Advances in Gutter Guards

There have been many attempts over the years to create a better gutter guard. I am of the opinion that due to the nature of the task, with the constantly varying debris composition and the wide variety of roof applications to be matched with that a 100% perfect gutter guard will never be obtained.

That being said, there are new systems on the market that has taken the field of gutter protection to its highest point yet. These systems employ a metal micro-mesh to stop the debris but not the water from going into the gutter. In several areas, these system establish the higher standards to date. Ultimately, the measure of a gutter protection system is its efficacy and these new innovations so far are garnering reports of new levels of effectiveness.

A few years ago I found out that the most prevalent style of gutter protection at that time, the curved cover over the top of the gutters that uses surface tension to roll the rain water around the cover and into the gutter, was actually first patented back in 1908! If you go to the US patent office’s website and search for patent # 891405 for an “Eaves Trough” invented by George Cassens, you will see something that looks quite similar to all of the surface tension gutter covers available today. There is certainly nothing new about that technology!

The newest, and in my opinion, best approach today on gutter protection act more as a filter that a cover. There is no diversion of the flow of rain water away from the top of the gutter. Rather, the water is allowed to flow straight through the micro-mesh filter. Now simple gutter screens employ much of the same methodology and they have been around for years. Simple screens have never done a particularly good job of protecting gutters primarily because of the materials used and their design.

Being a price point item, the are usually made of plastic, which warps easily. Whether made of plastic or metal (as some are), their other deficiency has been that their design has had to allow for too large of holes in the screening to allow the water to flow through. The large hole size has also allowed much if the smaller tree debris to get through them, thus defeating the purpose of the screen in the first place. Much of the design issue comes back to the materials used – they simply could not maintain water permeability if the hole size was reduced.

Materials

Starting with the materials, the latest technology in gutter guards employ unique materials previously used in different industries and applications. From the bottom up, some have thick vinyl and others anodized aluminum channel frames. The vinyl offers flexibility and the aluminum offers the unique combination of strength and light weight. Additionally, the aluminum channel frames (as thick as.1 inch) are anodized to add corrosion resistance.

On top of their frames, these new gutter guards have a stainless steel micro-mesh screen. There are various alloys used by different brands. One of the best appears to be Alloy 316 which is far superior to 302 or 304 alloys in that it’s molybdenum-bearing austenitic stainless steel is much more resistant to corrosion and pitting. It also possess other enhanced properties that provide higher creep, stress-to-rupture and tensile strength.

Design

With the foundation set with sturdy materials, the next job in creating a better system was design. Elements for the homeowner to consider are how the micro-mesh attaches to the frame. Some systems with attach by crimping, others are sealed and yet others, both. Sometimes a system is only as good as it’s weakest link. Strong materials can be of no avail if there is a weak point of attachment.

Another critical design factor how a gutter guard system is designed to be installed. Some mesh guards employ a mounting that flat across the top of the gutter. While the benefit of this approach is increased invisibility from ground level, the flatter surface accumulates more debris. Others mounts at an angle matching or similar to the roof’s pitch, helping much more debris to naturally come off of the top of the system. Alternately, these will be more apparent from ground level.

While the filter concept can allow for the possible built up of debris on top of it, similar to the older gutter screen offers, one of the key differences appears to be the “slipperiness”, for lack of a better word, of the micro-mess. Being of a smooth metal and with openings so small that there are literally over a thousand per square inch, there is very little “grip” for debris to gain any traction on. Old style screens provided considerable grip for debris to get entangled with and stay put. With just a small amount of either angle or wind, most debris easily removes it self from micro-mesh systems.

Perspective

While this might be an unusual category to take into consideration when evaluating a product, it ends up being the most critical in this case. If you recall from the top of this article, no gutter protection system is 100% perfect. Yet that doesn’t stop most gutter guard brands from claiming their product is just that – perfect.

Homeowners should always look for a more honest perspective. A responsible company should always be willing to acknowledge that there can be unusual roof designs causing more rain water flow that any gutter could be expected to reasonably handle or point out the rare location were a little debris might tend to stay around on top of the system longer than in other spots. The better the overall capabilities, the easier it should be to willingly point these out. Usually, but not always, so be sure to ask the hard questions.