Options in gutter protection

  • Photo courtesy of LeafGuard by Beldon Enterprises, San Antonio
  • A LeafGuard by Beldon Enterprises employee installs a gutter protection system. Photo courtesy of LeafGuard by Beldon Enterprises, San Antonio
  • A LeafGuard by Beldon Enterprises employee installs a gutter protection system. Photo courtesy of LeafGuard by Beldon Enterprises, San Antonio
  • LeafGuard's Gutter Tunnel product and LeafGuard's signature productPhoto courtesy of LeafGuard by Beldon Enterprises, San Antonio
  • LeafGuard's Gutter Tunnel product and LeafGuard's signature product Photo courtesy of LeafGuard by Beldon Enterprises, San Antonio

When gutter protection products first appeared in the marketplace about 25 years ago, most roofing contractors found it difficult to make money installing them. Many early products were do-it-yourself, and homeowners then were more involved with home maintenance.

Now, that pattern has changed. Homeowners are far more reliant on home maintenance services such as landscapers, painters and gutter maintenance firms, and the marketplace is offering a far broader choice of gutter protection systems—some of which work well when installed professionally.

With the introduction of scores of gutter protection products and changes in consumer habits has come a change in opportunity, as well. Roofing contractors have a better opportunity to make money when they offer customers a gutter protection system. And in many cases, contractors are offering more than one system to meet customers' financial requirements and personal preferences.

The following simple rules and information should help you begin to explore the gutter protection market.


There is a wide range of gutter products available with everything from filters to screens to hooded systems. And every manufacturer has a reason why its system is best. If you are entering the gutter protection business, choose a product that has a proven track record. There are many new products that may have good marketing stories but have not been tested and proved to work as advertised. You may want to install a product on your own home to be certain it works according to a manufacturer's claims before you consider offering it to your customers. (Editor's note: The products mentioned in this article are not meant to represent all available products in the marketplace. The products mentioned are those known by the author.)

You can purchase products ranging from 10 cents per foot to $4 per foot and install them at a price of $1 per foot to more than $10 per foot. There are customers who will pay across that entire range depending on what they want and can afford.

Typically, you should offer customers a choice of systems. Our company offers a basic open gutter, screen product (Gutter Tunnel) and our patented LeafGuard® system.

There are three basic types of gutter protectors: filters, screens and covers. Some are add-on devices that fit over existing gutters. Others are complete systems that require replacing existing gutters.

An insert or filter fits in an existing gutter. Filters come in different formats from foam to rounded bristles. Each is designed to be inserted into the gutter trough and repel leaves and debris while permitting rain to pass through.

Filters are easy to install. Most are made from a variety of plastic foam materials. Installation requires a caulk gun and pair of shears to cut the filter material. With filters, you have to cut the material to fit between gutter hangers and create gaps where debris can collect. The material is not visible from street level. Some are installed flat, and some are installed with a dome to help leaves and debris slide off. Some are chemically treated to resist ultaviolet rays, but as with any porous plastic material, the material eventually will become brittle, and the sun will cause shrinkage.

Another type of filter is the twisted wire gutter brush. It resembles a pipe cleaner; comes in 18-, 36- and 48-inch lengths; and is inserted into the gutter trough. Some manufacturers suggest the brushes be removed every three years to five years for maintenance, which involves giving them a tap and putting them back. Some filters are treated with biocides to prevent fungus, mildew and mold that may biodegrade filter products.

One such filter is Filter Flow, an open-cell, polyurethane insert specially shaped and cut to fit snugly into gutters. Water flows through the filter into a gutter valley and out a downspout. A biocide and fungicide also inhibit the breeding of mosquitoes in the filter material or gutter.

Gutter screens are the original gutter protection system, but because of the large holes in their wire mesh screens, they never were popular with homeowners. In older versions, the holes were large enough for pine needles and seeds to get through, forming a thick slurry mix that often clogged gutters and leaders. Screens made from plastic and aluminum roll predominantly are made for the do-it-yourself market and low-end gutter installer. These products are not durable and will blow away or uproot.

However, manufacturers have made marked improvements in screen technology. Some screens slip into existing gutters, snap into place with spring tension, or are attached or screwed to the gutters themselves. Prying up and breaking the seal of the first row of shingles is not required, and screens generally come in 3-foot sections that easily can be cut for length and mitered for corners.

Gutter Tunnel, for example, is a patented dual-filtration system consisting of two heavy-gauge aluminum debris filters, one on top of the gutter and one inside. The system allows easy installation without interfering with roof shingles or installing clips that can rust or stain the face of gutters. Once installed, there are no openings to allow nesting of pests or birds.

The third category of gutter protection products is the gutter cover, or hood. Gutter covers usually are quite effective at deflecting leaves, acorns, pine cones and other debris that can choke downspouts. Under certain conditions, small bits of organic matter such as tree seedlings or short pine needles may bypass the cover, but a heavy rain will carry this debris away if a gutter is sloped correctly. Larger 3- by 4-inch downspouts also will help prevent clogs.

All these product types do the job; they just do it differently. One major difference is how they channel water into the gutter. Some systems have a rounded nose that directs water into a narrow longitudinal gap. Others have louvered slots or perforated openings. Some gutter covers simply slide under the first or second course of shingles; others must be glued or nailed to a roof. Some systems are retrofit products designed to mount onto new or existing gutters. Others are complete systems with gutters included and are designed to attach directly to the fascia board.

Typical of the latter is a system such as LeafGuard, a patented one-piece seamless gutter constructed of heavy-duty aluminum 20 percent thicker than most ordinary gutters and covers. The system attaches with hidden, noncorrosive internal brackets. Like most cover designs, it allows water to travel down, around and into a gutter's trough, deflecting leaves and debris away from the house. This system is backed by a 20-year paint warranty and lifetime no-clog warranty. In areas with lots of pine needles, it makes sense to use a complete system/hood.

Selling a system

With gutter protection, the selling process is absolutely critical. A one-piece seamless hooded system will offer the best protection and least problems once it's installed. But a customer may not be willing to invest at this level and may first have to buy an inexpensive, less-effective product with the hope the product will work as well. The key point is you don't want to sell a low-cost product that does not work. Doing so will require callbacks, and you will make little or no money.

Most important, make sure you consider all your costs (including advertising, sales, office overhead, labor burden, etc.) before arriving at a selling price. And once you find a system that works well, see how long a product will take to install and service. It also is important to make sure the installation or repair of the product you've chosen does not jeopardize a roof system's integrity and warranty.

And remember, some systems work better or worse with different types of tree growth throughout the U.S. All deciduous trees produce organic litter in the form of buds, flowers, seeds, small bits of bark, twigs and leaves during a never-ending annual cycle until they die. Evergreen trees are just as guilty because they shed needles and other debris throughout the year. Homeowners will pay a premium in markets where falling leaves and natural debris present the most problems. Figure out which system will work best with the tree coverage in your area.

Also, remember to question whether the product manufacturer offers a warranty for the coating. You don't want to be paying for the manufacturer's mistake. And you want to make sure the manufacturer has been in business for a long time and provides you or your subcontractor with the sales and marketing support necessary to give your products awareness in the marketplace. Because the gutter protection business has become profitable, the industry is going to see more private labeling where local suppliers purchase products and resell them under their names. There are a lot of fly-by-night manufacturers and distributors looking to make a fast buck but not willing to stand behind their products.

In addition, be inventive in the way you sell your gutter protection products—particularly during the off-season or when you're trying to line up projects to maintain cash flow. If a customer is looking for a new roof system, you may want to offer a discount on a gutter protection system as an incentive to get the prospect to buy the entire project. By taking a little less profit on that aspect of the job, you can reap the benefits of a sizable, rewarding roofing job.

You also may want to consider alternative selling methods, such as forming a relationship with a gutter contractor as a subcontractor or a lead-sharing relationship, which can be lucrative if the relationship will lead both parties to new business. Forming such relationships may enable you to expand your business without making a major investment in machinery and material.

Proceed carefully

Although there certainly are opportunities in the gutter protection market, you should be cautious and carefully consider manufacturers. Many products can cause more problems than they are worth, so select partners wisely.

Chris C. Edelen is president and chief executive officer of LeafGuard by Beldon Enterprises, San Antonio.


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