Before You Buy Gutter Guards, Review These Pros & Cons Of Installing Gutter Covers

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Gutter guards are advertised as being able to prevent your gutters from clogging with leaves, as well as water and debris — thus saving you from what could be a dangerous household task.

A clogged gutter

Cleaning gutters is no fun at all!

However, not everyone agrees that gutter guards are worth the cost, time, and effort to get them installed

Following are the pros and cons of installing gutter guards (or leaf guards, gutter covers, gutter screens, etc.) on your home…

Types Of Gutter Covers

There are 5 main types of gutter guards:

  1. Mesh gutter guards – these metal sheets (filled with tiny holes) attach to the roof shingles and cover the gutter.
  2. Reverse curve gutter guards – these position the water downward while directing the leaves to fall to the ground.
  3. Bottle brush gutter guards – these are made of bristles that face upright inside the gutter. The debris rests on top while the water flows away.
  4. Nylon gutter guards – these work exceptionally well in the winter due to their unique design which prevents snow from building up and freezing.
  5. Foam gutter guards – these are actually made of plastic that fits directly into your gutter, helping to block the debris from going into the gutter.

Gutter guards fall into 2 categories: gutter covers and gutter screens. Screens are usually made of wire mesh, nylon or foam, and are simpler and cheaper to install, but usually don’t last as long. Gutter covers sit on top of your gutters, so appearance is something else to consider. Also, they limit the waterflow into your gutters because… well… they cover the gutters. They can be made out of a variety of materials, including copper, aluminum, plastic, wire mesh, nylon and foam. — Heritage Home Inspection Services

Home Experts Weigh In On Gutter Guards

HGTV says you should definitely use gutter guards. They give instructions on how to install the mesh type and keep them clean… but I thought the idea was to not have to clean them!

Tom Kraeutler discusses whether or not gutter guards are worth the cost. While they are not necessarily maintenance free, he feels that they can lessen the amount of labor and possibly prevent unnecessary falls.

Installing gutter guards.

According to Tim Carter at Ask The Builder, the effectiveness of gutter guards is questionable at best:

All of the products do an excellent job of prohibiting full sized leaves from entering your gutters. That is a simple task. However, many of the gutter cover products fail to stop tiny tree flower buds, seed pods and evergreen needles from entering gutters. — Tim Carter, Ask The Builder

The good news is that after 10 years of research and lots of personal trial and error, he has finally found a gutter guard that he feels comfortable recommending.  His pick for the best gutter guard system is MasterShield.

Pros & Cons Of Using Gutter Covers

So, what should you do?

If you want to spend less time cleaning gutters, then yes – gutter guards are definitely something that should be considered.

Just don’t expect that they will be maintenance free.

Some debris will inevitably collect on top of the gutter guards themselves. However, it should be much easier and quicker to clean it off the top than to dig into clogged gutters to remove handfuls of leaves, seeds, and twigs.

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That said, some gutter guard systems are harder to clean once they become clogged — so choose your gutter guard system wisely!

In some cases, the cost of the gutter guard system can cost more than several years’ worth of professional gutter cleaning. Therefore, depending on your situation and how many trees are around your home, it may make more sense to pay a professional to clean your gutters annually instead of paying for a gutter guard system that may fail.

Also, if you have a house with gutters that are 2 or 3 stories tall, you should consider hiring a gutter cleaning service for once or twice a year cleaning anyway — whether you have gutter guards or not. It’s too dangerous to clean gutters that high off the ground.

PROS:

  • They can be added to existing gutters.
  • Gutter covers prevent birds and rodents from building nests in the gutters.
  • They eliminate the need to clean your gutters frequently.
  • Gutter guards prevent the build-up of stagnant water in your gutters, which could otherwise back up and overflow into your home or serve as a breeding ground for insects.
  • Your gutters will last longer, since they won’t prematurely rust and rot from the moisture and debris sitting in them.
  • Gutter covers enable more efficient rain water harvesting by improving the flow of water and filtering out some contaminants.
  • You can even get heated gutter guards that will melt icicles, ice dams, and snow.

Here are 5 reasons to install leaf guards on your home.

CONS:

  • Gutter guard installation can be expensive. They can cost anywhere from $700 to several thousand dollars.
  • They are not 100% foolproof. Gutter covers still need occasional cleaning.
  • Exaggerated ice issues are common, since melting snow and ice build-up react differently with gutter guards.
  • Some gutter guard systems are practically ineffective, so you must shop carefully. Beware of the hype of high-pressure salespeople.
  • If you ever lean a ladder against your gutters (when cleaning them or hanging Christmas lights, for example), the gutter covers will become dented. This will lessen their effectiveness from that point forward.
  • The additional weight of gutter guards could cause your gutters to sag in the center.
  • If you happen to have a steep roof or valleys (where downward-sloping sections of roof meet and water runoff is heavy), the water can overshoot the gutter guard itself.
  • Tree seeds can get caught in the gutter guard slots and sprout, forming gutter trees — and some types of tree seeds grow rather quickly!

Here are 5 reasons to not install gutter guards.

pros & cons before installing gutter guards.

Gutter Guard Reviews

For more information, check out these reviews of different gutter guards, covers, and screens:

And finally, some good advice to help you choose the best gutter guards for your home:

When shopping for a gutter guard, you should choose one with small holes in it that will still allow water to pass through while blocking the entrance of small debris. Look specifically for products made from vinyl with small diamond-shaped holes for the best results … Since a thorough cleaning will require removing the guards, you will want to choose hoods that are both easy to remove and easy to replace for the utmost efficacy. — Angie’s List

I recommend that you look at the companies that have been carrying their gutter protection product the longest. Not just how long they have been in business, but how long they have been carrying the product. A 50-year old siding company might have just recently picked up the gutter protection product line, and have no track record as far as maintenance on that particular product. They can drop the product line the day after you purchased it, and force you to go to the manufacturer, and trust me you do not want to go that route. Stay away from those guys, unless of course you want to be their guinea pig. Another thing to be cautious of is the one-piece systems. They will charge you a price per foot for the entire gutter system which will include the downspouts which do not come protected. — homerepairexprt-ga

Systems that promise to keep your gutters leaf-free can easily cost thousands of dollars. But our 16 months of outdoor testing show that a low-priced screen may be all it takes to keep out leaves and other debris. We tested professionally installed and do-it-yourself products sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other major retailers to see how well they kept out maple leaves, pine needles, and other gutter-cloggers. — Consumer Reports

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8 thoughts on “Before You Buy Gutter Guards, Review These Pros & Cons Of Installing Gutter Covers”

  1. Has anyone living in the Pacific Northwest had luck with *any* product and Douglas-fir needles (the big trees that grow like weeds here) that rain down continuously throughout the year? We’ve tried the solid cover “gutter helmet” products (at great expense) with the promise that if they didn’t work, the installer would come out and clean the gutters for free. Said installer went out of business after cleaning the gutters once.

    We’ve tried screens, gratings, you name it. Nothing works with these little beasts.

    I don’t want to hear about people’s success with deciduous leaves, pine needles or even true fir needles–just experience with Doug-fir fallout.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Did you ever get an answer to this question? I’m curious too. My wife and I recently bought a house in SE Portland and we have a huge Doug Fir tree in our back yard. Fortunately it’s away from the house enough that I don’t think too many pine needles get in the gutters. I haven’t actually checked out the condition of our gutters yet (too hot this summer, and we don’t own a long extension ladder,) but I get the feeling I should clean out the gutters before fall (Oct)…

      Reply
      • No answers at all.

        We have several large Doug-firs around the hose and they carpet the ground, the driveway and the roof with needles. To date, no one has proposed a solution–other than manually cleaning the gutters frequently.

        Reply
  2. Micromesh gutter guards are the ones to buy if you’re going to buy them. Yes, you do have to scrub the tops, but that’s way less labor intensive than getting up on a ladder to do a full cleaning.

    Reply
  3. Great article! Very complete and thorough. It saved us from shooting from the hip before doing our homework. Much appreciated!

    Reply
  4. Excellent Article which is very informative with a 5 year customer follow-up. Gutter cleaning is a necessity, not a privilege. RoboGuard Gutter Systems has created a solution that will not only make your gutters look like the Crown Moldings of Gutters but always clean. How do we make this project completed and safe minimally 3x a year? The separation of standard inserted section of gutter and additional covers was revolutionized in the late 1990’s with the introduction of LeafGuard” s One piece seamless convoluted hood all in one system. Until this year many cover add-on’s have developed; two-piece covered transparent systems, but no system can say never have to clean your gutter again. The 20 years of debating who is the best is never going to cease, but the cleaning of gutters via professional service or installed system is resolved. The world around us has changed swiftly and drastically and up until now, this industry hasn’t adapted to reflect this…..until now. It’s the present day and baby boomers must step aside as Generation X and Millennials have created a solution which requires you only to tap your finger to clean your gutters. We have inverted the goal of past older generations to eliminate a necessary, unsafe and inevitable household maintenance project easy. You ask how easy? RoboGuard Gutter System day encourages any home owner with the tap of a finger clean your gutters.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0e967612f0fa97197f81eb835fe35de405fd4deeef1ef97a0128fcf33670d6f3.jpg

    Reply

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