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Eavestrough Protection Systems
The general idea behind eavestrough protection is to stop the eavestroughs from overflowing (either on a permanent basis, or at least long enough for the scheduled cleaning to occur).
If you're looking for a "you never have to clean your eavestroughs again" product, ask me about GutterFilter® (discussed below). I wouldn't go as far as to say that you'll never have to clean, but this product will get you closer to that goal than any others I have seen.
You really do need to understand that putting a gutter protection system in place does NOT mean never cleaning your eavestroughs again. It means you are delaying the disaster effects (overflowing and clogging) long enough to allow scheduled cleaning to keep things flowing all year. And if you're lucky, to decrease the number of cleanings required to accomplish that.
That said, there are MANY types of eavestrough protection, ranging from simple roll-out plastic screening to full helmet style eavestrough replacement systems. I am going to list a few that I am familiar with and tell you what I do and don't like about them.Of the protection types listed below I install the hinged aluminum gutter guard and the polyurethane filter insert type (Note that the eavestroughs MUST be cleaned before installing either of these systems and cleaning is NOT included in the prices shown). I consider these to be a functional stop-gap at a reasonable price (aluminum guard) and a superb semi-permanent solution (GutterFilter®). So lets look at these first
Hinged Gutter Guard (aluminum) - I install these @ approx $2.25 to $3.00 per linear foot depending on installation conditions
Purpose = To keep out the large debris so the eavestrough will continue to flow long enough to get them cleaned (in some areas, you may be able to skip some normally scheduled cleaning due to only smaller debris entering the system).
Installation = Place the screening in sheets along the length of the eavestrough fasten with hinge clips (in many instances these need to be put under the first row of shingles in order to secure them).
This is not quite as good as the screw-on type discussed below. They need to fit "just so" to work at their best. Like the screw-on type, this is a "relatively" effective method of keeping out large debris. Small debris will however still pass through the holes and into the eaves. But the main advantage is that they can simply be flipped out of the way to be cleaned underneath. Since the labour involved accessing under these screens is minimal there is no extra charge when I clean under them (but they are slightly less effective than the screwed on type which are labour intensive to clean). People choosing this type need to fully understand that this is just a stop-gap measure to keep your system from backing up between cleanings. Although you may be able to skip some cleanings (due to only smaller debris entering the eaves) you will still need to clean the eaves after these have been installed.
- People forget to clean once they have been installed (and they are not a good permanent solution).
- The edges can curl (not really a functional problem just aesthetic).
- Heavy wind (or animals) will sometimes remove them
- roofers will often destroy them when reroofing
- heavy rain can skate over the top
- They can bend (or be bent) causing gaps to form
GutterFilter® - I install these @ $5.00 to $6.00 per linear foot depending on installation conditions.
Purpose = To completely fill the eavestrough so that debris cannot enter and therefore don't need to be cleaned out (you may still need to sweep them off or clear them of debris not blown off by the wind).
Installation = Cut slots for brackets or ferrules and insert into eavestroughs.
These work by filling your eavestroughs. The premise is simple. If your eavestrough is already full, it can't fill up. So fill it with a filter designed to stop all but the smallest debris from getting into your eavestrough. Then in theory the smallest debris (fine particles of dirt and dust) should easily flush through the system and out the downpipe. This is a superb solution with its only real weak spot being the possible collection of debris on top of the filter. In all but the worst of situations most debris would dry up and blow off the top quite easily. Water would flow through almost any debris which collected on top anyway (meaning this is primarily a cosmetic flaw). Or in the worst case scenarios someone needs to sweep (or blow) the debris from the top of the filter. A somewhat expensive solution (compared to the screens) but probably the closest most homeowners will get to "never" having to clean the eavestroughs again.
- With very new or very old roofing which loses a lot of shingle grit, if the roof converges into one or more valleys, those valleys may deposit enough shingle grit on the corners to clog the GutterFilter® (easily cleaned if you are aware that it may occur).
Click here for an objective comparison of Screens VS GutterFilter®
The types listed below, I do NOT install or recommend installing
Plastic roll of screening - I will never install this
Installation = Place girders every 2 feet to hold the guard then insert guard into the girders. Note that virtually NO ONE EVER USES THE GIRDERS.
This is a fantastic solution for about 3 seconds (okay , maybe only 2). Okay, lets be honest. This is by far the worst thing you can do. These screens WILL buckle (with or without the girders). They will distort after exposure to the weather. They will fall into the eavestrough and collect junk actually causing the eavestroughs to become plugged. Yesterday (a long time ago now) I went on to a customer's roof who had these installed by their roofer about 2 weeks ago (no girders). I can clearly see 10 places where it has already buckled or fallen into the eaves. Come Autumn, I will have to remove this screening just to clean the eaves and then replace it. This will take me twice as long as it did with no screens (and I will charge twice as much and the customer will have no more protection that he did before the screens were installed)
Downspout Strainers - (look like wire lighhtbulbs) I almost never install these
Installation = Place into the top of each downspout opening.
These serve only a single purpose. They can be used to stop debris from going into the downpipe. Useful if your downpipes drain below ground. The problem is that they stop debris from going into the downpipe (huh?!?!?). Well the result is simple, the downspouts don't clog anymore. Now the strainer clogs. And much faster than the downpipe used to clog. Do not use these unless you have easy, unfettered access to remove them for cleaning on a VERY frequent basis. These actually cause eavestroughs to overflow more than any other product on the market. Most people would be better off without them (a very few houses can benefit from their use.. and probably not yours). If you do use these. . . NEVER put them in the downpipe of an upper eavestrough that drains into a lower eavestrough as this simply encourages clogging of the upper eavestrough. Use them ONLY to stop debris from going into underground drainage systems and NOTHING ELSE.
Aluminum roll of screening - I will never install this
Installation = The same as the plastic roll above.
This is a fantastic theory, but actually installing this without destroying the integrity of the aluminum screening is a lot tougher than it sounds. The girders required for proper installation are extremely difficult to find and increase the cost significantly. That said it's a great solution until the first time it needs to be cleaned. This type of screening has no tolerance for being manipulated and any attempt to get under it to clean it will result in damage to the screen. I installed this once (at a homeowner's request) and will never install it again and probably will never agree to clean an eavestrough with this type of screen installed without a full waiver being signed first (and maybe not even then).
Aluminum screening (screw on panels) - I do not install these
Installation = Place the screening in sheets along the length of the eavestrough and fasten with screws.
This is a "relatively" effective method of keeping out large debris (somewhat better than the hinged type mentioned earlier - mainly due to the rigidity of the installation). Small debris will however still pass through the holes and into the eaves. The eaves WILL need to be cleaned (although not as often as before the screens were installed). The cleaning process unfortunately generally involves removing a number of the screens and flushing under them. This takes a LOT longer than the normal process and I charge extra for it (so what you saved by not cleaning in the fall you spend having me remove and replace the screens).
Pierced Aluminum Sheets - I do not install these
There are many types and brands available, but essentially they are solid aluminum with holes to allow water to flow through them.
Installation = install along the eavestroughs and fasten according to manufacturers instructions.
In some instances these can be very useful (until they need to be cleaned). Like screens, they stop all but the smaller debris from entering. They also greatly diminish the waterflow capability of your eavestrough (sometimes by more than 90%). They can suffer from a problem I call flat surface sticking, where large leaves (or anything wet and flat) sits on the surface and gets baked in place by the sun (much the same way you can stick a wet piece of paper to your cupboard). Cleaning under these is virtually impossible (depending on the type installed) but will be necessary much sooner then the salesman will have you believe. Some types will overflow during heavy rain and virtually all will allow rainwater to "bounce" off the flat aluminum between the perforations.
Microfilter screens - I do not install these
Installation = install along the eavestroughs and fasten according to manufacturers instructions.
Having never dealt with these types, I can say it sounds like a wonderful theory, but I have seen MANY complaints that the water easily "skates" over the top of the micromesh or that the mesh becomes covered easily and is rendered useless. Cleaning underneath such a system should be a relatively rare requirement but would be no treat when required. The biggest problem with these systems is that they cost a bundle and seem to work for some people and not for others (not good if you just spent a bundle on them).
A customer recently installed these and I happened one day to be cleaning her skylights. When I was done I emptied my bucket onto her roof (about 10 feet from the edge). I was shocked to see well in excess of 80% of the water travel over the microscreens and over the edge of the eavestrough onto the ground. Clearly her particular brand were not performing the single most important part of the job (allowing the water into the eavestrough).
Helmet designs - I do not install these
Installation = install a solid construction shaped to encourage water into the eaves and debris out over the edge (some designs require replacement of the eavestroughs as well). These range from "clip on" to full structural replacement systems.
This is a great theory and some of them work for some people. They are VERY expensive. Not a very popular system due to the expense (and the hit and miss nature of the process). Cleaning these systems is VERY difficult because the stuff that does get in isn't supposed to be able to get in in the first place and no allowance is made in the design to fix something that the manufacturer doesn't think is going to happen. These systems also rely on the surface tension of the rainfall to guide the water into your eavestroughs. Any debris at the edge will break that surface tension (as will a number of other things) causing the system to not function correctly at that point.