Title:
GUTTER PROTECTOR
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gutter protector for keeping debris out of a gutter while permitting rain to enter therein comprises a panel, with a lower layer comprising a compressed fibrous non-woven material attached to an upper layer comprising a plastic screen. The panel includes a securing lip, formed below a longitudinal recess in an upper front edge, with the securing lip extending outwardly below the recess. The securing lip fits in a C-shaped channel of the gutter and raises the upper front edge of the gutter protector above the front of the gutter. This allows debris to fall off the gutter. An integral spring hinge, formed in the panel by two V-shaped longitudinal grooves with a finger between them, permits the panel to be resiliently bent into an angle of greater than ninety-degrees for mounting and positioning the securing lip in the gutter.



Inventors:
Olthoff, John R. (Grand Rapids, MI, US)
Application Number:
13/314691
Publication Date:
06/13/2013
Filing Date:
12/08/2011
Assignee:
OLTHOFF JOHN R.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/741.3
International Classes:
E04D13/076; E04B1/92
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SADLON, JOSEPH
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Oppenhuizen Law PLC (Grand Rapids, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A gutter protector for restricting the accumulation of leaves and other debris in a gutter, the gutter having a front side, back side, bottom side, and open top, the front side having a rearwardly facing C-shaped channel at the top thereof, with the channel having an upper lip at an upper edge thereof, the gutter protector being formed from a generally flat panel having at least two layers, the layers comprising an upper layer formed of a porous screen formed of synthetic resin and a lower layer formed of a compressed non-woven synthetic fibrous material, the upper and lower layers being secured together to form the panel, the screen having a pore size sufficient to permit water to flow therethrough but to substantially exclude passage of leaves, plant seeds and roof grit therethrough and being smooth enough to permit such materials to slide over the screen, the panel being semi-rigid but at least somewhat resiliently deflectable, the panel having a front portion and a rear portion, with the front portion being formed so as to extend over the open top of the gutter when the protector is placed in the gutter, and with the rear portion being formed so as to extend downwardly from a rear edge of the front portion to a position where a lower edge of the rear portion engages the bottom side of the gutter when the protector is placed in the gutter, the front and rear portions being deflectable along a hinge edge between them, with a relieved portion of the non-woven fibrous material being located along the hinge edge, the panel having a longitudinal recess in the upper side thereof that extends along the upper front edge of the front portion such that a securing lip extends outwardly on the front edge of the panel beneath the longitudinal recess, the front edge of the panel being formed such that when the securing lip is positioned in the C-shaped channel the upper layer of the panel adjacent the securing lip and positioned adjacent to the upper lip of the C-shaped channel is elevated above the upper lip, whereby debris on the upper surface of the protector can easily slide over the upper lip without being obstructed by it.

2. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein the generally flat panel is approximately three-quarters of an inch thick.

3. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein the securing lip is approximately three-eighths of an inch thick and extends approximately three-eighths of an inch outwardly on the front edge of the panel.

4. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein a plurality of fibers protrude from the lower layer of the panel through the screen of the upper layer.

5. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein the gutter further includes one or more gutter support structures, the gutter protector further comprising one or more slits or slots formed in the rear portion of the panel, such that the gutter protector fits over one or more of the gutter support structures when the gutter protector is placed in the gutter.

6. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein the gutter protector further includes one or more anti-microbial agents.

7. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein the gutter protector further includes one or more UV inhibitors.

8. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein the gutter protector further includes one or more flame retardant additives.

9. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein the screen includes a plurality of pores, with the pores having an area of approximately one one-hundred-forty-fourth of a square-inch.

10. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein the relieved portion of the non-woven fibrous material located along the hinge edge comprises a principal cut, the principal cut being a substantially V-shaped longitudinal cut in the panel, the cut including an apex positioned below the screen.

11. The gutter protector of claim 1, wherein the relieved portion of the non-woven fibrous material located along the hinge edge comprises a spring hinge, the spring hinge being positioned in the panel and including a principal cut, a tension relief cut, and a finger, with the finger being positioned between the principal cut and the tension relief cut, the principal cut being a substantially V-shaped longitudinal cut in the panel, the cut including an apex positioned below the screen, the tension relief cut being a substantially V-shaped longitudinal cut in the panel, the cut including an apex positioned below the screen, the finger and cuts being positioned such that they create an upward spring force on the front portion of the panel when the gutter protector is placed in the gutter.

12. The gutter protector of claim 11, wherein the principal cut is approximately five-eighths of inch deep at its apex and the tension relief cut is approximately one-half of an inch deep at its apex.

13. A process for restricting the accumulation of leaves and other debris in a gutter, the gutter having a front side, back side, bottom side, and open top, the front side having a rearwardly facing C-shaped channel at the top thereof, with the channel having an upper lip at an upper edge thereof, with the gutter further including one or more gutter support structures, the process comprising the steps of: providing a gutter protector, the gutter protector being formed from a generally flat panel having at least two layers, the layers comprising an upper layer formed of a porous screen formed of synthetic resin and a lower layer formed of a compressed non-woven synthetic fibrous material, the upper and lower layers being secured together to form the panel, the screen having a pore size sufficient to permit water to flow therethrough but to substantially exclude passage of leaves, plant seeds and roof grit therethrough and being smooth enough to permit such materials to slide over the screen, the panel being semi-rigid but at least somewhat resiliently deflectable, the panel having a front portion and a rear portion, with the front portion being formed so as to extend over the open top of the gutter when the protector is placed in the gutter, and with the rear portion being formed so as to extend downwardly from a rear edge of the front portion to a position where a lower edge of the rear portion engages the bottom side of the gutter when the protector is placed in the gutter, the front and rear portions being deflectable along a hinge edge between them, with a relieved portion of the non-woven fibrous material being located along the hinge edge, the panel having a longitudinal recess in the upper side thereof that extends along the upper front edge of the front portion such that a securing lip extends outwardly on the front edge of the panel beneath the longitudinal recess, the front edge of the panel being formed such that when the securing lip is positioned in the C-shaped channel the upper layer of the panel adjacent the securing lip and positioned adjacent to the upper lip of the C-shaped channel is elevated above the upper lip whereby, debris on the upper surface of the protector can easily slide over the upper lip without being obstructed by it; positioning the gutter protector in the interior of the gutter such that the rear portion of the panel extends downwardly from a rear edge of the front portion to a position where a lower edge of the rear portion engages the bottom side of the gutter, making one or more vertical slits or slots in the rear portion of the panel, so as to permit the rear portion of the panel to extend downwardly over the gutter supports structures; further positioning the gutter protector such that the front portion of the panel extends over the open top of the gutter; further positioning the gutter protector such that the securing lip is positioned in the C-shaped channel against the upper lip of the C-shaped channel such that the upper layer of the panel adjacent the securing lip and positioned adjacent to the upper lip of the C-shaped channel is elevated above the upper lip, whereby debris on the upper surface of the protector can easily slide over the upper lip without being obstructed by it.

14. The process of claim 13, further comprising forming the relieved portion of the non-woven fibrous material located along the hinge edge so as to have a principal cut, the principal cut being a substantially V-shaped longitudinal cut in the panel, the cut including an apex positioned below the screen.

15. The process of claim 13, further comprising the step of forming the relieved portion of the non-woven fibrous material located along the hinge edge so as to have a spring hinge, the spring hinge being positioned in the panel and including a principal cut, a tension relief cut, and a finger, with the finger being positioned between the principal cut and the tension relief cut, the principal cut being a substantially V-shaped longitudinal cut in the panel, the cut including an apex positioned below the screen, the tension relief cut being a substantially V-shaped longitudinal cut in the panel, the cut including an apex positioned below the screen, the finger and cuts being positioned such that they create an upward spring force on the front portion of the panel when the gutter protector is placed in the gutter.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable.

PARTIES TO A JOINT RESEARCH AGREEMENT

Not Applicable.

REFERENCE TO A SEQUENCE LISTING

Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an improved gutter protector that permits water to flow freely through a gutter, restricts accumulation of debris on the protector or in the gutter, and prevents birds, mosquitoes, wasps, and other insects from nesting in the gutter. Clogging of rain gutters with leaves and other debris is a perennial problem. A number of devices have been developed to fit in or cover an open top of a gutter to prevent leaves from falling in the gutter while at the same time admitting water into the gutter. Some are perforated metal covers or screens that fit over the gutter, while others are open cell foam inserts that fit in the gutter. There are various advantages and disadvantages with each type of product. One problem with many of these prior devices is that they have been expensive to make and install. This is particularly true with devices made from metal or from open cell foam materials that are made from crude oil based products. As the price of oil has risen over the past several years so has the cost of making these products. Another problem with these prior devices is that they often become clogged with roof grit and other materials and quickly become less than optimally porous.

The present invention addresses the shortfalls of prior gutter systems with a cost effective, easy to install gutter protector that restricts the accumulation of debris in the gutter and shields the interior of the gutter from access by birds and insects while permitting a substantially unimpeded water flow into the gutter.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention is a gutter protector for restricting the accumulation of leaves and other debris in a gutter. The gutter has a front side, back side, bottom side, and open top. The front side further includes a rearwardly facing C-shaped channel at its top, with the channel having an upper lip at an upper edge thereof. The gutter may also include gutter spikes or brackets or other hangers or supports to attach the gutter to a house.

In one aspect of the invention, the gutter protector is formed from a generally flat panel having at least two layers. The layers include an upper layer formed of a porous screen formed of synthetic resin and a lower layer formed of a compressed non-woven synthetic fibrous material. The upper and lower layers are secured or bonded together to form the panel. The screen of the upper layer has a pore size sufficient to permit water to flow therethrough but also sufficient to substantially exclude the passage of leaves, plant seeds, and roof grit. The upper layer is also smooth enough to permit such debris to slide over the screen.

The panel is semi-rigid, but at least somewhat resiliently deflectable. It has a front portion and a rear portion. The front portion is formed so as to extend over the open top of the gutter when the protector is placed in the gutter. The rear portion is formed so as to extend downwardly from a rear edge of the front portion to a position where a lower edge of the rear portion engages the bottom side of the gutter when the protector is placed in the gutter. The front and rear portions are deflectable along a hinge edge between them, with a relieved portion of the underside of the panel being located along that hinge edge to permit the panel to be bent into a substantially ninety-degree angle or greater.

The panel also has a longitudinal recess in its upper side that extends along the upper front edge of its front portion. The front edge is formed such that a securing lip extends outwardly beneath the longitudinal recess. The front edge of the panel is further formed such that when the securing lip is positioned in the C-shaped channel of the gutter, the upper layer of the panel adjacent the securing lip is positioned adjacent to the upper lip of the C-shaped channel and is elevated above the upper lip. This allows debris on the upper surface of the protector to easily slide over the upper lip of the gutter without being obstructed by it.

Another feature of the invention is that the relieved portion of the non-woven fibrous material that is located along the hinge edge of the gutter protector is formed into a spring hinge. The spring hinge includes a principal cut and a tension relief cut, with the cuts having a finger between them. The principal and tension relief cuts are substantially V-shaped longitudinal cuts in the panel and each includes an apex positioned below the screen. The principal cut is preferably the larger of the two cuts. The finger is formed from one of the sides of each of the principal and tension relief cuts.

The tension relief cut is important because it permits resilient bending of the panel to greater than a ninety degree angle for purposes of installation, which allows the securing lip to fit properly into the C-shaped channel of the gutter. This bending also allows the front portion of the panel to slope downwardly from the back to the front of the gutter. With the tension relief cut, the panel is easily snapped into the gutter by bending the panel at the tension relief cut.

The finger and cuts are further positioned such that they create an upward spring force on the front portion of the panel when the gutter protector is placed in the gutter. This helps to force the securing lip tightly up underneath the upper lip of the C-shaped channel of the gutter.

The gutter protector is easy to install in the gutter. To install, the rear portion of the protector is fitted into the gutter against the back side of the gutter. The front portion of the panel is folded downwardly along the hinge edge, and the securing lip is fitted into the C-shaped channel of the gutter along the hinge edge. The lower edge of the rear portion of the gutter protector panel is extended downwardly to the bottom side of the gutter. Depending on whether there are gutter spikes or other gutter support brackets in gutter, slits or broad slots may be made in the rear portion of the panel, so as to allow the protector to fit over these structures. The resilience and stiffness of the panel holds it in place.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional perspective view of the gutter protector of the present invention installed in a gutter.

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional end view of the gutter protector of FIG. 1. The vertical cross-section shows a gutter spike that supports the gutter.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of one end of the gutter protector of the present invention. The gutter protector is shown in an unbent position. A fragmentary blown-up view is also included as FIG. 3a to better show the mating of the upper and lower layers of the panel.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view showing the gutter protector of FIG. 3 with the principal cut in a fully closed position and the tension relief cut in a fully open position. The phantom lines in the drawing indicate where the panel was located before it was bent to the position shown.

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional end view of the gutter protector of the present invention. The gutter protector is shown, as in FIG. 4, with the principal cut in a fully closed position and the tension relief cut in a fully open position.

FIG. 6 is cross-sectional end view of the gutter protector of FIG. 5 showing the gutter protector being placed into the gutter. The invention is shown with both the tension relief cut and principal cut in fully closed positions, which facilitates the placement. The phantom lines in the drawing indicate where the panel was located before it was bent to the position shown.

FIG. 7 is another cross-sectional end view of the gutter protector of FIG. 5, this time showing the gutter protector after having been placed into the gutter. The invention is shown with the tension relief cut in a partially closed position and principal cut in fully closed position. The phantom line in the drawing indicates where the panel was bent before it was opened to the position shown.

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional perspective view of the invention with a narrow slot in the rear portion of the panel. The invention is shown above a gutter with a gutter spike assembly. The broken lines in the drawing indicate where the invention may be lowered to fit into the gutter and over the gutter spike assembly.

FIG. 9 is a similar cross-sectional perspective view to FIG. 8, except the gutter spike assembly in the gutter is replaced by a wider gutter support bracket, and the slot in the panel is correspondingly broader.

FIG. 10 is a fragmentary side view of the front edge of the front panel of the invention when the invention is installed in a gutter.

FIG. 11 is a fragmentary side view of the spring hinge of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Shown in FIG. 1 is a gutter 50 attached to a house 70 below the lower edge 71 of a roof 72. A conventional K-style gutter is shown. The gutter 50 is of conventional design and has a front side 52, back side 54, bottom side 56, and an open top 58. This gutter has a rearwardly facing C-shaped channel 60 at the top of the front side 52, with the channel 60 having an upper lip 62 located on its upper edge. As is best shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, the gutter 50 may be attached to the house 70 by gutter supports in the form of support brackets 57 or gutter spikes 59. Other known supports also can be used. In a typical installation, the gutter spikes 59 or gutter support brackets 57 are spaced along the length of the gutter 50 about 18-24 inches apart. Gutter spikes 59 extend through tubes or ferrules 61 positioned between the front and back sides of the gutter. The gutter spike 59 and tube or ferrules 61 together make up the gutter spike assembly 63. Gutter support brackets 57 extend from the front side 52 to the back side 54 of the gutter 50 and are attached to the side of the house 70 by spikes or screws 73, as is known by one having ordinary skill in the art. The bottom side 56 of the gutter connects with lower edges of the front side 52 and back side 54 of the gutter 50, whereby the gutter forms a trough with a generally U-shape cross section. Gutters are formed in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and the gutter disclosed herein is merely exemplary of various types of gutters in which the present invention may be used.

Other types of gutter attachment devices include other brackets that extend over the top of the gutter or straps that wrap around or fit under the gutter. Such devices may be attached to the fascia or under the roof. The present invention will work with most types of gutter or gutter supports. The size and shape of the gutter protector members of the present invention may be modified for any particular gutter hanger or gutter shape or size.

The gutter protector 10 of the present invention is formed from a semi-rigid but somewhat flexible and resiliently deflectable panel 12 having an upper layer 14 and a lower layer 18 tightly bonded together. Upper layer 14 comprises a screen or scrim 16 formed from a synthetic resin material. Lower layer 18 comprises a non-woven fibrous synthetic resin material 20. The upper layer 14 and lower layer 18 are tightly bonded together. This bond can be formed by various means, preferably by an adhesive agent or by a needle-punching process or both.

Preferably, the same type of material is used to make both of the layers of the panel 12, with the material being a 100% recycled polyester. There are several key advantages to using this type of material. First, this polyester tends to be stiffer than other types of materials, particularly commercially available exterior grade urethane foams. This added stiffness is important to this invention as it allows the gutter protector 10 to withstand repeated abuse from debris and other materials and yet maintain its form and usability. Another advantage of the recycled polyester material is the fact that it can be produced at a lower cost compared to its urethane counterparts, many of which are made as byproducts of crude oil processing and have tended to increase greatly in price over the last several years. A final advantage of using 100% recycled polyester is the fact that being made of recycled materials, it tends to be more environmentally friendly to use than its counterparts made of virgin material.

Total panel thickness desirably is about three-quarters of an inch. This provides a sufficient fitting thickness and sufficient rigidity and resilience for sturdy installation. Panels as thin as one-half inch thick are satisfactory but not as desirable. Thinner panels can work if they are sufficiently rigid to be self-supporting and resiliently deflectable on bending. Thicker panels can work but are more expensive and not necessary.

More specifically discussing the lower layer 18 of panel 12, the compressed non-woven fibrous material 20 that forms this layer is sufficiently porous that it will permit a very high flow rate of water through it. This is important to the effectiveness of any gutter protector device. Furthermore, this layer must be made of a compressed fiber material that is stiff enough to make the panel 12 and the upper layer 14 self-supporting when installed in a gutter.

As to the upper layer 14 of panel 12, the material used to form this layer is a plastic screen or scrim 16 formed of synthetic resin. The pore size in the screen 16 should be large enough to readily permit water to flow therethrough, but small enough to stop roof grit and other debris from going through. A pore size in the screen 16 that is too small raises permeability issues when the gutter protector 10 is dry. Small pore size in the screen 16 of a dry protector restricts water flow because water surface tension resists flow into and through the screen 16 and into the lower layer 18. Thus, water may tend to run over the gutter 50 as though no gutter were installed. A screen having a pore size with an area of about 1/144 (about seven thousandths) of a square-inch is satisfactory.

The combination of the two layers as a panel 12 in the present invention produces a combination that is more effective than either layer would be individually. The small pore size in the screen 16 restrains roof grit from flowing down through the screen into the lower layer 18, clogging it up, and reducing its ability to filter water. The lower layer adds rigidity and durability while permitting water flow. Also, as to permeability of the screen 16, by using a needle-punch bonding method to combine the lower layer 18 and the upper layer 14, the needle punching causes some fibers 17 in the lower layer 18 to protrude through the holes in the screen 16. These fibers 17 provide a rough surface on the top of the panel, which acts to reduce the surface tension in the water flowing over the protector. This makes the water flow more readily into the lower layer 18 and restrains leaves from sticking to the screen 16. These aspects together make the invention better than its single-layered predecessors. Needle punch bonding can be used along with adhesives or other types of bonding.

When placed in the gutter 50 as shown in FIG. 1, gutter protector 10 has a generally horizontal front portion 22 and a generally vertical rear portion 30. In the illustrated embodiment of this invention, both of these portions have the bilayer in the panel 12 discussed previously, although the screen is not necessary for filtration purposes in rear portion 30.

In the preferred embodiment, gutter protector 10 is shaped so that the front portion 22 covers the entire open top 58 of the gutter and is supported by the rear portion 30, which extends from the rear edge 36 of the front portion 22 to the bottom side 56 of the gutter 50 along the back side 54 of the gutter. Ideally, the upper layer 14 of the rear portion 30 fits snuggly against the back side 54 of the gutter. There are several reasons for this placement: first, it restrains debris from passing between the gutter protector 10 and the back side 54 of the gutter; second, it maximizes the area inside the gutter 50 for water flow through the gutter; and finally, it helps to maintain the strength and stability of the gutter protector 10, because the rear portion 30 of the panel 12 will be less likely to shift once placed properly, and this increases the ability of the front portion 22 to remain lodged over the entire open top 58 of the gutter 50 and hold up against the weight of snow or debris.

As stated previously, a 100% recycled polyester material desirably is employed in the present invention. An anti-microbial additive desirably also is incorporated in the gutter protector 10. This restricts the development of mildew, moss, and other fungi in the gutter. The additive is available commercially in the product. Alternatively or in addition to an anti-microbial additive, a herbicide or the like may also be incorporated in the protector to suppress seed sprouts from growing in the gutter.

In the present invention, the gutter protector 10 also preferably incorporates an additive to restrict destructive effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays on the product. A UV protection additive retards deterioration of the front portion 22 from sunlight exposure.

Finally, the gutter protector 10 also preferably incorporates an additive that makes the product flame retardant. This reduces the impact that a fire may cause on the product itself and on any structure that the protector 10 is near. The gutter protector 10 of the present invention is normally formed in sections that are 24 to 28 inches in length. The ends of the sections usually do not mate with each other at the positions of the gutter spikes 59 or support brackets 57. Accordingly, to fit over gutter spike assemblies 63, as a section of gutter protector 10 is installed, as is shown in FIG. 8, a slit or narrow slot 82 is formed in the rear portion 30 of the panel 12. The slit or narrow slot 82 fits over the gutter spike assembly 63. In the case that a wider gutter support bracket 57 is used, a wider or broad slot 80 is employed, as is shown in FIG. 9. This broad slot 80 is formed by cutting two slits in the rear portion 30 of the protector 10 then removing the small portion formed between the two slits by cutting or tearing the middle portion out, giving the protector 10 a way to fit snuggly over top of or around the wider gutter support structures described above. While a broad slot 80 can be used for a spike 59, a simple slit in the gutter protector is generally sufficient. Preferably, a commercially available serrated knife is used to make the cuts.

An important feature of the present invention is a securing lip 28 formed at the front edge 24 of the front portion 22 of the panel 12. In the illustrated embodiment of the invention, the front portion 22 of the panel 12 has a longitudinal recess or groove 26 formed in an upper side of the front edge 24 of the panel 12 that extends from one end of the panel 12 to the other end, as is best shown in FIG. 4. Beneath the longitudinal recess 26 is the securing lip 28 that extends outwardly from the front edge 24 of the panel 12. As is best shown in FIG. 10, the securing lip 28 is formed such that when the gutter protector 10 is positioned in the gutter 50, the securing lip 28 fits into the C-shaped channel 60. In this position, the upper layer 14 of the panel 12 adjacent to the upper lip 62 of the channel 60 is elevated above the upper lip 62. This slight elevation prevents leaves and debris from getting caught under lip 62 of the C-shaped channel 60 and ensures that they are able to slide freely off the top of the panel 12, as is best shown in FIG. 1.

The recess 26 and securing lip 28 at the front edge 24 of the front portion 22 of the panel 12 provide a number of advantages. The securing lip 28 fits easily into the groove in the channel 60 at the front side of a gutter, and it is not necessary to wedge the securing lip 28 in. Nor do dents and bent portions of the channel 60 impair the fit. A thick edge or a slotted edge (wherein a gap or slot is formed along the interior of the front edge 24 of the front portion 22 of the panel 12 and the upper lip 62 of the channel 60 of the gutter 50 fits between a top lip and a bottom lip on opposite sides of the slot) can be more difficult to mount in the gutter 50, because the slot has to be fitted accurately over the upper lip 62, and a dent or bent portion in upper lip 62 would make it difficult to fit it into the gap or slot.

In one exemplary embodiment, the securing lip is approximately three-eighths of an inch thick and extends approximately three-eighths of an inch outwardly on the front edge 24 of the panel 12.

Another feature of the invention is a relieved portion 40 of the non-woven fibrous material 20 on the underside of the panel 12. This provides an integral spring hinge at a junction between a rear edge 36 of the front portion 22 and an upper edge 38 of the rear portion 30 of the panel 12 at a hinge edge 34 of the panel. The positioning of the relieved portion 40 along that hinge edge 34 permits the panel 12 to be bent resiliently into a substantially ninety-degree angle or greater in the gutter 50 and to be resiliently bent into an even greater angle for installation.

The relieved portion 40 of the non-woven fibrous material 20 located along the hinge edge 34 comprises a principal cut 44 and a tension relief cut 42, with the cuts being separated by a finger 45. The principal cut 44 is a substantially right angle V-shaped longitudinal cut in the panel 12. It includes an apex positioned below and preferably close to the screen 16.

The tension relief cut 42, like the principal cut 44, is a substantially V-shaped longitudinal cut in the panel 12 and includes an apex positioned below the screen 16. As shown in FIG. 11, the principal cut 44 is preferably the larger of the two cuts and its apex is preferably closer to the screen 16 than that of the tension relief cut 42. The finger 45 is formed from one of the sides of each of the principal cut 44 and the tension relief cut 42. The tension relief cut 42 can be a right angle groove, but it extends only about two-thirds of the way through the panel 12. The portion between the apex of the tension relief cut 42 and the top of the screen 16 provides an upward spring force on the top of the front portion 22 of the panel 12 when the panel is installed. As is shown in FIG. 6, the tension relief cut 42 permits resilient bending of the panel to greater than a ninety degree angle for purposes of installation (a greater bend being needed to fit the securing lip 28 into the C-shaped channel 60 of the gutter 50) and also so that the front portion 22 slopes downwardly from the back to the front (letting leaves slide more easily off the panel 12). The sloped top of the panel 12 can be achieved by making the front portion 22 wider (from the back to the front) than the gutter (from the back side 54 to the front side 52 across the open top 58), and, as is shown in FIG. 7, by having the tension relief cut 42 remain partially closed once the panel 12 is installed in the gutter 50. Without the tension relief cut 42, it would be difficult to bend the stiff panel 12 sufficiently to fasten the front portion 22 in the gutter. With the tension relief cut 42, the panel 12 is easily snapped into the gutter 50 by bending the panel at the tension relief cut 42.

When mounted in the gutter 50, the spring force created by the flexed panel 12, particularly at the tension relief cut 42, creates the upward spring force on the front portion 22 of the panel 12 and urges the securing lip 28 upwardly against the upper lip 62 of the C-shaped channel 60 of gutter 50, positioning the upper surface of the front portion 22 of the panel 12 above the upper lip 62 of the gutter 50.

In one exemplary embodiment of the invention, the principal cut is approximately five-eighths of inch deep at its apex and the tension relief cut is approximately one-half of an inch deep at its apex.

While the present invention is disclosed herein in connection with typical gutter installations, it should be understood that the present invention can be employed with many types and sizes of gutters.

In order to install the present invention, the gutter 50 is first cleaned. Then, the gutter protector 10 is installed in the gutter 50. To do this, the rear portion 30 of the protector is cut or slotted so as to fit over the gutter spike assembly 63, brackets 57, or other hangers into the gutter 50 against the back side 54 of the gutter. Depending on whether there are gutter spikes 59 or other gutter support brackets 57, slits 82 or broad slots 80 may be made in the rear portion 30 of the panel 12, as is described above, so as to allow the protector 10 to fit over these structures. As is shown in FIG. 7, the panel 12 is bent along the hinge edge 34, the tension relief cut and principal cut are placed in fully closed or nearly fully closed positions, and the front portion 22 is folded downwardly, so the panel 12 is bent at an angle far in excess of ninety degrees. As is shown in FIG. 8, the lower edge 32 of the rear portion is forced downwardly to the bottom side 56 of the gutter 50, and the securing lip 28 is forced into the C-shaped channel 60 of the gutter 50. The resilience and stiffness of the panel holds it in place.

The process is repeated down the gutter 50, with each gutter protector 10 being easily wedged into place in order to fit the members into place in end-to-end contact alignment. No nails or screws are required in the roof, so there is no danger of losing a roof warranty. Moreover, homeowners can re-shingle a house without removing or destroying the gutter protection.

The effectiveness of the gutter protector is sufficient to protect even small debris from passing through the gutter protector. This also protects downspouts and drain pipes from accumulation or clogs caused by gutter sludge. This saves contractor fees that are often incurred by homeowners.

It should be understood that the foregoing is merely representative of exemplary preferred practices of the present invention and that various changes and modifications may be made in the arrangements and details of construction of the embodiments disclosed herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.