Posts Tagged ‘open cell gutter inserts’

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


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 (, 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.


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.

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.

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.

Flo-Free, Leaf Defier, GutterFill & Other Open Cell Gutter Inserts

September 27th, 2009 7 comments
Leaf Defier Open Cell Gutter Insert

Leaf Defier Open Cell Gutter Insert

Eric submitted an e-mail asking for my opinion about open cell gutter inserts. You’ve probably seen them at your local home show, home improvement store, or online. Maybe you have them installed on your home. They are black foam-like inserts that fit inside your gutter. By filling the cavity of your gutter, they prevent leaves and debris from entering the gutters, yet allow water to flow through. There are several brands on the market and they look remarkably similar to one another.

I was going to avoid writing about this style of gutter guard because I believe these products have design flaws that will render them ineffective over time, and I didn’t want to comment on them before I had a chance to test them. However, I’ve recently heard from people who are considering purchasing this style of protection for their homes, from homeowners who purchased and installed them, and from roofing and gutter contractors who have installed them in the past. Thanks to Eric’s questions, it’s time to write about open cell inserts.

I’m going on record to say that I have not tested these products yet, so my observations are based on my industry expertise, viewing the products, comments from dealers who have installed them, and homeowners who installed or had them installed on their homes.

The manufacturers claims that the open cell gutter inserts accept most-to-all water that drains off roofs, is a true statement, I believe — at least when the product is first installed. Since they’re relatively porous and will absorb water as it flows off the roof and down the valleys, they will most certainly work. Leaf Defier, GutterFill and a half-dozen look-a-likes are designed to fit in gutters like a wedge. Shaped like a right triangle (2 sides form a 90º angle, the third side is 45º), the narrow end of the wedge rests at the bottom of the gutter, and the wide end extends across the entire gutter opening, effectively sealing leaves and debris out of the gutters. As water flows off the roof, it lands on top of the porous material and drains through the cells into the gutter. Flo-Free Open Cell Gutter InsertFlo-Free incorporates a different design but the same drainage principle. Flo-Free is 3/4″ thick industrial-strength nylon, according to the manufacturer. One end of the product is designed to sit against the bottom of the gutter and the other end rests the back edge of the gutter, creating an upside down J-effect. Flo-free reminds me of a reusable furnace air filter or the colorful wiry round plastic pot and dish scrubbers, while Leaf Defier and GutterFill look more like the foam padding inserts that protect computers, TVs and audio systems.

The primary contention I have with the open cell gutter inserts is the product design. Most of the inserts look similar to a right triangle. Since the foam-like material is inserted inside the gutter, the area on which the water flows is flat, and it sits below the gutter lip, which will create a barrier that makes it difficult for small debris to wash off the surface. Hopefully, you see where I’m going. In order for a gutter guard to be effective at shedding debris, it needs to have an angle — essentially a downward slope from the back to the front of the gutter. With the exception of Flo-Free, these products have no slope; therefore, no ability to naturally shed the debris that is bound to land on the top surface. This is a significant problem because without a slope, it is likely that debris will not only collect, but will do so quickly. While some debris may blow or wash off the top surface, I suspect more debris than not will stick to the surface. When leaves get wet and dry, they have a tendency to bond together with other leaves and debris, which make it all the more likely that you’ll have to brush off the surface in order to dislodge the debris from the surface. While the manufacturers claim that pine needles will “roll off” the surface to the ground, I don’t buy it. Shingle granules will definitely not roll off the surface. If anything, they’ll lodge in the porous openings. Depending on the size of the cells, some granules may wash into the gutter like the manufacturers claim, but I believe that most will settle within the cells and the inserts will have to be removed from the gutters, cleaned and reinstalled on occasion. Even if these systems continue to allow water to get past the debris into the gutter, the fact that you’ll have to clean off the surface on a regular basis will likely outweigh the perceived benefits of the system. Flo-Free is arced across the gutter opening, so it looks like a dome. The good news is that the forward facing arc will help coax debris off the surface, but the rear-facing arc will cause debris to get stuck between the shingles and the peak of the arc. The only way you will avoid the rear-facing slope is if the shingles cover this area, in which case, Flo-Free may be the most effective of the open cell systems.

Let me tell you about three stories I have recently heard about these systems:

#1 — A homeowner in Seattle called telling me that he purchased open cell gutter inserts because he has a metal roof that limits the type of gutter guards he can install on his house; it was relatively inexpensive compared to professional grade gutter guards, and he could install them himself without special tools.

He said that pine needles build-up on the surface, which requires him to clean the surface, but his biggest complaint is that when the temperature drops below freezing, the water freezes within the cells and his gutters became like an ice tray.

#2 — A roofing company near Knoxville was asked by a customer to install Leaf Defier once they completed a roofing job. Within 2 weeks of the work being completed, the homeowner called the contractor asking them to remove the system because he was dissatisfied with the product’s performance. And the kicker was, since he made the mistake by selecting the product in the first place, he told the company that he would pay to have the gutter inserts removed.

#3 — A remodeling contractor in Chattanooga said that he installed the open cell inserts on his grandfather’s house, and his grandfather hasn’t forgiven him since! In fact, the contractor said that his grandfather used some choice words when he called his grandson telling him to remove gutter inserts from his house.

GutterFill Open Cell Gutter InsertI believe that open cell gutter inserts will keep leaves and most debris out of your gutters. I believe that water will be able to enter into your gutters freely for some period of time, but I believe over time that water flow will become restricted depending on how much debris lodges on top of and inside the inserts. I also believe that these systems have inherent design flaws will make them a higher maintenance solution than what most homeowners are willing to tolerate. While the cost of these systems is less than a typical solid gutter cover or micro-screen system, the cost savings will be offset by the higher upkeep and poorer performance over the life of the product. Considering two of the three homeowners cited in the stories above requested that the products be removed from their homes shortly after they were installed, I believe that it’s safe to say that unless you live in an area with very little debris affecting the performance of your gutters, steer clear of this option.