Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster

July 23, 2014

Rainhead Screens

by Brad Lancaster © 2014

1. Gutters filled with debris from overhanging tree branches. Photo taken at the beginning of the rainy season before gutters were cleaned.

Gutters filled with debris from overhanging tree branches. Photo taken at the beginning of the rainy season before gutters were cleaned.

Around the world among rainwater-harvesting cultures, people clean their water catchments before the rain. Children often have this responsibility, sweeping a flat roof- or patio-catchment. At my home, the responsibility is mine, with the cleaning of my roof gutters and all inlets to curb cuts along the street. I have to do this at the beginning of every rainy season because the gutters and curb cuts fill up with abundant pollen, pods, and leaves from overhanging trees.

But during the rainy season (after my pre-season gutter cleaning) the majority of the roof debris that falls is passively washed away via a rainhead screen. I love these! Unlike a gutter screen you can see them from the ground, they clean themselves, and as you’ll see in my newly updated Rainhead Screen Image Gallery and book, they can be located for easy access/inspection/rain-storm enjoyment.

As I like to see what is going on, I like the rainhead styles—such as the Leaf-Eater AdvancedTM—that keep the screen in full view so I can quickly see and address any problems such as rare clogging. I’m not a fan of styles that hide the screen—like the Leaf-Eater UltraTM.


My favorite rainhead screen used at my Tucson, AZ, home. Made by a local sheet-metal shop (both Advantage Air Mechanical and Quick Custom Metals do great work). Bulk of screen is at 45º angle so debris washes off, while the water goes through the 1/8-inch (3-mm) screen/hardware cloth. Keeps out insects and animals, too. Nice raised edges prevent incoming water from overshooting the screen. Handy shelf at bottom of screen further reduces overshoot. Unlike a gutter screen, you can see a rainhead screen from the ground, and can easily inspect it (see image 11 in Rainhead image gallery). Made out of metal so it holds up well under our intense sun. Note how downspout is vertical; this directs water directly onto the screen. Have at least a 2-inch (5-cm) gap between bottom of downspout and screen so large debris won’t get caught and dam up the downspout.

There are numerous styles—some good, some bad. I show you a wide array, including those you can have made locally at a sheet metal shop, or that you can purchase from a local water-harvesting business or online.

Note that I will periodically update this image gallery as I attain new, informative images. Cold-climate installations to come. For now, just note that in cold climates I always recommend putting rainhead screens where they will get some winter sun to help melt any ice build-up on the screen. Equator/winter-sun -facing sides of buildings are best. Next best would be east- or west-facing exposures. Avoid installation on the winter-shade side of buildings (north-facing side in northern hemisphere, or south-facing side in southern hemisphere). For more on seasonally-changing sun paths and strategies for any latitude, see chapter 4 and appendix 7 of “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 2nd Edition.”

One Response to “Rainhead Screens”

  1. prepping – 7_25_2014 | Headline News Says:

    […] Rainhead Screens […]

Drops in a Bucket Blog

 »Read all blog posts...

Sign up for the Newsletter

Upcoming Events

  1. 2021 Rocky Mountain Natural Building Conference

    October 14 - October 16
  2. Water Harvesting Design Certification: Fall 2021

    November 8 - November 20
  3. Water Harvesting Design Certification: Spring 2020

    February 28, 2022 - March 12, 2022

Umbrella Newsletter

The Umbrella: Summer 2020

THE UMBRELLA: A catch-all of resources, events, media, and more from Brad Lancaster In this time of Covid-19 and spending more time at home to be safe, I’ve been grateful for the solace, inspiration, and bountiful sustenance my water-harvesting gardens, landscape, and neighborhood forest has provided me, my family, friends, and neighbors. Record summer heat […]

 »Read all newsletters...

Like what this website offers?

Donations are greatly appreciated as they enable us to continuously update this expansive resource and generate new content. Thanks!