Are Self Cleaning Gutters A Myth?

In order to have self cleaning gutters three things are necessary:

  1. The gutter must be protected with gutter covers.
  2. The gutter guards must significantly limit the size of the debris entering the gutter.
  3. The water entering the gutter from the leaf guards must do so in such a way as to constantly cause a mixing in the bottom of the gutter which cleans the bottom of the gutter.

With all this said, self cleaning gutters seem like an impossible dream. Anyone who has a home surrounded by trees who has to clean his gutters three or four times in the fall and a couple times in the spring knows that a tremendous amount of debris falls upon the roof and collects in the gutter. And it’s all kinds of debris–blossoms, needles, and leaves of all shapes and sizes.

And if it were possible for self cleaning gutters, could there be such a thing as self cleaning gutter guards? Now I’m getting ahead of myself.

Having been in the business of gutter protection for over twenty years, I can say that I’ve only seen three types of leaf guards that don’t let the gutters clog inside. One is a flat louvered screen device. When we inspected the gutter inside they were clean enough to eat upon. However, the top of the gutter guards looked like a thatched roof as it was totally covered with large pine needles to the degree that no water entered the gutters. Obviously this is not a solution for what good is it to have clean gutters if no water can get into the gutters?

The second type is a micromesh flat screen that likewise gets installed on top of the gutter. Again nothing gets into the gutter including water when it clogs on top. The flat louvered screen system previously mentioned only costs about $3.00 per foot to have installed and the micro mesh product can cost nearly $20 per foot.

In my opinion neither meets the goal of keeping people off ladders or keeping homeowners free of needing service men to routinely clean the tops of the gutter covers.

The third type of gutter cover that keep gutters free flowing inside have a solid top. But unlike other solid top gutter guards that have one single rounded nose or fin in the front to collect the water, this gutter protector has a rounded nose with two rows of interspersed louvers to collect the water. Essentially you could say that it has two rows of fins instead of one. And unlike the single fin devices, the louvered product, known as the Waterloov Gutter Protection system, limits the size and quantity of the debris entering the gutter.

Additionally as the water enters the gutter from the gutter guards, it flows down the front inside wall of the gutter and continuously causes a swirling in the bottom of the gutter. Thus any parts of blossoms, parts of pine needles or parts of leaves, or even roofing grit that finds its way into the gutter are successfully flushed through the gutter making it self cleaning.

An good example of this was a home near the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel. Before the gutters, that were three stories high, were cleaned they were full of nothing but dirt from the traffic entering the tunnel. There were no trees.

Four years later, an inspection of the gutter showed that the gutters were clean and free flowing where as before they clogged on a yearly basis. Only a small trace amount of dirt–approximately 1/32″ deep was found in the bottom of the gutter indicating that the dirt was constantly being swept along and down the downspout.

Self cleaning gutters are a reality with this particular design and what’s more important is that as the gutter guards may require servicing in heavy debris conditions, it can easily be done from the ground with a telescopic pole and brush–it’s called suit and tie maintenance since it’s not a dirty job. An additional advantage is that unlike the flat gutter guards that need servicing with a ladder, it can easily be seen from the ground where the brushing is required.

Richard Kuhns B.S.Ch.E. President and CEO of R.K. Industries manufacturer of the Waterloov® Gutter Protection System. To learn more please go to