Should you cover your gutters?

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Oct. 17, 2013
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

Because I have chosen not to cover the gutters on my house, I have to put a ladder up against it twice each year, and perform a ritual of inspection and maintenance. This time of year I always find a few leaves, particularly at the ends where the drainpipes channel the rainwater. It's not a big deal for me.

If your house is small with few gutters that are not very high off the ground, it may not be an issue for you either. Inspecting the gutters each year gives you perspective to assess the condition of the roof, the eaves, the soffits and the flashing. I do it in the fall when the deciduous trees are naked and in early spring after winter has had its play.

There is also only one tree close to my house. My neighbors have settled their leaf problems by cutting down most of their trees. If I lived in a wooded area, I might reconsider. You should think not only about leaves, but also those wispy blossoms in the spring and the annoying little "helicopter" seed pods from maple trees. They are much smaller than leaves, but they can be just as effective at clogging gutters and drains.

I have done my homework on these solutions and looked at many, many alternatives. My local home store sells four options for covering gutters. These DIY products range in price from just under $5 to $1.97 per 3-foot section. Figure out what covering your gutters yourself might cost. Then think about the hours on the ladder. If you are undaunted, be sure to measure your gutters - the depth as well as the total length - before you go to the store. By the way, the four products serving the same purpose all came from the same company. That made me wonder whether any of them actually did the job, and, if so, how well.

If you need to keep pine or spruce needles out of the gutters, you might look for something with a fine mesh cover. Several of the solutions have fairly large holes to let in water, yet keep out leaves. Those won’t do the same for needles. Some products have a domed shape, while others are flat. There are coated metal options as well as nonmetallic.

There is still another solution, looking very much like a coarse sponge that keeps most material out of the gutter by filling it up. Water flows through the filter, but there is no room in the gutter for leaves and such. Minute debris, such as the granules from shingles and other similar size particles, can wash through the filter with the rain. This is probably easier to install for a DIYer than the others. But you will have to clean the accumulated debris off the filter, and take it out once in a while to thoroughly clean it.

Bear in mind the purpose of these products is to keep foreign matter out, so you don’t have to get on the ladder and do maintenance. None of these solutions - particularly the DIY options - are perfect in that sense.

If what you have read discourages you from doing it yourself, there are as many solutions from companies that install their own products. That automatically means it will cost you a lot more, but also that the installed product is more sophisticated and substantial.

Some of these professionally-installed solutions require that you replace your gutters with their product, because the cover is integrated with the gutter. Other systems fit between the first and second layer of shingles, and take the water flow directly onto a contoured cover. Leaves and other debris are diverted into the wind or onto the ground. Along with the cost comes commitment to a particular solution, which may or may not keep you off the ladder.


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