Ask the Engineer How to Find the Best Gutter Guards

Gutter guards do a job-they keep tree debris in the form of blossoms, twigs, and leaves from clogging your gutter. Choosing the best gutter guard should be easy, but it’s not. They can all be made to look good and they are all advertised to be the best gutter guard. As a consumer, it makes the most sense for you to do some investigation. While they all advertise to be the best gutter guards, the design of each of them is different.

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The oldest design of gutter covers is that of a screen device. They’ve been around since the early 1900’s. The less sophisticated earlier designs have larger openings which allow debris into the gutter of sufficient quantity to clog the gutters. They must be routinely accessed to be cleaned and often times require more labor to clean and reinstall than it is to simply clean gutters. Of late they’ve gotten more sophisticated in terms of using foam inserts, or surgical steel fine mesh. All of these gutter covers collect debris on top of them which means that eventually rain water can not get into the gutter.

More sophisticated designs were invented later on. If you Google “Niagara gutter guard” you’ll find an example of the early design of solid top gutter covers. This type of gutter cover has a rounded front nose. The water adheres to nose and goes into the gutter. More recent designs have openings in the solid top to collect water which makes them a screen hybrid. What do you think happens to debris that gets washed onto the gutter cover from the roofing or debris that falls onto the gutter cover as it’s raining? That’s right, it sticks to the cover and goes into the gutter. If the leaf guard also has openings on the top, those openings clog. As a potential owner of this type of system, you might want to know how it’s cleaned or maintained. Well, it can’t be done from the ground. You’re either at the mercy of the installing company to come and remove the covers, clean the gutters, and reinstall, or you have to go up a ladder and clean them yourself.

The problem with the single fin type of gutter guard design is that it allows all sizes of debris to flow into the gutter. Whatever can stick to the surface of the gutter guard can flow into the gutter. This design is available both as a cover to cover existing gutters or as a complete all-in-one system to replace regular gutters.

The question is how can this design be improved? If you Google “care-free solid top gutter guards” you’ll find the next improvement. The next generation either has one row of openings (with louvers in each opening guiding water into the gutter) like shown on the care-free gutter or it has a trough with sieve openings to limit the size of the debris. While this type of gutter guard is an improvement, it will not successfully keep out debris under heavy debris conditions. Debris that comes down the face of the gutter can still wash into the gutter from the gutter lip. While it’s less debris and smaller than in the previous design, in heavy debris conditions, someone has to go up a ladder to remove the gutter covers and clean the gutter. The gutter cover with a trough is nailed into the roofing which adds a complication to maintenance.

Is there a maintenance free leaf guard? What would the best gutter covers look like? How can the single row louvered gutter guard system or the trough gutter cover system be improved? Google “waterloov gutter guards” and take a look at that design. Notice it has two rows of openings. In each opening is a louver which guides water into the gutter. Of all designs, it is the best leaf guard recommended by Consumer Reports for two reasons.

1. Nothing larger than 3/4″ can ever get through this gutter guard.

2. Nothing can be washed in from the lip of the gutter.

After twenty two years in practice, this design never clogs inside. But how about maintenance? And why would maintenance be required. With the double row louvered best gutter cover design, the cover never needs to be removed to clean the gutter. However, as with all the designs we’ve looked at the openings of the leaf guard can still be clogged with small leaves and blossoms. Because it’s visible from the ground on the double row louvered design, it can be easily brushed with a telescopic pole and brush from the ground by the homeowner.

How much does the best gutter guard cost? The irony is that in some areas of the country the first solid top design type (Niagara) and the second (Care-Free) are often a few dollars more than the double row louvered system. So while the best gutter cover system is actually worth two or three times as much as the other leaf guard systems, it’s comparably priced.