Home > Gutter Guards 101 > A Comparison: Micro Screen vs. Solid Surface Gutter Guards – Part Two

A Comparison: Micro Screen vs. Solid Surface Gutter Guards – Part Two

In Part One of our comparison, we tested micro screen gutter guards from LeafFilter, GutterGlove, Leaf Solution and DiamondBack. In the second half of our test, we’ll look at solid gutter covers from LeaFree, the Solid Gutter Cover that’s available at Home Depot, Lowe’s and hardware stores, and Elko’s GuttaPro. The products were selected because they represent three price points in the market. LeaFree is available from home improvement, roofing and gutter contractors, GuttaPro is also sold through a dealer channel, and the Solid Gutter Cover is a do-it-yourself gutter guard available at most home improvement retailers.

Solid surface gutter guards work similarly to one another by using surface adhesion/tension as the basic principle of physics. The premise behind the design of these products is that water adheres to the solid surface of the gutter guard and flows around a nose into a slot that is near the front edge of the gutter. The products have many different designs that purport to one up the next, but they all work in a very similar fashion. The easiest way to describe this is that the guards work in the same way as putting a drinking glass under running water: the water adheres to the glass and follows the curves until the water drops into the sink.

Now that you have a basic understanding of how solid surface gutter guards work, let’s jump into the reviews.

LeaFree Solid Gutter Guard

LeaFree Solid Gutter Guard

LeaFree – The most industrial strength of the solid surface gutter guards tested, LeaFree is made of heavy gauge aluminum and is available in several colors. The guard installs under the first course of shingles and goes into place relatively easily. LeaFree is secured to the gutter lip with sheet metal screws. The LeaFree profile is considerably higher than the other guards and screens we tested. The gutter guard has a channel that runs horizontal with each section at the rear of the guard. The top surface of the guard sits surprising flat, and the nose curves around to a relatively wide opening into the gutter. Prior to installing the guard, we thought the rear channel was the first point of contact with water that flows off the shingles; however, the channel actually sat under the shingles, and it appeared that this channel was in place more to stop the back-flow of water that occurs because the top of the guard was flat. If the top of the guard had a forward slope, then this addition channel would likely be unnecessary. 

LeaFree handled a decent amount of water, but as the flow increased under our downspout, approximately 20-30% of the water “missed” the nose and splashed over the edge of the gutter to the ground. By contrast, every micro-screen easily handled that amount of water and more without any spillage. Even though the top of the guard sits flat, shingle granules will wash off the guard without any problem. This issue is that shingle granules will easily enter into the gutter along with other debris.

Elko GuttaPro Gutter Guard

Elko GuttaPro Gutter Guard

 

Elko GuttaPro – GuttaPro and its sibling, GuttaGard, are touted by Elko as being an inexpensive aluminum gutter guard, and that pretty much fits the bill. GuttaPro is installed by dealers and contractors whereas GuttaGard is available for the do-it-yourself market. GuttaPro is a low-profile aluminum guard that slides under the first course of shingles and secures to the front edge of the gutter with metal brackets. The concept is straight-forward and the guards are easy to install. The gutter guards are available in a handful of colors. The metal brackets slide under the curve of the guard, which means that the nose sits less than an inch above the gutter lip whereas the top of the nose on LeaFree is approximately two inches above the gutter edge. Because the nose sits so low, it can handle a large percentage of the water when it was placed below our downspout. The angle of the guard was more consistent with the slope of the roof shingles, so the combination of the low-profile and angle allowed shingle granules to roll off the top of the guard. The drawbacks with this system are that because the nose sits as low as it does and it uses a rudimentary bracket to hold the guards in place, the opening into the gutter can vary and is hard to keep consistent along a run. The inconsistency in the gap opening and the fact that the nose sits behind the gutter edge, shingle granules and small debris will more easily enter the gutter. 

Solid Gutter Cover (formerly known as Cinch)

Solid Gutter Cover (formerly known as Cinch)

 

Solid Gutter Cover (formerly known as Cinch) – Readily available at your local big box home improvement retailer, Solid Gutter Cover is made of PVC and is available in white and clay, two of the most popular gutter colors. It’s not available in brown because the dark color is difficult to manufacture and maintain due to the amount of heat is absorbs once installed. As I have stated in other posts, I used to distribute this product to the do-it-yourself market years ago prior to it being available in home improvement stores, so I have a lot of familiarity with it. The core design has remained the same although the manufacturer has modified the nose over the years. Solid Gutter Cover is easy to install. It slips under the first course of shingles and hooks onto the gutter edge. Sheet metal screws can be added on the drip lip to hold the guards in place.

It maintains the same slope as the shingles and it sits lower than LeaFree and higher than Elko’s GuttaPro. The slots are consistently spaced across each section and were the smallest tested. The benefit is that it is more difficult for debris to enter the gutters, but it’s more likely that the slots will clog over time, especially in yards where the trees shed small leaves. Shingle granules will typically wash off the guards surface to the ground or into the gutter.

While it was easy to tell which of the micro screen gutter guards shed the most shingle granules, it was more difficult to decipher which of the solid gutter guards performed the best due to the concentrated nature of our tests. Based on the products’ design characteristics, Solid Gutter Cover will shed the granules the best followed by LeaFree. Elko’s GuttaPro will likely have the most granules enter the gutters.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a gutter protection system that will truly protect your gutters from debris while absorbing the most amount of water, micro screen gutter guards are the way to go. The micro screens handle considerably more water than the solid surface gutter guards; they have the lowest profile, and will NOT allow small debris such as shingle granules to enter your gutters. While some of the micro screens may hold some of the smaller debris on the screen surface — and may require an occasionally clearing off — water is still able to easily enter the gutters even during the heaviest downpours. 

It’s more likely that micro screen gutter guards will have to be installed by an authorized dealer, whereas two of the tested solid surface gutter guards can be purchased by do-it-yourselfers. The cost of best micro-screen gutter guards is comparable to the most popular solid surface gutter guards, while offering more comprehensive warranties and significantly enhanced performance.  

  • Arthur Veale

    I read both parts of your blog on gutter screens and fully understand the rainfall and debris debate. Has anything been tested for snow loads, ice dams, etc that happen in the great northwest?

    I usually have large ice dams form on my roof on the north facing side of the house. Will either micro screens or solid surface stand up to this abuse?

    I am planning on gutters this year and do not have any yet or any preconceptions.

    Thank you for your time.

    Arthur

  • http://www.GutterGuardsDirect.com Johnathan

    Arthur:

    Thanks for reading and for your questions. At this point, we haven’t conducted tests for snow loads, ice dams, etc.

    There is a good article written by a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, that details the causes of and possible remedies for ice dams. Interestingly, he says gutters are NOT the cause of ice dams, but thawing and freezing water in gutters can cause other problems. Here’s a link to the article: http://bct.nrc.umass.edu/index.php/publications/by-title/preventing-ice-dams/.

    Most professional-grade gutter guards are going to standup to the weight of snow and ice. By and large, the products are sturdy when installed correctly. If you opt for a do-it-yourself gutter guard, it’ll be easy to tell what’s going to standup to a lot of weight and what won’t. You should be able to get gutter guard samples before you buy — either online or from a sales rep — to determine which is the sturdiest. It may also be worth asking for references of other homeowners in your area who have had the guards installed on their home for a couple of years.

    Manufacturers are not going to warranty their products against ice dams. It’s too big of a liability issue, although I have seen inferences that certain products my lessen the impact of ice dams.

    The difference between micro screen/micro mesh and solid surface gutter guards is how water enters the gutters. In the case of micro screen gutter guards, water enters the gutters through thousands of tiny holes on the top-side of gutter guards, whereas water flows through open channels at the front edge of solid gutter covers. When snow falls on solid gutter covers, whatever doesn’t melt and stream into the gutter will settle on top of the gutters. It’s common to see icicles form along the front edge of the gutters since water thaws and freezes on the top side of the gutters rather than within. In my opinion, the primary benefit of the solid gutter covers, in this instance, is that the bulk of the snow is kept out of your gutters and will likely thaw and slide off the top of the covers more quickly than ice will thaw inside gutters.

    Assuming the small openings in the screens don’t freeze quickly, water will enter into the gutters from the top and drain. You’ll likely see less build-up above the screen than on the solid gutter guards because water can freely enter the gutters.

    Ultimately, I’m not sure you’re going to see a benefit of one type vs. another, assuming your gutters are equally clean. Water will be handled differently, but it’s still present in some capacity — either inside or on top of your gutters.

    In your case, I’d get the gutter guard that is most suitable for the types of trees that are in your yard. If you have pine and fir trees, you’ll definitely want a micro screen gutter guard because it will keep ALL debris out of your gutters. If debris enters your gutters, they will clog sooner or later and any water that backs-up in the winter will freeze and create an additional weight burden on your gutters. Be sure to ask the manufacturers what their experiences have been with snow and ice build-up and if their products are warranted against damage that may result from those conditions.

    I hope this helps.

    Take care,

    Johnathan

  • Bob

    I would like to see the cost comparison and what particular brands of microscreen you tested. They must have had a suggested retail list price. I have White Pine trees, ash, white oak and a sugar maple on various corners of my house which provide a nasty variety of small stuff which plugs a solid aluminum type leaf guard, and goes through the expanded aluminum mesh of other types. I’ve also tried the flat diamond plastic covers with poor results. I had a sample of Amerimax PVC gutter cover that seemed to work pretty well and was easy to remove for cleaning. Where can I buy a good quality micro-mesh for self installation?

  • Johnathan

    Bob:

    We tested LeafFilter, Leaf Solution, DiamondBack, and Gutter Glove micro screen gutter guards. You can read more about the micro mesh gutter guards in Part One of our comparison within this blog or by selecting the following link: http://guttertalkblog.com/?p=67.

    The micro mesh gutter guards we tested are available through a dealer-installation network, so I’d recommend that you visit the manufacturers Web sites at the links above to see if they have dealers in your area who may be willing to sell them directly to you. LeafFilter is available for purchase for the do-it-yourself market at GutterGuardsDirect.com. Retail prices are typically based on an installed price; however, if you were to purchase the gutter guards without installation, you’d likely be looking at $7-$10 per foot. While this is more than the price you’d pay for gutter guards sold at Home Depot or Lowe’s, it’s about one-half what you’d pay to have the dealers install them for you, so it represents a significant savings for the very best products on the market. For the price difference, you’ll receive professional-grade systems that are much more durable and of higher quality; they WILL keep leaves, pine needles and debris out of your gutters, it should keep you off the ladder for years to come, and the systems also include long-term product and performance warranties that store brands don’t offer.

    As you have found out with store brand gutter guards, they generally don’t work — especially the diamond pattern screens, which are the most common and most prone to failure. The guards are flimsy and the holes are so big that it’ll be just a matter of months before you’ll need to remove them to clean out your gutters. Amerimax’s PVC gutter guard that you mentioned is a vinyl version of a solid reverse curve gutter cover (formerly called Cinch), and it does a pretty good job. However, the opening into the gutter is relatively small, and is subject to clogging with small debris (see photo on blog), so you’ll have to clean debris out of the openings whenever they clog to ensure that water will continue to flow into the gutters. If you are leaning this direction, you may want to buy a handful of sections for your most trouble-prone areas and see how they perform before installing them on your entire house.

    Read our reviews of micro mesh gutter guards to select the product that will best suit your application or give us a call toll-free at 1.800.750.2131 x110 if you have anymore questions.

  • Brian Miller

    Any screen clogging from the sediment coming off the asphalt shingles? Or does that pass through?

  • http://www.GutterGuardsDirect.com Johnathan

    Thanks for your question, Brian. See our answer to your question in the blog post, “What’s the Scoop on Shingle Sediment?

  • http://GutterTalkBLog Gene

    I have large deciduous trees with large and small leaves around my house. How much can wet leaves be expected to adhere to LeafFilter’s screen?

  • http://www.GutterGuardsDirect.com Johnathan

    Deciduous trees such as Oaks and Maples drop leaves in the fall and Oak tassels and Maple seeds (helicopters) in the spring. As you know, this can really gum up your gutters if they don’t have protection, and the leaves and seed pods will lodge in cheap plastic and expanded metal gutter screens nearly instantly. The good news is the the leaves and debris from any tree will not negatively affect the performance of LeafFilter!

    LeafFilter is no more prone to debris sitting on top of it than any solid gutter cover. While LeafFilter sits on hidden hangers within the gutter, the product has a natural slope built into the design, and the installer or you can adjust the angle of the hidden hangers to provide an even greater slope. The slope of LeafFilter will closely mimic the roof angle if you elect to install it that way.

    The more subtle your roof slope, the more likely leaves and debris will collect on the roof surface and gutter guards. The good thing about the micro mesh screen is that it breathes. By that, I mean that air will circulate on top of and below any debris that collects on the gutter guards since the screen is porous and air can get underneath the debris to create an upward lift. This will actually dry the debris faster than a solid gutter cover, and it’s more likely anything that temporarily sticks to the surface will blow- or be pushed-off during a subsequent rain shower. There’s a chance that you’ll have to sweep some of the debris off the gutter guard surface on occasion, but it depends on other factors such as how much wind you get around your house. The windier it is and the steeper your roof pitch, the less likely you will have to intervene. If you do have to sweep off the surface, the stainless steel micro mesh screen is extremely durable and will stand up to a leaf blower or broom bristles.

    I hope this helps. If you are looking to install the LeafFilter yourself, visit GutterGuardsDirect.com where you can purchase LeafFilter directly online or, if you are looking for a dealer in your market, go to http://www.LeafFilter.com and select the “Where to Buy” link for a dealer near you.

  • Lynn

    I am looking a gutter guard for my concrete roof. After reading your blog, I am interested in LeafFilter. However, LeafFilter does not have dealer in northern California, and I and my husband have no experience installing gutter guard.
    Could I use LeafFilter for a concrete roof? Do I need to get a professional to install LeafFilter? Thank you!
    Lynn

  • http://www.GutterGuardsDirect.com Johnathan

    A concrete roof, eh?

    Go to the following link, http://gutterguardsdirect.com/contact_us/contact_us.php, to complete a form so I can get in touch with you. Once I get this info, I’ll follow-up with a couple of questions to determine if it’ll work, then I can mail a sample with instructions on how to install. It it works, we can help locate an installer in your area or can sell directly to you.

    Thanks for your question!

    Johnathan