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Stop clogged home gutters

Faced with the prospect of another season spent precariously climbing a ladder and reaching inside to clear out debris and leaves, many homeowners are considering the installation of a gutter protection system. And with so many different types available, finding the right fit is always so easy.

A gutter protection system is a cover or barrier that prevents leaves and large items, such as twigs or blown-around matter, from lodging in a home's gutters and eventually preventing rain runoff from draining effectively. Clogged gutters and downspouts have been known to contribute to rainwater pooling around the foundation of a home, potentially causing seepage issues. Blocked gutters can also be a haven for stagnant water, which breeds mosquitoes and other insects and potentially harmful bacteria.

To combat these issues, manufacturers have come up with a series of protection systems that allow water to enter the gutter while keeping debris out of it. Gutter protection systems range from do-it-yourself options to professionally installed products. There are a few different styles, and each offer their share of pros and cons.

* Screen: A mesh or screen system consists of a screening material that fits inside or over the gutter. It serves as a sieve, allowing the water through but blocking leaves and debris. This system is affordable and can be a DIY project. But over a period of time the mesh itself can be blocked with a build-up of debris and will need periodic cleaning. Also, in some screened systems water can freeze up in the screen openings, causing ice dams.

* Aluminum covers: There are many different aluminum options. Some work with a small crevice along the top that is narrow enough for the rainwater to enter but not allow debris inside. They may not allow as much water to enter as a mesh system because they cover a greater surface area over the gutter. Closed systems also may provide an area for insects to make nests.

* Foam inserts: A relatively inexpensive protection system is a foam insert. These pieces of porous foam are fitted inside the gutter, allowing water to flow through (albeit a little more slowly) while keeping leaves out. Foam inserts are an easy do-it-yourself project and can serve as a test of the efficacy of gutter systems before a more expensive system is purchased.

* Surface tension products: These are closed plastic or aluminum products where the water entry holes or channels are on the bottom and sides of the product. This way nothing can ever get clogged from above. The system works by water surface tension; the rainwater will adhere to the product and then flow into the bottom or side holes. The nose of these products may have to be kept clean or the surface tension may not occur.

When it comes to gutter protection systems, there are a number of options to consider. Homeowners can experiment with different low-cost systems to see if one works before contracting to have a permanent guard put in place.