Question: I have a two-and-a-half-storey old house in River Heights and will be getting new eavestroughs. Some companies are recommending Alu-Rex gutter guards. What are your thoughts on this? I haven’t found anyone yet who has had them installed to get an honest idea if they are a good investment.
Thank you for your opinion on this,
Answer: Using gutter guards to protect your eavestroughs against easy blockage from excessive leaves and debris will depend on several factors, especially tree height and density near your home. While it may be a good option for many homeowners, the choice is essentially yours to make.
Gutter guards are simple devices designed to prevent excessive material from entering, and ultimately blocking, your eavestroughs. Most homeowners have experienced the pleasure of precariously standing on a ladder leaned against the eavestroughs, scooping out wet slop with a rubber glove or trowel. This is a chore that is a nuisance at best, or a perilous task at its worst. If the eavestroughs become blocked during a heavy rainstorm, they could prevent water from safely channelling away from the home through the downspouts. This would certainly cause the gutters to overflow, potentially allowing water intrusion through the foundation or other areas in the home. Nobody likes climbing a wet ladder during pouring rain to unplug an overflowing eavestrough.
I have been around long enough to see dozens of different styles and types of products that all claim to prevent debris entry into the troughs, without blocking up themselves. These range from sponge-like materials that sit inside the gutters, to modern perforated aluminum and silicone plates that sit on top of the troughs. Curved, plastic devices were popular a while ago, praised for their low cost and design, which prevented leaves from sitting on top. The problem with that design, as with all of these products, is that they are supposed to eliminate the need for manual cleaning of eavestroughs, but often prevent proper drainage when they become plugged. Unfortunately, I have not found any that don’t require periodic cleaning themselves, to prevent the exact problem they are designed to protect against. The key to choosing a proper product is to pick one that is both easy to clean and needs less frequent action for that task.
I am not familiar with the product you are considering, but most new models are simply flat, perforated aluminum planks, with slight grooves or bends to fit better onto the edges of eavestroughs. Most also have a flexible tongue on one side, designed to easily slide under the last row of shingles, which typically hang slightly into the troughs. These are often easily installed end-to-end in short sections, but many types must be mechanically fastened to prevent sliding or blowing off. That fastening is one other downside of these products, as they may have to be removed occasionally to clear any crap from the gutters that falls through the small perforations.
While most gutter guards will prevent the majority of debris entering the troughs, especially leaves from nearby trees, it will not stop all of it. A lot of material blowing through the air will sit directly on top of the guards, and may even stick and block the perforations designed to allow water to drain into the gutters. Pine and spruce needles, seeds and sap, especially, can easily adhere and plug up these devices, rendering them ineffective. To prevent that, climbing up on a ladder or the roof will still be required to clear them of debris. The better guards may be more easily cleaned than the inside of the eavestroughs, with a broom or a glove to wipe the surface or with a hose. That may be a significant consideration when making your decision, especially if you have lots of leafy, overhanging trees. In that case, a simple annual inspection and light cleaning may replace repeated scooping expeditions during the growing seasons.
The ultimate factors that may determine whether you spend the extra money on gutter guards, when upgrading your eavestroughs, are the abundance of overhanging trees and ease of cleaning. Since you have an older, 2½-storey home in a mature neighbourhood, it may be very difficult to clean your eavestroughs regularly, due to the height. For this reason, I would suspect that you would hire a professional to perform this dangerous task, at least for the highest points on your home. If that task is minimized to once a year by installing good trough protection, the savings may pay for the upgrades in a few years. You may choose to install these devices only in the troughs on the highest eaves on your home, and leave the lower ones open, if you can safely access them regularly with a short ladder.
Installing gutter guards, while upgrading your eavestroughs, may be a wise investment as long as you realize they are not maintenance-free. Also, it largely depends on the location and size of your home and the amount of leaves and other debris you regularly get inside the troughs. Ultimately, it is a personal choice, based on these factors, whether you spend the money to minimize the frequency of cleaning the eavestroughs to prevent blockage and overflowing issues.
Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and the past president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors — Manitoba (cahpi.mb.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.