Simple Screen Gutter Guards Better Than Pro-Installed Systems (and way cheaper)
I love Consumer Reports’ subtitle to their evaluation of gutter guards – “Do-it-yourself systems beat the pros.”The results of the gutter guard testing appears in the September issue and confirms what I suspected; simple gutter screens work better at keeping leaves out and letting water into the gutter than the solid gutter caps with louvers along the front edge that are typically installed by dealer/installers. And when you compare the price – $20 to $30 per linear foot (installed) for the solid gutter caps vs. gutter screens that can be had for 30 cents per foot – it’s a no-brainer.Even if you hire someone to install an inexpensive gutter screen you can save thousands of dollars; plus the screens work better.
Simple gutter screens work best The gutter screens that seem to work best are models with a half-round crown shape. Metal screens hold their own crown shape and plastic ones lay over half-round clips to keep the crown form (photo). Two models from Amerimax were picked as ‘Best Buys’ by Consumer Reports. The diamond holes in the plastic and metal matrix are ¼ in. to 3/8 in. and have minimal solid web material in between.I suspect that the greater percentage of open area to material helps let the water enter easier during heavy rains.On the downside, the crown shape makes these gutter screens visible from the ground.
I installed flat plastic gutter screens on my house 12 years ago; the low profile can’t be seen from ground level (photo).I haven’t had to clean the gutters yet but during heavy thunderstorm downpours some water leaps over the gutter.I think the wider plastic matrix between holes reduces the amount of water that can filter through.
Solid gutter caps have an Achilles heel Solid gutter caps rely on the surface tension to get water into the louvers. Surface tension works fine when the rain is light (or on home show displays) but the force of heavy rain exceeds surface tension so the water cascades over the front edge rather than rolling around it and into the slots. Sure, most of the gutter caps do a good job at keeping the leaves out but if they only collect half the water – what’s the point – especially at a premium price tag.
Foam inserts are easy to install but debris piles up on top I installed samples of Owens Corning RapidFlow gutter foam inserts on one section of my gutters to see how they compared (photo).RapidFlow is similar to three models tested by Consumer Reports.They’re easy to install and run $4 – $5 per linear foot – more than ten times the cost of gutter screens.On the downside, I’ve found they collect fine debris on top that reduces how much water passes through the foam when it rains.Spruce needles, maple seeds and pieces of leaves lodge in the top of the foam and don’t blow off.
Flat gutter screen - 12 years of service
Crowned gutter screen performs best
Foam gutter insert is easy to install but collects small debris on top.