Ask the Engineer – “Gutter Covers Vs Cleaning the Gutters?”

You see ads for gutter protectors every where telling you that you’ll never be forced to clean gutters again, but before you buy, think twice. In fact do not think; do research. The cost of gutter protection is able to range from two or three 100 dollars to thousands of dollars.
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Since most gutter covers are known for poor performance, it might make much more sense to contract a gutter cleaning service a few times every year for between seventy five dolars to $100 or perhaps so. And if indeed you are able to find a respected insured company which is going to service you it is maybe the best way to go. However, which might be a difficult challenge; and also having someone else or you cleaning your gutters might not be the method to go. Why? Answer: There are a number of reasons:

1. Not all gutter cleaners do a good job. Rosemary paid $75 to have her gutters cleaned and merely three days later they overflowed. Did the contractor do a terrible job or even did enough leaves fall to clog the downspout? Answer: No way to tell.


2. The fellow Joe hired to clean his gutters did not have some insurance. Big problem! Regrettably there was an accident with the ladder and the fellow sued Joe; and Joe went through a nightmare the fellow’s doctors and Joe’s own insurance company.

3. Claire had a company clean the gutters of her at an advertised price of $75 but ended up paying $350. The company replaced end caps, drop tubes, elbows and charged her an arm and a leg for every additional service.

4. Jim always cleaned his gutters until his ladder slipped and he ended up falling through his living room bay window and ended up in the hospital with a broken pelvis.

Yes, to avoid these issues, it looks like the sensible thing to do is install a gutter protector with a promise to solve clogged gutter problems. But buyer be ware. If you choose the wrong product it can additionally be nightmarish with flooded basements, mildew, mold, soil erosion, and worse the be completely dependent on the installing company as you can no longer access your own gutters to wash them.

So let’s do a bit of research. Basically there are six different types of gutter protection devices:

1. Screening devices which usually are not truly recognized as gutter protection devices. Made of wire, metal, or plastic, they work simply with gravity and require routine ladder maintenance.

2. Filters, membranes, and brushes installed in or even on existing gutters. Generally they’re not more effective compared to screens and require routine ladder maintenance.

3. Fin type with rounded front nose and solid flat top. Their advertising graphics lead you to believe that debris is jettisoned off onto the ground when instead in medium-to-high debris areas enough debris sticks to the surface to clog the gutters. Here you have to depend on the installing company for service. See resource box for photos.

4. Flat solid top with rounded front nose and a trough–fin type with trough. Since the basic fin type fails, another progression ended up being to add a trough. But it doesn’t take a college graduate to see that debris that goes into the trough (basic screening system) will possibly clog the trough or perhaps break down and pass into the gutter and clog it. See resource box for photos.

5. Flipping type gutter or rain dispersal units. These require removing the gutters of yours and installing either a gutter with a hinge that gets flipped or fins (installed horizontal to the fascia board) to disperse the water. They both look viable until you see them work. The rain dispersal unit does not work in slow rain fall and debris lays on top of it blocking it from working. The flip clean gutter requires a rain coat for when the gutter is rich in putrid debris. The flip clean gutters also are known to warp rendering them ineffective.

6. Rounded front nose with vertical louvered water collectors and a flat solid top. Whereas with the fin type of gutter cover which will pass full sized leaves, the louvers discriminate the size of the debris the gutter cover allows into the gutter. This gutter guard is the only rounded nose type that limits the amount of debris or size of dirt which can pass into the gutter.

This one system has demonstrated that gutters can stay free flowing in heavy debris conditions for 20 years; and that’s no small feat. The only real downside is that in heavy debris conditions debris is able to build up on the louvers and block them off meaning that some sort of maintenance is required.

Whereas other products require someone to go up a ladder and clean the cover or even the gutter, it is able to easily be accomplished from the ground using a telescopic pole and brush. Because it is not difficult to find out where cleaning is required, there is no guessing where to do the brushing. No rain coats are required (as may be with the flip type gutter) to perform this simple task as it is able to basically be done dressed in a suit and tie.

After all, telling someone, who has to clean his gutters several times during the fall, that no maintenance will be required is like asking the him to believe in Santa Claus.

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