Thomson Slate Roofing

Specializing in Slate Roofing, Copper Gutters, Flashing, Exterior Restoration, (410) 889-7391, MHIC 18421

Problems with Gutter Covers

Problems With Gutter Covers 

I recently heard on the radio that "Company X's" gutter covers will prevent ice damming, and the subsequent damage to homes caused by ice damming!  Amazing!
Several years back, I went to a remodeling show at the Baltimore Convention Center and the most prevalent vendors were gutter cover companies. Around every corner was a tube dripping water down a mock-up roof and over a new-fangled gutter cover into a reservoir.  Step right up folks and watch the leaves slide right off the gutter! Get your perforated aluminum right here! Protection from clogged gutters is big business. During the show, I believe the figure I heard was hundreds of millions of dollars annually in installed sales.   

With limitless potential customers, covering gutters is a lucrative business, and it's not surprising to hear some tall claims. The most common claim is (and I say this in a generic way) "never clean your gutters again," or something to that effect. In my own experience, I have never seen a product that completely keeps out the debris.  It seems that the main problem of these systems is the failure to keep out small debris. Small particles can easily enter the gutter and build-up inside the gutter forming a thick muck leading to clogged gutters. This was also the finding of Tim Carter, from "Ask the Builder." Tim wrote a series of articles and performed some tests of his own. See his article: "Gutter Guards, Do they Really Work?"  From his own tests and experience, Tim prefers gutter covers with very small perforations, mesh or possibly even micro-screens.  Whatever system is installed, plan on disassembling portions of the system after two years to flush out the debris so it does not build-up. 

Back to ice damming. From my previous article: Winter Snow Storms Can Wreak Havoc on Roofs I discussed the fact that thirty-two inches of snow on your roof can weigh over fifty-five pounds per square foot depending on the density of the snow. This mass of heavy ice and snow, whether stationary, moving slowly or moving quickly down a roof, is very destructive and a relatively thin layer of aluminum over the gutters will do nothing to add protection the roof or prevent ice damming or the results thereof.  Perhaps the only true solution to ice damming is Joe Jenkin's Snow Apron shown in the video below. 

In this video, Joe shows how he has removed the first 36" of slate roofing, and installed copper pans. These pans, once soldered, form a fully supported, monolithic sheet that is impervious to ice, snow and water.  

If we could eliminate ice damming and subsequent damage from ice damming by installing a thin sheet of aluminum over our gutters, that would truly be amazing.  

This house on the right has a damaged aluminum gutter cover at the bottom of the valley. It also has a damaged drip edge. This white gutter cover is installed under the slates. 

This massive gutter cover below was damaged and pulled out during the snow storm.







These two photos show another house with damage from ice damming, including a damaged gutter cover, paint and woodwork. Below: more damaged gutter covers and gutter. 




This gutter cover is visually obtrusive. It really stands out on the roof. When you look up at your house, the first thing that catches your eye should not be your gutter covers.  

Not only do gutter covers not prevent ice damming and the damage from ice damming, some covers can actually cause damage to the roof. 


These gutter covers are attached to the roof between the first slate (starter) and first row of slate. These slates have snapped in two as a result of the bend in the gutter covers not being installed at the correct angle. Another common problem is that the installers will screw directly through the roofing material. With slates, which are not self sealing, this will leave an avenue for water infiltration.There is definitely a need for gutter covers. The risk to life and limb climbing ladders twice a year to clean the gutters is significant.  When finding a solution to your gutter problems, don't believe everything that you read. 

 Suggestions for choosing covers:  

  • Small Perforations
  • Should not interfere with the roofing material
  • Use quality materials like aluminum, steel or copper
  • Portions should easily disassemble for future cleaning of gutter 
  • Not visibly obtrusive


There are many systems out there. One that I have seen and used is Leaf Relief, which conforms to the suggestions. 

Original article published on "Our Neighbor's House"

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