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    Do gutter covers cause ice dams?

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    Q. We have lived in northern Worcester County for 30 years. We’re doing exterior repairs in a way we hope will make our house more maintenance-free. We are thinking of having gutter guards put on to mitigate climbing up to clean them as we age.

    While reviewing Consumer Reports ratings and a plethora of resources online, it seems that there may be a problem. Micro-mesh guards appear to be the most effective at preventing pine needles and other small debris from filling gutters. Since plastic is susceptible to UV deterioration, we are looking at stainless-steel micro-mesh guards. People have indicated issues with icing and ice dam buildup after installing metal mesh guards. (Some of the anecdotes seem to indicate that those homeowners had ice dams previously, though.) We have a cold roof (well-insulated attic floor and soffit vents), and we have never had ice dams; however, we would now have metal mesh on top of metal gutters.

    Do you have any advice on gutter guards in general? Is ice a problem that is often seen when they are installed? Our yard has many mature trees — birch, tamarack, maple, weeping willow, oak — and we hope to stay in our home for years to come.



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    A. I’ve installed a ton of those stainless-steel mesh guards and have them on my house. I installed dry wells at my property to control and collect rainwater, and I was concerned about leaves prematurely clogging the wells. The guards work amazingly, and I went 10 years without cleaning my gutters. At the 10-year mark, I was removing my gutters to do repair work and found a small layer of silt and roofing granules in the gutter — that’s it. I do not have pine needles to deal with and expect that if you do you will need more frequent cleanings.

    Contrary to what many folks say, gutters do not cause ice dams. They can and do provide an additional spot for snow to sit, however.

    Reader keeps injuring herself on this paper towel holder.

    Q. I keep scraping my finger on a screw to the paper towel holder mounted under my kitchen cabinet. Any suggestions on how to eliminate my issue?

    ALISON, Hammonton, N.J.


    A. I’m curious whether this is a bad design or an improperly sized or installed fastener. Is this screw installed flush, or is it protruding from the mounting hole slightly? If it’s protruding, screw it back in or install a shorter one. If that doesn’t work, then, honestly, you should get a new paper towel holder. I can tell you that would happen to me only twice before I took it

    down and trashed it.

    Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to or tweet them to @globeaddress or @robertrobillard.