Gutter Guards
Gutter Guards

Which leaf screens work best?

A common question we receive from homeowners and contractors is “which gutter guard works the best,” or, “do any of these things actually work?” I’ll try to answer both of those questions here.

Do Any Gutter Guards Currently On The Market Actually Work?

Good question, first let’s look at what we mean by gutter guard. Gutter guards are referred to in the industry and by homeowners as leaf screens, gutter shields, gutter covers, eavestrough covers, etc. They have a ton of names. Their job is to keep your gutters and downspouts free and clear of debris so the gutter system continues to function properly. Some folks think they are a great while others are convinced they are a waste of money. My installation company has a ton of experience with gutter guards and can weigh in on this question with some confidence. First of all, yes, some products out there work. Some even work really well. I like to explain this as a man-vs-nature struggle, and, let’s face it. Nature is a formidable opponent. We have, though, through trial and error found some products that will win the battle 95% of the time, and won’t necessarily break the bank.

When do screens tend to fail?

  1. The lower the slope of the roof, the more likely it is that debris will settle on top of the screens instead of washing or blowing right over them. Below a 4/12 pitch (think a low slope 1950’s rancher, or a low slope craftsman/prairie style), you will start to notice sticks, leaves, pollen, helicopters, etc., settling on top of the roof and on top of the gutter guards instead of sliding off of the roof.
  2. VALLEYS.  Valleys are where two slopes of a roof meet at an inside angle and water is concentrated. Debris from trees will be concentrated here as well. On lower slope roof this can really become a very real challenge to deal with no great solution other than routine maintenance. Getting on the roof and removing that debris, or paying someone to get up there and do it. As someone who has cleaned many gutters over the years, removing wet and rotting matter from inside a gutter is a much nastier proposition than quickly removing dry debris from a roof top and from atop leaf screens.
  3. Mansard roofs.  According to google: a mansard roof is, “a roof that has four sloping sides, each of which becomes steeper halfway down.” Oftentimes, very steep, like a wall. Add in large dormers and you are contending with valleys, very steep valleys. The water can be so concentrated at the valleys that gutter guards will impede the flow of the water and instead of letting the water into the gutter, the water flows over. Another issue with gutter guards and mansard roofs has to do with the way they are installed. The majority of leaf screen products fasten to the front lip of the gutter and slide under the first course of shingles. If the gutters are installed high up on the fascia board, behind the drip edge (the way they are supposed to be), and a gutter guard is then installed, a shelf is created there for leaves and other debris to settle on to. What I suggest in this situation is to drop the gutter down lower on the fascia. Install them below the drip edge, then flash the area between the gutter and drip edge to make sure the water goes into the gutter and not behind it. Then install the gutter guards. There will hopefully be enough slope for debris to blow past the screens instead of settling on the them. If debris does settle there, someone should get up there and clear that debris occasionally.

Which Gutter Guard Works Best (and which products don’t work)? 

Let’s quickly talk about the different types of gutter guards currently being marketed online, at home shows, etc:

  • Solid Gutter Cover types designed for the water to flow over them and into the gutters (Gutter Helmet)
  • Mesh Screens
  • Micro Mesh Screens
  • Foam inserts

The answer to this question depends on one main factor: what kind of trees do you have in your yard? To be continued…

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