Do Leaf Filters Work?

Clean gutters are vital in protecting the health and longevity of your home. It is important to find a gutter protection system that truly works. Today we will explore whether leaf filters work. First, what is a leaf filter?

Leaf Filters

Usually when someone refers to a leaf filter, they are thinking about a product that goes over the gutter and “filters” leaves out.

There are a range of leaf filters. Let’s examine three common leaf filter designs. As we do so, we will ask these three questions of each design:

  1. Does this type of leaf filter work for large debris, such as leaves?
  2. Will it work for small debris such as seeds and pine needles?
  3. Can this leaf filter save me time and optimize my guttering system?

Screens

Screens could be considered a leaf filter. Traditional screens look like a metal net that covers the top of the gutters. Most screens have 1/8” sized holes in them to allow water flow. Screens have been adapted, some can be plastic, or have slots for water flow – no matter their form – if it has holes on the top of it, the results will be the same.

Screen with tree growing through itScreens keep large maple leaves out well, but smaller debris – such as maple seeds and pine needles still fall through. Typically, screens are not long term solutions. They may reduce the number of times a homeowner cleans their gutters, but the gutters will still need to be cleaned twice a year – with a frustrating addition of cleaning the gutter and screen including un-installing, then re-installing the screen each time. 

Do Screen Leaf Filters Work?

1. Does this type of leaf filter work for large debris, such as leaves? Yes.

2. Do screens work for keeping seeds, pine, needles, etc. out of the gutters? No.

3. Will this screen leaf filter save me time and optimize my guttering system? No.

Mesh-Filters

Since screens struggle with small debris, an altered screen has been developed – mesh filters. The metallic netting is ultra-fine. This is good because nothing but dirt and pollen can enter the gutter. The gutters are therefore clog free! Additionally, a clean mesh leaf filter allows water to flow through easily.

clogged leaf filter/ micromesh screenHowever, time has shown that these mesh filters have problems of their own. Pollen, sticky debris such as oak tassels, and even wet leaves stick to the micro-mesh. When these pores are clogged, the water cannot flow through. Once this happens, water will begin to flow past your gutters and pour over onto the ground around your foundation. It does not take much rain to end up with soil erosion and foundation problems. That’s why you need gutters – to protect your foundation!

Really, this type of leaf filter is similar to a furnace filter. These filter the air in your home, but after some time, the filter needs to be replaced because it gets clogged by debris. In order to keep mesh leaf filters working optimally, they need to be scrubbed clean – about as often as you currently need to clean your gutters.

Do Mesh Leaf Filters Work?

  1. Do mesh leaf filters work for keeping large debris out of the gutters? Yes.
  2. Are mesh leaf filters great for keeping seeds, pine needles, etc. out of the gutters? Yes.
  3. Will this mesh leaf filter save time and optimize my guttering system? No, without regular maintenance it will actually interrupt the functionality of the gutters – even worse than the original culprit – leaves and other debris.

Sponges

Sponges are a type of leaf filter made of foam wedges. The widest portion of the wedge rests in the top of the gutter, this allows water to flow through the sponge and into a small channel left in the bottom of the gutter.

Sponges keep both large and small debris out – Success! 

However, similar to mesh leaf filters, sponges have their own problems.

sponge leaf filter does not work because it fills the gutter and mud builds up under it.

Here’s the 3 most common problems with sponge leaf filters:

1. They trap seeds – which eventually become trees.

2. Dirt filters through the sponge and creates mud. Since there is only a small water channel left in the gutter, the water channel clogs easily. Many who have tried this type of leaf filter have concluded they need bigger gutters. When in reality, the sponge design simply reduced their gutter’s water-carrying capacity. Without the leaf filter, their gutters are likely large enough to handle the water flow.

3. Similar to the mesh leaf filter, sponges eventually get clogged and water flows over the top of the gutter.

Do Sponge Leaf Filters Work?

1. Do sponge leaf filters work for keeping large debris out of the gutters? Yes.

2. Are sponge leaf filters great for keeping seeds, pine needles, etc out of the gutter? Yes & No – they become a seed trap of their own.

3. Will they save time and optimize my guttering system? No, in fact, the mud that fills the bottom of the gutter will result in clogged, overflowing gutters. 

Do Leaf Filters Work?

Sadly, most systems that try to filter out gutter debris are problematic and do not result in a long term solution.

However, solid gutter protection that employees surface tension does work. 

For more information regarding solid gutter guards, read the article: How Is Surface Tension an Advantage with Gutter Protection?