What You Need To Know About Gutter Protectors
It is called “Fall” because of what happens to the leaves when cold weather arrives. The yellow, gold, orange and crimson colored leaves of a Vermont Fall are renowned as one of the most beautiful sights in America. However, once the leaves have “fallen” the mess can be indescribable — especially if the leaves have to be removed from your own roof or gutters. Even worse are those parts of the country where Pine needles fall all year round. They seem almost alive the way they are able to maneuver themselves into spots that make removal nearly impossible.
Gutter protectors (or guards) are designed to eliminate the problem we’ve just mentioned. They are intended to prevent leaves from getting into your rain gutter. And that they can do. Especially with the full flat leaves that fall from trees like the Mulberry, Oak, Birch and Maple. Pine needles, small blossoms and berries are a special problem. With large leaves, almost all of the gutter protectors on the market work well. Each has found a way to allow water into the gutter and keep large leaves out.
The most common – and easiest to find – gutter protection devise is the tension-mount-screen type. Rolled gutter screening is made from a pliable, flexible metal (or plastic) that is slightly wider than the gutter opening. Once positioned, the wider cut material arcs upward. The arc shape causes pressure between the screen and the gutter — holding the screen firmly in place. The great thing about this type of gutter screening is that it is comparatively inexpensive, and very easy for the do it yourselfer to install. It literally snaps into place. And lookout, because – wet or dry – large leaves won’t get through. The not so good side is that tiny leaves, seeds, berries and the like can easily clog the screen. In fact, small debris can clog a gutter screen to the point where rain water will pass over the gutter instead of into it. Not a good thing! Another significant problem arises when using screening to prevent pine needles from clogging rain gutters. Pine needles seem to have an affinity for weaving themselves into the holes in the screening locking themselves permanently into place. Although we do believe that there are many advantages to gutter screening, we don’t feel that installing a gutter screen below a large pine tree is a good idea.
Another DIY gutter protector is the Snap-in screen. Snap-in gutter screens are a little more expensive than the tension-mount type because they are self supporting and simply lay in place at the top of the gutter. They are the easiest type to install and best of all they are just as easy to remove. This makes them especially easy to clean. Also, the ability to quickly and easily remove a snap-in screen makes it an excellent choice when debris has fallen through the mesh and into the gutter. The framed screen is somewhat more expensive than the rolled tension-mount type but we feel that its ease of removal makes it a better bet in the long run. And don’t forget, when the screen can be removed it makes cleaning pine needles a far less difficult chore.
On the other hand, when it comes to pine needles (and tiny debris) there is another alternative called the gutter helmet that works very well. The gutter helmet can be installed by more experienced do it yourselfers, but is generally best left to a sheetmetal contractor. The reason we recommend a contractor is because this type of flashing is somewhat difficult to install. It is supposed to be mounted above the gutter and below the roof shingles and felt. A little tricky for the average person — especially since nails must be driven through the flashing into the roof frame from beneath the existing shingles. Needless to say, commercial installation makes this choice a more expensive alternative. But you have to ask yourself a question. How much do you dislike pine needles?
It really is important to keep gutters clean and running free. Wet debris lodged at the bottom of a metal gutter will promote rust and deterioration. This will lead to premature replacement and higher home maintenance costs. Also, debris lodged in the gutter can eventually end up clogging downspouts. This leads to gutter flooding that can damage wood surfaces by promoting fungus damage and – in some instances — can cause water to back up and leak into the home. There is nothing good about a dirty or clogged gutter.
If great amounts of pine needles or leaves are not a problem in your area, and you don’t need gutter protectors, it is still a good idea to check gutters each fall to insure that they are clean and running free.
Homes that don’t have gutters and downspouts could use the drip edge extension system to prevent damage to the fascia and overhang materials, but we strongly recommend a top quality gutter system. We like 26 gauge galvanized sheetmetal gutters and downspouts. The sheetmetal is stronger than aluminum, far more water tight than plastic and far less expensive than copper. And, good luck!