Gutter screens have a wide variety of names and can be made out of many different materials, but all serve the same, primary function: a gutter screen is placed over an open gutter to prevent leaves, pine needles and other organic material from entering and accumulating in it. Gutters clogged with organic matter can prevent rain water from moving efficiently through the gutter system and can be difficult and time consuming to clean. The accumulation of organic matter and moisture can also attract birds, squirrels and insects, which can do potential damage to the home.
Gutter screens can also be called leaf guards, gutter guards, filters, or covers. Different manufacturers have different, unique names for their products. They also come in a several material types, including aluminum, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vinyl and zinc. Before purchasing a gutter screen, it’s important to evaluate the existing gutter system. Noting whether the gutters are made of plastic or metal can help to make the best decision on which gutter screen to use.
Metal gutter guards, also referred to as gutter mesh, can typically be purchased in pre-cut sizes or in rolls that can be cut to size by the homeowner. This type of gutter screen generally requires a gutter clip to attach the mesh to the gutter and hold it in place. A gutter screen made of PVC or vinyl typically needs to be cut to size. Clips can also be used with this type of gutter screen, but some are designed to snap into gutters. Some gutter systems also come with pre-fabricated slots, designed specifically for adding gutter screens. PVC or vinyl gutter guards are often available in different colors and can be color matched to the existing gutter system.
Regardless of the material used to make the gutter screen, eventually leaves can accumulate on top of the gutter screens. The dried debris resting on top of the screens can restrict the amount of water that can effectively enter the gutter. When this happens, the gutter screens need to be cleaned. To address this problem, some manufacturers have developed gutter caps. These are typically curved plastic, which can be attached with clips or by snapping it into the gutter. There are several different designs available, but basically the caps allow water to run into the gutters and divert leaves and other material off the roof. Gutter caps are typically more expensive than gutter screens but require less maintenance by the homeowner.