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There Is No Such Thing as Maintenance Free Rain Gutters

Posted by Kevin Leahy on March 30, 2021

Maintenance Free Rain Gutters

All rain gutters need maintenance at some point in time. So, let’s start with a basic open rain gutter.

Basic Open Rain Gutter (Uncovered Rain Gutters)

No matter where it is and even if there are no trees for 100 miles, this gutter will get debris in it. Could be debris blown from miles away, debris from animals, possibly a nest, shingle debris, etc. But debris will get into all open rain gutters.

The question is: How much debris is getting into your open rain gutters, and how often?

When it is very little debris and not very often, then checking and cleaning can be minimal. When it is a lot of debris, very often then checking and cleaning will be needed often.

The first major problem with any debris getting into a rain gutter is, because properly installed rain gutters are always pitched down toward the outlet (hole in gutter at top of downspout), even a small amount of debris can clog small, standard outlets. Once an outlet is clogged, water cannot get out of the gutter. Water will then back up, overflow and possibly – due to the weight of the water – pull the gutter away from the fascia or even cause the gutter to fall off the house or building.

Solution: Check and clean outlets as needed depending on your debris problem.

The second problem with debris getting into rain gutters is excessive debris can clog a rain gutter “upstream” of the outlet. In other words, a rain gutter will clog anywhere along the gutter when that gutter gets too much debris in it. Water will then back up from that point of clogging, overflow and possibly – due to the weight of the water – pull the gutter away from the fascia or even cause the gutter to fall off the house or building.

Solution: Check and clean all rain gutters depending on how heavily treed you are.

Now let’s talk about rain gutters with covers, and needed maintenance…

Rain Gutters with Covers

There are all kinds of gutter covers available. From Inserts, to Flat Covers, to Screens to Helmet-type Covers. And actually, most covers do keep debris out of the gutter. That is why gutter cover manufacturers can honestly state, “You will never have to clean your rain gutters again.” However, what they don’t tell you is that their covers will need maintenance.

Basically, there are just 2 types of covers: Flat type covers like a screen or insert and Helmet-type covers.

Flat Type Gutter Cover Maintenance

Because these covers are essentially flat, debris that would have gotten into the gutter will now sit on top of a flat cover. Manufacturers may state that “with a wind of 6 miles an hour, the wind will blow this debris off the cover.” This is true IF the debris never gets wet. But when the debris gets wet, it not only sits on the cover, it also begins to disintegrate and clog the cover itself – no good!

Solution: Check and clean all rain gutter covers depending on how heavily treed you are.

Helmet Type Gutter Cover Maintenance

First you should know that although water adheres to the front lip of a Helmet type cover and flows into the gutter, so does some debris like wet leaves, pine needles, etc. This means that debris can get into gutters with Helmet-type covers. Remember, even a small amount of debris can clog most standard rain gutter outlets. And that can be a “hidden” problem with Helmet type covers since you cannot easily see into Helmet covered gutters.

Second, you should know that the reason Helmet type covers actually do work well is due to water adhesion also called capillary action. That is, water flowing from the roof onto the Helmet type cover will ADHERE to the cover and the front curved-down lip of this cover and flow into the gutter. An example often used is if you tip a glass of water slightly until water pours out of the glass, you will see water adhere to and flow down the outside of the glass – same exact principle.

But what you also need to know about Helmet type covers is that these covers get dirty. They are out there in the elements 24/7. So why is this a problem? Well, when the Helmet type cover gets dirty, the dirt decreases the water adherence capability on the Helmet and front lip. This “dirt barrier” can reduce or even eliminate the water adhesiveness of the Helmet and water can then overflow the front lip and overflow the gutter – not good!

Solution: From time to time the Helmet type cover and Front Lip must be cleaned. If they are never cleaned, they will lose their adhesive capability and they will not work as designed.

The potential problem of the outlet getting clogged due to debris getting into a Helmet covered gutter can be solved in 2 ways:

  1. Climb up there and look in at the outlet. If clogged clean or dislodge debris making sure the debris falls out of the bottom of the downspout. You may also have to unscrew and remove the downspout if it has elbows so you can check for any debris clogging the elbows, or…
  2. Retrofit SpoutOff Removable Downspouts so you can remove the downspout while standing safely down on the ground, look up and see if your outlets are clear. (Note: Full disclosure – we are The SpoutOff Rain Gutter Company providing this information). The SpoutOff also makes it easy to check elbows for clogging by simply turning the downspout upside down and shaking it, getting any debris in the downspout to fall out.

Another Note: It is also the opinion of The SpoutOff Rain Gutter Company that the closest anyone can get to a “maintenance free rain gutter” is a good Helmet-Type Cover and SpoutOffs on all outlets and downspouts. Why?

Good Helmet-type covers do keep most debris out of gutters and even if debris sits on top of a Helmet-type cover, until that debris dirties that cover to ineffectiveness, that debris does not matter. BUT, when some of that debris gets into the gutter only a very large outlet, like The SpoutOff, will enable that debris to fall out of the gutter and not clog the outlet. And, with The SpoutOff, you can check that outlet with your own eyes by simply removing the 1, 2 even 3-story downspout and LOOKING UP.

That’s the good news about what we think is the closest you can get to a maintenance free gutter… the bad news is new rain gutters with Helmet type covers and SpoutOffs are probably your most expensive initial investment. Helmets and SpoutOffs can be retrofitted to most present rain gutters that are in good condition. In the long run, say over 20 years, this could be your least expensive investment because (except for damage to your rain gutters) you may never need to pay to have your gutters cleaned. Remember though, from time to time you will have to clean the Helmets.

The above rain gutter information is submitted by the inventor, developer and distributor of The SpoutOff Rain Gutter System, Kevin Leahy. The intent of this information is to help those interested make the best rain gutter decisions for THEIR home or building.

Contact us with any comments or questions at 610-420-0378 or Kevin@thespoutoff.com.

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