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This article explains gutter shields, caps, or "helmets" and we describe circumstances in which these attempts to avoid gutter cleanout chores do not work. This article series discusses how to choose, install, diagnose & maintain roof gutters & downspouts, & roof drainage systems to prevent building leaks and water entry.
Gutter Caps, Gutter Shields, Gutter Hats or Helmets for Reducing Gutter Clogging & Overflowing: Do They Work?
The gutter "caps" shown below are appealing to building owners who are sick of cleaning their gutters. These products claim to eliminate the need for gutter cleaning. The theory is that leaves and debris are washed over the solid plastic (or metal) of the gutter cap (photo below left) while water runs into the gutter through the slots (photo below right) in the gutter cap.
Watch out: our experience with using solid gutter "caps" or "helmets" to avoid gutter cleaning has not been quite so good. We have observed these problems with solid gutter caps:
In heavy rain the rate of water flow is so fast that water simply spills over the roof edge onto the ground below - as if there were no gutter installed.
At buildings where roof debris may include small particles, especially pine needles or hemlock fir tree droppings, these fine materials rapidly pass through the gutter cap slot and clog the gutter below. Our photos below show gutter cap clogging problems on a roof located below a hemlock tree. We found that the gutter was itself nearly full of debris and of course was clogged.
The building owners, thinking their gutter problems had been solved forever when they installed these gutter caps, had never inspected the system to see if it was working, but they had noticed that their basement water entry problems continued unabated.
If you are going to try using this type of gutter shield product be sure that you
Insist that the caps be installed with easily-removable sections to permit future gutter inspection and cleaning
Inspect the gutters for clogging at least once a year, starting at the gutter-downspout connection
Watch the gutter and gutter shield or cap performance during heavy rain to see if roof runoff is simply overshooting the gutter and spilling against the building
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