Patent application title: RAIN GUTTER DEVICES
Edmund G. Lowrie Iii (Warrenville, IL, US)
IPC8 Class: AE04D13076FI
Class name: Static structures (e.g., buildings) cover with surface water receiver at eave or valley with separator; e.g., strainer
Publication date: 2012-10-04
Patent application number: 20120247032
Gutter devices for keeping debris out of a gutter are disclosed.
21. A gutter protection device comprising: an upper portion; substantially flat middle portion disposed adjacent to the upper portion, the middle portion including a first plurality of openings the middle portion adjacent to a first bend; and a substantially flat lower portion disposed adjacent to the first bend, opposite the middle portion, and including a second plurality of openings; and an engagement portion to substantially engage a lip of the gutter along the length of the lower portion; and wherein the upper, middle, lower and engagement portions are of unitary construction.
22. The gutter protection device of claim 21, wherein the configuration of the first plurality of openings is different than the configuration of the second plurality of openings.
23. The gutter protection device of claim 21, wherein the upper portion, the middle portion and the lower portion are sized so that a part of the upper portion may be inserted under a lowest row of shingles of the roof.
24. The gutter protection device of claim 21, wherein the device is sized, and the engagement portion is shaped, so that the engagement portion rests on a lip of the gutter.
25. The gutter protection device of claim 21, wherein the first plurality of openings are substantially vertical.
26. The gutter protection device of claim 21, wherein the gutter protection device is of unitary construction.
27. The gutter protection device of claim 26, wherein the engagement portion includes a plurality of clip segments to engage a lip of the gutter above and below the lip.
28. A gutter protection device comprising: a first surface; a first plurality of openings in the first surface; a second surface of unitary construction with the first surface; a second plurality of openings in the second surface; wherein the configuration of the first plurality of openings with respect to the first surface, is different than the configuration of the second plurality of openings with respect to the second surface.
29. The gutter protection device of claim 28, wherein the first and the second surfaces are not co-planar.
30. The gutter protection device of claim 28, wherein the first and the second surface form an angle less than 90 degrees.
31. The gutter protection device of claim 28, further comprising an engagement surface configured to engage a lip of a gutter.
32. A gutter protection device comprising: a first portion for insertion under shingles of a roof and past is fascia board; and a second portion to engage a lip of a gutter, the second portion including a plurality of clip segments; wherein the first and the second portion are of unitary construction.
33. The gutter protection device of claim 32, wherein the second portion is sized and configured to engage the lip above and below the lip.
34. A method of keeping debris from a gutter, comprising steps of: (a) installing a gutter protection device so that a first portion of the device engages a lip of the gutter and a second portion extends under shingles of a roof and past a fascia board; (b) permitting water to enter, while keeping debris from, the gutter through a first mode of filtering; and (c) permitting water to enter, while keeping debris from, the gutter through a second mode of filtering.
35. The method of claim 34, wherein the device engages a top of the lip.
36. The method of claim 35, wherein the device further engages a bottom of the lip.
37. The method of claim 35, wherein the device further engages a side of the lip.
38. The method of claim 4, wherein the device engages a bottom of the lip.
 This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/684,426, entitled "RAIN GUTTER DEVICES," filed on May 25, 2005, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.
BACKGROUND OF INVENTION
 1. Field of Invention This invention relates to rain gutters, and more particularly to a device permitting water to flow into the gutter while preventing debris from entering the gutter.
 2. Discussion of Related Art
 Most residences and many commercial buildings have gutters at the edge of the roof to collect water and direct the water away from the building through a downspout. These gutters may be formed of aluminum, copper, wood, steel or other materials. A problem often arises, however, when debris such as tree leaves falls into the gutter. The debris causes the downspouts to clog, preventing the gutter system from performing as intended. While the problem is easily remedied by cleaning the gutters, the added maintenance can be frustrating.
 A number of devices have been proposed to reduce or eliminate the need to clean gutters. These devices have fallen into two separate classes--screens and deflectors.
 Gutter screens typically involve a fine or coarse screen over the top of the gutter. Water flows into the gutter through the screen, while the screen prevents debris from entering the gutter.
 Deflector devices do not include any internal screens or other openings through which water can pass. Instead, the deflector has a curved edge. Water and debris passes over the top of the surface of the deflector. The surface tension of the water forces the water to follow the curved edge and flow back into a gutter. Debris, however, flows off of the curved edge and over the edge of the gutter. Such deflector devices are described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,404,775. In many cases, a bottom edge of the deflector rests on the lip of the gutter. The bottom edge of the deflector is held to the main body (and the curved edge) by longitudinal segments. Water flows over the curved edge of the deflector and into the gutter, falling between the longitudinal segments. The bottom edge is secured to the gutter using a clip, attached underneath the bottom edge, which hooks into the lip of the gutter. In some commercial embodiments, the water passes over more than one curved edge. Each curved edge functions as above, hopefully having water fall into the gutter (between the longitudinal segments attaching the curved edge to the lower curved edge or lower part of the deflector, which rests on the lip of the gutter) by following one of the curved edges.
 U.S. Pat. No. 6,016,631 shows a unique device that includes both a screen-like portion with a unique shaped hole, and also has a bend (or curved) section where water follows the curve into the gutter.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
 The accompanying drawings, are not intended to be drawn to scale. In the drawings, each identical or nearly identical component that is illustrated in various figures is represented by a like numeral. For purposes of clarity, not every component may be labeled in every drawing. In the drawings:
 FIG. 1A illustrates one embodiment of a gutter device according to the present invention, as installed.
 FIG. 1B illustrates another embodiment of a gutter device according to the present invention, as installed.
 FIG. 1C illustrates another embodiment of a gutter device according to the present invention, as installed.
 FIG. 1D illustrates another embodiment of a gutter device according to the present invention, as installed.
 FIG. 2 illustrates a gutter device according to the embodiment shown in FIG. 1C.
 FIG. 3A illustrates a perspective view of a waffle cut opening of FIG. 1.
 FIG. 3B is a perspective view of a punch opening of FIG. 1C.
 This invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or of being carried out in various ways. Also, the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The use of "including," "comprising," or "having," "containing", "involving", and variations thereof herein, is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items.
 In most cases, screens have proven inadequate for keeping gutters free of debris. Generally, the screens permit too much debris to flow through the screen openings into the gutter. In addition, screens sometimes collect debris, and water flows over the debris and, therefore, over the edge of the gutter. Accordingly, gutter screens have reduced, but not eliminated, the need for cleaning of gutters.
 Debris deflectors have also proved inadequate. By relying entirely on the surface tension of the water, the gutter deflectors are not sufficiently efficient. Accordingly, for particularly heavy rains, the water flows over the edge of the deflector and over the lip of the gutter--the water never enters the gutter and the gutter fails. In addition, the deflector devices currently available cannot be used on steep roofs. Even if the device were installed on a steep roof, water would pass over the device so quickly that it would, again, flow over the edge of the lip of the gutter and straight down to the ground.
 U.S. Pat. No. 6,016,631, naming Edmund Lowrie as inventor and issued on Jan. 25, 2000, which is hereby fully incorporated herein by reference, addresses these deficiencies by showing embodiments using both types of mechanisms.
 The particular embodiments shown in that application, however, have the gutter protector installed so that the bottom lip rests on the bar hangers or gutter nails/spikes for the gutter. This can be problematic because (i) hangers may not be uniform from gutter system to gutter system; (ii) hangers may not be spaced well on a particular house for installation; (iii) installation of the system requires careful attention to the spacing of gutter protector from the edge of the gutter; and (iv) the system is not a closed system, that is, it is not a system that appears to create a substantially enclosed surface among the gutter, fascia and protector. A closed system can be desirable in some contexts where there is a large amount of small debris or where wind, tree branches or ice may exert pressure on the protector increasing the chance of movement after installation. Certain embodiments of the present invention may address one or more of these issues.
 FIG. 1A illustrates one embodiment of a gutter protector 10, according to the present invention. In the embodiment of FIG. 1A, the gutter protector 10 is installed on a gutter 15. The gutter 15 is attached to a fascia board 14a. To hold a front lip 15a of the gutter 15 up, a bar hanger 16 is installed. The bar hanger is shaped to wrap into the front lip 15a of the gutter 15, and is nailed to the fascia board at 16a. The gutter 15 is located at a level below the roofing board 14b and shingles 19.
 The gutter protector 10 includes an upper portion 12a that is tucked underneath the shingles 19, and on top of the roof board 14b. If the gutter system includes flashing (not shown), the gutter protector 10 may be installed on top of the flashing as well. Thus, the upper portion 12a of the gutter protector is designed to extend up under the roof a predetermined amount, such as 3 inches. The amount may be selected to assure that the gutter protector remains secure under the shingle, but not so far that it is difficult to install or runs into nails from the shingles.
 The gutter protector 10 further includes a middle portion 12b. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, the middle portion 12b includes two sets of openings 11a, through which water may fall as indicated by the arrows 13a. The middle portion 12b also includes a ridge 11b (other embodiments omit this ridge, of course). This ridge slows the flow of water over the gutter protector 10, causing additional water to flow through holes 11a.
 The gutter protector 10 also includes an arcuate bend 12c and a lower portion 12d. As indicated by arrows 13a, water may flow over the arcuate bend 12c. Surface tension causes the water to follow the bend, along the lower portion 12d of the gutter protector 10, and ultimately into the gutter 15. The bottom-most portion 17a of the gutter protector 10 rests on the bar hanger 16.
 The arrow 13a indicates how water flows through and around the gutter protector 10 into the gutter 15. Debris, such as leaves, 13b is generally too large to flow through the openings 11a and is not held by surface tension of the water to flow around arcuate bend 12c. Accordingly, debris 13b flows off of the edge of the gutter protector 10, over the lip 15a of the gutter 15 and to the ground.
 In this example, the bottom 17a of gutter protection device 10 is folded to form a double-thickness (in this example) flat portion 100 that rests on bar hanger 16 and touches a portion 107 of gutter 15. For water to enter the gutter, it needs to pass through one or more openings (e.g., slots) at the point of entry (e.g., at 100 in FIG. 1A).
 In this particular embodiment, two types of openings are included within the gutter protector 10. One type has a depressed portion, as described with reference to FIG. 3A below. The other are a series of simple holes or slots located at 100. The difference in hole configurations, although not necessary for all embodiments, takes advantage of the different functions, e.g., filtering on a flat surface versus permitting water to enter the gutter after it has been filtered by adhesion.
 The bottom portion 17a may be sized so that, when a gutter protector is installed at a proper horizontal distance on the gutter (e.g., left to right in FIG. 1A), the bottom portion 17a is engaged with (e.g., touching) the lip of the gutter 107. This particular embodiment therefore has the advantage of providing a mechanical mechanism to properly space the gutter protector 10 so that debris e.g., 13b, falls over the outside edge of the lip of the gutter, while water follows the arcuate bend and falls into the gutter at 100. In the prior art Lowrie patent, proper horizontal positioning relative to the gutter required skill on the part of the installer and was, therefore, also more vulnerable to an improper installation.
 In this particular example, the bottom portion 17a engages the lip 107 of the gutter in a manner permitting the bottom portion to be located at least slightly underneath the lip. In such an embodiment, the bottom portion further serves to hold the lower portion of the gutter protector down in the gutter and reduces, for example, the risk of strong winds or branches from lifting (or bending) the bottom portion up out of the gutter. Such a device may be installed without the use of clips attached to gutter and protector, although clips of course may also be used to further reduce such risks.
 FIG. 1B shows another embodiment of the present inventions, where like reference numerals represent like aspects of the device. In this embodiment, the bottom portion 101 of the gutter protector 10 rests on top of the upper lip of the gutter 15a. In this design, the bend between the middle portion and the lower portion is reduced and is less likely to filter debris. In this embodiment, openings 102a and 102b (described in greater detail with reference to FIG. 3B) are located in the lower portion of the gutter protector 10 and permit water to enter the gutter. This particular configuration may be less preferred, however. Because adhesion has not fully filtered debris, debris may be caught on the portion of the openings 102a, 102b that project out from the gutter.
 In an alternative design, these openings may be positioned in the same manner, but turned upside down and with the metal projecting into the gutter rather than out. In this configuration, each such opening would filter water (by adhesion) into the gutter while debris falls down outside of the gutter.
 In this embodiment, the bottom portion 101 is configured to line up (or be just short) of the outside of the top of the gutter lip. This configuration again permits a straightforward alignment of gutter protector and gutter. To secure the gutter protector, however, a clip (not shown) may be used or screws/pop rivets drilled through the bottom portion of the protector and the gutter.
 FIG. 1C shows another embodiment of the present inventions, where like reference numerals again represent like aspects of the device. In this embodiment, a lower portion 104 of the protector 10 again rests on top of the lip 15a of the gutter. In this embodiment, the gutter protector device is made from a sheet of aluminum coil, bent into the shape shown (excluding downward extending segment 103), with holes then punched into the device. In this configuration, the lower portion 104 is double bent and flat, i.e., without section 103. Before installation (either at the site or at the place of manufacture), the lower portion may periodically along the length of the protector be cut in two places with the segment of the lower portion that is between the cuts bent downward, as shown at 103 of FIG. 1C. The spaced downward segments allow the gutter protection device to be consistently, reproducably be positioned relative to the lip of the gutter.
 In the embodiment of FIG. 1C, after the arcuate bend, a bottom portion of the protector is slanted with respect to vertical as shown in FIG. 1C and unlike the embodiment of FIG. 1B. This slanting permits greater filtering of debris and water, through adhesion. In this embodiment, two rows of openings 102a, 102b, allow water to enter the gutter. In this configuration (i.e., slanting away from vertical) the opening configuration of 102a, 102b, with a portion of the gutter protector extending outward assists in collection water to enter the gutter, particularly where water flow is great. Other hole configurations may be used and additional holes could be provided for this embodiment as well, e.g., holes or slots at the lowermost bend of the lower portion (e.g., comparable to slots 100 of FIG. 1A).
 FIG. 1D shows another embodiment of the present inventions, where like reference numerals again represent like aspects of the device. As for FIG. 1C, the bottom portion includes a double bend to form a flat lower portion 105. In this example, however, the flat portion is bent upward. As for the example of FIG. 1C, as initially manufactured, the flat lower portion does not include a downward portion 106. Before installation, along the length of a segment, two slits can be made and the segment between the slits bent downward. In this example, however, the tight double bend indicated at 105 may also be unbent to some degree, e.g., at a right angle. The bends of the lower portion 105 may be sized so that the vertical part of segment 106 is sized to allow the horizontal portion of 106 to extend underneath the lip 15a of the gutter. In this example, not only is there a mechanical interface for assisting with proper alignment of gutter protector and gutter, in addition the segment 106 can assist in holding the gutter protector in place with respect to the lip of the gutter, without the use of additional clips (although such clips could be used).
 Such segments may, but need not, be positioned over hangers.
 The process of forming or attaching a mechanical interface (in this particular example, the cutting and bending or segments 106 of a lower portion 105) may be done at the point of manufacture where quality control and uniformity is easier to maintain. In the alternative, such cutting (done with snips) and bending can be done in the field, which permits locating of the segments 106 and any appropriate location. In another alternative, some may be positioned at manufacture (and snapped off where desired in the field) and new or additional ones added wherever desired at the time of installation in the field.
 The above examples illustrate various aspects of the present inventions, and it is intended that various aspects of one embodiment may be applied in the context of other embodiments.
 FIG. 2 is an alternate perspective view of a gutter protector 20 in accordance with the embodiment of FIG. 1D. The upper portion may be asserted uunder the shingles, or otherwise configured for installation. At the upper most point, a complete bend assists in providing rigidity to the protector and a rounded edge to ease insertion under shingles.
 Two rows 21, 22 of openings are included in a middle portion of the protector 20. In this example, the middle portion is substantially flat.
 An arcuate bend 23 is configured so that, when installed, the portion below is bent back past the vertical. The arcuate bend may be relatively sharp, such as one formed by an aluminum brake.
 The lower portion include two rows of openings of the type described with reference to FIG. 3B, below. The rows include openings that are offset with respect to each other, in a manner such that any straight line down the lower portion will encounter at least one opening. Of course other configurations (or additional rows) of openings can be used.
 The bottom 24 of the lower portion is bent to the horizontal (when installed) and bent again upward and back, to form a double-thickness of aluminum (or other material). An internal segment 25a, 25b is cut at the sides and bent down with the bend between 25a, 25b also unbent.
 This particular embodiment is formed of 0.019'' or 0.024'' gauge aluminum, although other thicknesses or materials may be used. The length of the gutter protector 20 is about 7 inches. The lower portion is about 1 inches in length.
 The top edge of the gutter protector 20 has a double bend. The bend 25 is about 3/4 inch in length, and makes the top edge of the gutter protector more rigid than if the bend were omitted. In addition, the bend can serve to assist in keeping the gutter protection device 10 from sliding out from under the shingles, after installation. The bend 25 in the embodiment of FIG. 2 is bent downward, although a bend in the other direction would serve the same purpose.
 The length of the bottom of the lower portion (e.g., of section 25b or 25a) is 3/4 inches.
 The embodiment of FIG. 2 is made of a common stock of coiled aluminum, commonly available at job sites. The embodiment of FIG. 2 may be readily manufactured using an aluminum brake. An aluminum brake may be used to place folds and bends into aluminum, as known by one of skill in the art.
 The openings 21, 22 may be formed using a standard waffle cut machine, such as the TRIM A SLITTER, with perforation attachment, available from Vanmark, Inc., of Framingham Hills, Michigan. This type of machine is known in the art, although typically used for the entirely different purpose of creating ventilation holes in soft fit material. The openings 21, 22 of the embodiment of FIG. 2 are described in greater detail below. Of course, regular holes of any shape may be used, to a somewhat different effect.
 The openings 26 may be made by using a perforation punch to cut and fold the metal out, or in, to form a protruding or retracting cup. In the embodiment shown, the cup extends outward to catch water. In another embodiment, the punch can be inverted and extend inward, so that water will follow (e.g., by adhesion) the inwardly bent portion while debris falls away.
 Of course, other methods of manufacturing gutter protectors according to the present invention are possible. In addition, the gutter protectors according to the present invention may be made of one of a variety of different materials, such as vinyl, plastic and copper.
 For easy installation, the gutter protector 20 may be formed in units having a predetermined length, such as 6 feet. This would permit manageable lengths of gutter protectors to be installed. During installation, the seams of the gutter protector units simply could be overlapped and cut to size using snips.
 A gutter protector according to the above embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 1A-2 may be installed in the following manner. The upper portion 12a of the gutter protector 10 is slid up under shingles 19, slightly too far. The lower part of gutter protector is then positioned at an appropriate height with respect to the gutter and the protector is slid out until the lower portion of the protector is properly engaged with the gutter.
 The openings illustrated in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 can be formed in any of a variety of ways. In particular, screens with any of a variety of opening sizes may be used; punched holes of any shape or size may be used; and any of a variety of other openings could be used.
 A particularly advantageous opening is the waffle cut opening illustrated in FIG. 3A. For this type of opening, a portion 31 of the gutter protector 30 is pushed down. This leaves an opening 32, through which water can flow. A similar opening is present on the opposite side of the depressed portion 31, but is not illustrated because of the perspective of FIG. 3A.
 Because the opening 32 is substantially vertical (i.e., a profile of the opening is substantially perpendicular to the surface 30), a top view does not permit the opening to be seen. Instead, the top view shows only the material of the gutter protector 30 and the depressed portion 31.
 The waffle cut openings are also substantially improved over openings currently used. In particular, water can flow through the openings 32, but the depression 31 prevents materials from falling into the gutter or from getting stuck into the hole. Thus, the opening illustrated in FIGS. 3A and 3B reduces the amount of debris falling into the gutter which can clog the gutter and also reduces the amount of debris gathering on top of the gutter protector.
 While the opening illustrated in FIG. 3A is generally rectangular (corresponding to waffle cuts produced by currently available machines), a variety of other shapes and configurations can be used to the same effect. For example, in the embodiments of FIGS. 1 and 2, the waffle cuts are illustrated as running so that the length of the openings is transverse to the flow of water over the gutter system, indicated by arrows 13a and 26, respectively. This has a tendency to increase the amount of water that can flow into the gutter through the opening. In the alternative, however, the opening length can run parallel to the direction of the water. Water may still flow through the opening. By locating the opening generally parallel to the flow of water, however, the tendency of debris to get stuck in the opening can be reduced. In particular, debris is more likely to encounter an up-slope part of the depressed portion 31. The debris is, therefore, more likely to follow the up-slope, and continue on off the edge of the gutter protector.
 In addition, shapes other than a rectangular depression can be used, such as circles, squares or triangles. The depression may also form only one opening (at one side of the depression), two openings (as in FIG. 3A), or more openings. In addition, the portion 31 could be raised rather than depressed.
 FIG. 3B illustrates openings designed for advantageous use on a surface slanted further than vertical when installed. The opening may be formed by punching a portion 33a of the aluminum (where that is the material being used) out, leaving behind it an opening 33b. The portion 33a will serve to funnel water into the gutter but, since debris was filtered, the risk of debris catching on the projections or being caught and channeled into the gutter. As described above, however, other opening configurations may be used such as standard holes (while, in some embodiments, waffle cut holes or the like may be used here, they are not as necessary in a setting where the surface is slanted past vertical and the weight of object will cause them to tend to fall away from the protector).
 Having thus described at least one illustrative embodiment of the invention, various modifications and improvements will readily occur to those skilled in the art and are intended to be within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the foregoing description is by way of example only and is not intended as limiting. The invention is limited only as defined in the following claims and the equivalents thereto.
Patent applications by Edmund G. Lowrie Iii, Warrenville, IL US
Patent applications in class With separator; e.g., strainer
Patent applications in all subclasses With separator; e.g., strainer