be knocked off every so often. But this can be done with just a long-handled broom or other garden tool. And when it rains really, really hard, like a cow pissing on a flat rock, for example, there can be some overflow which doesn't get sucked down into the gutters. The bottom line, however, is that I haven't had to clean gutters for almost two years, so that's money well spent in my book.