January 31, 2015
I’ve been cleaning the old metal gutters on the eaves of Meador Manor for decades, clearing them regularly of the leaves, twigs, and catkins from the annoying River Birch tree the original owner planted in the front yard long ago. I say regularly, but it has never been regularly enough; often I’d notice water pouring over the gutter edges into the beds since the downspouts and gutters themselves were clogged.
The River Birch is the prime offender here; it continuously sheds long spindly twigs and larger branches, which often fall into the gutter and trap leaves. Its long catkins fall in too, get saturated and are a heavy, sloppy mess to remove after a rain. But if you wait too long, they disintegrate into thousands of little flakes that are perfect downspout cloggers.
My father now uses, at his house in Oklahoma City, the rolled polymer gutter guards you unwind and fit into the gutters to block leaves. That seems to work fine for him, but I never used it since I knew the River Birch catkins would just plop on top, dry out, and then the tiny flakes would work their way through the gaps down into the gutter.
So I was intrigued when I came across some Sweers Sheerflow Gutter Filters at Lowes. They are 3′ long and one edge slips under the shingles and the other is a continuous clip that slips over the front edge of the metal gutter to grip. The plastic guard has round holes in it, covered by a plastic screen to keep out even tiny debris. That sucker wouldn’t let the catkins through, I thought.
I was leery if they would fit my gutters, so I bought a handful and tried installing them over the gutter sections above the downspouts and at a front roof corner that funnels debris into the gutters. They installed fairly easily and were still doing fine a few weeks later. So I bought several dozen more and have installed them on all of the gutter sections.
I had to use snips to clip the plastic edges at the corners of the roof to clear some nails and the like, and to cut some of the 3′ sections to finish up each edge run since of course the gutter length on a run is never a perfect multiple of 3′.
It didn’t take very long to get it all installed and 2015 will be the test to see how well the system works. How well will heavy rains be able to filter through the screen? I’m confident the guard screens will block the leaves, twigs, and catkins, but will those darn catkins build up on top and clog the screens so that rainwater cannot get through? Will I still need to climb up and sweep or spray off catkins and the like from the tops? How quickly will the plastic deteriorate in the wide temperature range of our seasons and the merciless ultraviolet radiation of an Oklahoma summer?
It will be an interesting experiment, but I’m hopeful I’ll have to break out the ladder far less often, set it unsteadily in the soft beds and the like, and attempt to clear the gutters without breaking my neck. Some day I’ll replace that River Birch with something more suitable. The only trees left in my yard are the River Birch, the remains of an old Red Bud, and a nice always-green Cherry Laurel. I think I’d like to replace the River Birch with either a Chinese Pistache or Amur Maple, but I have a feeling it will be with me for years to come.