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Do Gutter Filters Work?


For years people have been exploring ideas on how to prevent rain gutters from collecting deposits of leaves and debris. Often driven by the desire to avoid the necessity of cleaning the gutters two, or three, or even four times a year, various different ideas have led to the creation of gutter guards, gutter covers, and gutter screens.


All of these devices are intended to capture or divert leaves, pine needles, tree flowers, twigs, and other debris away from the rain gutter while freely passing the water into the gutter. So, what are the problems that make these devices less than perfect?


Gutter screens are not like the window screens you use to keep out flies and mosquitoes. These screens have large, open holes, such as the diamond-shaped holes in units made from expanded metal, and pass water very easily. The water will continue to flow in a deluge reminiscent of Noah’s flood. However, some small pieces of organic debris will pass through the relatively large holes. Although this debris is relatively small and is more likely to be washed on out of the gutter by heavy rainfall, it can still collect in the rain gutter over time. In addition, leaf stems, maple seeds, and twigs can start to enter the holes and get stuck. If you live in an area with many trees, one debris layer forms in the gutter, the other on top of the screen.


One of the secondary problems with gutters is that if debris does form some kind of dam in the gutter, thereby creating small pools of standing water, mosquitoes will seek out this water to lay eggs, creating swarms of new mosquitoes right there in your yard. The mosquitoes have no difficulty passing through the big diamond-shaped holes of these screens. If there are any gaps between the screen and the edge of the gutter, or where the ends of screen sections meet, bees, hornets, and wasps can also find their way in.


Ultimately, you find you have the gutter-cleaning problem to deal with again. So out comes the ladder and up you go. Now you find that the screen sections complicate the process because you have to remove them to get to the gutter. You also have to pick all the stuff stuck in the holes out of the holes. In addition, in the process of handling the screens, there is the possibility of damaging them, which can also happen if something—like the limb of a tree—falls on the roof and the gutter, or as you grab the gutter as your ladder falls over. Some designs include hinged screens or covers making access a bit easier, but still requiring handling and manipulation.


Screens with smaller holes trap more small particles on top. Sometimes fine dust is blown up into the air and comes back down inside raindrops, coating everything. As it dries it can act like an adhesive, gluing leaves and debris to the surface of covers or guards. These guards and covers do nothing to discourage insects and are susceptible to the same kinds of physical damage from trees and falling branches.  While these devices are effective in keeping much of the debris out, none of them completely avoid all these problems; they just make the requirements for maintenance less frequent.


So what about gutter filters? What are they and how do they work?


The Leaf Defier Gutter Filter is made of durable outdoor open cell foam that fits snugly inside your existing gutters. It is formed into four-foot long sections. It is available shaped to fit twelve different gutter size/shape configurations. The block of foam completely fills the gutter (well, not quite; there is an open section at the bottom of the gutter to enhance horizontal water flow). Water passes through the foam like a sieve. The top of the foam block is level with the top of the gutter. All that organic debris is stopped on top of the foam. After the rainstorm has passed, the debris will dry off and blow away.


What is this foam made of? It is called polyether-polyurethane. It includes a U.V. stabilizer that enhances foam strength and durability for exposure to weather and sunlight. It probably won’t last forever, but it comes with a 20-year No-Clog Guarantee.


What about the other kinds of problems? Where there is moisture, fungus and mildew often form. To deal with this problem the foam includes a BioCide, which stops the growth of bacteria, moss, mildew, mold, and seeds for the life of the product. Because the foam blocks expand to fill the gutter there are no gaps to allow mosquitoes, bees, wasps, or hornets a way in. The foam is easily installed into existing gutters, whether K-style or half-round, minimizing labor costs. Installation requires no nailing through the existing roof. Moreover, the foam is compatible with roof deicing systems. In addition, unlike products made of aluminum, steel, copper, or other solid materials, the foam can’t dent, crack, or bend.


The Leaf Defier Gutter Filter may not be an absolutely perfect solution—after all, it is only guaranteed for 20 years, but compared with gutter guards, gutter covers, and gutter screens, a 20 year No-Clog Guarantee sounds pretty darn good.