Cleaning gutters is a dirty, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous chore. Unfortunately for homeowners, it’s also necessary. Neglecting to clean your gutters can lead to bigger and more expensive problems, including water damage to your home’s roof or foundation.
The best gutter guards, though, can reduce the frequency of cleaning your gutters. This article explores how the different types of gutter guards work and whether gutter guards might be right for your home.
How Do Gutter Guards Work?
Gutter guards work like filters that fit inside or over your gutters. They keep debris, such as leaves and pine needles, from entering your gutters while allowing water to pass through. How well they block debris depends on the type and brand of gutter guards you purchase. Different types of gutter guards also use different mechanisms to keep debris out.
Gutter guards will not completely eliminate the need for gutter cleaning, despite some companies’ claims. “Some species of trees have small seeds that can continue to get through gutter guard systems,” says Nick Yadron, president and owner of M&M Home Remodeling. You’ll also need to remove and clean the gutter guards themselves periodically. Also, while some gutter guards are meant to last a lifetime, others must be replaced every few years.
Gutter Guard Benefits
Your gutters perform an essential function by directing rainwater away from your home’s foundation. However, more than rain can find its way into your gutters. Birds and pests can build nests in them, and leaves and other debris can fall into them and eventually block water flow.
When they are functioning well, gutter guards can prevent clogging by reducing or eliminating the amount of debris entering your gutters, thereby improving water flow. In this way, they can ward off the damage caused by a water backlog, including ice dams, rotted fascia boards, and roof leaks. They can also discourage insects and animals from making homes in your gutters.
The best gutter guards achieve this while reducing the time and effort you must put into gutter maintenance. Not all gutter guard systems are created equal, though. Some perform much better than others.
Types of Gutter Guards
You can choose from five different types of gutter guards, each with its own pros and cons.
Brush Gutter Guards
Brush gutter guards are round brushes with stiff bristles that slide inside your gutters. They resemble giant pipe cleaners or bottle brushes. Although the bristles can effectively prevent large debris from entering your gutters, pine needles and other small debris can still make their way inside.
This type of gutter guard can last five years or longer. However, you’ll likely need to remove brush gutter guards periodically to clear debris that has gotten caught in the bristles. GutterBrush and Gutter Whiskers are two popular brands.
Foam Gutter Guards
Foam gutter guards are porous enough for water to flow through, but they manage to block almost everything else. These gutter guards also sit inside your gutters. They come in different shapes and sizes to fit different gutter styles.
Foam gutter guards may need to be replaced every one to two years. They can shrink in the sun, leaving gaps that smaller debris can fall through. They are also prone to algae growth and freezing. Some brands, such as GutterStuff and GutterFoam, extend the lifespan of their products by applying germicide and a UV coating.
Screen Gutter Guards
Gutter screens sit on top of your gutters, often sliding under the first row of shingles. A wide variety of designs fall into this category. Many resemble wire fencing, mesh, or a metal grate. Gutter screens can be made of plastic, vinyl, stainless steel, or aluminum.
The smaller the holes are, the better the screen will be at blocking debris. However, screens with larger holes may be less likely to clog and easier to clean. You can expect screen gutter guards to last five to 10 years, depending on the brand. Raptor and Amerimax are two well-known brands.
Reverse-Curve Gutter Guards
Reverse-curve gutter guards use surface tension to guide water into your gutters. One side slides under your shingles, while the other extends out over the top of the gutter before curving back. Water will slide along that curve and fall into the gutters while other debris rolls onto the ground.
This type of gutter guard lasts several years and performs very well. However, all the reverse-curve gutter covers we have seen require professional installation. Popular brands include Gutter Helmet and LeafGuard.
Micro-Mesh Gutter Guards
Micro-mesh gutter guards have the same basic design as gutter screens but use a much finer mesh. The holes in micro-mesh are so small that virtually nothing but water can get through. As a result, micro-mesh screens are among the most effective gutter covers available. They are also extremely durable, often lasting 20 years or longer, and require minimal maintenance.
Two of the most well-known brands are LeafGuard and HomeCraft. Both of these brands require professional installation, but you can find DIY alternatives online or at the nearest home improvement store.
DIY vs. Professional Installation
As you research gutter guards, you may notice a huge price difference between the products available at your local Lowe’s or Home Depot and the quotes provided by professional gutter companies.
The reason for this difference is twofold. First, the cost of a professional installation includes both materials and labor. When you install gutter guards yourself, the labor is free. Second, the actual product may be different. Professionals have access to brands and models that are not sold in stores.
Although a DIY installation may save you hundreds of dollars, gutter guard installation costs are not the only factor to consider. Installing gutter guards can take several hours, and since ladders are involved, the job does come with risks. If you choose a style that slides under your shingles, improper installation could even void the warranty on your roof.
Before deciding on a DIY installation, consider the following:
- The equipment required: At the very least, you will need a partner, a ladder, a bucket, a hose, and gloves. You may also need tin snips, a miter or circular saw, and a drill or screwdriver.
- The steps involved: You will need to identify the style and size of your gutters to ensure that you purchase compatible gutter guards. Before installation, you should clean your gutters thoroughly. You may need to trim the gutter guards, too.
- The difficulty level: Some gutter guards are harder to install than others. The installation will also be more difficult if your home has two stories, a steeply pitched roof, or unusual architectural details.
Hiring professionals may cost more, but it will save you time and hassle. Professionally installed gutter guards are typically more effective and backed by far more generous warranties. Some products even come with a lifetime warranty.
Best Gutter Guard Companies
Those who decide on professional installation have several options. We have reviewed dozens of gutter guard companies in our quest to find the best products for our readers. After in-depth research, three of our top picks are LeafFilter, LeafGuard, and HomeCraft.
LeafFilter gutter guards have three components: a micro-mesh screen, a uPVC frame, and structural hangers. The company claims its 275-micron mesh will even filter out dirt, shingle grit, and pollen. Because the mesh is made of surgical-grade stainless steel, it will not rust or corrode. The uPVC frame is built to withstand even extreme temperatures without warping or deteriorating.
Rather than posting prices on its website, LeafFilter provides a custom quote after an on-site inspection. The company manufactures, sells, installs, and warranties its own product. Its lifetime warranty is fully transferable and includes a 100% clog-free guarantee.
You can read more about the company and its gutter guard system in our LeafFilter review.
LeafGuard gutter guards have a patented one-piece design that falls into the reverse-curve category. Rather than installing guards on your existing gutters, LeafGuard replaces the entire system. The company claims its gutters can handle 32 inches of rain per hour. The gutters feature extra-thick aluminum, extra-wide downspouts, and extra supports.
Because LeafGuard gutters are custom-fit for your home, the company does not post pricing online. Instead, you can schedule a free inspection to receive your personalized quote. LeafGuard backs its ScratchGuard paint finish with a limited lifetime warranty and offers a lifetime clog-free guarantee.
You can read more about the company and its complete gutter system in our LeafGuard review.
HomeCraft gutter guards also feature a micro-mesh screen, a frame, and hangers. However, the materials differ from those used by LeafFilter. HomeGuard uses marine-grade stainless steel rather than surgical grade, and its mesh is even finer at 304 microns. Its frames are made from powder-coated aluminum, which is flexible enough to ensure a superior fit.
You can verify whether HomeCraft serves your area and get a free estimate by filling out a simple form on the company’s website. HomeCraft offers a lifetime transferable warranty. However, few details about the warranty appear on its website.
You can read more about the company and its gutter guard system in our HomeCraft review.
Clogged gutters can cause expensive damage to your home. To the extent that gutter guards prevent debris buildup, they are a worthwhile investment. However, it’s important to do your research and ensure that your expectations align with reality.
Depending on the specific gutter guards you choose, you may still need to clean your gutters once or twice a year. Some gutter guards will struggle to keep up with heavy rain or block smaller debris, such as pine needles. You may even have to replace the gutter guards every few years.
We recommend requesting quotes from multiple companies, comparing their products, and browsing customer reviews. This will help you identify whether gutter guards are worth it for your home and which type will work best.
FAQs About Gutter Guards
Our Rating Methodology
The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our gutter guard recommendations with a detailed rating methodology to objectively score each gutter guard product and provider. We conduct research by reviewing product specifications and provider website information, speaking with customer representatives, and analyzing customer reviews. We then score each provider against our review standards for specifications, services, reputation, warranties and discounts, payment options, and customer service to arrive at a final score out of 100.
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