The gutters on our homes serve an important function, it directs rainwater and away from our homes siding and foundation, but they take time to properly maintain them. I’m sure many of us have dealt with the unpleasant task of cleaning out our gutters to keep the gutters free of clogs. This issue has sparked the creation of devices over time to prevent the debris from entering the gutters and clogging them. Your local home improvement store more than likely has a selection of them to “help” prevent this from occurring. You may see one piece that looks like a giant sponge to keep the water flowing through while preventing the debris from collecting in the bottom of the gutter, or a screen that can bridge the top of the gutters with an arch to it to prevent this same debris from entering, or you can contact companies that have designed different types of guards that fit on your existing gutters or have even designed an entire gutter which should prevent the debris from entering the gutter while allowing the melting snow or rainwater to enter into it with the debris falling to the ground. There are many different options, but which one is best? They all seem to claim to be the best.
After doing roofing for a number of years, I can say that certain types of these guards do as much harm as they do good. Some of these guards will cause the leaves and debris to pile up on top of them, creating a dam preventing the water from going into the gutter. This dam pushes the water backwards over the back of the gutter, onto the facial board and/or off the front of the gutter onto the siding and the foundation of the home. This can cause wood decay of the facial board, possible decay further into the soffit, gutters pulling away from the home due to decayed facial board and direct contact with the foundation. This can lead to water in the crawlspace, mold/mildew, attract insects including termites, but it can also damage the foundation. Water is the leading cause of foundational issues. These same things occur when there are no guards and are filled with debris. Neither are good options in my opinion.
To prevent this from occurring you need to clean out your gutters a couple times a year or do your research to find what is the best method to prevent any of this from happening. Check into every company and their products BEFORE you enter into an agreement with them. I’m not here to endorse any company or tell you which you should buy.
You should ask: How are these guards designed? Are they flat or are they sloped towards the front to aide in removal of any debris? Are they arched? How do they attach or installed onto the gutter? Do they have a screen or are they slotted or perforated? What is the material(s) used to in their construction? Do they use flashing or something to prevent water from flowing over the back side towards the home? Does it require replacement of your current gutters? What guarantee and warranty does it come with?
A screen will prevent the gravel of the shingles to enter the gutter, but small holes perforated into the guard will allow them to enter. This will add weight to the gutter possibly cause issues with the drainage especially if you have a French Drain system installed. Some products slide under the shingles and hang over to the edge of the existing gutters to prevent the debris from entering while directing the water into the gutter.
Making the decision to leave them open or protect the gutters from debris is your choice. You will spend time or money to keep the debris out of the gutters. How much depends on your choice to protect, or not to protect and if it is to protect what product do you chose to have installed? Choose Wisely my friend!