Gutter covers are a smart investment for homeowners who want to keep debris out of their gutters, reducing gutter cleaning and allowing rain to filter away from their homes. You may be interested in putting your ladder to work and saving money with do-it-yourself (DIY) gutter guard installation, or maybe your home improvement skills would be put to better use on your home woodworking projects instead.
Read our detailed guide to learn more about types of gutter guards, how to install them, and whether it’s worth the effort to tackle gutter protection without help from the pros.
Types of Gutter Guards
It’s important to understand the style of gutter guard you want before starting installation, as the scope of each job is different.
Screen. Screen gutter guards are perforated with large holes that keep out bigger debris, such as mature leaves. Metal and plastic options are 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.
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 who live under a tree canopy or contend 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, some micro-mesh DIY options can be inserted under the first layer of shingles, snap into your gutters, or connect with your roof’s fascia (the band under your roof’s edge).
Reverse-curve. Reverse-curve gutter guards don’t rely on holes or mesh for water flow. They use the principle of 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 angle of the guard precisely in sync with the roof’s pitch for the most effective surface tension.
Brush. Brush gutter guards are constructed from 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 buildup of large debris in their bristles. You must remove this type of guard for frequent gutter maintenance.
Foam. Foam gutter guards are made of a sponge-like material that fills the negative space of your gutters. Its porous nature allows water to filter through while debris is left on top. This inexpensive option 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.
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 can be 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 used. The more challenging methods are doable with general handyman skills.
No scheduling. When you install your own gutter guards, you do it on your time. It can be difficult to coordinate with contractors and ensure the work is completed on schedule. When you need gutter guards installed immediately to protect against heavy rain in the forecast, a DIY option can be the right choice—at least until you can put up something heartier.
Cons of DIY Gutter Guards
Although installing DIY gutter guards can be tempting, it’s important to carefully consider the following downsides before committing to the project.
Product quality. Gutter guards designed for DIY installation are typically made from inferior materials 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. 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. Whether you have mismeasured cuts or misplaced screws, the minor expenses can add up.
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.
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 you are 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, make sure you 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, and sometimes it is. Other times, homeowners 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 will be less effective at water management, and your guards won’t work as intended.
Skipping the downspouts. Some homeowners think that gravity and a good downpour are enough to clear out debris lodged in their downspouts. As a result, they don’t protect these areas with gutter guards. However, downspouts can easily clog with pests or debris. It’s important to protect the full length of your gutter runs, including the downspouts.
In theory, DIY gutter guard installation is easy and doesn’t require much in the way of specialized tools or equipment. In practice, ladder work is dangerous, and gutter guard installations don’t happen in a controlled environment. Anything beyond a single-story job should be left to the pros to reduce fall risks.
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.
FAQ About Types of Gutter Guards
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