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Are DIY Gutter Guards Right for You?

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Man puts a gutter mesh to the rain gutter to protect the gutter from leaves.

Default Author Icon Written by Mike Miller Updated 06/25/2024

Gutter guards or covers are smart investments for homeowners who want to keep debris out of their gutters, reduce gutter cleaning, and allow rain to flow away from their homes. You can either call a professional installer or put your ladder to work and save money with do-it-yourself (DIY) gutter guard installation.

To better inform homeowners on how to pick the best gutter guard for their homes, we purchased, installed, and tested each major type of DIY guard. Below, we’ll share our findings, explain how to install them and discuss whether it’s worth the effort to DIY.


Types of Gutter Guards

There are several types of gutter guards, but some may be better suited than others. Its performance, cost, and appearance are several factors to consider when choosing the best type for your home.

Screen

Screen gutter guards a perforated with large holes that keep out bigger debris, such as mature leaves. Metal and plastic options are also available. Plastic gutter guards can blow off during severe weather and warp, bend, or break over time.

You install screen gutter guards by lifting the bottom row of roof shingles and sliding the edge of the screen underneath it. Although screen gutter guards are easy to install on your own, you can damage your roof in the process. 

During testing, we found that metal screen guards were among the most durable products on the market. The brand we tested, A-M Gutter Guards, was made from thick-gauge aluminum and withstood multiple stress tests. It blocked most debris except for pine needles, seedpods, and shingle grit. 

Micro-Mesh

Micro-mesh gutter guards feature an ultra-fine mesh layer supported by a vinyl or metal frame. The mesh holes are much smaller than the holes in gutter screens, and debris as small as pine needles, pollen, or shingle grit can’t pass through. Micro-mesh guards are good for homeowners living under a tree canopy or contending with small debris. They are generally considered one of the best gutter guards on the market.

Many micro-mesh gutter guard providers require professional installation by their employees or local contractors. However, there are some micro-mesh DIY options. To install DIY micro-mesh gutter guards, you can insert them under the first layer of shingles, snap them into your gutters, or connect them with your roof’s fascia (the band under your roof’s edge).

Micro-mesh models performed the best overall in our testing. These guards had the best filtration and design and were among the most durable. The downside is that they’re the most difficult to install, often requiring modifications to fit on your gutter or fascia board. 

Reverse Curve

Reverse-curve gutter guards rely on surface tension to wick water around the outer lip and back into the gutter while debris slides off and down to the ground.

This style of gutter guard isn’t recommended for DIY installation because the installer must get the guard’s angle precisely in sync with the roof’s pitch for the most effective surface tension.

Additionally, many DIY brands use lower-quality materials that impact the guard’s performance. One model we tested used plastic for the filter, which had a thin lip along the holes meant for water entry. This lip made it impossible for the water to pass through, rendering the guard useless.

Brush

Brush gutter guards consist of a thick wire with plastic bristles that resemble pipe cleaners. They rest in your gutter trough and are easy to install as long as you feel safe on a ladder. No screws or tools are necessary. Brush gutter guards won’t stop small debris and tend to catch the buildup of large debris in their bristles. You must remove this type of guard for frequent gutter maintenance. 

During testing, we found that the central metal cord extended past the bristles, which created a small gap between guard sections. We had to use tin snips to make each section flush. 

Foam

Foam gutter guards are sponge-like materials that fill the negative space of your gutters. Its porous nature allows water to filter through while debris is left on top. This guard is simple to install by pressing each piece into your gutters between the hangers or screws. Major drawbacks include that they are susceptible to deterioration, must be removed to clean clogs, and provide an environment for harmful seedlings to grow.

During testing, we found that these guards don’t work well with hidden hangers. Hidden hangers rest inside gutter sections, as opposed to external hangers, which sit below. When installing this guard, we found placing it beneath the hangers was difficult, ultimately requiring us to remove each section, slide the foam in, and reattach the gutter. 


DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

Here are several key benefits and drawbacks of DIY gutter guard installation.

Pros of DIY Gutter Guards

DIY gutter guards are useful in some situations. Here’s why you might want to pick up your drill and get out your extension ladder.

Low cost. The primary advantage of DIY gutter guards is the lower cost compared to professionally installed guards. The materials are generally cheaper per linear foot and you don’t pay installation fees.

Easy installation. DIY gutter guards can be easy to install, depending on the installation method. The more challenging methods are doable with general handyman skills. 

No scheduling. When you install your own gutter guards, you do it on your own time. You don’t have to waste time coordinating with contractors. When you need gutter guards installed immediately to protect against heavy rain, a DIY option can be the right choice—at least until you can put up something heartier. 

Cons of DIY Gutter Guards

Before installing DIY gutter guards, it’s important to consider the following downsides.

Product quality. Gutter guards designed for DIY installation are typically made from inferior materials compared to guards offered by full-service providers. DIY gutter guards will likely fail sooner and have shorter limited warranties.

Professionally installed gutter guards are often more effective, last longer, and include industry-leading warranties, such as transferable or lifetime warranties. While DIY gutter guards are great in a pinch, most homeowners are better off with a professionally installed guard for long-term use.

Expensive tools. Unless you’re a handyman with a fully stocked shed, you may be missing the necessary equipment for installing gutter guards. A good ladder, tin snips, and a cordless drill are necessities, but you’ll also want to consider specialty equipment for safety.

A roof harness, for example, is highly recommended to prevent injury. Cut-resistant gloves will keep your fingers safe as you resize materials with sharp edges and fit them into place.

Unseen costs. Installing gutter guards on your own is cheaper than hiring a pro for the same job, but it might not be as cheap as you think. In addition to acquiring any tools and equipment you don’t have, you may have to stop mid-job to restock on supplies.

Additional risk. Although professional installation represents a higher up-front cost, you’re not just paying the crew for materials and their time. They show up with the expertise and equipment to complete the job safely—and insurance in case of a mishap.


Installation Methods

Every DIY gutter guard system will have an installation procedure outlined in the instructions, posted on the provider’s website, or both. However, a few general methods are common, and you may feel more comfortable tackling some than others. Here are three typical installation methods for DIY gutter guards:

Drop-In

Styles such as foam or brush gutter guards squeeze into the trough of your existing gutters. That’s all there is to the installation. While drop-in styles are among the least durable and effective of guards, they are the easiest to install for the average homeowner. Anyone who’s comfortable climbing a ladder can do this job.

Snap-In

Snap-in leaf guards, such as Amerimax Home Products’ offerings, use tension instead of screws to stay in place. These gutter guards often slide under the first course of roof shingles and snap onto the outer lip of your rain gutter. Any time you work with your shingles, you risk damaging or voiding your roof warranty. This adds an element of difficulty to the installation. 

When installing a flimsier plastic product, you may need to reinforce the gutter guard with small zip screws through the gutter to keep the guard from blowing away. 

Screw-On

This method requires hardware to mount the guards to the lip of your existing gutters and the drip edge of your home’s fascia. During these installations, space the screws correctly and keep the guard perfectly level while drilling. Some options include self-tapping screws, which can eliminate the need for pilot holes.

Like snap-in products, you may need to slide the gutter guard under your shingles. You must determine the slope of your roof and bend the guard accordingly, or you’ll lose performance under heavy rain.


Common Gutter Guard Installation Mistakes

Installing gutter guards on your own seems easy, but homeowners often make mistakes that lead to additional expenses or repairs in the future. Here are five common errors homeowners may make during the procedure.

Lifting the shingles. Never lift your roof’s shingles to install a gutter guard. When you peel up your shingles, you risk compromising their integrity and ability to keep water from seeping into your ceiling. Manipulating shingles in the fall while they’re cold and stiff (below 50 degrees Fahrenheit) makes them especially prone to damage.

Nailing into the roof. Don’t manipulate your shingles more than necessary during installation. Never attempt to secure a gutter guard by driving nails into your roof material. More holes in your roof increase the likelihood of insects and water getting inside.

Getting the wrong size. Most residential homes have 5-inch gutters, but depending on your roof’s slope and the number of valleys in your gutter runs, you may have 4- or 6-inch gutters. Don’t order a gutter guard size that is incompatible with your existing gutters.

Damaging the gutters. There are many ways for an inexperienced homeowner to damage gutters while installing gutter guards, such as denting the gutter with the ladder or introducing corrosion with the wrong type of fasteners. Damaged gutters are less effective at water management, and your guards won’t work as intended.

Skipping the downspouts. Some homeowners think gravity and a good downpour are enough to clear out debris lodged in their downspouts. However, downspouts can easily clog with pests or debris. Always protect the full length of your gutter runs, including the downspouts.

Not buying enough materials. It’s frustrating to stop a project halfway through to buy more parts, especially when you purchased materials online and have to wait multiple days for delivery. We recommend measuring your gutter system beforehand and buying more material than necessary. Accidents, manufacturer errors, and miscalculations are common in any DIY project, so it never hurts to have spare parts.  


Our Conclusion

In theory, DIY gutter guard installation is easy and doesn’t require specialized tools or equipment. However, ladder work is dangerous, and gutter guard installations don’t happen in a controlled environment. To reduce fall risks, anything beyond a single-story job should be left to the pros.

In addition to the safety concern, installers see things your untrained eye might miss. They can point out issues with your existing gutters, recommend repairs, and adjust for a tighter fit and better gutter guard performance. Because of these intangibles, many top gutter guard companies require their products to be professionally installed for the warranty to take effect.

Whether you use a full-service gutter guard provider or buy materials yourself and find a contractor to install them, we recommend getting at least three quotes before committing. If you choose to go this route, here are the companies we recommend for professionally installed gutter guards:

Product Image Star Rating BBB Rating Link
LeafFilter LeafFilter LeafFilter
A+ GET ESTIMATE
LeafGuard LeafGuard LeafGuard
A+ GET ESTIMATE
Gutter Guards America Gutter Guards America Gutter Guards America
A+ GET ESTIMATE
HomeCraft HomeCraft HomeCraft
B GET ESTIMATE
All American Gutter Protection All American Gutter Protection All American Gutter Protection
A GET ESTIMATE
LeafFilter
Logo LeafFilter
Product Image LeafFilter
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
GET ESTIMATE
LeafGuard
Logo LeafGuard
Product Image LeafGuard
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
GET ESTIMATE
Gutter Guards America
Logo Gutter Guards America
Product Image Gutter Guards America
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
GET ESTIMATE
HomeCraft
Logo HomeCraft
Product Image HomeCraft
Star Rating
BBB Rating B
GET ESTIMATE
All American Gutter Protection
Logo All American Gutter Protection
Product Image All American Gutter Protection
Star Rating
BBB Rating A
GET ESTIMATE
Company
Star Rating
BBB Rating
Best For
A+
Best Filtration
A+
Best for Large Debris
A+
Best Customer Reviews
B
Best Additional Services
A
Best Deals and Discounts

FAQ About Types of Gutter Guards

Are DIY gutter guards worth it?

DIY gutter guards can be worth it if you have a tight budget, no time to schedule a professional installation, and a one-story home. However, professionally installed gutter guards are more durable and effective, making them the better choice in the long run for most homeowners.

Do gutter guards work in heavy rain?

Some gutter guards do work in heavy rain, but not all are up to the job. More restrictive gutter guards keep out smaller debris but reduce water flow. Most professionally installed micro-mesh gutter guards handle downpours easily.

What happens to gutter guards during winter?

Metal gutter guards typically freeze during winter, allowing water to spill over the side and form icicles. If ice damming is a persistent issue, consider installing an electrical heated cable in your gutters to prevent freezing.

Our Rating Methodology

We back 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 gutter guard design, customer support, the quote process, services, and reviews to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.