Staying out of the gutter: Gutter guards can help eliminate debris. But will they take the place of regular cleaning?

May 29th, 2011 No comments

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April 08, 2011|By William Hageman Tribune Newspapers

It’s one of the rites of spring. And of fall too. Homeowners drag out the ladder and spend the better part of a day cleaning debris from their gutters.

One way to avoid the chore is to install gutter guards, products that keep leaves, twigs and other materials from settling in the gutter and causing clogs. The problem is, there are a lot of products on the market. And almost every sales pitch ends with “you’ll never have to clean your gutters again.”

“The more products they look at, the more confused they become,” says Johnathan Skardon, a gutter expert and blogger who has been in the business for almost 15 years. “They hear the same rhetoric from everybody — this is the best product on the market, and you’ll never have to clean your gutters. You need to do your due diligence, so a year from now you won’t be wondering why you bought that product.”

Skardon is the managing director of Gutter Guards Direct, a company that sells and installs four types, from an entry-level product to a high-grade system. He also writes the GutterTalk blog (guttertalkblog.com), which he fashions as a consumer guide.

“From my perspective, I’d rather educate homeowners on what the possibilities are, what the options are,” he says. “It’s something that’s really confusing.”

He says that one reason he started the blog was that the industry had not advanced much, and consumers were getting the same old products in addition to that same old sales pitch. Traditionally, that product was a solid gutter cover. But in the last 10 years, stainless steel micromesh screens have appeared and are gaining favor.

Here are three types of products aimed at keeping gutters clear. Some work well. Some work less well. In many cases, it depends on the type and number of trees around your home. In other cases it depends on the installation. Remember, do your due diligence.

Screens

Made of everything from surgical stainless steel mesh to PVC, they will all work to some degree. It depends on the size of the holes in the screen and how much flotsam and jetsam comes washing down your roof.

Plastic screens, aimed at do-it-yourselfers and priced at less than 50 cents a foot, tend to have larger holes, so more debris slips through. If your home is surrounded by trees, pine needles, oak tassels and maple helicopters can fit through and clog the gutter; so will accumulated granules from shingles. In addition, in the summer, a combination of debris and heat can make the screen collapse into the gutter, though that could be a reflection on faulty installation, not the product.

A smaller mesh screen will block more debris, of course. A medium size screen can be installed for $13 or $14 a foot, Skardon says. But the best screen systems are the mesh ones (there are several manufacturers). They keep even the smallest particles of shingle detritus out. These are not do-it-yourself projects; they’re available only through dealers. Installation fees plus the cost of materials and the manufacturing process bring the price to around $20 a foot, Skardon says.

Surface tension

These systems fit over the gutter; water runs over them and into the gutter, but the debris goes over the edge. It works on the principle of surface adhesion, Skardon says. Water goes from roof to shingle to gutter guard and rolls over it into the gutter. But that small opening for the water can also let in a small percentage of the debris.

Methods of installation vary. Virtually all snap on the edge of the gutter, and some types are fitted under the edge of the shingles, while others are attached to the fascia.

Skardon says $21 a foot (installed) is a typical price, but he has seen prices as high as $30 or $40 a foot quoted. He says that homeowners generally can negotiate those prices down significantly.

Gutter filters or inserts

Made of foam or a brush-like material, these trap debris and let the water in. Installation is relatively easy; sections are simply placed in the gutter. Priced at about $4 a foot, these products can be ineffective if a home is surrounded by a large number of debris-dropping trees.

Copyright 2011. Tribune Newspapers. Courtesy of Chicago Tribune.

Why Cleaning Your Gutters is a Top Priority this Spring

March 1st, 2011 2 comments
Gutter dislodged from facia boards by snow, ice and leaves

Gutter dislodged from facia boards by snow, ice and leaves

After another cold and snowy winter, the last thing you probably want to do this spring is climb your ladder to clean your gutters. Here are several reasons why this unpopular seasonal chore is vital to the well-being of a healthy home.

Gutters are the primary mechanism for moving water off a roof and away from a home’s foundation. This may not seem like a big deal, but one inch of rain washing off the roof of a typical 2,000 square foot home can account for as much as 1,200 gallons of water. Based on the average rainfall for many regions of the country, that adds up to nearly 32,000 gallons of water per year — enough water to fill 2 average sized swimming pools!

The #1 cause of flooded basements and foundation damage is clogged gutters. When gutters clog, water is unable to flow freely, which results in the gutters filling with water and cascading over the front and back edges of the gutter. Overflowing water will stream down a home’s exterior walls and seep into the ground below. If your home has a basement or crawl space, the water will find naturally occurring cracks in the foundation and enter the structure. If you have window wells, water can accumulate in the wells and seep through the window openings or broken seals around the window frames. As the ground becomes saturated, excess water will pool around the foundation until the ground can absorb it. The presence of excessive moisture around a foundation can lead to mold and mildew problems, which is costly to remediate, potentially hazardous to your home and health, and can adversely affect your home’s resale value.

Leaves and sticks clogging gutter

Leaves and sticks clogging gutter

If left unchecked, clogged gutters can cause wood rot on your home’s facia boards, soffits and eaves. When this occurs, gutters must be removed from your home so the damaged wood can be replaced. Clogged gutters are also a popular breeding ground for mosquitoes!

The simple way to avoid these problems is to clean your gutters on a regular basis or add gutter guards that will permanently keep leaves and debris out of your gutters.

Each homeowner will have a different cleaning schedule based on the number and type of trees, and proximity of the trees to the house. In some cases, you may have to clean your gutters monthly, while other homeowners only have to do it a few times a year. The easiest way to see if your gutters are clogged is to visually inspect them and watch what happens when it rains. If you see water spilling over the gutters, then you know they are clogged and need to take action. Check the gutters seasonally to make sure they are flowing properly.

The two most important times to check and clean gutters are during the spring and fall. As trees and shrubs blossom in the spring, they drop flowers, seeds, and other organic matter that can quickly build-up in and clog your gutters. You may have to clean your gutters several times during the spring to keep them flowing properly. When leaves shed from trees in the fall, plan to clean the gutters again. It is very important that you clean your gutters before winter; otherwise, snow and ice is more likely to build-up in your gutters. Accumulating snow and ice can cause icicles to form on your gutters, and the excessive weight of the wet, compacted leaves and debris with the ice and snow can literally pull the gutters off of your home.

Now that you are ready to clean your gutters, grab a step- or extension-ladder, a 3” paint scraper, a garden hose with a high pressure nozzle, and a pair of rubber gloves. If you are using an extension ladder, invest in a ladder stabilizer that will keep the ladder securely positioned on the side of your home and allow you to work freely without damaging the gutters.

Once the ladder is securely positioned, clean out the loose leaves and debris, and then use the paint scraper to remove smaller debris and shingle granules along the bottom of the gutter. Next, position the ladder at the high side of the gutter and wash out the gutters working towards the downspout. Once you reach the downspout, make sure that you have removed any remaining debris from the mouth of the downspout and shoot water down the downspout to ensure that debris is not restricting water flow. If the downspout is clogged, you may need to disconnect it in order to remove the debris.

Before scaling the side of our home to clean your gutters, keep in mind that according to U.S. government issued statistics, 150,000 people are injured as a result of falling off of ladders and more than 150 people are killed annually.

Professional installing gutter guards on home

Professional installing gutter guards on home

If hiring a professional seems like the more prudent way to keep your gutters clean, set-up an annual maintenance contract or consider installing gutter guards as an alternative to regular cleanings. Not all gutter guards work effectively, so it is important to select the correct style of gutter guard for your home. The quantity and types of trees in your yard, your roof’s slope, and shingle style will determine the application that is best for you. Price will undoubtedly play a factor, too. With so many products on the market, use the Internet to do your homework, ask to view the manufacturers’ warranties, and then select the solution that is best for you. Click here to locate qualified installers in your area.

Regular cleanings or installing gutter guards will keep your gutters clog-free, prevent costly damage to your home’s exterior and interior, and increase your home’s resale value.

Damn Ice Dams: Gutter Guard Snow and Ice Tests Continue

February 10th, 2011 8 comments
Gutter Rx perforated gutter guard

GutterRx sheds ice & snow

The most expansive winter storm on record has passed, electrical power has been restored, kids are back in school, and the trees and limbs that snapped like toothpicks under the weight of enveloping ice and snow are being cut up and hauled away to become next year’s firewood.

Even though most of us are tired of the snow and ice and yearn for warmer weather, it is clear that homeowners from Massachusetts to Texas are looking for a solution to ice dams. To learn about the causes of and remedies for ice dams, read our informative February 2010 blog article, “Let it Snow, Ice and Rain.

leaf relief gutter guard

Leaf Relief has most snow & ice accumulation

If you have been following our gutter guard testing and review videos on YouTube, you have seen that we are currently reviewing several gutter guards to understand how they perform in snow and ice during the winter months. For this installment, we shot photos of the gutter guards instead of video. To recap, we are testing micro mesh gutter screens by Leaf Solution, Leaf Filter, and Diamond Back; perforated metal screens from Leaf Relief and Gutter Rx; a plastic perforated screen from Amerimax, and a handful of expanded metal and aluminum screens. We also added open cell foam gutter inserts from GutterFill and Leaf Defier to the gutter guard review.

On a testing note, we shuffled the gutter guards around in an attempt to provide more accurate test results. Leaf Solution had greater exposure to the elements than LeafFilter, which was protected by a dormer that sits a few feet up the roof, so we moved Leaf Filter to a similar position as Leaf Solution on the opposite side of the dormer. We added foam gutter filters from GutterFill and Leaf Defier in LeafFilter’s former position.

Leaf Solution micro mesh screen

Little ice remains on Leaf Solution gutter guard

We also moved GutterRx to an outside position at the opposite end of the gutter from Leaf Solution, and we changed its orientation by sliding it under the first course of shingles. By installing Gutter Rx at an angle, it will be in contrast to Leaf Relief, which has to be installed flat in the gutter.

Since we last reported in January, this region has received more ice than snow, which, when combined with high winds, did a number on trees and power lines. While power was out for several days and uprooted trees dotted the landscape, the overall impact of ice on the gutter guards was negligible.

Here are our findings, one week after the onset of the ice and snow storm:

Leaf Solution High Flow micro mesh gutter guard

Leaf Solution High Flow free of ice and snow

• Virtually all the snow and ice had melted off of the Leaf Solution micro mesh gutter guard. There was a very small amount of ice remaining in one area on the gutter guard surface, but the majority of the surface had no snow or ice on it. Since the gutter guard was installed under the shingles, the slope is significant enough that snow and ice melted more quickly because it had more exposure to the sun than gutter guards that were positioned flat or nearly flat in the gutter.

Leaf Solution High Flow micro mesh gutter guard was ice and snow free. Also installed under the shingles, and incorporating a larger weave screen than the standard Leaf Solution, melting snow and ice had no trouble passing through the screen into the gutter.

GutterFill gutter filter

GutterFill gutter filter with snow & ice sitting on top surface

• New additions to the test, GutterFill and Leaf Defier had a 3/8″ to one-half inch layer of ice sitting on top of the gutter filters. The ice spanned the length of the gutter filters, and covered the majority of the top surface area.

LeafFilter had a 3/4″ to one-inch layer of snow and ice that covered the entire length and width of the gutter screen surface. Since LeafFilter sits within the gutter rather than under the shingles, its slope is not as steep as Leaf Solution, so the snow and ice accumulated and was slower to melt off the screen.

Leaf Relief is still recovering from the last round of snow, as additional snow and ice collected on the surface area–encroaching on the asphalt shingles. Since Leaf Relief was installed flat in the gutter, it has accumulated the most snow and ice, which is melting more slowly than the other gutter guards.

Leaf Filter micro mesh gutter screen

LeafFilter screen hidden under ice and snow

• The black diamond pattern expanded metal gutter screen was free of snow and ice after one week. What had melted off the surface had either washed through or refroze inside the gutters. Its black paint scheme and porous surface helps snow and ice melt more quickly from the surface.

Amerimax 86270 is holding its own. The plastic screen hasn’t collapsed under the weight of ice and snow, and most of the ice had melted off of its white, reflective surface.

• The snow and ice on the Diamondback micro mesh screen had mostly melted. You can see in the picture that there is some remaining slushy ice resting between the roof shingles and the gutter guard. You can also see the water pattern on the screen that shows it is mostly wet. At the time we took the photos, it was snowing, so the snow had melted on the screen surface and filled the small openings.

Expanded metal gutter guard

Expanded metal gutter guard is ice free

LeaFree was clear of any snow and ice at this point in the test and was operating normally.

GutterRx was also free of snow and ice in our latest test. In the previous test, when Gutter Rx was installed flat in the gutters, it had accumulated a fair bit of snow and ice on its surface. Since moving and reinstalling it at the same pitch as the roof, this gutter guard shed all of the ice and snow off of its surface.

Conclusion
Top performers in this snow and ice test were Leaf Solution High Flow, the black expanded metal screen, LeaFree and GutterRx gutter guards because they were completely free of ice and snow one week after the storm. All the other gutter guards had a nominal to significant amount of snow and ice remaining on the top surfaces. The bottom performers, with the most snow and ice remaining on the gutter guard surfaces, were Leaf Relief and LeafFilter. These two products reside within in the gutter opening rather than under the shingles. LeafFilter has a gentle built-in slope and Leaf Relief is completely flat, resulting in the most snow and ice accumulation.

Gutter Guards Snow and Ice Video Review

January 25th, 2011 No comments

We have a pretty good sense about how gutter guards perform during the spring, summer and fall, but how do they stand up in the winter when temperatures drop below freezing and it’s snowing outside? Do gutter guards produce icicles? Will gutter guards collapse under the weight of snow and ice? Are exposed gutters less susceptible to the build-up of snow and ice than gutters that have gutter guards installed?

I spent time recently looking into these issues and recorded my experiences in a series of YouTube videos.

We tested micro mesh gutter guards from Leaf Solution, LeafFilter and Diamondback; a solid/reverse curve gutter guard from LeaFree; Amerimax’s popular plastic diamond pattern screen (model #86270); two perforated aluminum gutter screens from Leaf Relief and GutterRx, and a generic expanded metal screen. We also kept a portion of the gutter exposed to the elements to see how it would compare to the tested gutter guards.

Watch the videos in sequence to see how the gutter guards perform!

Testing Gutter Guards in Snow and Ice Introduction

Installing Gutter Guards for Snow and Ice Test

Gutter Guards Tested with Snow and Ice Loads

Gutter Guard Snow and Ice Test Results

We will keep the gutter guards installed for the winter, and will post updates and new videos when conditions change.

Will Perforated Gutter Guard Screens Keep Debris Out of Your Gutters?

November 30th, 2010 1 comment

I recently received an inquiry from a homeowner in California with the following questions:

I’m considering installing a Perforated Metal Gutter Guard on my home gutters. I have a wood shake roof and trees with leaves but no pine needles.

Q. Do I need to be concerned about debri[s] getting through the holes?

A. Absolutely. The measure of a gutter guard’s effectiveness will be the warranty provided by the manufacturer. Some products offer warranties on the material only and nothing on performance, while others offer it on performance and material. I would select a gutter guard from a manufacturer that includes a performance warranty. That pretty much rules out products from Home Depot and Lowe’s, and will require you to seek products from building supply distributors such as ABC, Lansing, Norandex, etc. If a product has a performance warranty, then that means the product has either been tested to show that it won’t clog or the manufacturer is so confindent in their product that its failure rate will be extremely low. Performance warranties are either going to mean that the gutters will be professionally cleaned at the manufacturer’s expense if they clog or they will offer a money-back guarantee.

Q. Will organic matter get through the perforated holes and turn into muck and and evenatully clog my drain several years from now?

Manufacturers of perforated metal gutter guards and gutter screens believe that the amount of debris that enters the gutter will not cause the gutters to clog. Most clogs are caused by leaves and debris blocking the mouth of the downspout, so while these products will allow some debris to enter, the right product will probably keep enough debris out that it won’t clog. There are plenty of screens that will clog, so this is by no means a blanket statement to say that none of these products will clog. If this is a concern, make sure to select a product with a performance guarantee.

Q. If muck does develop inside the gutter, do I need to remove? What is the best way to remove the muck inside gutter guards that have been screwed on?

A. It really depends on the severity of the problem. First off, make sure that your gutters have been thoroughly cleaned and hosed out before installing a gutter protection system. All too often, we see gutters that were not properly cleaned, and the organic matter that was left behind caused a problem down the road. If your gutters clog after installing the new gutter guards, then you know the guards aren’t working, and you’ll need to invest in a better brand.

If you are okay with occasionally cleaning your gutters by installing a screen that will allow debris penetration, then I would recommend using a hose with a high-pressure nozzle and spraying out the gutters. Start at the high end of the gutter — away from the downspout — and push the debris towards the downspout. Most debris will wash through down the downspout, but if anything gets lodged at the downspout mouth, remove the section(s) near the downspout and clean that area by hand. Then stick the hose into the downspout and push any remaining debris through the downspout. If the downspout goes into an underground drainage system, you’ll want to intercept the debris before it goes underground either by catching it while it’s still in the gutter or by removing a section of the downspout at ground level.

Q. Can wood shakes be damaged by inserting the gutter guard under the shake?

It depends on the age and condition of the shingles, how tightly they fit against the roof sheathing, and where they are nailed in relation to the roof edge. The best way to find out is to try to insert the gutter guards in a couple of places to see how they fit. I would pick a spot that has the biggest drop from the roof line to the edge of the gutter. Generally, this is the area closest to the downspout. While asphalt shingles are pliable, any sigificant upward pressure on shakes could cause them to break or wear prematurely. Alternatively, there are gutter guards that are installed within the gutter only and do not slide under the shingles. Two popular brands are Gutter RX by GP Industries and Leaf Relief by Alcoa Aluminum.

Both GutterRX and Leaf Relief are designed to sit within the gutter opening, which means that they don’t slide under the shingles; however, Gutter RX can also be installed at an angle in many applications, so this offers a distinct advantage over Leaf Relief, which has to be installed flat in the gutter in order to work. One caveat to this is that if roof shingles — primarily asphalt shingles — curl into the gutter, it will be difficult to install Gutter RX at an angle due to the downward pressure from the shingles.

I’m a fan of GutterRX. It’s affordable — we sell it — and it is easy to install. It includes a 20-year no clog warranty in which the manufacturer will pay to have your gutters cleaned if they clog. Leaf Relief comes in 10-foot lengths, so it can be difficult to work with. It has a 10-year money back warranty that is prorated in years 6-10.

Consumer Reports Reviews Gutter Guards: LeafFilter & GutterGlove are Top Picks

August 4th, 2010 10 comments

After years of requests and complaints from Consumer Reports magazine readers, subscribers will be pleased to see that this non-profit product rating organization has finally tested and reported on nearly 20 professional-grade and do-it-yourself gutter guards. Check out the following video to learn more:

It’s no surprise to us that the micro-mesh gutter guard systems from LeafFilter and GutterGlove were top picks. We have found these systems to be superior to solid surface gutter guards both in their ability to handle water and keep leaves and debris out of gutters. (See our July 2009 review)

What we found shocking was that Consumer Reports recommended inexpensive Amerimax gutter screens available at Home Depot, Lowe’s and other home improvement stores as a viable alternative. In fairness to Consumer Reports, it appears from the video above that its test environment wasn’t overly rigorous, which may explain the products’ favorable results. I believe most homeowners who are in the market would agree that the flimsy plastic and metal screens available for under a buck-a-foot are, at best, a Band-Aid approach to solving gutter clogging problems. Any meaningful amount of leaves and debris accumulating on top of these screens and within the gutters will render them useless or more trouble than they’re worth within a relatively short span of time.

Only in America would somebody be able to pass off what amounts to a triangular sponge and oversized pipe-cleaners as gutter protection systems. It surprises me everytime I run into homeowners who believe these products are possible good solutions. It was obvious to Consumer Reports that the foam and pipe cleaner-like inserts are not worth the money or the hassle, so maybe this “official voice” of consumer products reviews will serve as a warning to homeowners across the land to stop buying this stuff!

We receive a lot of inquiries asking about the cost to have professional-grade gutter guards installed on homes. According to Consumer Reports, the average home has 160 feet of gutter and the cost for a professionally installed system ranges between $3,000 and $5,000. In rough dollars, that puts the installed cost at $19-$31 per foot. For that you will receive a lifetime no-clog guarantee and product warranty in addition to having your gutters cleaned and adjusted before the products are installed. In our experience, those costs are on the high side; however, we have also heard of instances where gutter guard dealers attempt to charge as much as $40 per foot! It would be interesting to see if Consumer Reports negotiated the prices they paid or if they simply agreed to the retail prices suggested by the dealers. Generally you should be able to get the top-rated products $15-$20 per foot installed. Prices are going to vary based on the size of your home, how many levels it has, and the level of competition in your market.

To see the results, go to ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports Tests Gutters Guards in September 2010 Issue

August 4th, 2010 No comments

Editor note: The following is a copy of Consumer Reports press release announcing its first-ever testing of gutter guard systems. We removed the section summarizing leaf blowers from the press release.

Consumer Reports Finds Lower Prices and Comparable Performance on Leaf Blowers and Gutter Guards in Time for Fall Spruce Ups

Strong Selection for Shoppers Ranging From DIY Gutter Systems and Top Electric Leaf Blowers

YONKERS, N.Y., Aug. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The latest issue of Consumer Reports rates the best leaf blowers and gutter guards to ensure that yards and rain gutters are tidy for the Fall season. More than 2,600 pounds of leaves were blown away by testers to reveal a $60 Toro electric leaf blower that performed comparably to the more powerful and costly gas blowers. Gutter guards were exposed to 480 days of outdoor elements and the Amerimax gutter guards were a top pick for do-it-yourselfers. At .30 cents per foot they beat out many professional installed systems and could save homeowners cash.

“Consumers will find lots of confusing promises out there for leaf blowers and gutter guards,” said Bob Markovich, senior home editor for Consumer Reports. “We found several top-value blowers for both small and larger properties. And we found some big differences in gutter guards when it came to keeping out leaves—and keeping water where it belongs.”

The full report, which features the full ratings on gutter guards and leaf blowers, appears in the September issue of Consumer Reports and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Gutter Guards: DIY Systems Beat the Pros

Consumer Reports ran 16 months of outdoor testing to find the best systems to keep gutters leaf free and found that a low-priced screen may be all it takes. Tests included professionally installed and do-it-yourself products sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other major retailers to see how well they kept out maple leaves, pine needles, and other gutter-cloggers.

Consumer Reports testers saw some big differences among types of systems. Most professionally installed systems often use a surface-tension design, where water is supposed to cling to the surface and flow into the gutters while leaves pass over and fall to the ground. Though all were impressive at shedding debris, even the top-scoring LeafFilter screen was only middling at containing a severe downpour.

If homeowners want convenience it will cost them. At $20 to $30 per foot, the professionally installed systems tested would cost $3,000 to $5,000 for roughly 160 feet needed on an average-sized home. But homeowners will pay less than $100 if they install the CR Best Buy Amerimax 85198 or 854054 themselves. They’ll still save a bundled if they add in the roughly $100 to $500 a contractor will change to put in a do-it-yourself system.

Most do-it-yourself gutters guards were easy to install although it’s likely to require climbing on a ladder—a dangerous activity. For inserts, simply cut the foam or bend the brush and press it into the gutter. But none of the inserts were good at keeping out debris. The Raingo RW115 let water pour out over the sides of the gutter.

How to Choose

Inspect the rest of the gutters. Have a pro check for clogs, corrosion, broken fasteners, proper pitch, and gaps between connections and between gutters and fascia boards. The LeafGuard and K-Guard are all-in-one systems that include the gutters and guards, an option if existing gutters are worn.

Pick the right screen. Fine-mesh screens like the top-scoring LeafFilter and Gutterglove Pro outperformed screens with larger holes. But the Gutterglove was relatively pricey and hard to install and isn’t meant for flat or gambrel roofs.

Check the fine print. Be sure that any system won’t void a roof or gutter warranty. Also check suggested maintenance. LeafFilter may need brushing in high-pollen areas and Amerimax must be checked for debris; both of those steps mean climbing a ladder or calling a pro.

Play it safe. Ladder injuries are linked to approximately 200 to 300 deaths and an estimated 200,000 emergency-room visits each year. Use a sturdy Type 1A extension ladder made of fiberglass if working near electrical lines. Always face the ladder when climbing and descending and never go beyond the highest recommended step or reach more than 1 foot to either side of the ladder.

SEPTEMBER 2010
Consumers Union 2010.
SOURCE Consumer Reports
http://www.consumerreports.org

It is Time for a Better Mousetrap!

July 21st, 2010 No comments

I like to build companies from scratch. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment! If you have ever done it, you know how gratifying it can be. If you haven’t done it, I encourage you to try it someday. It’s hard but rewarding. It’s much easier to accept a job at an established company, buy into a franchise with a proven concept and customer base, or spin-off a hot product or service to form a new company. While there are aspects of this that are appealing, I’ve always enjoyed being the inventor, the creator, the guy who dreamed up the idea, built the product, technology or service and took it to market. The risks can be great, but so can the rewards. And it’s not just about money. It’s the idea of helping people, making a positive impact, being creative, resourceful, and solving problems that create many of the rewards.

So what does this have to do with gutter guards?

In 1996, I developed a Web site called GutterGuard.com. E-commerce was in its infancy. Ebay was just a year old. Google didn’t exist, and Amazon was figuring out how to sell books online. GutterGuard.com was a hobby, a sideline business, a way to earn extra income. We started out selling a gutter guard to homeowners across the U.S. and Canada. The site came along at a time when you could build it and they would come! There were only a handful of gutter guard companies in existence: GutterHelmet, Englert’s LeafGuard, Crane Plastics’ WaterFall, and a few others. In order for homeowners to access products from these companies, they had to agree to have them installed by dealers at a cost of $15, $20 or even $30 per foot. We thought this was outrageous. Our product, Cinch, now called “Solid Gutter Cover,” was a deal by comparison at $1.25 per foot. Homeowners would call and email us, they’d place orders online and by phone. We’d box the product in whatever quantities they wanted and ship it to them via UPS. We believed in the product so much, we gave homeowners 30-days to test and return it if they weren’t happy. If it didn’t rain for a while, we’d extend the return period until the first heavy rain. We knew the product worked and ultimately so did the homeowners who purchased the gutter guards from us.

During that same time, we began installing Cinch gutter guards on homes. We spent a lot of time on ladders and rooftops. We cleaned miles of gutter, and we installed a lot of product. We became subject matter experts very quickly. All of a sudden, we knew more about the gutter guards than the inventor who was a friend of ours. We would provide him with feedback and suggestions about how he could improve the product and grow the market. I remember sitting on the roof with my partner saying, ‘if we did this or that to this product, it would be a lot better.’ It’s been interesting to see so many products come onto the market. It appears that a lot of products have entered the market in much the same way we dreamed up improvements to the product we were selling and installing. Essentially, there have been a lot of “better mousetraps” developed. Some have been created by big corporations and many have been invented by gutter installers and frustrated homeowners. Many more gutter guards have been designed and patented than are on the market, and rightfully so because some designs are quirky and should never make it onto a production line.

What’s most interesting is that designs are mostly evolutionary and not very revolutionary. The first solid surface gutter guard, AKA reverse curve gutter guard was invented and patented in 1908 — 102 years ago! The same basic concept dominates the market today. You’ll find it in GutterHelmet and LeafGuard, Gutter Guardian and others. In 2003, LeafFilter was invented by Edward Higginbotham. Perhaps the first revolution in the industry in nearly 100 years, it was the biggest step towards creating the next generation gutter guard. Homeowners have responded positively since micromesh gutter guards entered the market. They do a better job keeping leaves and debris out of gutters. Higginbotham’s invention spawned a series of micro mesh gutter guards being developed from the likes of GutterGlove, Leaf Solution, and Mastershield (another Higginbotham design). I’ve tested and reviewed most of the micromesh screens, and they perform similarly well. Each has its pros and cons, but it’s the cons that bug me. I find myself asking rhetorically, “Why did they do that?” and the best answer I can come up with is that they didn’t know any better. Yet, these products sell like hot-cakes.

Why?

Perhaps homeowners are desperate for a solution that actually works — one that lives up to its promises and price-tag. They’re willing to “give it a shot” to see if this solution will be better than the last one they installed or the one their neighbors selected. And so I feel like it’s time for yet another “better mousetrap.”

My quest for a better mousetrap began in January 2008 — twelve years after I started GutterGuard.com. I woke up one morning and began sketching ideas for a new “revolutionary” gutter guard design — something the market had never seen before. I made a bunch of sketches, added notes and captions so I would remember the reasoning behind my inspiration; I dated the drawings and stuck the loose sheets of paper in my bedside table drawer. There they sat until June 2009 when I located and reviewed the drawings. What I found were nuggets of good ideas. As I learned more about other gutter guards on the market, I refined my ideas into something that I thought would work and be a winner in the marketplace. I listened to homeowners problems, I spent a lot of time analyzing other products, and I came to the conclusion that I could indeed build a better mousetrap.

And so my journey began…

Barnett’s Valley Controller Prevents Water Overflow on Roof Valleys

March 30th, 2010 3 comments
barnetts valley controller

Barnett's Valley Controller

I have to admit, this was a bit of a fortuitous phone call. I was traveling when I received a phone call from Lynn Barnett, a retired gutter installer and inventor from Ohio. He was calling to tell me about his new invention that replaces splash guards on roof valleys. See splash guards are great for keeping water from spilling over at the base of a valley, but terrible for allowing leaves and debris to fall to the ground. What invariably happens is that leaves, sticks and other matter work its way down the valley and lodge behind the splash guard. This creates a damming effect, and before you know it, you have to climb your ladder to clean the debris out from behind the splash guard. If you don’t clean this area, leaves and debris will build-up onto the roof surface, clog gutters, and water will eventually overflow around the splash guards. It’s a mess, a nuisance, and contributes to wood rot and foundation damage.

The choice until now has been to keep the splash guards in place and occasionally clean this area or remove the splash guards, which will allow leaves and debris to flow off the roof surface, but allow water to do the same, especially if you have gutter guards in place. Since this area of the roof acts more like a river due to the convergence of two roof surfaces, the water flows down the valley at a high rate of speed. This has been a classic problem for most gutter guard manufacturers. Whether your gutter guards are made from a solid material — such as aluminum or plastic — or screen, the water flow rate can be more intense than the gutter guards allow. We’ve always given our clients the option of keeping or removing the splash guards. Sure, there are things we can do to slow the water down if we remove splash guards, but it requires customization that is time consuming and difficult to consistently implement.

Nobody has ever come up with a better solution to solve this problem, until now. As it turns out, the inventor and I were both in the same town on the day of his phone call. He was visiting potential distributors throughout the southeast and I was visiting prospective clients. We agreed to meet in a Shoney’s parking lot, and when I showed up, he was sitting on the back of his camper trailer awaiting my arrival. He had set-up his sample display and I asked him to give me his sales pitch.

It didn’t take me more than 30-seconds to see how this product was going to make homeowners across the land happier. It was one of those “a ha” moments when you think to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that.” And, believe me, I have thought plenty about how to solve this problem! So has Lynn Barnett. For Lynn, this was the culmination of being in the guttering industry for 31-years. His design, which he has been working on for five years, is slowly making it’s way onto wholesale distributor’s store shelves and may make an appearance in a gutter near you soon.

barnett's valley controller

"Cheese grater" style pattern collects water in roof valley

Here are the details about Barnett’s Valley Controller:

  • It incorporates a patented cheese-grater style top and louvered sidewall design. Water flows through the open slots into the gutter, and debris washes over the top of the surface and falls to the ground.
  • It’s made of Kostrate®, the same material as plastic water bottles.
  • The plastic is pliable, will stand up to sub-zero temperatures, and has a memory so that it can take and hold a shape.
  • It will fit on any asphalt shingle roof with or without a metal valley, and secures under the second course of shingles.
  • It’s guaranteed for 12-years, and can be painted with any acrylic paint to match your roof and gutters.

I liked the product so much, I said that I wanted to make it available directly to homeowners online. Here’s your chance to get a headstart and take care of this problem once and for all. If you have gutter guards on your home or are contemplating putting them on, this system will work with any style gutter guard. It’ll actually make your gutter guard system work better since it solves one of the most nagging issues for homeowners — excess water flow in valleys.

If you want to purchase Barnett’s Valley Controller online, we’re offering it for $24.99 with FREE shipping. Discounts are available for quantities of 3 or more. Go to http://bit.ly/9v3hz6 to order today. To watch a video on how the system works, go to http://bit.ly/aXSiF3.

Grow Tomatoes in Your Gutters The Hydroponics Way

March 16th, 2010 No comments

vertical harvest hydroponics farmWe recently supplied an upstart hydroponics farm in Santa Rosa, California with a large quantity of PVC gutters. When the customer called, he wanted just gutter, connectors, and plastic gutter guards to go on top of the gutters. He had no need for hangers, downspouts, and end caps — critical elements for installing PVC gutters on a home. Once I got to know him a bit, I asked what he was planning to do with the gutters, and he told me that he is going to grow tomatoes in them. While I am familiar with the concept of hydroponics gardening, I was curious to learn more, so I began exploring online, surprised to find that people all over the world are growing things in gutters. Gutters are such a great place to grow stuff we don’t want, so it’s no wonder that they’ve been adapted for food production. If you’d like to read more about this operation, Vertical Harvest, select the following link: http://bit.ly/aiIeXl.

hydroponics tomatoes growing in gutters

Tomato Plant Growing in Dallas Homeowner's Gutters

While researching the topic, I found an article in the Dallas Morning News from October 2009 that highlighted how a local resident — who had neglected her own garden — was surprised to find a large tomato plant growing in her gutter. I’ve included a photo and a link to the story if you want to read more @ http://bit.ly/bvTgPw.

Hydroponic gardening is opening an entirely new market for gutters and food production, and depending on which side of the gutter you’re standing, it’s either time to embrace it or scoop out the debris and cover up!