Doing research on a gutter protection system on the internet without understanding strengths and limitations is like asking someone if they like food that grows on trees. If the answer is yes, you will get something that has a good chance of being round, but that’s about it.
The climate you live in should drive what you’re looking for in a gutter protection system — but first some of the preliminaries:
Do you want gutter protection installed on top of your existing gutters or do you want new gutters with a gutter protection on it? If you want that gutter protection on it, do you want it to be an all-in-one system or do you want a two piece system?
Step #1: Is your gutter pitched?. In cold weather climates you definitely want a pitched seamless aluminum gutter if you want to solve your problem. If your gutters are not pitched (and you can tell by putting a level on them — if they have 1/4 of the bubble past the line, they are pitched) then you need to get new gutters. If you are in a southern climate where there is no freezing and your gutter is not pitched, it may not be a crisis if you don’t mind pooling in your gutters which can cause excessive mosquitoes. You’ll also want to make sure that your gutters are pitched in the direction you need them pitched to get the water away from your home.
Step #2: Decide if impact resistance matters. I’ve seen some of these websites. I’ve watched the videos. They suck. Seriously, who is going to have 10 pounds weights dropped on their gutter protection system? They say they’re to simulate branches and airborne debris. Unless you’re living in a climate where fire and brimstone are raining down on you, this shouldn’t be an issue. If you can drop a baseball on it without damaging it, don’t worry about it.
Step #3: Does water freeze outside where you live? There is a new movement with gutter protection companies to use a screen, sometimes even surgical stainless steel micro mesh, to keep leaves out. If it’s made out of metal, guess what — it’s going to conduct cold right down to the edge. If it does that, ice is going to build up on it and water will go right to the edge, along with the leaves, instead of into the gutter. Some of the metal products that are pushed by these ratings websites seem strong, but you need to make sure it will perform in cold weather climates.
Step #4: Decide what kind of volume you need your gutter protection to accommodate. Just because it’s great for keeping leaves out, doesn’t mean it will help get water in. Insist on a presentation of a working model of the product. Use the kitchen sink test. Does more go over the top than into the gutter? If so, do you really think it’s going to do well on your house?
Step #5: Know if your friends or family have bee or wasp allergies. Yes, seriously. Many of the solid toppers on the market will be havens for bees. They can look great and even be color matched to your roof, but the protection they’re really giving is to nesting bees. If you put a solid topper on and ever want to replace it, most companies will charge extra because, regardless of how many cans of bee and wasp killer you use, they’re going to get stung unless they’re replacing them in cold weather.
Step #6: If you insist on a solid topper, sometimes called a reverse curve technology, make sure that you do not have a pitched gutter. This type of gutter protection is a typical width of 12 to 16 inches and the top is meant to be installed under the second shingle. If your gutter is pitched, the lowest part of the pitch will not be long enough to fit under the second shingle. The only way to adhere it is to put screws or nails right through your roof.
Step #5: Do you have ice dams? If you have excessive ice buildup on top of your gutters, and you have already fully ventilated your attic with baffles down to the soffit, you may want to consider a heater coil or a heater tape either on your gutter protection or in your gutter. In those cases, the solid toppers or the micro mesh aren’t a bad idea but only IF they allow for a heating element to be installed. But be forewarned — this is like running a small heater outside from the first frost through the spring thaw. There is an energy cost associate with going this route.
Step #6: Assess tree types near your home. All gutter toppers are not the same just as all trees are not the same. A gutter protection system that is perfectly fit for a house with a maple tree may be mostly ineffective or worthless if there are pine trees around your house.
Understanding installation: Many of these products require a specialized installation. If you are a DIY’er you may not want to tackle installing many of these products. If you do, you may find some of them buckle, bunch up, or gap dependent on the temperature outside. Do yourself a huge favor and have a professional install your gutter protection system.
Understanding price: I get this question fairly regularly. These products vary according to product, region, the amount of corners you have on your house, the overall footage. the type of installation and other factors. If a company throws you a price over the phone or gives you “a ballpark” quote without looking at the job, you should probably run the other way. But understand this, with gutter protection you often get what you pay for. You should expect to pay as much or more for gutter protection as you did for the gutters themselves. If you purchase the gutters and the gutter protection from the same professional, they may offer, or you may be able to negotiate, a little better price on a package deal.