Lots of roofers, builders, contractors and gutter companies installing Leaf Relief style gutter guards. You’ve likely seen the type: they are a flat piece of aluminum with punched round holes about the size of a paper hole punch in the base. They clip below the front lip of the gutter, forming a second trough below the lip. They’re supposed to keep out debris and let water through. Contractors like them because they’re very cheap and can be purchased at most building supply locations. They’re well used because they’re simple and convenient. There is typically is no warranty provided by the installer, so they put it in with no expectations and simply walk away.
But is the Leaf Relief style of gutter guard, now found manufactured by about half a dozen companies effective? Does the homeowner wind up with a system that they can rely on? Does it live up to the expectation that all debris is kept out and only water is let into the gutter?
Leaf Relief Style Gutter Guards: What to Expect
Leaf Relief style gutter guards are installed flat over the gutter. The mantra in our world is “FLAT IS BAD.” Flat creates a shelf and we know what we all do with shelves. We put books, trophies and other stuff on them where they’re not expected to move; it doesn’t bother us when this stuff gathers dust.
These systems can work satisfactorily at keeping out light debris like leaves, so long as the leaves are dry and have blown away before a rain. When leaves become wet, they change from crisp to soggy and can cover the holes in this style of gutter guard. This can cause water to get trapped over sections of a gutter and stop the water from flowing in. If a gutter can’t put water safely away from your home, it’s a recipe for water damage.
Pine and fir needles are small enough to get into the round holes of this type of system. In fact, they can stick out from each of the many holes, making the system difficult to clean without picking out the needles by hand.
The most troublesome time of year for Leaf Relief style gutter guards is the Spring, when trees begin to bud and drop lots of tiny pods, husks, seeds and the like to bloom. It’s this small debris that can quickly cover the trough created by the gutter guard. It can become a dense, virtually solid surface. This means the trough of your gutter moves up to this plane, rather than being 4-7 inches deep (depending on the gutter common to your area). Again, water is more likely to overflow because it can’t get through and into the gutter below.
Another side effect of sitting flat is the impact of roof shingles, which can often extend so far they cover half the gutter. This means half the gutter guard is lost under the shingle. Additionally, debris can get trapped under the shingle and sit there, decomposing. When it’s wet, it can wick water into your shingles from below. It can also start fascia rot if the wood is unprotected.
Pitch Perfect Gutter Guards
If Leaf Relief style gutter guards were designed to be pitched like your roof, they might actually work dramatically better. They could shed debris more effectively. Water could get in efficiently. They would still let debris in, but likely less than when installed flat. Airflow down the roof would do most of the hard work, meaning less maintenance for the homeowner.
We learned from experience why “Flat is Bad.” MasterShield could have been installed flat, but it’s the shelf-like effect of flat systems that lead inventor Alex Higginbotham to rethink the best way to install a gutter guard. While it means more work in the installation process compared to systems that are simply “lift and stick,” a pitched gutter guard means less maintenance long term for the homeowner. And that’s just about a perfect solution for anyone.