How To Install Gutter Guards (2023 Guide)
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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 products installed inside or over roof 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 per 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.
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.
Taking some extra time up-front will help ensure a smoother and safer installation process. When prepping for any gutter guard installation, you should do the following:
- Examine and measure. Begin by examining your roof, shingles, and gutter systems. Different types of roofing materials can contribute to increased water runoff. For example, metal roofs create more runoff than simple asphalt shingles. Also, be on the lookout for damaged gutter sections. You should repair these before beginning any gutter guard installation.
- Find secure footing. Always find flat, stable ground to set up when working on a ladder.
- Clean and test your gutters. You will need to clean your gutters thoroughly before installing any gutter guard. Once they’re 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, gloves, a toolbelt, and a screwdriver. You may also need tin snips, a power drill, 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
These gutter guards are the easiest to install. Simply place them end-to-end inside your gutters. If necessary, you can trim the product to match your gutter’s length.
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 3-foot or 4-foot sections. Because these are higher-end products, you can usually find detailed instructions, tips, FAQ, and even video tutorials on the manufacturer’s website. These kinds of gutter guards offer the best overall performance but are the most difficult and time-consuming to install.
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.
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. 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.
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 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.
Foam Gutter Guards
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 or accumulate on top, hindering water flow.
Foam gutter guards are another low-cost 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 can be common in areas with particularly heavy rainfall. Similar to brush guards, foam guards must be cleaned more often than other gutter covers.
Screen Gutter Guards
Gutter screens sit atop the gutter. These guards are made from sheets of metal or UPVC 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 less so than reverse curve or micro-mesh guards.
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. 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.
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. What you trade for slightly less protection is one of the least maintenance-intensive guards out there. Reverse curve guards require the least cleaning since they use water flow to push debris off onto the ground efficiently.
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 handle pollen and pine needles better.
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 still 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.
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.
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 their gutter system. If you choose the DIY route, be sure to 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, you can 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. Screen gutter guards are also easy to install. The screen’s backside slides under the first row of roof shingles while the other end clips onto the front of 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, ice dams, and freezing
- 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. The job should take less than a day, but keep in mind that your gutters should be thoroughly cleaned before installation. 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
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.