Gutter guards are designed to 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.
Fortunately, many gutter guards are easy enough to install that do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts can manage the task. However, there are some gutter guards that only professionals can install. This guide covers the basics of gutter guard systems, including how to install them yourself and when to call in a professional.
What Are Gutter Guards?
Gutter guards are shields installed inside or over gutters to prevent leaves, pine needles, and other small debris from collecting inside. Several types of gutter guards are available, but they all aim to allow water to flow through while keeping debris out.
Rain gutters and downspouts perform the essential function of directing rainwater away from your home’s foundation. Without gutter guards, debris will gradually build up inside your gutters, forming clogs and obstructing the water flow. As a result, you will need to clean out your gutters at least twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, to keep them working.
It’s important to note that installing gutter guards will not completely 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, and others act as gutter covers. Gutter guards can be sorted into the following five categories:
- Brush: 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.
- Foam: Foam gutter guards also sit inside your gutter. The foam allows water to flow into your gutters but blocks other debris. However, debris may work its way through gaps between the foam and the gutter walls or accumulate on top, hindering water flow.
- Screen: Gutter screens sit on top of the gutter. Most slide under the first row of roof shingles, but some attach to the gutter itself with clips or fasteners. Small debris, such as seeds, may pass through or get stuck in a screen gutter guard.
- Micro-mesh: Micro-mesh gutter guards are essentially 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.
- Reverse-curve: 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.
How To Choose the Right Gutter Guards
Choosing the right gutter guards comes down to price, installation process, and performance.
Of the different types of gutter guards available, three are suitable for DIY installation: foam, brush, and screen. Going the DIY route will bring down the overall cost of gutter guards.
Gutter brushes tend to be the least effective option for filtering out small debris, but they typically last much longer than foam guards, which have a similar price per foot. Another key difference is that gutter brushes come in one size only, while foam gutter guards come in several shapes to fit different gutter styles. A foam gutter guard system is fairly effective, but you will likely need to replace it every one or two years.
Micro-mesh screens are the most effective and expensive option for DIY gutter guard installation. Popular brands include Amerimax, Raptor, and Gutterglove. Other brands of micro-mesh and all reverse-curve gutter guards require professional installation. Although these systems cost more, they typically outperform homeowner-installed gutter guards and include longer warranties.
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.
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.
Taking some extra time up-front will help ensure a smoother installation process. Follow these steps to prepare:
- Examine and measure. Do you have a metal roof or shingles? Some gutter guards may struggle to keep up with how quickly water drains off a metal roof, and others may be difficult to install with a metal roof. You should also carefully measure the length and width of your gutters and identify their shape or style.
- Clean and test your gutters. You will need to clean your gutters thoroughly before installing any gutter guard. Once they are clean, run water through them to test the flow. Then address any leaks or other issues before purchasing gutter guards.
- Choose the right product. Research which gutter guards will work with your existing setup. Keep your budget and DIY skill level in mind when comparing the pros and cons of different products.
- Read the instructions. After you have selected your gutter guards, read through the instructions. You may also want to look for video tutorials and browse customer reviews. Identify common installation issues and how to avoid them.
- Gather tools and supplies. As you study the installation process, note any tools required. At the very least, you will need a ladder. You may also need tin snips, a screwdriver, a power drill, a hammer, clamps, and a circular saw.
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
Place these gutter guards end-to-end inside your gutters. If necessary, you can trim the product to match the length of your 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.
Micro-mesh Gutter Guards
Most DIY micro-mesh gutter guards come pre-cut into three-foot or four-foot sections. Because these are higher-end products, you can usually find detailed instructions, tips, FAQs, and even video tutorials on the manufacturer’s website.
Micro-mesh gutter guards are a type of gutter screen, so they typically slide under your shingles and attach to the outer edge of the gutter. Exactly how they attach depends on the brand.
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. If you must use a ladder that leans, avoid leaning it against the gutters. Doing so could dent or crack your gutters.
Gutter guards can save you time and money by preventing debris buildup inside your gutters. This is important because clogged gutters can cause water damage to your home’s roof or foundation.
Homeowners can install many types of gutter guards in or over the gutter. For a foam or brush gutter guard, place the product inside the gutter. For a mesh or micro-mesh screen, slide one side under the shingles and fasten the other to the gutter. If you choose the DIY route, be sure to follow the instructions carefully, enlist the help of a partner, and practice ladder safety.
Most micro-mesh and reverse-curve gutter guards require professional installation. However, these products typically perform better and last longer than DIY options.
FAQs About Installing 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.
To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.