Keeping Your Gutters Flowing Free!
There are many ways to keep your gutters flowing free!
Face it.. there is a glut of rain gutter products on the market today designed to keep your gutters clear of debris and draining properly when it rains. The fact is that most of them do work but, depending on the style you choose, you will still have to maintain them... some more than others!
We are going to discuss the most common gutter alternatives. Please note that we are assuming your gutters and leaders are the correct size for your home and properly installed.
Plain, UNCOVERED gutters and downspouts (which are also known as "leaders")
As long as a gutter, outlet and downspout are clean and unobstructed, water will be collected by the gutter, drain into the downspout and be directed away from your building's foundation. Otherwise, the gutters will overflow causing flooding near the foundation and/or, depending on your roof design, leaks into your home or windows, especially if your home does not have a soffit overhang..
- Unless you live in an urban environment or a rural area without any nearby trees, your gutters will collect debris and they must be cleaned periodically.
- "Periodically" is completely dependent upon the "treed" environment!
- Few or no trees at all: Check and clean a minimum of once a year
- Moderate trees: Check and clean minimum 2x per year
- Heavily treed: Check often and clean each time gutter is filled with debris. This could be once or twice A WEEK when leaves are falling!
Install a cover product on your gutters
Although there are many gutter cover brands available, there are really only 2 types of gutter covers:
- Flat perforated screen cover that sits flat on top of the gutter.
- Solid "helmet" or reverse curve cover that slides under the bottom roof shingle, is screwed or snapped onto the top front of the gutter. This type of cover collects the water via a cutout near the edge of the gutter, essentially extending the roofline to the front edge of the gutter.
There are good covers and there are bad covers, but NO cover keeps everything out..
- Good covers are strong and will not crush in if, for example, a squirrel walks on it or a falling tree branch falls on it. Good covers are installed in a manner that they cannot blow off the gutter in high winds or be easily crushed into the gutter. Bad covers are flimsy and installed in a manner that they can actually blow off the gutter or crush into the gutter.
Good flat perforated covers can work well if they are maintained properly.
- They must be brushed off from time to time or the debris that sits on them will get wet, disintegrate and eventually clog the holes in the flat cover.
Good helmet or reverse curve gutter covers work very well but are not completely maintenance free.
The principal these helmets are based on is water adhesion, also called surface tension. Water flowing onto a this type of cover will adhere to the cover, adhere to the front curved part of the cover and flow into the gutter.
The video demonstration often used to sell these products is pouring water over the surface of the cover and watching the water "adhere" to the cover and flow into the gutter. Good, properly installed helmet type covers do work in most rains. However, as a practical matter, extremely heavy rains especially flowing down a valley in a roof may overflow a helmet type cover. This may be acceptable if heavy rains are infrequent because of the benefits of actually keeping most debris out of gutters.
Helmet cover maintenance:
- The cover itself and especially the "nose" (front curved portion) must be clean or covers will lose their "adhesion" capability.
- In many environments helmet covers may need little maintenance. However, in pineland treed environments, for example, maintenance is needed because the "sap" from pine needles sitting on helmet type covers will decrease the adhesion feature of the cover.
- Until the helmet is completely wet, adhesion may not occur. This means in a rain that is initially very heavy, water may overflow the helmet until it is completely wetted. The claim of helmet covers, which is essentially true, is that only small debris may get into the gutter and will be washed out with the next rain.
- This claim does beg the following question: Can the outlet hole in the gutter at the top of the downspout become clogged from debris getting into covered gutters? If the outlet becomes clogged, it cannot be seen because the helmet "closes" the gutter. This is definitely a problem because water will eventually overflow the gutter and the homeowner will not know of this problem until damage is done, and then it is too late. For example, bees or wasps get in under a helmet covered gutter and they build a beehive. The bees leave, the hive stays. This beehive could eventually clog the small standard outlet in this covered gutter. If this occurs a homeowner may not realize they have a water problem until it manifests itself as damage to their home, and then it is too late!
Install an "insert" product in a gutter
Another type of "cover" is a foam or wire type insert installed inside the gutter (graphic right). The theory is similar to flat screens (described above) in that the insert will let water through and keep debris out of the gutter.The top of these inserts are essentially flat when installed into a gutter. They must be brushed off from time to time or the debris that sits on them will disintegrate and eventually clog the foam or wire.
Install a "bulb-shaped" or "wedge-shaped" leaf strainer into the outlet of the gutter
If the outlet (hole in gutter at top of downspout) in a gutter is clear, water will always flow out of that gutter even if there is debris in the rest of the gutter. So, although these types of outlet devices seem to be a good idea to keep the outlet clean, they often quickly cause clogging at the outlet.
The reason a homeowner puts a device like this in their outlets is that she/he has noticed that leaves, twigs and all kinds of debris gets into their gutters, flow to and clog their outlets and downspouts. Although these devices may initially work, eventually they actually clog the outlet or the area where they are installed. This clogging occurs because these devices stop the debris at the outlets. The debris they stop then collects and collects and collects at the outlets. The debris gets wet and creates a dam. Debris clogs these devices rendering them useless. Too often they create an overflowing problem at or near the outlet.
How about NO GUTTERS, DOWNSPOUTS OR LEADERS AT ALL!
Although this may be a better solution than gutters that don't work, it is not a good solution for most houses and buildings. The reason most homes and buildings have rain gutters is that water is the enemy of all buildings. If water is not moved away from a building's foundation, over time that water canl cause damage to that building. This is especially true for homes or buildings with basements... especially older homes that do not have the advanced foundation waterproofing and drainage systems that newer homes have.
If you choose to remove all your gutters, then the rain water they would have captured and moved away from your house will adhere to your house (see helmets above for adhesion and capillary action of water). That water will flow down the side of your house, find a hole at a window or door or at the basement and, over time, cause expensive, even dangerous damage to your home and your landscaping.
There are areas in the country where gutters are not used and that's OK. The soffit overhangs are wide so water falls away from the side of the house and the house is built on a slab (no basement). The soil is sandy and absorbs the rain water very well. If you live in one of these areas, gutters may not be needed.
Gutter cleaning devices
There are many, many other devices on the market from vacuums, blowers and curved hoses to suck, blow or wash gutters clean. There are slatted type devices to disperse the water flowing off the roof. There are even motorized robots to move through the gutter and clean it. All of these devices along with all covers and inserts are really a testament to the fact that some homeowners and building owners will try almost anything to get rid of rain gutter problems.
A common sense alternative... introducing the "SpoutOff"
The actual solution to gutter blockages is simple: KEEP GUTTERS, OUTLETS AND DOWNSPOUTS CLEAN. If you do this, your gutters will always work. But because debris gets into gutters 24/7/365 it's impossible to keep gutters clean on a daily basis… The good news: It is also unnecessary to keep gutters clean on a daily basis.
The SpoutOff installed on all outlets and downspouts, retrofitted or new gutters
The SpoutOff (www.thespoutoff.com) SuperSized outlet is so big that virtually any debris that flows to the SpoutOff outlet will be flushed out of that gutter ensuring all outlets do not clog.
- This means water always flows out of your gutters when it rains, even if there is debris in the rest of the gutter.
- Further, because the SpoutOff is a removable downspout, anyone can check their 1, 2 even 3-story outlet in less than 1 minute, standing safely down on the ground.
- After installation, no ladder or tools are needed.
- So the day before a rain, all outlets can be checked. As long as outlets are clear, tomorrow's rain will flow away from your house.
- The SpoutOff can be retrofitted to present gutters that are in good condition.
- Inexpensive and effective!
- Debris will get into the gutters so, although gutters will always work when it rains because of the large SpoutOff outlet, gutters will have to be cleaned periodically.
- NOTE: For the most effective results, the SpoutOff should be installed with 3x4" downspouts. However, it can be used with 2x3" downspouts if you have aesthetic considerations that prevent the use of 3x4" downspouts.
A picture is worth a thousand words! Below you can see the comparison between the exit hole size of a standard gutter outlet and the SpoutOff. The oversized hole allows virtually anything less than a tree branch to exit through the gutter!
The combination of this specially designed outlet and the unique base assembly allows you to take down the entire leader without tools! In the event that there is a blockage, taking down the leader makes cleaning as easy as it possibly can be... especially if you have installed gutter covers!!
Visit TheSpoutOff.com for more information on this fine product, including a
and full installation instructions to see if this great invention can benefit you and your home!