Installing Amerimax's 4' Solid PVC Gutter Covers
A little supplement to their instructions... and some comments!!
A note from NH: I've written this article because I liked these gutter covers, but felt the instructions supplied by Amerimax were a little too vague. Most decent home handymen could work through the installation with their eyes closed , but for those who are a little hesitant to try this themselves, I thought I would try to clarify and expand on the "original". I'm not exactly endorsing Amerimax... it's the only brand that was available for me locally, via Home Depot and Lowes, but I'm thoroughly satisfied with the product. Hopefully this article will be helpful to you!! NH
A solid gutter cover you can install yourself... and afford!!
I'm sure you heard the advertisements for solid gutter covers and years of use have made it obvious that these are the best option for most homes to minimize the amount of debris that enters your gutters. I have installed (and removed... and cleaned) all forms of perforated gutter covers...both metal and plastic... over my 30 plus years of handymanship and have never found a design that would keep as much debris out of the gutters as this style of gutter cover!
But the "Cadillac" systems that are being sold are quite expensive and out of reach for most of us. This isn't because they are necessarily overpriced (though "shopping the price" is in order if you decide to go "pro"). The reason they are more expensive per linear foot is simply because they are (1) expensive aluminum, not PVC and (2) installed by a company that is paying its employees and not with "sweat equity"!
Do-it-yourself installation is the economical way to go, provided you are up to the job and have the right tools!
Why are vinyl gutter covers better for the do-it-yourselfer?
Vinyl covers are easy to handle, have no sharp edges to cut you during installation and can be installed with a few tools you can carry in your pockets (assuming you don't work in your underwear, that is!) No saws or special metal cutting tools necessary. PVC gutter guards are also light-weight, so you can carry a bunch up the ladder without breaking a sweat and they won't get seriously damaged if you drop them off the edge of the roof! Right... personal experience!!
Do they work as advertised?
I began thinking about writing this article two years ago, when I installed these on my home. There were three sections I could not install because the gutters were damaged (they won't clip properly on bent gutters), so I had to wait till I could replace the gutters to install the rest. It's a good thing I waited, because it gave me a better idea as to how well they worked year round in the Northeast, where you have not only leaves but ice dams to contend with. And in my opinion they more than passed the test!
Are they a permanent solution to blocked gutters, or will I have to still clean the gutters?
It would be a stretch to say that you'll never need to do any gutter cleaning. But the amount of cleaning should be minimal... a little touch-up cleaning every few years. I call it "touch-up" because all you would need to do it remove the gutter cover immediately over the downspout, remove any accumulation of stuff, let the gutter drain (if it's holding water) and replace the cover.
In my tips below I recommend a slight installation modification to make the occasional gutter cleaning a simple matter!
Are these covers right for all homes?
No. If your home has an abundance of "dirty" trees that drop huge amounts of needles and other stuff on your roof, gutter covers of any type may not be up for the job. Solid covers will still do a better job than screens, since screens catch an hold debris with a vengeance. I would suggest trying these covers on a section of your gutters as an experiment. They are inexpensive enough that, should they not solve your problems, you can throw them away and not lose any sleep!!
Of course, if your home is surrounded closely by trees, your home is at risk from all sorts of problems that go far beyond gutter blockages. Extreme shade promotes extra moisture which promotes mold and mildew growth both on the roof and within the walls. Asphalt shingle roof life is seriously decreased by attack from molds and moss. Keeping trees reasonably set back from the home will diminish gutter blockages as well as these other, more damaging potentialities!!
Installation tips and tricks
Here is my version of the installation process. This may vary slightly depending on your own situation.
1) Tools needed:
2) You can work from the roof and lean over (my personal preference) if you don't have problems with heights, or work from a ladder. Using a standoff on your ladder is ideal, or lean the ladder underneath the gutter if possible. (Again, your own home's design and the method of gutter hanging will determine the safest method.
The gutter guards extend slightly beyond the edge of the gutter when they snap into place, so they may hit the ladder. Also, it is very awkward to slide the gutter covers underneath the shingles with the ladder right in your face!
3) I prefer to start from the edge of the gutter furthest from the downspout and work towards the downspout. Be sure the gutter is clean when you start and, if it's the fall season when you're installing these (you procrastinator you!!), keep cleaning out the leaves as you go.
4) Place the gutter guard in the gutter across the support brackets or spikes and make location marks on the cover with your pencil. Transfer these marks to the locking edge underneath the guard and cut out a notch wide enough to allow the gutter guard to lock without hitting the support. I've tried this with three different types of hangers and they all seem to interfere with the locking mechanism, so do your trimming first.
5) Slide the gutter guard underneath the shingles. You may need to carefully bend the shingles up a bit to loosen them from the roof deck if they stick. Don't worry too much about any minor scuffs or tar marks on the gutter covers since you won't be able to see them from the ground. If these marks really bother you, a little mineral spirits (paint thinner) or lighter fluid (kerosene) will remove them without damaging the PVC.
6) Slide the gutter cover forward till the clip is near the front of the gutter. This is where I use the thin prybar. Slide it into the water collection opening at the end of the gutter guard near the last guard installed (or near the gutter end if it's your first) and nudge the cover forward till it snaps onto the gutter. You may have to do a little twisting (of the pry bar, not YOU, you dancin'' fool!). The gutter guards are flexible but sturdy so don't be afraid to use a little force till they snap in place. Move the prybar across the guard at about 6" intervals till the entire length is solidly clipped in place. It is a pretty definite "snap" for common aluminum gutters.
7) Repeat this installation process with more sections of solid cover untill you reach the other end of the gutter. The final piece may turn out to be short depending on the length of the gutter, so you might want to make a preliminary measurement and trim either the first piece installed or trim a little off a few sections near the end so the final piece isn't less than a foot or so in length.
8) THE FINAL PIECE IS YOUR EMERGENCY CLEANOUT!! In the event that the gutter becomes blocked, all you need to do is get to this last cover, remove it and clear the blockage. This is one example where gravity is your friend, causing stuff in the gutter to flow down to the downspout for easy cleanup!
Special installation considerations
Amerimax has recently added the installation suggestion that you overlap the guards at least 1-1/2". Click here for a copy of their instructions! Since my installation does not have any overlapping and has stood up fine, I can only assume that Amerimax has received some complaints about the covers sagging at the meeting edges. This is most likely to happen with wide 6" gutters, or if you have very heavy accumulations of tree droppings. I'll leave it to you to decide whether it's worth it taking the extra step!
Honestly, I think I may have overlapped them if I'd thought of it!
Be careful of your roof pitch and gutter height!
If you look at these covers, you'll notice that the front edge of the gutter cover is about 1" higher than the front of the gutter. So if you have a very low pitched roof, you must be sure that the top of the guard, when installed, slopes downward from the roof. Otherwise, under heavy rain conditions the water may backup under the shingles, leading to roof leaks or, over time, rot!
Also, if the gutter is installed very high under the roof edge, you might have this problem even if your roof has a good slope!
I suggest that, if you're in doubt, buy one section and try it out in a few areas before buying for the entire job.
Those open ends of the gutter covers may invite unwanted guests!
If your gutter floats off the edge of your roof, you will have openings at either or both ends of the covers. Birds (and occasionally insects) will love to make nests within the safe, secure environment you have been so generous to provide. If you don't want freeloaders living in your gutters, you need to close the ends up. Amerimax's instructions give you one option... score and bend the end pieces to close the ends.
I tried this method and, though it works, in some circumstances you might want to attach (as a separate piece) the end cover directly to the gutter either before or after the covers are installed. The advantage is that you don't have to fuss with the odd angles needs to make a neat fit (using Amerimax's recommendation, that is).
Again, this depends on the design of your home and the way your gutters are hung. In the example at the left, I used a piece of white aluminum flashing cut to fit into the gutter but attached to the frame of the roof rather than the gutter itself. You could also attach a waste piece of the PVC gutter cover instead, though the aluminum is a little more rigid. Your choice!
Amerimax's Solid PVC Gutter Cover is a quality alternative to perforated screens (even their own) and, overall, should require less maintenance over its lifespan. I am into my third fall season without a hint of blockage in any of my own gutters. I can't say that this is the gutter cover for you, but it is definitely worth looking at!