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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.

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

July 20th, 2009 10 comments

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.  

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

July 15th, 2009 7 comments

 

Over the past several months, I have been putting gutter guards through a basic test to see how much water they can handle and how they handle debris — small debris. The gutter guards were subjected to everything from light rain to torrential downpours. On one occasion, we had a rainstorm that dropped 3″ – 8″ of rainfall in several hours, with approximately 4″ rain in our test area. It’s fair to say that this was a good test environment to observe how these products handled water flow and small debris.

Here’s the scenario: 

* Gutter guards were placed below a downspout that feeds from an upper-roof onto a first floor roof surface with asphalt shingles. This is the sole downspout for a roof section that is approximately 300 square feet. The building on which the guards were tested is 3-stories. The downspout feeds from the 3rd story to a roof on the first story, so the flow rate is quite strong during a heavy rain. 

* I tested four micro-screen gutter guards and three solid surface (reverse curve) gutter guards that were interchanged in the area below the downspout opening. The micro screen gutter guards included LeafFilter, GutterGlove, Leaf Solution, and DiamondBack gutter covers. I compared these to solid surface (reverse curve) gutter guards from LeaFree (note one “f” not two), Elko GuttaPro and the solid vinyl gutter cover (formerly known as Cinch) available at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

* My interest was to learn how much water the gutter guards could handle and if there was a dramatic performance difference between the brands.

* I also wanted to see how they handled shingle granules. Why shingle granules? Primarily because granules are small and naturally separate from shingles. When shingle granules enter the gutters, they can impede the flow of water and any debris that flows into the gutter, ultimately causing clogs. Most homeowners don’t even think about shingle granules (aka “shingle grit”) as being an issue, but it is. 

* For this test, I didn’t care about leaves and larger debris. I’ll do future testing in a more conducive environment.

Here are my observations:

LeafFilter Micro Screen Gutter Guard

LeafFilter Micro Screen Gutter Guard

 

LeafFilter – The granddaddy of micro-screen gutter guards, LeafFilter features a PVC base with surgical grade stainless steel micro-screen insert. LeafFilter fits directly in the gutter as opposed to sliding under or sitting on top of the shingles. The product rests on top of the hidden hangers in the gutters. The concept is that since it is independent of the shingles, it’s not impacted if you decide to change your roof shingles in the future. It has a built-in slope to help coax debris off of its surface. The screen is 50-microns, which translates to approximately 8,100 holes per square inch. This is small enough to keep all debris — including shingle granules — out of your gutters.

LeafFilter handles water very well and, like the other micro screen gutter guards, it will handle considerably more water than solid surface gutter guards. In one of my tests, there was an upper-limit as to how much water it would handle, but the odds of you experiencing that amount of water during a typical storm is very unlikely. Coupled with the fact that the water flow was amplified many times since it was below a downspout carrying water off of 300 sq. ft. surface area — the manufacturer would recommend a more open screen for this area — you’ll be pleased with LeafFilter’s ability to absorb most water in most conditions.

On the design front, shingle granules don’t stand a chance of penetrating your gutters. A bead of caulk holds the screen into place at the top and bottom edge of the screen. This keeps the screen firmly in place and it also can help to act as a barrier to slow water at the bottom edge of the screen. Most shingle granules will wash off or be blown off the screen.  

GutterGlove Micro Screen Gutter Guard

GutterGlove Micro Screen Gutter Guard

 

 

 

GutterGlove – GutterGlove is the sturdiest gutter cover I tested and on the market, I suspect. GutterGlove, like LeafFilter, uses a micro screen of approximately 50 microns. It is made of rigid, heavy gauge aluminum with a stainless steel screen. The screen is attached at the top and bottom edges with a factory-applied bead of caulk. Gutter Glove slides under the first course of shingles. The angle of the gutter guard is dependent on the roof pitch. In our tests, its angle was probably 1-2 degrees steeper pitch than LeafFilter and virtually identical to Leaf Solution. 

While the test conditions for Gutter Glove were not as rigorous — it didn’t rain as hard while testing this product — I have no doubt that it will handle a comparable amount of water to LeafFilter and Leaf Solution gutter covers. What I found interesting, however, was that the screen is recessed approximately 1/8″ below the upper and lower edges of the guard’s frame. This creates a bit of a debris trap for small particles such as shingle granules. During my tests, the granules shifted around the screen, and after one strong thunderstorm, some of the granules and other small debris had washed off the screen, but more debris remained on Gutter Glove than I would have anticipated. While most small debris would have a chance of washing or blowing off LeafFilter, it’s more likely that one would have to hose off or sweep debris off GutterGlove based on its design. With that said, lingering shingle granules and pollen likely will not affect Gutter Glove’s performance over time.

 

Leaf Solution Micro Screen Gutter Guard

Leaf Solution Micro Screen Gutter Guard

 

Leaf Solution – An interesting design, Leaf Solution is made of a lighter grade aluminum — similar to gutters — with a stainless steel micro screen, and it slides under the first course of shingles. Leaf Solution uses a 50-micron screen and, unlike LeafFilter and GutterGlove, the screen and frame are integrated together so that no caulk is required to hold the screen in place. This provides the smoothest transition at the top and bottom edge of the screen. Leaf Solution throws in a few more design features with three “dips” within the screen to help slow water flow across the surface. While it’s an interesting idea, this design feature didn’t appear to offer any additional water handling capabilities in my tests, and it acts more as a debris trap than anything. Because of inconsistencies in the manufacturing process, the dips tend to have a bit more of a gap than the design likely called for, and it became an instant haven for shingle granules and other small debris. While you may not see this from street level, granules will fill the gaps; however, I didn’t see any evidence that this would impact Leaf Solution’s performance. On the other hand, if the gaps were supposed to add rigidity to the guard, it doesn’t work. Leaf Solution is the flimsiest of the micro screen guards tested. My primary concern is that if a falling branch lands on a section, it could easily damage or deform it, and it would have to be replaced.

DiamondBack Micro Screen Gutter Guard

DiamondBack Micro Screen Gutter Guard

 

 

 

DiamondBack Pine Screen – DiamondBack gutter guards are offered in many styles. I have tested a few, but for the purpose of this comparison, I selected the pine needle screen which is made of a stainless steel micro-screen. Not as tightly woven as LeafFilter, GutterGlove and Leaf Solution, it is still more than adequate to keep shingle granules out of your gutters. The fact that the screen is more open, it theoretically can handle more water than the other micro-screen products; however, the screen is wrapped around an open expanded metal frame, and this causes water to spill over the guards during heavy rains. Whereas the other products have closed PVC or aluminum frames, DiamondBack doesn’t offer the same level of protection so water has a tendency to pass through the openings towards the gutter lip.

DiamondBack rests in the gutter and sits on hidden hangers or the older spike and ferrule system. From a design perspective, it’s relatively easy to install. Simply squeeze the back and front of the metal base and lock it into position. The bad news is that this creates an arc in the middle of the screen with both a forward AND backward slope. This is an issue if your shingles do not encroach into the gutters. If the shingles do overlap into the gutters, then the shingles will cover up most of the backwards slope. If not, then this wouldn’t be a good option because debris would get trapped between your roof edge and the guards. The manufacturer does offer an alternative installation method which addresses this issue. Because of its expanded metal frame, DiamondBack is a very solid product, yet it is relatively easy to work with. Another concern is that the metal base has a tendency to rust when chipped or cut, and these rust spots can transfer to the stainless steel screen. I’m not sure how this will impact the product (it has a 20-year warranty) or it’s appearance over time, but it’s worth noting that the manufacturer suggests that installers use spray paint to cover any exposed metal areas during installation!

Results

The water handling capabilities of LeafFilter, GutterGlove and Leaf Solution were virtually identical. The common denominator was that each screen offered a very similar looking 50-micron screen (8,100 holes per square inch). Due to DiamondBack’s open design — all screen with no frame at the top or bottom — caused more water to spill over the gutters during heavy rain. This spillover was in the form of water dripping off the bottom of the gutter, and the amount of water varied based on the intensity of the rainfall.

The other tested factor was how well the gutter guards shed shingle granules. In this case, the nod goes to LeafFilter primarily because the screen sits flat against the base and the lip over which the granules need to roll off offers little resistance. On our gutters, DiamondBack performed similarly to LeafFilter since the shingles covered the back arc of the guard. The shingles provided enough coverage to allow for a forward slope towards the gutter’s edge; however, if you don’t have the benefit of shingles or a metal roof overlapping into the gutter, DiamondBack may prove to trap more debris between the roof edge and gutter than any of the tested products. Gutter Glove’s relatively high framework kept granules from easily rolling off the screen surface. Leaf Solution held the most granules on the screen surface because its three-dip design acts as much as a trap for the granules as it does a speed bump for water.  

Next up, solid surface gutter guards…