Differences in Gutter Covers & Leaf Guards
Gutter Protection – the design makes the difference!
When it comes to gutter protection there are three basic designs.
Following is a discussion of the history of the three basic types screens, solid hooded covers, and solid louvered covers.
First Type of Gutter Guards – Screens
From the 1900’s screens have been used to try to solve the problem of clogged gutters. Screens include any product that has openings in its horizontal surface. They vary greatly in appearance with newer versions appearing to work better than the older versions.
Some screens made of woven plastic fiber and are glued inside your gutter. They are demonstrated by dropping a needle that bounces out of the gutter. Yet, in real environmental conditions, most of the debris simply is blown down the roof and onto the gutter screen. The debris stays here until the following spring. As it lies on the screen, it becomes dry and brittle. The spring time rains beat upon the dry brittle debris and mulch it to small pieces of debris that drops through the screens and into the gutter and by late May, corn and other vegetables (and a fair share of weeds) can be seen growing from the gutters.
Some screens made of metal or plastic have rounded tops for strength and to keep the debris from the front most part of the screen where the water can enter. Yet, they end up trapping debris along the roof edge and when you go to clean them, the debris drops into the gutter making cleaning even more difficult because you have to not only clean out the gutter, but fight the hinged screen.
Some more modern hybrid screens have filters which are reported to work fairly well unless you have inventive squirrels, birds, and raccoons or unruly wind that dislodge the filters rendering them useless.
Then you have screens that with steps and troughs. Here again, the debris simply gets washed into the horizontal positioned trough which either clogs or admits enough debris into the gutter to clog it. One additional problem if the product is made of vinyl, in the heat of the summer sun, can collapse into the gutter rendering it useless. And to remove it from gutters once it’s installed, may ruin your gutters.
Summary: Many potential problems
Debris: The end result of all types of screens is that they either get dislodged by wind or animals or they hold the debris which dries, becomes brittle and is mulched by the rains clogging the gutter. In the end, screens don’t come close to keeping you off the ladder and making your gutters virtually maintenance free.
Maintenance: Frequent maintenance from a ladder to clean gutters and replace screens (often more labor intensive than simply cleaning gutters).
Overshoot: Screens with smaller size openings or tight radius bends in the step and trough design, water often overshoots the gutter onto the ground. No roof valley treatment is used other than a simple splash guard resulting in major overshooting of water onto the ground.
Second Type of Gutter Guards – Solid Hooded Covers
In the 50’s came a new promise of freedom with the first popularly marketed solid top designs–definitely a step in the right direction. Since that time, many variations have come to market.
They all have one thing in common, the are all basically one long fin. The water flows over the top, follows the curvature which extends into the gutter, and drops the water into the gutter. Pretty neat idea!! Some graphic depictions of how this product works shows the water following the surface of the cover and the debris being jettisoned away from the gutter onto the ground. However, in real life situations, the debris (including full sized leaves) that goes over the nose (top curvature) of the gutter cover, actually sticks to the surface and also drops into the gutter with the water. OK, maybe we have eliminated 90% of the debris getting in, but the 10% that makes it is sufficient to clog the gutter. Summary is that we still have a horizontal opening all along the length of the gutter (longitudinal horizontal opening) that debris can either be blown into or flow into the gutter with rain water. The patent has expired and this product is now being marked under dozens of different names.
One warning, this type of gutter guard is either nailed into your roofing to keep it in place, or installed with clips. The nails can contribute to roof leaks, and the clips can become dislodged causing it to collapse into the gutter.
A second variation of this product uses troughs in addition to the rounded nose. Again, the debris (full sized leaves) that follows with the water will drop into the trough (which has horizontal openings to limit the size of debris it passes). However, the debris will mulch in the trough and you still end up with roughly 10% of the debris into the gutter. I mean, once it’s in the trough, it’s got to go into the gutter. Only difference is the size of debris, but the 10% passing of debris will still clog many gutters.
A third variation has a nose with a very tight radius. Strange as it seems, it debris still follows that nose and gets into the gutter.
A fourth variation is the all-in-one gutter and guard which often uses larger downspouts to compensate for that 10% of the debris that gets into the gutter. Same basic design, same basic problems plus some of these are limited in size and may not even carry all the water from your roof. In either event, you’ll have to like the idea of big (I mean BIG) downspouts.
Summary of the solid hooded design: Still many potential problems!
Debris: roughly 10% of the debris passes into your gutter which is often enough to clog it.
Maintenance: For the most part, the homeowner can’t access the gutter and a serviceman must be called to clean the gutters. They generally remove the nails holding the gutter guard, remove it, clean the gutter, and then renail it to install the gutter cover. Cost may vary depending on how much you originally paid and your warranty (if the company is still in business).
Over Shoot: Because the front nose is of a precise angle that can not be altered, the elevation of the gutters must be at the right elevation otherwise, with a gutter that’s too low, the rain water will not adhere to the surface and drop from surface before it gets inside the gutter causing overshoot.
Valleys: Often nothing is done for valley treatments leaving most of the rain water to overshoot. In cases where diverters are used, only solid wall diverters are used which either hold the debris on the roof and clog or they simply are inadequate to keep overshoot from happening.
Third Type of Gutter Guards – Louvered Covers
Early in the 1980’s a patent was issued for the third type of gutter cover (first promise of maintenance free guttering) which came to the market place in the late 80’s known as the Waterloov® Gutter Protection System. There are several design benefits that are unequaled by any other design.
- All openings (containing louvers that carry water into the gutter), are in the vertical surface. No other design on the market has this feature which means that gravity works for you instead of against you.
- The openings in this design are limited in size. We call them discriminating louvers because nothing larger than 3/4″ in length can ever get through the openings. This means that less than 1% of the debris can get into the gutter compared with roughly 10% by the 1950 design. And what little does get in is easily flushed down normal sized downspouts.
- Because this type of gutter protector is hard fastened (screwed) to the front lip of the gutter, no fasteners that could cause leaks are put into your roofing.
- Waterloov® has a top adjustable angle to the front radius bend which eliminates overshoot.
Summary: Superior design for a variety of reasons:
Debris: Less than one percent of debris ever gets into the gutter meaning that gutters never clog on the inside and large commercial downspouts are not required for normal length gutters.
Maintenance: No ladders nor service men are required to clean the inside of the gutter. Any cleaning that’s required is done from the ground with what is described as Suit and Tie maintenance.
Overshooting: Because the top angle can be altered, the front vertical surface is always vertical meaning the angle of the louvers is never changed which eliminates overshoot.
Valley Treatments: Waterloov® is the only company that has three types of valley-treatments: 1. Diverters — Instead of only solid wall design, Waterloov’s® diverters have openings to allow distribution of water along the louvered section of the water collectors. Only recommended for low debris collecting valleys. 2. Dome diverter — also known as Stealth Diverter: Recommended for shorter valleys. 3. Valley-fall™ — With high debris collecting valleys, we suggest this special patented panel which is interweaved with the roofing and features a design that doesn’t contribute to the collection of debris. Waterloov® is the only product available with these options.