What You Need To Know About Gutter Guards And Heavy Rain

Gutters protect your home from extensive water damage caused by heavy rains. But gutters can be clogged too that’s why gutter guards are created. But do gutter guards stand up to heavy rain?

Gutter guards can restrict the water flow into the gutter channel, which can cause issues in heavy rainfall. Some designs work better than others, but often heavy rain will overwhelm the gutter guard, causing stormwater to flow over the edge of the gutter, especially on a roof with a large surface area.

Gutter guards are purposely built to prevent leaves and other debris from entering the gutter and causing it to clog while still allowing the water to pass through and have it directed away from your home.

Gutter guards come in various designs, and some work better than others, but in general, the principle is the same.

There are some concerns about whether gutter guards are adequate for their intended task and whether they can cause you some problems when the rain gets heavy.

Read on as I explore these topics in the next sections of this article.

Do Gutter Guards Cause Problems?

Gutter guards can cause problems by restricting the amount of water that can enter the gutter. As a result, it retains moisture in the gutter, allows smaller debris to enter the gutter, and detracts from the look of your home. Poor installation can also result in gutter overflow problems.

Gutter Guards Don’t Stop All Debris

Small gaps to allow water through can become covered by larger debris such as leaves, restricting the water flow into the gutter.

Gutter guards may not stop all debris from entering the main gutter channel, and the gutter guard may make it difficult to clean the gutters thoroughly should you get a blockage that needs to be addressed.

Smaller debris such as pine needles can often find its way through gutter guards and build up in the main gutter channel resulting in blockages that need to be cleaned out.

Gutter Guards Can Look Ugly Or Be Poorly Installed

Some gutter guards are visible from the ground, which has the potential to detract from the beauty and look of your home.

Poor installation of the gutter guards can cause the gutter guard not to perform as it should and result in water cascading over the gutter in a heavy downpour rather than flowing into the gutter.

Gutter Guards Can Restrict Water Inflow

The main problem that gutter guards cause is water flow restriction into the gutter channel, particularly when the rain gets heavy. Some designs of gutter guards can be too restrictive and prevent the entrance of sufficient amounts of water, especially in heavy rain. This slow drainage can result in rainwater flowing over the gutter and falling where you don’t want the water to go.

Do Leaf Gutter Guards Work In Heavy Rain?

Most leaf gutter guard systems will restrict the flow of water (somehow) during heavy rains. And while they may work well initially, over time and with a build-up of smaller debris in the gutter, they may become less effective at handling heavy rain downpours. In some, the design does not work well for large volumes of water.

The effectiveness of gutter guards in heavy rain will depend on the design of the gutter guard system and how long it has been installed on the gutters.

If the location where you live does not experience regular, heavy rain showers, gutter guards may prove to be an acceptable solution for you. However, if you live in a region where most of your rainfall is in the form of heavy showers, gutter guards may prove to be ineffectual from the outset.

Some gutter guards use filters to filter out the debris while allowing the water to pass through the filter into the gutter. If the filter does not allow the water to pass through quickly enough, the water could overflow over the edge of the gutter.

Wet leaves become quite sticky and can stick to the filters, effectively reducing the amount of water that can pass through the filter.

Other gutter guard systems use a helmet-style system intended to direct water over the lip of the helmet into the gutter while directing larger debris over the edge of the gutter. This principle works when the water flow is minimal, but the rainwater can overshoot and flow over the gutter’s edge in a heavy downpour.

Is It Normal For Gutters To Overflow In Heavy Rain?

It is not normal for gutters to overflow in heavy rain. If your gutter overflows in heavy rain, it usually indicates a problem in the gutter system that needs addressing. This could be a blockage or the gutter installed at an incorrect angle to direct the water flow adequately.

The purpose of gutters is to control water flow from the roof and direct the water away from the house, where it will not pose a problem for your home.

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Why Home Inspections Are Important

Gutters are designed to handle the general water flow capacity from the roof according to the type of rain you get in your region. Standard gutters may struggle to cope with the volume of water in an exceptional storm, but an overflowing gutter should be the exception rather than the rule.

If your gutter is overflowing during average rainfall volume, you should investigate the cause for this. A constantly overflowing gutter can result in water damage to your home’s roof, foundation, and walls. The cost of sorting out the gutter problem is much cheaper than repairing water damage to your home.

Are Leaf Guards Worth It?

Leaf guards and gutter guards may be appropriate in certain circumstances, but they are not applicable or worthwhile for all homes. You would need to evaluate your personal circumstances to determine whether a gutter guard would be a good choice for your home or not.

Some of the aspects you can consider regarding gutter guards are as follows:

  • The surface area of your roof. A roof with a large surface area will be directing a large volume of water to the gutter. Gutter guards would probably not be suitable for a large surface area roof but could function well on a smaller roof area.
  • Gutter guards are expensive. Gutter guards are not cheap to install, so if they will not be effective and detract from the home’s look, the cost may not be justified.
  • Gutter guards need maintenance. Gutter guards are not an install-and-forget solution to gutter maintenance. Gutter guards still need maintenance, and gutters cleared of debris that made it past the gutter guard.
  • Bees and critters. Gutter guards can provide a shelter in the gutter space that is attractive to animals that could cause a problem, such as bees, wasps and hornets, and in some cases, small birds. These animals can build nests in the cover of gutter guards and cause a blockage in the gutter.
  • Small debris. If the debris on your roof is from smaller leaved trees, such as pine needles, the gutter guard may not effectively keep the gutter free of this kind of debris.

Generally speaking, leaf guards on gutters is not a practical solution to keeping your gutters clear from blockages, and the number of new problems that could be introduced makes them not worth the cost.

Conclusion

Gutter guards are a somewhat controversial topic, and companies who sell and install these systems will include in their marketing that their system will keep your gutters clog-free and maintenance-free.

In most cases, this is marketing jargon intended to sell the product. Most gutter guard systems will have some problems coping with heavy rains or heavy volumes of water from a large roof area.

If you are contemplating a gutter guard system, it would be wise to be conscious of the type of debris you can expect on your house and the volume of water flow you expect from the roof to ensure the system will cope according to your expectations.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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