All gutter covers and leaf guards are not created equal. A gutter guard or gutter protector has to do three basic tasks:
1. Collect all the water
2. Keep out leaves and debris from the gutter
3. Be easily maintained easily by the homeowner.
Except for one product, in mild-to-heavy debris conditions all gutter guards fail to do all three tasks effectively--read on.
All solid top gutter guards work by the principal of surface adhesion. They generally have a solid top and a curved front surface that leads the water downward and into the gutter.
It makes sense to do some research before buying gutter protection. A product that really does its job could cost thousands of dollars. But in the case of gutter covers, more money doesn't necessarily mean a better performing product. Remember that salesmen are good at telling you what they think you want to hear.
The bottom line is that choosing the wrong product can be a night mare. You might end up with birds living in your gutters and if they clog, you won't be able to get into your gutters to clean them or worse yet, a roof leak. And the mother of all failings is overflowing gutters that leak into your basement providing a fertile environment for toxic mold.
Basically there are six different types of gutter protection devices:
1. Screens-the basic ones are flat and made of metal or plastic with round holes, square holes, and louvered openings. The more sophisticated types have rounded tops, steps, or troughs. Debris lays on the top, dries, and is then pummeled through the openings to clog the gutter inside or the debris clogs the screening device. Bottom line is they work if the homeowner is willing to go up the ladder to clean them and replace the ones blown out by storms or hijacked by squirrels.
2. Filters, membranes, and brushes installed on or in existing gutters. One is a solid top with a filter strip in it that requires replacement every few years (sometimes the squirrels help with the job). Others are basically meshes or brushes installed in the gutter. Bottom line is that they clog like screens. One manufacturer touts his benefit is that the brush is removed and cleaned as required. Can you imagine removing a brush full of mucky tree debris and shaking it out? You'll need to wear a rain coat and then power wash your home.
3. The fin type with a solid top and a rounded front nose. It's one long fin extending the entire length of the gutter-more about them later.
4. Fin Type with trough has a solid top with rounded front nose and a trough.
5. Flipping type gutters, rain dispersal....
6. Flat solid top with rounded front nose and a double row louvered front vertical surface.
Which gutter covers may not perform the first task and collect all the water? Answer: Those with a very tight radius or use a series of bends on the nose of the gutter cover. The larger the radius and the smoother the radius, the more water that the gutter protector will collect, otherwise the water just skips off onto the ground in heavy rainfall conditions.
If your home has a valley, there is little hope of collecting the water unless you use gutter screens (the first type) or the sixth system--more later.
The second job a gutter protector has to do is keep the gutters clean. Most any gutter protector will keep gutters clean in a light debris environment. However, in mild-to-heavy debris environments--especially spring time--debris will stick to the rounded front surface of the third type (fin) and fourth type (fin with trough) of gutter covers and go into the gutter or the trough.
The third concern is about the ease of maintenance of the leaf guard gutter. Unfortunately, most manufacturers will either out right tell you that no maintenance will ever be required or that they will infer that none is required. But think about this. If you live in a treed environment where you need to clean your gutters several times during the fall, would you honestly believe that you'll never have to do anything to maintain your gutter guards? Asking a homeowner to believe that there is no maintenance required is like asking him to believe in Santa Claus.
The truth is that all six types of gutter protectors will clog in mild-to-heavy debris environments. The question is, "Where"? Only one clogs where it can be easily dealt with by the homeowner.
The third and fourth types of products require the gutter to be cleaned inside. One of these gutter guards also use clips to anchor them to the gutter that work loose causing the cover to collapse into the gutter. You'll also notice that many of third type are very similar in design and appearance. One actually has sieve type openings on the top of it which act like a screen.
All products thus far mentioned have to be maintained by having someone climb a ladder and clean the gutter and or the gutter cover. With some of the fin type products, nails need to be removed from the roofing to remove the product which could contribute to roofing leaks.
Wouldn't it be great to have a gutter protector that does live up to all its promises-a product which uses two rows of interspersed louvers in the front vertical surface to collect rain water and limit the size of the debris that can enter the gutter? And wouldn't it be great to have a product that can collect water in valley configurations.