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Title:
Rotatable gutter system
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A rotatable gutter system that includes a gutter and a pair of support members each located at an opposite end of the gutter to mount it onto a building. The gutter is rotatable relative to the support members about an axis that extends between them. The gutter includes a drive member accessible through an opening in one of the support members. Rotation of the drive member causes concomitant rotation of the gutter. In this way, the gutter can be inverted for easy cleaning and for storage during winter months to prevent ice buildup in the gutter. An elongated drip edge can be provided above the gutter such that it contacts an outer surface of the gutter when it is rotated to a closed (inverted) position. The gutter can have an end piece at each end with the drive post being a unitary extension of that end piece.


Inventors:
Adams, Kenneth E. (Linden, MI, US)
Ferrell, James H. (Belleville, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/219777
Publication Date:
02/20/2003
Filing Date:
08/15/2002
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04D13/072; E04D13/076; (IPC1-7): E04D13/00
View Patent Images:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Reising, Ethington Barnes Kisselle Et Al James Stevens D. (P.O. BOX 4390, TROY, MI, 48099, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A rotatable gutter system, comprising: a gutter having an elongated trough extending from a first end to a second end; and a first support member located at said first end of said gutter and a second support member located at said second end of said gutter, said gutter being supported by said support members and being rotatable relative to said support members about an axis that extends between said support members; wherein at least one of said support members includes a central opening, with said gutter including a drive member accessible at said opening, wherein rotation of said drive member causes concomitant rotation of said gutter.

2. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 1, wherein said gutter includes an opening in a lower portion of said trough, and wherein said gutter system further comprises a downspout located below said opening, with said gutter being rotatable relative to said downspout.

3. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 1, wherein said gutter is rotatable between an open position and a closed position, with said trough opening upwardly when in said open position such that it can collect water in said trough, and said trough opening at least generally downwardly when in said closed position such that it cannot collect water in said trough.

4. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 3, further comprising an elongated drip edge located above said gutter, wherein said drip edge contacts an outer surface of said gutter when said gutter is rotated to said closed position.

5. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 1, wherein said drive member comprises a drive post that extends through said central opening.

6. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 5, further comprising a drive mechanism that engages said drive post to rotate said drive post and said gutter.

7. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 6, wherein said drive mechanism comprises a hand tool.

8. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 7, wherein said hand tool comprises an extendible hand tool having a telescoping handle.

9. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 7, wherein said hand tool comprises a hand grip tool.

10. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 6, wherein said drive mechanism comprises a pulley system.

11. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 6, wherein said drive mechanism comprises a motor drive.

12. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 5, wherein said drive member comprises an end piece of said gutter with said drive post being a unitary extension of said end piece.

13. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 1, wherein each of said support members comprise an end cap that fits over its associated end of said gutter.

14. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 13, wherein each of said end supports further comprise a retaining ring that is integral with said end cap and that engages a portion of said gutter to captively retain said portion between said retaining ring and said end cap.

15. A rotatable gutter system, comprising: a gutter having an elongated trough extending from a first end to a second end; and a plurality of support members in contact with said gutter at spaced locations along the length of said gutter, said gutter being supported by said support members and being rotatable relative to said support members about an axis that extends between at least two of said support members; wherein at least one of said support members includes a central opening, with said gutter including a drive member accessible at said opening, wherein rotation of said drive member causes concomitant rotation of said gutter.

16. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 15, wherein said drive member comprises a drive post that extends through said central opening.

17. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 16, further comprising a drive mechanism that engages said drive post to rotate said drive post and said gutter.

18. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 16, wherein said drive member comprises an end piece of said gutter with said drive post being a unitary extension of said end piece.

19. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 15, wherein each of said support members comprise an end cap that fits over its associated end of said gutter.

20. A rotatable gutter system as defined in claim 19, wherein each of said end supports further comprise a retaining ring that is integral with said end cap and that engages a portion of said gutter to captively retain said portion between said retaining ring and said end cap.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims the priority of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/312,642, filed Aug. 15, 2001, the entire contents of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] This invention relates to gutter systems used in residential and commercial applications to handle collection of rain water from building roofs.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Gutter systems in common use today include a gutter in the form of a trough that extends along and below the edge of a building's roof to collect rain water shed from the roof shingles. The gutter is rigidly attached to the building fascia and is typically pitched towards one of its ends where a downspout is attached to route the collected water to a location on or under the ground surrounding the building. Apart from rain water, conventional gutters may also collect leaves and other debris that can block the free flow of water out of the gutter through the downspout, sometimes causing the collected water to spill over the upper edges of the gutter trough. Periodic cleaning of the gutter can be done to avoid this problem; however, this cleaning can be difficult if not dangerous for homeowners and contractors since it normally requires ladder access, often at high heights. Specialized equipment can be used in lieu of ladder access, but such equipment can be expensive or problematic to use successfully.

[0004] In northern climes, ice damage can occur at the lower regions of the roof near the gutter. This is usually the result of snow melting from heat loss through the roof, with the melted snow running down the roof to the eaves and gutter where temperatures may be sufficiently colder to refreeze the water. As a result, ice dams can build up at the gutter and roof edge, which can not only cause lifting of the shingles and resulting damage to the roof, but can also trap pools of water between the ice dam and warmer portions of the roof, with the pooled water seeping into the building structure under the shingles and causing water damage within the building. Removing ice dams once they have developed can be expensive, dangerous, and damaging to the roof and gutter. Preventing them with heating cables can be costly both in terms of the cost for the cables and the electricity used.

[0005] Gutter systems are known in which the gutter is either rotated or pivoted about an axis to invert the gutter trough so that debris within the gutter can be dumped without requiring ladder access to the gutter. A number of different approaches have been proposed over the years, yet such gutter systems remain uncommon in ordinary residential and commercial applications. To be commercially successful, a gutter system should provide a proper balance between cost, durability, ease of installation, and ease of use.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] It is thus a general object of the invention to provide a rotatable gutter system that permits rotation of the gutter trough to permit easy cleaning of the trough and that does so in a manner which overcomes at least some of the disadvantages found in the prior art.

[0007] In accordance with the invention, there is provided a rotatable gutter system that includes a gutter having an elongated trough extending from a first end to a second end, and at least a pair of support members each located at one of the two ends of the gutter. The gutter is supported by the support members and is rotatable relative to the support members about an axis that extends between them. At least one of the support members includes a central opening, with the gutter including a drive member accessible at the opening. Rotation of the drive member causes concomitant rotation of the gutter. In this way, the gutter can be inverted for easy cleaning and for storage during winter months to prevent ice buildup in the gutter. An elongated drip edge can be provided above the gutter such that it contacts an outer surface of the gutter when it is rotated to a closed (inverted) position.

[0008] The drive member preferably comprises a drive post that extends through the central opening and can be implemented as an end piece of the gutter with the drive post being a unitary extension of the end piece. A drive mechanism can then be used to engage the drive post to thereby rotate the drive post and gutter. Any suitable drive mechanism can be used, including a hand tool (which may have a telescoping handle and/or a hand grip tool that permits rotation of the gutter by squeezing of the tool handle), a pulley system, or an electrically-operated motor drive.

[0009] Each of the support members can comprise an end cap that fits over its associated end of the gutter and each of the end supports can include a retaining ring that is integral with the end cap and that engages a portion of the gutter to captively retain that portion of the gutter between the retaining ring and the end cap.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] Preferred exemplary embodiments of the invention will hereinafter be described in conjunction with the appended drawings, wherein like designations denote like elements, and wherein:

[0011] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a gutter used in an embodiment of the rotatable gutter system of the present invention;

[0012] FIG. 2 is an exploded view of an end portion of the disclosed gutter system embodiment showing both an end piece of the gutter and a two-piece support member formed by an end cap and retaining ring;

[0013] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a hand tool provided as a part of the illustrated gutter system to enable rotation of the gutter between open and closed positions;

[0014] FIG. 4 is an exploded view showing the support member of FIG. 2 and including a rear view of the end cap;

[0015] FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the assembled end portion of FIG. 2 showing how the end piece of the gutter is held and retained in place by the support member;

[0016] FIG. 6 is a diagrammatic end view showing a drip edge and its positioning relative to the gutter when installed in a typical application under the edge of a roof with the gutter in its open position;

[0017] FIG. 7 is an end view as in FIG. 6 but showing the gutter in its closed position;

[0018] FIG. 8 is a perspective partial view of the drip edge and gutter showing it in both the open and closed positions;

[0019] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a comer diverter that can be used to direct rain into two adjacent gutters underneath a valley of the roof;

[0020] FIG. 10 is a partial perspective view of the gutter along with a downspout in an arrangement that permits rotation of the gutter relative to the downspout;

[0021] FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a hand tool as in FIG. 3, but including a telescoping handle;

[0022] FIG. 12 is a perspective view of an alternative drive mechanism to the hand tools of FIGS. 3 and 11, comprising a pulley system;

[0023] FIG. 13 is a perspective view of another alternative drive mechanism comprising a hand grip tool;

[0024] FIG. 14 is a perspective view of yet another alternative drive mechanism in the form of a motor drive; and

[0025] FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional view of the motor drive of FIG. 14.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSED EMBODIMENTS

[0026] Referring first to FIGS. 1-5, there is shown an embodiment 20 of a rotatable gutter system of the present invention. FIG. 1 depicts one gutter section 22 that includes a trough 24 and an end piece 26 at each end of the trough. In use, the gutter 22 of FIG. 1 is mounted to a building's fascia by way of a pair of support members 30 (FIGS. 4 and 5) that both support the gutter 22 via its end pieces 26 and permit the gutter 22 to be rotated between an open position and a closed position. Referring briefly to FIGS. 6-8, the open position is the normal operative or working position in which the trough 24 opens upwardly such that it can collect rain water shed off the roof of the building upon which the gutter system 20 is installed. The closed position is a cleaning or storage position in which the gutter 22 is rotated from its open position through some large angle (normally 90° to 270°, and preferably 180°) so that leaves and other debris in the trough 24 will fall out and can be flushed out using a nozzle spray from a garden hose by a person on the ground. Only one of the two support members 30 used for a gutter section is shown in the drawings and it will be appreciated that the second support member would be substantially if not entirely identical to the one support member shown.

[0027] As shown in FIG. 1, the gutter 22 is formed from the trough 24 and two end pieces 26 which are rigidly attached to the trough. Each end piece 26 includes a circular shoulder 32 on which its associated end of the trough 24 rests. At least one of the end pieces 26 includes a drive member 34 which, in the illustrated embodiment is in the form of a drive post 36. As will be described in greater detail below, the gutter 22 can be rotated via its drive post 36 using some drive mechanism such as the hand tool 40 of FIG. 3. This tool 40 has an aperture 42 that is keyed to fit over the drive post 36, and also includes a pivot link 44 to an elongated rod or handle 46. A housing 48 can be interconnected between the pivot link 44 and handle 46 and can be threaded to receive the top end of the handle 46. Using this handle, a person standing on the ground can slide the aperture 42 over the drive post 36 and then manipulate the handle 46 to rotate the gutter 22 through the desired angle to switch between the open and closed positions.

[0028] The trough 24 and end pieces 26 can be made from PVC, with the end pieces being cemented (adhered) to the trough to make a single integral section of gutter, as shown. Of course, other suitable materials could be used, and screws and other means of fastening the end pieces 26 to the trough 24 could utilized to form the integral section of gutter. Alternatively, one or both of the end pieces 26 could be formed as a unitary part of the trough 24. Furthermore, although the illustrated embodiment utilizes a trough of circular cross-section, any other cross-sectional shape can be used as long as it is suitable for collecting water shed from the building roof. As shown, some of the end piece material located between its drive post 36 and outer periphery 38 can be eliminated to reduce weight and material costs.

[0029] FIG. 2 depicts an exploded view of one end of the illustrated gutter system 20.

[0030] As described above, the gutter 22 includes both the trough 24 and the end piece 26, with the latter being captively held by the support member 30 which, in the illustrated embodiment, includes an end cap 50 and a retaining ring 52. As shown in FIG. 4, each end cap 50 includes a base 54 and a unitary gutter support section 56. The base 54 has a flat mounting surface 58 and includes a pair of slide locks 60 that can be used to hang the end cap 50 from screws or posts on the building fascia. These slide locks 60 can be made as a unitary part of the end cap 50 or can be made separately and snap fit or otherwise attached to the end cap. In addition to or in lieu of using the slide locks 60, the end caps 50 can be attached to brackets (not shown) mounted on the building fascia, rather than the end caps being mounted directly to the fascia itself. Where slide locks 60 are used, it will be appreciated that the slot pattern for the other end cap will have the same orientation as that shown in FIG. 4 even though the remainder of the end cap will be inverted from the depicted orientation.

[0031] Referring now to both FIGS. 4 and 5, the gutter support portion 56 of the end cap 50 comprises an annular flange 62 and annular end wall 64, with the flange providing the actual support for the end piece 26 of the gutter 22, and the end wall 64 preventing axial movement of the gutter. These components can also be made from PVC or some other suitable material. The end wall 64 includes a central opening 66 through which the drive post 36 extends to an exposed location where it can be accessed by the hand tool 40 or other drive mechanism. As best seen in FIG. 5, the retaining ring 52 attaches to the end cap 50 after insertion of the end piece 26 into the end cap. The retaining ring 52 is then fastened to the end cap 50 via removable fasteners such as screws 68, although it could be permanently attached as well. The inside diameter of the retaining ring 52 is the same as the outside diameter of the trough 24 which is smaller than the diameter of the end piece's circular shoulder 32. Consequently, the gutter 22 cannot move axially in either directly relative to the support members 30 due to interference of the end piece 26 with the retaining ring 52 and the end wall 64 of the end cap. Where the gutter is securely mounted between opposing end caps, the retaining rings may not be needed, as axial movement of the gutter in both directions will be limited by the two end caps.

[0032] As is also best seen in FIG. 5, rotation of the drive post 36 causes concomitant rotation of the entire gutter 22 about a central axis of rotation 70. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, rather than using a drive post that is keyed for positive engagement with a drive mechanism, frictional engagement between the drive mechanism and drive post can be used. Furthermore, the drive member used on the gutter end piece need not comprise a drive post, but could be a keyed aperture in the end piece that is accessible at the end cap's opening by a drive post that is part of the drive mechanism itself.

[0033] Turning now to FIGS. 6-8, the gutter system 20 can also include a rubber or other flexible drip edge 72 that can be mounted, for example, on the building fascia 74 above the gutter 22 underneath the lowest roof shingle 76. When the gutter 22 is in the open position, the drip edge 72 helps insure that water is deflected into the trough 24 so that no water gets between the gutter and building fascia. This is shown in FIG. 6. When the gutter 22 is rotated clockwise (using the orientation shown in the figures), the drip edge 72 contacts and seals against the outer (bottom) surface of the trough 24, as shown in FIG. 7. This not only prevents water from falling between the gutter and building fascia, but may also help prevent formation of ice dams during the winter. In this regard, it will be appreciated that, regardless of whether the drip edge 72 is used, the gutter 22 can be maintained in its closed position during the winter months which can help reduce the formation of ice dams due to the curved design of the trough. Moreover, in the event ice does begin to form, the gutter can be rotated 360° (closed to open to closed) to break off any ice forming.

[0034] The drip edge 72 can extend the length of the trough 24 between the end pieces 26 and can terminate just inwardly of each end cap 50. Alternatively, the end caps 50 can be open at the upper portion of the annular flange 62 so that the drip edge 72 can extend all of the way axially to the ends of the trough 24.

[0035] FIGS. 6 and 7 show rotation of the gutter 22 is a single direction—clockwise.

[0036] This may be preferred where the drip edge 72 is used so that it properly seals in the manner shown in FIG. 7. Although not necessary, this uni-directional rotation can be incorporated into the design of the end piece 26 and/or end cap 50 so that reverse rotation is not possible. Alternatively, the drive mechanism used to rotate the gutter 22 could be designed to rotate in a single direction only. Those skilled in the art will be familiar with ratcheting and other such means of limiting rotation to one direction only. Regardless of whether uni-directional rotation is used, the end piece 26 or some other portion of the gutter 22, can include detents that indicate when the gutter has reached its open and/or closed positions. Also, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, the total amount of rotation can be limited using stops, for example, so that uni-directional rotation is not possible. In this way, the gutter will only rotate through some maximum angle, say 180°, between its open and closed positions, and must be rotated in the reverse direction to return it to its initial position.

[0037] FIG. 9 depicts a corner cover or diverter 80 than can be used at valley intersections between different roof regions 82 to divert water away from the end caps 50 located at the comer and into the troughs 24. These comer covers 80 can be installed under the lower or lowest courses of shingles using known roofing techniques. If desired, a downspout (not shown) can be located under these valley intersections (either with or without the comer cover 80) to collect and route water not captured in the gutters.

[0038] FIG. 10 shows one possible embodiment of an interface between the trough 24 and a downspout 90 that permits the gutter 22 to be rotated relative to the downspout 90 and that permits downspout 90 to provide additional support for the gutter, if desired. The trough 24 includes an opening 92 in its lower portion, and this opening is aligned with the upper opening 94 in the downspout 90 when the gutter is in its open position. The downspout 90 can have a pair of opposed upstanding extensions 96 that engage and cradle the bottom side of the trough 24. Alternatively, the top of the downspout 90 need not be in physical contact with the trough 24, as shown. The top portion of the downspout 90 illustrated in FIG. 10 can be a unitary portion of the entire downspout, or can be a separate piece that attaches to a standard or nonstandard downspout.

[0039] Turning now to FIGS. 11-15, various drive mechanism embodiments are disclosed. Each of these embodiments is designed to mate with the drive post 36 used on the gutter end piece 26 so that these different drive mechanisms are interchangeable. Of course, the other drive topologies discussed above in connection with FIG. 5 can be used so that, for example, the drive mechanisms can be constructed with a drive post (instead of an aperture) that mates with a keyed aperture (instead of a drive post) in the end piece 26.

[0040] FIG. 11 depicts a hand tool 100 such as that shown in FIG. 3, with the difference being that the hand tool 40 of FIG. 3 includes a fixed length handle 44 threaded into an upper housing 48, whereas that of FIG. 11 has an extendible (e.g., telescoping) handle 102. FIG. 12 depicts a pulley system 110 that uses and endless loop of rope 112 hanging from a pulley 114 enclosed in a housing 116 that attaches to the end cap 26 via screws 118. The center of the pulley 114 includes a keyed aperture 120 that mates with the drive post 36 of the gutter end piece 26. FIG. 13 depicts a hand grip tool 130 that includes an upper housing 132 that holds a ratchet device 134. Extending down from the housing 132 is a frame 136 terminating at a holding handle 138. A second, grip handle 140 is pivotally attached to the frame 136 near the holding handle 138 and a pair of links 142 extend from the grip handle 140 up to a pair of pins 144 that extend out of each axial side of the ratchet device 134. By squeezing the handles together, the links 142 pull on the pins 144, causing rotation of the ratchet device 134 and, thus the keyed aperture 146 at the center of the ratchet device. FIGS. 14 and 15 depict a motor drive 150 that attaches to the end cap 26 using screws 152. The motor drive 150 includes a housing 154 containing a drive gear 156 having a keyed aperture 158 for connecting to the drive post 36 of the gutter end piece 26. The drive gear teeth meshes with a worm gear 158 connected to the output shaft of a single drive or reversible drive motor 160 which can be battery operated or connectable to line voltage via a power cord 162. The unit 150 can be wired to a remote switch (not shown) or can include a wireless receiver 164 that receives commands from a remote transmitter (not shown) using r.f., i.r., or other types of signals.

[0041] It will thus be apparent that there has been provided in accordance with the present invention a rotatable gutter system which achieves the aims and advantages specified herein. It will of course be understood that the foregoing description is of exemplary embodiments of the invention and that the invention is not limited to the specific embodiments shown. Various changes and modifications will become apparent to those skilled in the art. For example, additional supports could be installed at spaced locations between the end caps for longer sections of gutter. These could take the form of a bracket having a curved support surface against which the bottom of the trough rests. All such variations and modifications are intended to come within the scope of the appended claims.





 
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