History Of Gutter Covers And Leaf Guards

Ever since gutters were used, man has been inventing and reinventing gutter covers and leaf guards. The first products invented were gutter screens. Initially they were flat metal screens and eventually evolved into plastic screens with square or round openings. The newer plastic ones have troughs.

Generally all gutter screens have their openings in the top portion of the device. While they do a pretty good job of keeping out fresh new debris, they all tend to hold and accumulate the debris. When the debris dries it becomes brittle. Subsequent rain then pulverizes the debris at which time it enters the gutter in significant quantity as to clog it. One has a bowed top with a hinge for lifting the gutter screen to clean the gutter–problem is that the bowed top captures and holds debris such that when it is opened, more debris falls into the gutter further aggravating the situation. These basic screen designs were invented in the early part of the 1900’s

Solid top gutter covers were invented in the mid 1900’s. They were designed such that a small space—approximately 3/8” in width–was left in the front of the gutter cover to allow water to flow into the gutter. To keep the water from flying across this space and onto the ground they formed a downward curved surface at the front most part of the gutter cover. Surface adhesion caused the water to stick to the rounded surface where it was guided downward into the gutter. The first simple solid gutter cover is still sold today and is held in place with a clip approximately the size of a quarter. The problems with the design are that the clips loosen over time causing the gutter guard collapse into the gutter and enough debris still passes through the 3/8″ width opening to clog the gutter inside.

The next solid gutter cover developed has a similar design except that the top is arched which lifts the front curved portion higher and extends the front curve over the top of the front gutter lip such that the path of the water actually goes to the end of the gutter lip and then flows backward and downwards into the gutter. The debris supposedly is jettisoned off the front edge onto the ground to miss the gutter. But in reality, debris still sticks to the surface of the gutter cover just as water does causing the gutters to clog inside. Because this product is nailed into the roofing, cleaning the gutters can only be done by trained professionals.

During the mid 1990’s the basic solid top design was adopted by another company into an all-in-one gutter and gutter guard.  Rather than a separate top on an existing gutter, the existing gutters are removed and replaced with an all-in-one gutter and cover. Its function is much the same as its predecessors.

Also during 1990’s a group of dealers united to develop a hybrid of the basic solid arched top cover. The change extended the line front curve in a z shape to connect to the gutter lip which eliminated the need for a clip. The opening between the lower edge of the gutter cover and the front lip of gutter is closed with a trough that has openings. The idea is to cut down on the debris that passes into the gutter with its predecessors design. However, any debris that makes it as far as the trough still has to go into the gutter. Like most arched solid top gutter covers this product too is often nailed into the roof requiring trained technicians to clean the clogged gutters.

A multi louvered product, Waterloov®, patented during this time carried the evolution of the solid top gutter cover to its logical culmination by connecting the solid top to the gutter in an effective way. It has a flat solid top to which a front vertical surface was added with two rows of small louvers which pull the water into the gutter. The rain water is guided by a rounded edge surface down the vertical face that is connected to the underside of gutter lip with stainless steel screws and through the louvers into the gutter. The louvers are arranged in two rows so that the water that passes the first row of louvers is caught by the second row of louvers and directed into the gutter. The small size of the louver eliminate the possibility of any debris large enough to clog the downspout will ever get into the gutter.

This design addressed and solved the problems inherent in its predecessors. The flat top has a lower profile that the arched top predecessors. The front louvered face eliminated the long continuous gap between the solid top and the gutter that is inherent in most of its predecessors. The vertical face also eliminated the trough evident in its z shaped predecessor.

With the distinct advantages of the Waterloov design, one would wonder why anyone would ever select anything else to protect their gutters.

Richard Kuhns B.S.Ch.E. President and CEO of R.K. Industries manufacturer of the Waterloov® Gutter Protection System.