You may think that keeping leaves out of your gutter would be a simple prospect, but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, there are probably over one hundred different types and brands of gutter guards available.
Choosing the right one for the job can be confusing.
To help you decide which gutter guard would work best for your home or building, here are some of your most common options.
Screens are the oldest and most fundamental type of gutter leaf protection. A screen is a flat piece of aluminum or plastic with openings in it to let in the water while keeping out the tree debris.
Recently, there are more sophisticated screen or filter system available. Englert Micro Guard gets screwed in and is not flimsy. Then there’s Gutter Dome, Leaf Filter, Rhino and Gutter Glove. The last three are stainless steel mesh guards. While the Englert Micro Guard costs about $6 or $7/ft to install, the other three can be $17 or more per foot.
Maintenance: Someone has to climb up a ladder and clean the mesh. Some products have poles and brushes for this task.
The second type of gutter protector designed was a single fin gutter guard. There are several on the market. Elko Gutter Guard was probably the first. Gutter Helmet was next, and since their patent has expired there are many off-brands — Leaf X, Royal Gutter Guard and Niagara Gutter Guard. Leaf Guard is also of the same basic design.
With this design, the tops of the gutter guards are solid and there’s a fin along the front edge. The water and debris flow over the top and to the front fin where the water is directed downward into the gutter.
In practice, the design is ideal, as any debris flowing with the water is supposed to be separated from the fin and then jettisoned onto the ground. However, practical experience shows that about 8% of the debris that flows over the fin also flows into the gutter. In fact, with this design full sized leaves can be washed into the gutter.
Leaf Guard, while a basic fin design, is an all-in-one device, meaning that the gutter and the gutter guard is one unit. The company is the only one that offsets the reality of debris getting into the gutter by using new and large commercial downspouts with every installation.
In general, fin designs work well for light to moderate tree debris conditions and range in price from around $12 to $20/foot.
Maintenance: When gutters clog, a service person must be called to service the system and clean out clogs from downspouts or gutters.
Single Louvers and Troughs
Because of inherent problems with the designs shown above in heavy debris conditions, inventors decided to break up the single fin by either making a louver of determined length or a trough in the product to limit the size of debris getting into the gutter.
This third category of gutter guards includes brands like Gutter Topper, Leaf Proof, and Care-Free.
There is also one that is a hybrid that uses a solid top instead of having openings. They work much the same as the single fin types.
With the ones using a recessed trough, there is still about 8% of the debris getting to the trough. In heavy debris conditions, the trough either gets clogged or the debris passes through the trough in sufficient quantity to clog the gutter.
With the Care-Free design, the trough is not recessed, so only about 2% of the debris actually gets into the gutter — a substantial difference. The Care-Free design is a hybrid between the double-louvered systems and the recessed trough design. All of them sell for about $12 to $18/ft.
Recommendations are for light to medium debris conditions — not high debris conditions.
Maintenance: When gutters clog, a service man has to schedule an appointment to go up a ladder and clean the downspout and or gutter.
The fourth type of common gutter cover is the double-row louvered systems. There are two major brands: Waterloov Gutter Guard and The Number One Gutter Protector.
Instead of one long fin, there are two rows of louvers. What water is not collected by the first row of louvers is collected by the second row of louvers.
The size of the debris that can enter these two gutter guards is from ¾” to 1″. The amount of debris that can get washed into the gutter is approximately 0.75% — dramatically down from 8% or 2%. This design is the one design that never lets enough debris into the gutter to cause a clog of either the downspout or the gutter, even after 20 years.
Both products range from $18 to $30/ft installed. The Waterloov Gutter Guard System was highly rated by Consumer Reports. However, homeowners should note that not all Gutter Covers, Gutter Guards or Leaf Guards fit all applications.
Maintenance: In heavy debris conditions, debris will accumulate on the face of the louvers which is easily visible from the ground. Instead of having to call for servicing, the homeowner uses a telescopic pole and brush to remove the debris.
How to Determine the Leaf Protection System That Works Best for Your Home
Some gutter covers (in spite of what the salesman says) may cause you more problems than they claim to solve. Always be sure to ask lots of questions to find out whether the leaf protection system will work for your particular roof.
Here are some problems we have seen that made homeowners wish they had been more careful when looking for a gutter protector:
- After the gutter cover is installed, it was found that the gutter cover doesn’t collect all the rain water.
- Two years after the gutter cover was installed, roof leaks were found because nails were used to fasten the gutter cover to the roofing. The contractor who installed the gutter covers refused to accept responsibility, claiming he installed the gutter cover according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Two years after gutter covers were installed, a gutter clogged on the back of the house where no one noticed. Rain water from the overflowing gutter leaked into the foundation and into the basement. Toxic mold began to grow, which required the finished basement to be stripped to the block walls and completely rebuilt.
- The first rain storm after the gutter protectors were installed, overflow from the valley was noticed. The installing contractor had no means of fixing the problem. Because it was not in the warranty, the homeowner was stuck with overflowing gutters.
- The following spring after gutter covers were installed, the homeowner noticed birds living in the gutters. The installing contractor was no longer in business to remove the birds.
- Eighteen months after the gutter guard was installed, the gutters clogged with debris and the homeowner found the installing company to be out of business. He could not clean his gutters because he had no way of removing the gutter covers.
- One homeowner insisted that the gutter covers be removed after they failed and the gutter clogged. Removing the gutter covers caused granules to be stripped from his roof that showed as a line all around his house.
- One homeowner found that his gutter covers flew off his roof during the first strong wind.
- One homeowner found that the gutter guards he chose would not work on his flat roofing. When questioned, he found that the gutter cover was not recommended for low pitched roofing.
Every issue could have been avoided with a little research on the part of the homeowner. After all, wouldn’t it be better to find out beforehand rather than to find out later on that there was a misunderstanding or an oversight?
Maybe there are roof pitch limitations. Or perhaps the particular gutter covers, leaf guards or gutter guards you selected are not recommended for certain types of roofing or guttering.
As a homeowner, before you invest in any gutter cover ask the representative for answers to questions that are pertinent to you. Make sure that the gutter guards work for your particular roof system, are properly installed and that they have a warranty to cover likely incidents.
Nashville Gutter Guard and Leaf Protection Experts
With more than 20 years of experience, the craftsmen at Antebellum Roofworks Co Inc can assist you in finding the best gutter guards for your home. Call us at (615) 794-9111 today or fill out our form to get started.