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How To Install Gutter Guards (2024 Guide)

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Author Icon Written by Mike Miller + 1 other Reviewer Icon Reviewed by Mark Howey Updated 04/08/2024

Gutter guards keep debris out of your gutters, making them easier to maintain. The best gutter guards can save you time and money by reducing clogs and keeping water flowing freely—but only if they are correctly installed.

Many gutter guards are easy enough to install for do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts. However, there are some gutter guards that only professionals can install. Our team purchased, installed, and tested every type of DIY gutter guard on the market to learn about the installation process. We cover the basics of these gutter guard systems, including how to install them yourself and when to call in a professional.


What Are Gutter Guards?

Gutter guards are products installed inside or over roof gutters to prevent leaves, pine needles, and other small debris from collecting inside while allowing water to flow freely through.

Rain gutters and downspouts collect rainwater to help downspout extensions, splash guards, grading, and underground drains direct rainwater away from your home’s foundation. Without gutter guards, debris will gradually build up inside your gutters, forming clogs and obstructing water flow.

Unless quality gutter guards are in place, water can overflow and damage your home’s roof, siding, foundation, and landscaping. Because of this, you’d need to clean out your gutters at least twice per year, once in the spring and once in the fall, to keep the gutters working.

Installing gutter guards will not eliminate the need for gutter cleaning. However, you can expect the job to be easier and less frequent with gutter guards.


Types of Gutter Guards

Homeowners will find dozens of gutter guard options on the market, each with pros and cons. Some slide into the gutter, while others act as gutter covers. Gutter guards can be sorted into the following five categories:

Brush Gutter Guards

Brush guards look like giant pipe cleaners with stiff bristles. They sit inside your gutters with the bristles pointed up to intercept large debris. Smaller debris, such as pine needles, may get caught in the bristles or even make its way past them.

These guards are inexpensive and very easy to install but require more frequent cleaning. Since these guards use bristles designed to catch debris instead of directing it away, they tend to clog more quickly than other guards.

When installing these guards, pay close attention to the ends of each section. Our guard’s central metal cord extended slightly past the bristles, creating 1/4-inch gaps. We used a pair of tin snips to trim them flush. 

Foam Gutter Guards

Foam gutter guards sit inside your gutter and allow water to flow into your gutters while blocking other debris. However, debris may work its way through gaps between the foam or accumulate on top, hindering water flow.

Foam gutter guards are another DIY guard that works well but has some major downsides. The biggest issue with foam gutter guards is mediocre water filtration. Even when unclogged, spillovers are common in areas with particularly heavy rainfall. Similar to brush guards, foam guards must be cleaned more often than other gutter covers.

These guards are pricey. They’re typically sold in 4-foot sections that are low-cost per unit. However, when purchasing enough materials to cover an entire gutter system—typically 150 to 200 feet—they are just as expensive as high-end DIY micro-mesh systems. 

Micro-Mesh Guards

Micro-mesh gutter guards are screens but with much smaller holes—so small they’re nearly imperceptible. Micro-mesh is durable, effective, and easy to clean but often requires professional installation. Micro-mesh gutter guards offer the best overall protection compared to other guards but are also the most expensive. These guards usually require little maintenance, as most models incorporate an angled pitch that uses flowing water to clear debris.

These guards performed the best during testing. They kept out all debris except for small dirt particles. However, they were the most difficult and time-consuming to install. Most micro-mesh guards require moderate alterations to install correctly, such as trimming the edges with tin snips, bending the guard’s back, or folding the mesh. 

Reverse-Curve Guards

Reverse-curve gutter guards also require professional installation. They start beneath your shingles, extend out over the gutter, and then curve back slightly. Surface tension allows water to follow that curve into the gutter while debris rolls off.

These gutter guards protect from most debris, although small particles, such as shingle grit, can get past them. Reverse curve guards require the least cleaning since they use water flow to push debris off onto the ground efficiently.

While most guard types have viable DIY alternatives, we can’t recommend DIY reverse-curve guards. Design and material quality are more important for this guard type due to how reverse-curve guards filter water. We discovered this when installing a lower-end DIY reverse-curve product. The openings were too small to allow water passage, and the plastic lip had a seam that prevented water from entering, making the guard useless. If you’re interested in a reverse-curve guard, don’t compromise on quality. We recommend choosing professional installation. 

Screen Gutter Guards

Gutter screens sit atop the gutter. These guards are made from sheets of metal or plastic with perforated holes. Most slide under the first row of roof shingles, but some attach to the gutter with clips or fasteners. Small debris, such as seeds, may pass through or get stuck in a screen gutter guard. These are good midrange guards and are more effective than brush and foam guards but are less so than reverse curve or micro-mesh guards.


How To Choose the Right Gutter Guards

Choosing the right gutter guards comes down to price, installation process, location, and performance. These factors determine which gutter guard is right for you and your home. For example, homeowners in heavily forested regions will want a micro-mesh guard since they are the best gutter guards for pine needles and pollen.

Below, we’ll discuss these factors in greater detail and explain how they can impact your gutter guard installation:

  • Prices: The price of gutter guards can vary greatly depending on what brand, material, and design you choose. As a rule, DIY brands are less expensive than professional installations. Professional installations offer better quality products, less hassle, and long-lasting warranty protections.
  • Installation process: When choosing your gutter guard, you’ll need to consider how difficult it is to install. Some guards are quick and easy to insert, making them suitable as a DIY project for all skill levels. On the other hand, some DIY guards require specific tools, skills, and experience.
  • Performance: A gutter guard’s performance comes down to two major factors: materials and design. Gutter guards made from better materials will perform better and last longer. Gutter guards with more efficient designs, like micro-mesh guards, will keep more materials out of your gutters while allowing water to pass through.
  • Location: Where your home is located will have a major impact on which gutter gutter guards will be the most effective. Regions with heavy rainfall will require guards with better filtration, and more forested areas will need guards with finer meshes. If you live in a climate with extremely cold winters, you might require gutter guards with heating elements to prevent ice dam formation.

Guide to Installing Gutter Guards

The exact steps for installing gutter guards will depend on your selected product. However, we outline the basic steps involved in DIY gutter guard installation below.

Preparation

Taking some extra time up-front will help ensure a smoother and safer installation process. When prepping for any gutter guard installation, consider the following:

  • Examine: Begin by examining your roof, shingles, and gutter systems. Your gutters may attach to the ends of the roof rafters, or to your fascia board if you have one. If attached to the fascia board, the gutter may have a lip that tucks under the roofing or it may secure to the fascia several inches below that. All of these factors affect which specific products will work for you. Also, look out for damaged gutter sections and repair them before beginning gutter guard installation.
  • Clean and test your gutters: Once your gutters are clean, run water through them to test the flow. Then, address any leaks or other issues before purchasing gutter guards.
  • Measure: Measure the total length of your gutter system. You can do this by measuring each section from the ground and combining the lengths. Purchase enough materials to cover that length in linear feet. We recommend buying more product length than you need; mistakes, manufacturer errors, and other problems may arise during DIY installations, and having extra materials can come in handy. This is especially true if you’re purchasing materials online, as you may have to wait multiple days before replacement parts arrive. 
  • Find secure footing: Always find flat, stable ground to set up when working on a ladder. 
  • Choose the right product: Research which gutter guards will work with your existing setup. The gutter guard you select should also depend on the amount of rainfall and debris in your area and your maintenance preference. Keep your budget and DIY skill level in mind when comparing the pros and cons of different products. During testing, we found that the easiest products to install were brush guards, while the most difficult were foam and micro-mesh guards. 
  • Read the instructions: Look for video tutorials and browse customer reviews. Identify common installation issues and how to avoid them. Some DIY brands, such as Raptor, host supplemental information on their company websites. These additional instructions can be helpful, especially if you need to alter the guards to fit on untraditional roofs or gutters.
  • Gather tools and supplies: At the very least, you will need a ladder, gloves, a tool belt, and a screwdriver. You may also need sharp tin snips, a cordless drill, and clamps.

Installation

Once you have completed all the prep work, you can start the installation. Here’s a general idea of what to expect when installing different types of gutter guards.

Brush or Foam Gutter Guards

These gutter guards are the easiest to install. Place them end-to-end inside your gutters and if necessary, trim the product to match your gutter’s length.

You may experience installation difficulty if your gutters have hidden hangers. Hangers are the parts of a gutter system that hold sections to the fascia board. Hidden hangers rest inside the gutter and can obstruct foam and brush guard installation.

When installing these guard types, we found that our hidden hangers made inserting them difficult and required us to completely remove each gutter section beforehand. You might also try removing every other or two of every three of the hangers before inserting the product. Then, you can reinstall the removed hangers without removing the gutter.

Plastic or Metal Gutter Screens

Gutter screens may come in large rolls that you can cut to size or in pre-cut sections that connect or overlap.

Gutter screens are secured via an easy two-step process. One side slides under the first row of your roof’s shingles, and the other attaches to the gutter itself. Some snap onto the gutter lip, while others must fasten onto the gutter or fascia with special clips, tape, or screws. A few types use support brackets installed along the roofline. Once the gutter guard is secure, you can use tin snips or a utility knife to trim as needed.

The snap-on products we tested functioned without any connectors, but their hold was weak. We recommend drilling in screws every few feet for a more secure connection, especially if you live in a high-wind area. 

Micro-Mesh Gutter Guards

Micro-mesh gutter guards are a type of gutter screen, so they typically slide under your shingles and attach to the gutter’s outer edge. Exactly how they attach depends on the brand.

These kinds of gutter guards offer the best overall performance but are the most difficult and time-consuming to install. Most DIY micro-mesh gutter guards come pre-cut into 3-foot or 4-foot sections. You can usually find detailed instructions, tips, FAQs, and even video tutorials on the manufacturer’s website.

We found these guards required the most modifications during installation; we had to bend the back sections of our DIY micro-mesh guard to properly attach it to the gutter’s fascia board.


Tips and Precautions

If you choose to install gutter guards yourself, ladder safety is paramount. Follow these tips to reduce your risk of injury:

  • Never use a ladder while working alone. Instead, make sure someone is nearby to hand you tools and help stabilize the ladder as needed.
  • Minimize the number of times you descend and ascend. Fewer trips up and down the ladder mean fewer chances to misplace your foot, lose your balance, and fall.
  • Attach a bucket to the ladder. Use an S-hook to hang a bucket from the ladder. You can use the bucket to hold your tools or any debris you clear out of the gutters.
  • Use an A-frame ladder for better stability. A-frame ladders are only appropriate if you’re on solid, flat ground and the ladder is tall enough to work on safely. Never stand on the upper rungs of an A-frame ladder. If you use a ladder that leans, avoid leaning it against the gutters to prevent denting or cracking. Alternatively, you can use a ladder stabilizer or ladder standoff. These tools displace the ladder’s weight onto your siding or roof’s surface area, increasing safety and preventing expensive gutter damage. Extension ladders may also have adjustable legs for uneven and soft ground.

DIY vs. Professional Gutter Guard Installation

The gutter guards you see at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and other home improvement stores are typically meant for DIY installation. They require few to no tools and hardware and cost less than products meant for professional installation.

Raptor gutter guards slide into place and are secured with self-tapping screws, and Amerimax offers snap-in filters. Gutterglove posts detailed instructions on its website, plus pictures to show what the installation process looks like with different rooflines, gutter designs, and roofing materials.

Alternatively, you can hire a professional to install gutter guards on your existing gutters or as part of a new gutter system. In the latter case, the price would be included in the gutter installation cost quoted by the company. The main advantages of professional installation are convenience, peace of mind, improved performance, and longevity.

Some companies, such as LeafFilter, only offer professional installation with no DIY option. However, the company will include a gutter assessment and necessary repairs in the installation process. This may cost more up-front but will save you from future issues and result in a more effective gutter protection system.


Our Conclusion

Gutter guards can save you time and money by preventing debris buildup inside your gutters. Clogged gutters can cause water damage to your home’s roof or foundation. This can cost thousands of dollars to repair.

Homeowners can install many types of gutter guards in or over their gutter system. If you choose the DIY route, follow the instructions carefully, enlist help, and practice ladder safety. If you prefer a faster option with higher quality products protected by long-lasting warranties, schedule an appointment with a gutter installation company.


FAQ About Installing Gutter Guards

What is the easiest gutter guard to install?

Foam gutter guards and brush gutter guards are the easiest to install because they sit inside the gutter. You can cut them to size if needed and slip them inside your gutter.

What are the benefits of installing gutter guards?

Here are the benefits of installing gutter guards:

  • Improves water flow to keep it away from the home
  • Prevents clogs, rust, corrosion, and ice dams
  • Prolongs the life of your gutters
  • Extends the time between gutter cleanings
  • Makes your gutter less hospitable for mosquitos and other insects
  • Keeps out mice, birds, and other nesting animals

What is the warranty for gutter guards?

Many manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on their micro-mesh or reverse curve gutter guards. Installers may also provide a warranty on any gutter guards they install. However, the warranty for gutter guards will vary depending on the product and installer.

How long does it take to install gutter guards?

How long it takes to install gutter guards will vary depending on the type of gutter guard and the size of your home. According to several gutter guard installers, a general estimate would be three to five hours, counting the pre-installation cleaning.

Which are the best gutter guards?

In general, micro-mesh gutter guards are the most effective. These kinds of guards have the best filtration and keep out the smallest debris. We find Raptor Gutter Guards the best DIY brand and LeafFilter the best professionally installed guard.


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.