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Ask the Engineer About Gutter Guards for Pine Needles

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One of the largest challenges for all gutter guards and gutter screens. There are approximately 35 types of pine trees in North America with pine needles ranging from as short as about 5/8 of an inch to as long as three or four inches. In fact gutter screens don’t stand a chance as the tiny needles easily penetrate them and go into the gutter. I once had a homeowner determined to build a screen to keep his pine needles from getting into his gutter. He took the finest mesh screen he could find and made three layers of it. When I looked at the screen I was amazed that long pine needles with three in a pod actually managed to penetrate the screen and clog his gutters. I even wondered if the product I recommended would fill the bill. Read on. Similar to gutter screens are foam gutter inserts. It also is a mesh and I imagine you already know what happens to them. Once found a screen with louvered slots that did keep out pine needles. The pine needles accumulated on the top of the gutter screen in sufficient quantity to keep the rain water from getting into the gutter.

I was so amazed that I even doubted the product I recommended since I only had two years of experience with it. Read on. Then there are the micro mesh filters. Some of the manufacturers are truthful and acknowledge that debris will accumulate on the top of the micro filter. They recommend using a specially designed brush with a telescopic pole to clean the filters. I must admit I’ve used brushes to clean the best gutter cover I recommend, but it’s easy for me to see where the accumulation of debris is and it’s easy to see that I’ve removed it. How can I possibly see on top of the gutter to see where the debris has clogged the micro mesh? And if I just brush every foot of gutter, how do I know that enough of the debris has been removed? Can you think of some questions about how to maintain the micro mesh product? Maybe they have all the answers but I haven’t seen them published yet. What about exposed fascia and what is protecting it? What is going to remind me to brush them? Just too many unknowns!From an engineering point of view, let’s investigate the topper type or solid helmet of leaf guards. They break down into four types:

  1. Single fin which serves as one long louver guiding the water into the gutter. If there are pine needles laying on the tops of the gutter guards or gutter covers many of the pine needles usually line themselves up horizontally to the roof edge. I guess we could figure out why this is so but as it rains they usually adhere to the surface of the leaf guard just as the rain does. Being that there is only one long fin collecting the rain water, any length of pine needle in sufficient quantity can easily get into the gutter and clog it. Just Google “Niagara rain gutter cover leaf guards and gutter guards” to see the basic design that is common to about twenty different gutter cover products.
  2. The second type is the single fin with a trough;only difference is that it has a trough located below the gutter lip to screen out debris. But, since this trough is below the gutter lip, then how is this trough cleaned? The problem is that the openings in the trough are often large enough to let many large pine needles pass into the gutter. If you Google “Carecheap Vinyl Gutter covers” you’ll see an improvement on the trough type of gutter cover.
  3. Single fin with screen on the top hybrid. This hybrid mixes two designs with the same result. The screens clog yielding the same product as described in number one above. So far we do not have the best gutter cover.
  4. Vertically louvered gutter guards with two rows of louvers instead of one long fin. You could describe it as two longitudinal fins interrupted every three-fourths of an inch to reject any debris longer than three-fourths of an inch. For that size debris to get in, it has to hit the louver exactly at the right position. With 22 years of experience this design has proven to keep gutters inside clean and cheap flowing. And the two customers I recommended this design to who had screen type of devices have never called to claim failure of the product. If you Google “Waterloov gutter guards” you’ll see what they look like.

You should be wondering if the louvered collectors clog with pine needles, Yes they do and it is very easy to see from the ground even on higher gutters–where this is happening. And guess what? A ten year old can remove the accumulated debris with a telescopic pole and brush. And what happens if the homeowner ignores his gutter for a few years and the louvers of the gutter guards clog? Answer: Instead of taking only five minutes to brush them it may take ten or fifteen minutes to restore them to their original condition.

In summary, the best gutter guard for pine needles limits the size and quantity of debris entering the gutter as you would have with two rows of louvers with maximum length of each louver being three-fourths of an inch in length.

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