When and Why Gutter Guards don’t Work

When they work, gutter guards and other kinds of gutter protectors do a good job of allowing water to drain toward the downspouts while keeping debris out of the gutter channel. Different types have different designs and purposes. However, no one house is the same and what is functional for one home might not be for another. There are situations when gutter guards might not work for your home or for you.

When Buying Gutter Guards

In order for the leaf protection system to work, it must be compatible with your gutters and its design suited to your property. Of course, the whole purpose of investing in gutter guards is to cut down the amount of time you have to clean your gutters because you have a lot of trees close to the house and in the yard. But what kind of trees do you have? For example, leaf protectors that keep out deciduous tree debris will not prevent pine needles from entering the gutter system. Regardless of the type of leaf protectors, in order to function successfully, before purchasing, take the following into consideration:

  • microclimate – the type and number of trees; living next to an industrial area; house is close to a highway
  • amount of regional rainfall – e.g. gutter covers often don’t handle heavy rainfall well
  • shape and configuration of the roof
  • total linear feet of guttering – keep in mind that, while not as often, you will still have to clean the gutters and before you do, the gutter guard system must be removed first
  • budget – most DIY gutter protectors are short-term fixes; the more long-lasting solutions tend to be high-end and expensive

Gutters guards are only useful if the kind of gutter protector selected for your home is the right “fit,” matching the above criteria.

Why Some Gutter Guards Work Better than Others

Reverse curve guards:  Typically made from metal or vinyl, they are placed over the gutter opening. They provide a cover over the gutter channel that allows water to enter the gutters while keeping debris out. However, if your home experiences high annual rainfall, reverse curve gutter guards generally don’t handle heavy rain well. Depending on the design of the reverse curve guards, high volumes of water will miss the opening altogether, allowing the water to fall to the ground where it might pool close to the foundation. Another drawback with reverse curve guards is that they tend to keep large-size debris out, but let in smaller pieces, where eventually they break down, forming a layer of silt or sludge that can clog the gutters.

Slit gutter covers: Similar to reverse curve gutter guards, slit gutter covers are also placed over the gutter opening. They typically have slits that allow water to flow into the gutters but prevent debris from entering the gutter system. However, they are also unable to efficiently handle large volumes of rainwater in climatic regions that have high annual rainfall.

Sponge guards: Put directly inside the gutter channel, water can flow through the sponge, while stopping the debris from going down the downspouts. However, what can happen, causing the gutter guards to fail, is that small particulates such as seeds can become trapped in the sponge and then sprout.

Metal screens: Metal screen leaf protectors are fastened onto the gutter’s outer edge. Inexpensive and easy for a DIYer to install, they allow water in and filter out debris. The major drawback with metal screens is that they lie flat (no slant or slope), encouraging damp debris to collect on top of the screens – when the organic matter deteriorates, the smaller pieces get through the metal holes. Also, they are not very cost-efficient since they can become easily detached in windy weather and aren’t particularly durable, needing to be replaced every one to two years.

Micro mesh gutter guards: Many professional gutter installers agree that of all of the types of leaf protectors and gutter guards, micro mesh guards perform the best. However, they are also generally the most expensive and complicated, needing to be installed by a gutter installation contractor. If you won’t be living in your home for more than ten years, the expense of micro mesh gutter guards might not be worth it.