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Popular Seattle Gutter Guards and Filters Exposed in a 20-Year Photo Journal

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Introduction

Hi, my name is Greg. I spent all my growing up years in Issaquah, and in November of 1998 I jumped straight into business ownership maintaining residential properties following my 4-year university education. It has been one of my best decisions and I wouldn’t change a thing. Over the (more than) two decades I have been serving Pacific Northwest homeowners, I have seen a variety of gutter protection products hit the market and become all the rave. I have also been called out on hundreds of jobs to fix the problems these gutter systems create in our unique northwest climate.

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If you are seriously considering purchasing a new gutter guard, or gutter filter system for your home — STOP! Before you write a check for thousands of dollars and hand it over to that smiling sales rep across the table, you owe it to yourself to get familiar with the whole picture. I have seen every one of the systems you might be considering to purchase for your home, including the various generations of ‘improvements’ they’ve made over the past 2 decades. One very important thing you NEED TO KNOW before you write that check (and none of their sales reps will ever tell you is this) is that due to the damp, dark and temperate climate we enjoy in the greater Puget Sound, ALL OF THESE EXPENSIVE SYSTEMS ARE GOING TO FAIL. Yes, that means they will also fail on your home, and you will have to do one, or more of the following…

I realize I may be creating disappointment, however I genuinely want to help you to be informed. I assume you have not been on top of thousands of Western Washington roofs and seen what I have seen, so how could you know? Well, in a moment I’m going to stop sharing words, and I am going to show you the images I took first hand.

But for now, consider this… While prices change radically between vendors of these gutter guard products (even between their sales reps), a common 2,000 square foot home might cost around $18,000 for a “high end” system, whereas a self-installed system you purchased from a big box hardware store might cost only a few hundred dollars. If you have a larger home, or your home has an intricate architecture, you can expect to pay much, much more.

And why would you?

That’s what I want you to think about: Why would you pay anything for system that’s destined to break and cost even more money to remove, long before the original return on investment can be realized? I’ve been on thousands of rooftops and taken hundreds of photos of these systems, documenting their performance on northwest homes. You need to find out what I know, so here it is… 20-years of photo journalism to expose the realities of gutter guard and filter systems from the perspective of a home maintenance contractor.

I hope the following article, along with your own research, equips you to make a confident and informed decision.

Respectfully,
Greg Sicotte
Owner, DAPrDAN

The PROBLEM

Cleaning gutters in the northwestern United States is essential to keeping a structurally sound home. Our variety of trees combined with the rotating seasons make cleaning your gutters a monthly chore in some wooded locations. Here’s the problem: Cleaning gutters can kill you. It seems that everyone I talk to on this subject knows someone whose fallen off a roof, or stepped wrong off a ladder and ended up in the hospital, or worse, dead. Let’s face it, gutter cleaning is both necessary and very dangerous. That’s why the statement “never clean your gutters again” appeals to so many people. But, let’s consider this problem from another perspective. Let’s say for a moment that you are a sales rep for one of the 3 large gutter guard, filter (or helmet) systems. You’ve been through all the company’s sales training and now you’re going out on your first sales call. You want to sell the system because that’s how you’re going to make your rent payment. So, as you step across the threshold of your customer’s front door, you’re far more concerned about closing the deal than you are about what your customer actually needs.

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You’re not this stupid, are you?

Do you see the photo above? The one with the 78 year old man who’s about ready to meet his maker, and whose wife is apparently offering a helpful suggestion from the concrete walkway 12-feet below? By the looks of this picture (which is clearly staged) the roof is wet, the leaves and gutters are like a sloppy soup, and probably smell like a putrid swamp. It’s clear this is supposed to be taking place in the suburbs, like Kirkland, or Woodinville, and just as the Hawks game snapped into high-paced second-quarter action, the woman walked in front of the TV with hands on hips. Before the man could remove his $250 Patagonia sweater vest, he found himself launched out of his LazyBoy and flung onto the roof in a flurry of criticisms and reminders of how “cleaning those gutters is long past overdue”, and when it comes to housework, “promises aren’t worth much”. So there he is, not allowed to come down to the dinner table until his work is done.

Did this really happen? Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. But, I found these photos displayed on one of the 3 large gutter cover brands’ websites, and it demonstrates how they see you, their target customer. They think you’re dumb. Don’t believe me? Look at the picture again. Who cleans gutters like this? …Saturday lounge clothes, white sneakers and laying on the edge of the roof in a pile of slippery wet leaves? If this is you, please install gutter covers and don’t call me. In fact, here are the 3 most popular brands of gutter cover systems that promise “you’ll never have to clean your gutters again”.

Take a moment and click on the links above. You’ll notice one thing in common about each of them: everything is super intensely pristine. Is that what your house looks like? No, but you wish it did, and that’s the point. These companies promise you, that if you are willing to spend the money, not only will you not die by staying off your roof in your white sneakers, but you be a part of select few who leveraged new technology that has enabled you to live a better quality life — that’s the sales pitch. Still, don’t believe me? Please, go check it out for yourself.

The DREAM

Who likes cleaning gutters? If you raised your hand, you’re either slightly silly in the head, or you need a more interesting aim in life. There’s nothing enjoyable about cleaning gutters in the northwest, which is why when the statement came out, “We guarantee you’ll never clean your gutters again”, the average Seattlite dropped what they were doing and stood in line. I remember touring the Autumn edition of the Seattle Home Show in 1999 at the Kingdome just months before it was demolished (remember that?). There was so much excitement about gutter cover systems with their live demonstrations and computer generated image modeling. I was convinced I was going to be out of business within the year. After all, who can argue with beautiful images like these…

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All the white lab coats got together with the marketing department folks and came up with these very high-tech computer-generated demonstrations of what your system should be doing. It just makes so much sense in the lab.

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Gutter Helmet

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GutterStuff

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LeafFilter

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LeafGuard

The most powerful and convincing tool these companies have at their disposal is the live demonstration. Imagine a cross-section of your home cut out and displayed in a booth. Real water is running down your roof and into the gutter system, and the carpet below isn’t even getting wet! It’s amazing! Take a look at this brief interview from a home show in Ohio with LeafFilter sales rep.

Gutter cover systems may make some sense in Arizona, New Mexico, or Southern California where moss and algae don’t grow like pandemic infestations. Every one of them fails miserably in the northwest because, even while large leaves and needles must be cleaned off the exterior of these systems, regardless of any anti-microbial claims, micro debris gets inside and grows up from the bottom. Look below at some photos I took of a gutter cover system that cost the homeowner over $20,000 and had to be professionally removed (that means it cost him more money to remove it). Here you can see that while the top of the cover has been cleaned by the homeowner, moss and plants have grown from the inside up, completely clogging his gutter system (which is why he called me).

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A view under the cover reveals a thick layer of moss that almost completely filled the large California-style gutter system. The homeowner had no idea until I showed him this photo.

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Plants were thriving from the nutrient rich contents of the gutter.

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This gutter cover system was bolted to both the gutter and the front of the fascia. It also slipped under the lip of the gutter and the metal roof, which made it imperative to remove the gutter to remove the gutter cover. It was very expensive.

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Here (and in the photo above) there are weeds growing up through the gutter cover from a nutrient base in the gutter below. This indicates the system has been trapping and retaining residue for many months.

The dream of installing gutter covers to solve the home maintenance task of gutter cleaning once and for all is, at least for us in the Northwest, a supreme illusion. Even with regular maintenance of the exterior, or top, of the system, you will still have organic material breaking down into a fertile nutrient base for moss and plants on the inside.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Although I’m taking a critical eye towards all gutter covers, there remains a single product that DAPrDAN will endorse in a few specific conditions. Keep reading to learn more.

In the next section I have provided a gallery of images representing a variety of products I have encountered over the past 20 years while serving as a home maintenance technician. Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list, but just some of my favorites that capture why I am fed up with these companies, and why you shouldn’t spend your money on their systems. Also, it is important to note that these are not ‘special cases’ in any way. They are just homes of people who were having trouble with their gutters, and when I climbed up my ladder to see why, this is what I found.

All of the photos were taken between November 1998 and December 2019. These homes were all located between Bellingham (north) and Auburn (south) along the I-5 corridor.

The REVEAL

(20 years of my favorite photos)

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Moss has grown up from the inside and is breaching the filter layer to continue growing on the top of the filter.

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Moss has filled the entire gutter and is beginning to breach the filter layer. Notice that the filter is bolted to the gutter.

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This is a beautiful home on Lake Sammamish. The gutter cover system failed, and rather than remove the filter, the solution was to install a second layer of gutter beneath the original gutter.

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This photo was taken after DAPrDAN had removed the gutter filter system and began cleaning. A photo is worth a thousand words. The gutter is literally separating from the home due to the prolonged weight of trapped sludge and water.

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This is one of the saddest and most poignant photos of my collection. It is also one of the earliest taken back in the early 2000’s. Sold to a non-profit Christian conference center, this very expensive system is completely failed.

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This is just gross. Notice how the curve of the top cover is rendered completely useless by the growth of algae. What grows inside is akin to an Odwala Superfood, though I would hesitate to drink it. As you can plainly see, nothing is draining and it’s full of waste.

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Debris collects on the gutter filter as if the gutter was already full of debris, and immediately backs up the roof.

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Moss has filled the entire gutter and is beginning to breach the filter layer. Notice that the filter is bolted to the gutter.

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This section of gutter on a home in Medina was completely full of moss.

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Remember this photo (I will refer to it again).

The most powerful and convincing tool these companies have at their disposal is the live demonstration. Imagine a cross-section of your home cut out and displayed in a booth. Real water is running down your roof and into the gutter system, and the carpet below isn’t even getting wet! It’s amazing! Take a look at this brief interview from a home show in Ohio with LeafFilter sales rep.

I shot this video on August 5, 2020 from a roof on Camano Island. Contrast this video from the field (real life) to the one above at the trade show (controlled environment).

My conclusion after 20 years of encountering these systems is that they are a complete waste of your money. My immediate recommendation is that you should cancel any and all gutter cover, guard, filter (or helmet) systems from consideration. There is only one exception, and only in unique circumstances, that may be worth considering. This is due to it’s low material replacement cost upon inevitable failure.

The SOLUTION

There is only one way to ensure you will absolutely, with full confidence, never clean your gutters EVER again: Contract with a reliable home maintenance company to clean your gutters on a consistent, established schedule.

That’s it! There’s no magic pill, or special formula — just low-tech elbow grease and money. But, the money you’d spend on any of the above failed gutter systems would be sufficient to compensate a licensed, bonded and insured contractor to keep your existing gutters in great shape for at least 5 to 15 years, depending on the system you were considering, and the environmental factors around your home.

If you do send your consideration of gutter covers the way of the Dodo, always ensure the maintenance contractor you select is licensed, bonded and insured in Washington state, and registered with the Department of Labor and Industries as a general contractor (so they can legally perform minor repairs as needed to your gutter system). They should also perform regular background checks on all personnel who might be on your property, around your family, and/or handle sensitive information such as credit and debit cards. The company should also provide excellent communication as to the service details they will be performing on site and provide photos of their work upon completion with a written report of their findings. Lastly, the company should provide an option to register for regular maintenance service of your gutter system, with friendly reminders prior to each service date to alert you of their planned arrival at your home.

Where can you find a company like this?

Congratulations, you already have. You can get an instant gutter cleaning quote here, or you can go straight to registering for a gutter cleaning service plan here.

Keep in mind that regardless of whether you decide to move forward with a gutter cover system, or make a course correction away from them, your northwest home exterior must be regularly maintained, or costly repairs are only a matter of time.

The ONE EXCEPTION

Years of servicing exterior northwest residential property has convinced me of this: consistent, recurring maintenance is paramount to protecting value. Any time you can hire a capable and secure professional to save you time, money and the threat of injury, it’s a fine accomplishment. Especially, when that company sends you technicians who look for areas of concern in places you never see yourself, like your roof.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could develop a relationship with a company that retained service notes about your home? And wouldn’t it be great if that company could look at the notes in your file to see potential problems from developing trends over time?

We’ve done this for many of our customers over the past two decades, and occasionally we may recommend one gutter cover solution that is easy and inexpensive to replace every couple of years, or so.

GutterStuff is the only gutter filter solution I believe I can install and retain my integrity. Here’s what they look like…

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New and easy installation.

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Approximately 1 year following install and failing.

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1 to 2 years following last service and failed.

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Immediately after service and working as designed.

The best part about this product is that when it fails, you can easily remove the section, or sections that have failed and replace them at a low product cost (I provided the link to GutterStuff at Amazon above).

Where might you install Gutter Stuff? We at DAPrDAN only recommend this product to be installed on homes that have consistent problems with underground drainage, and/or at sections of the gutter system that are beneath large leaf deciduous trees. But, remember, all gutter systems, covered or not, require regular maintenance in the northwest.

It is our sincerest hope that my time to assemble this presentation has helped you make a more informed decision about the available gutter cover products and the industry in general.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, or simply request a quote to clean your gutters. When you register for one of our recommended home maintenance plans, we too promise you’ll never, ever, have to clean your gutters again!

Ready to Make Your Home Look New ?

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DAPrDAN Pressure Washing and Roof Cleaning Service Company Van
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