Hard to believe, but gutter mesh has been around since 1891. That year, Charles Smith and Samuel Slaymaker received a patent for the first gutter mesh, describing it as a wire gauze that would keep debris out of a gutter and allow rain water to be collected into a cistern.
Interestingly, gutter mesh has not become a gutter staple, although Consumer Reports named a version of it as one of their best buys. We’ve listed five problems gutter mesh has, because in many cases, you won’t be aware of any issues until you wind up frustrated and annoyed.
Gutter Mesh Problems
1. It lets in or traps debris. Gutter mesh normally has very large holes in it. The bigger the holes, the bigger the debris that can get in. While it's not such a problem in the fall when you're dealing with leaves, it can become a big frustration. Leaves are much bigger than the mesh, so they're pretty easy to keep out. But if you have pine or fir trees, or you're dealing with spring debris, you're faced with the real issue of gutter mesh. Spring debris tends to be the small stuff - buds, seeds, husks, flowering bits. Pine needles are no different. This is the stuff that easily gets through gutter mesh and winds up filling the bottom of your gutters. As a result, you're still stuck with cleaning your gutters regularly.
Gutter mesh is also prone to trap debris. If you've seen our post about gutter covers for maple seeds, you'll know exactly what can happen, the holes in the system actually trap and hold debris. Who wants the added work of cleaning out their gutter mesh? No one. And if you choose the right kind of mesh, you can avoid the problem.
2. It's made from plastic. Plastic gutter mesh interacts with asphalt and roof oils, which leach from traditional shingles. Asphalt softens plastic, which can contribute to our third problem.
Plastic also does not expand and contract at the same rate as the gutter. You can never get a seamless look or fit with these products.
Lastly, petroleum based products are attracted to each other. That means the oil from the shingles permanently sticks to plastic. This often creates a coating that traps excess dirt and other debris.
3. It can't support the weight of debris. Gutter mesh tends to be thin, flexible (some of it comes in rolls) and designed just to cover the open trough of the gutter and no more. Because of this, it tends to trap debris just like a shelf would. Under the weight of the debris, particularly with plastic gutter mesh as a result of it softening, you'll often find the gutter mesh collapsed into the gutter.
4. Animals eat through it. If the gutter mesh allows debris through, debris winds up clogging the bottom of the gutter and creating pools of water after every rain. Animals are attracted to these pools and eat through gutter mesh to get to the water. If there are fruits or seeds in the gutter that are part of the animal's diet, they'll also eat through the gutter mesh to get to the food source.
5. It allows water to overshoot the gutter. Gutter mesh can be made with small holes, like a window screen. Traditional screens tend to sheet water.
To see what we mean, take a window screen on its side and run water onto it. Using your hand, spread the water over the screen. As you do this, you'll see the square holes in the screen trap water. This creates a virtually solid surface to any other water flowing over the screen. Too little water is pulled through the mesh by gravity alone. As a result, you'll need something built into the gutter mesh to encourage water to drop into the gutter.
How to Avoid Problems With Gutter Mesh
This can be easily done, especially if you choose a gutter guard like MasterShield.
First, choose a non-plastic mesh. If you notice, most materials used around your roof are made of metal, so your choice of gutter mesh should not be the exception.
Secondly, choose a gutter mesh designed to keep out the small debris. That's the stuff that falls in the spring as well as anything that drops from a pine or fir tree.
Your gutter mesh should have elements built into it to force water into the gutter below (without this you need big holes and they're the type that cause clogs). You'll want it to have an underlying skeleton structure with sufficient touch point designed under the gutter mesh which siphon water through.
You may also want to eliminate cleaning your system, so products that sit flat should be ruled out. Systems that pitch with the roof are more inclined to shed tree debris. They use wind flowing down the roof to push off most of what can accumulate.
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No one wants to wind up frustrated and having to redo any home improvement project they take on. Many of these problems can be avoided by a few extra precautions up front. That way those gutters you're tired of dealing with will remain properly protected and virtually maintenance free for good.