Homeownership is, on the whole, a great thing. You get a sense of pride in knowing that something is yours, you get to build your equity, and, if you're lucky, you might have a backyard for some grilling. But homeownership does come with headaches that renters don't have to think about — and one of those hassles is what to do about your gutters.
Gutters are used to steer rainwater off your roof and away from your home, which is important because if puddles form near the foundation it can cause water damage and other problems. Unfortunately, rainwater isn't the only thing collected by gutters. They often get clogged with leaves and other detritus, thus preventing the water from draining.
Do Gutter Guards Really Work?
Beyond cleaning your gutters regularly, which is a pain, a popular solution to the gutter dilemma is the gutter guard, which is placed over your gutter as a filter, keeping leaves and such out so that water can flow freely. Autumn is peak season for many homeowners to consider installing gutter guards, what with leaves falling off trees and piling up in roof gutters.
But are gutter guards right for you and your home? The truth is that installing gutter guards is a good solution, but not a magic bullet or anything, says Zach Reece, owner of the Atlanta-based Colony Roofers.
"Gutter guards prevent water from pooling on the shingles. Stagnant water leads to mold growth and also becomes a breeding ground for insects," he says. "Gutter guards are not perfect; the covering makes it harder to remove debris that does make its way into the gutter, and the guards can also make homeowners more neglectful, believing gutter maintenance is no longer necessary since the guards will do all the work."
If you’re willing to do maintenance, gutter guards should reduce the number of times you need to clean the gutters (or pay to have them cleaned by a service). If you're in the market to try them out, keep in mind that there are three types of gutter guards, according to Kershan Bulsara, owner and manager of Roofmaster, a roofing company based out of Ottawa, "and it is entirely up to the homeowner as to which benefits and downfalls they are willing to put up with."
Screen gutter guards "are the easiest to install as you slide them underneath the first row of shingles. This option comes highly recommended, as the job typically does not require any tools, making it convenient," Bulsara says. "This gutter guard allows water to run through and prevent any debris from entering. It is also a very cost-effective method to avoid clogs."
Mesh gutter guards, on the other hand, are "also easy to install," says Bulsara. "Attach the edge of the mesh gutter guards under the first row of shingles or attach a flange to the fascia. This gutter type is recommended as it blocks small debris, and there are various options to choose from. Perfect for homeowners who are looking for a step up from the screen gutter guards."
Finally, there's the reverse curve gutter guards, which "are another great option as water flows on top, which allows the rain to fall in the gutter below. Debris does not enter this gutter; it slips and falls to the ground," he says. "This is an innovative solution to avoid having to occasionally clear out your gutters. For maximum efficiency, make sure that the guard strips are placed at the same angle as the slope of your roof."
Are Gutter Guards Worth the Money?
Are gutter guards a good investment, and right for you? Well, the truth is that if you clean your gutters often enough, the guards might not be necessary.
"If you commit to cleaning your gutters once a year, you watch out for debris that easily finds its way onto your roof, and you ensure your gutters are always clear, then you probably don’t need to invest in gutter guards," says Eamon Lynch, director of warranty service at the Philadelphia-based Power Home Remodeling. "Their purpose is to act as a shield and keep debris out. But if you’re already checking for that and clearing out your gutters on a regular basis, your cleaning efforts are essentially serving the same purpose and allowing you to save some money."
Even with gutter guards installed, a homeowner must still occasionally tend to the gutters. "For example, though a guard is helpful to keep out large leaves, smaller particles like pine needles or granules from your roof can still slip through the holes and cause buildup — and because you assume your gutter guard is taking care of business, you may prolong heading up to the roof and checking on it," Lynch says. "You may realize too late that there’s an issue that can only be solved by removing the gutter guard altogether to clear out the blockage."
Gutter guards aren't the only game in town. Lynch says some people like downspout filters, "which come in a few different styles, and can be installed in the gutter at the outlet — the junction that ties the trough to the spout — or inserted into the downspout by installing into the spout itself," he says. "Downspout filters pull out of your gutter like a drawer and can be easily accessed without even needing to climb a ladder or get up on your roof. If you have a French drain or an underground system that your downspouts deposit into, or if you collect rainwater in a barrel, downspout filters can be great options and more affordable alternatives to full-on gutter protection."
"To install gutter guards or not — there’s no right or wrong solution," Lynch says. "Gutter guards can be very beneficial but ultimately, I've found that they’re primarily used by homeowners who are willing to invest more of their budget if it allows them to invest a little less maintenance effort."
If that sounds like you, here are the best gutter guards, as recommended by roofers and home-maintenance experts.
Best Gutter Guards for Your House
Gutters can become vacation spots for bugs, so pest experts have thoughts about how to keep them clean. "Pests are an expensive, troublesome problem—especially when they find comfort in residing in a warm, dirty build-up of debris in your gutter," Brian Patrick, CEO of Pest Strategies, says. "With LeafFilter Gutter Guard, homeowners no longer have to clean their gutters from debris build-up routinely because LeafFilter has a self-cleaning mechanism that keeps roof integrity intact from structural damage."
Patrick likes the brand because of its patented designs and roof-warranty-compliant terms and conditions, and also because it "offers a lifetime warranty, so homeowners can rest easy knowing that their gutter guard system stays for life," he says. "Unlike other gutter guards, LeafFilter offers the most value for money since they don’t require replacements and can last for several decades."
LeafFilter offers professional installation, in case you don't want to deal with it. The company offers consultations in order to determine your price, which will vary based on your roof size and whether your gutters need to be repaired. The company will honor its quoted price for up to a year.
If you are the handy sort and you want to save some money by installing the guards yourself, FlexxPoint is designed to be easy to set up. "This gutter guard blends nicely with the gutters and is hardly visible from ground level. It's made from stainless steel that's resistant to rust and warping from heat exposure," says Reece, of Colony Roofers. "The manufacturer promises a 30-year warranty. What's really nice about it is that the guards promote proper airflow and keeps leaves and debris sticking to the surface, enabling them to be eventually blown away by the wind."
Another fan of FlexxPoint is Jesse Silkoff, founder of MyRoofingPal, an online marketplace that connects people with local roofers. He likes the brand because "it's a mesh gutter cover made of lightweight aluminum and it is easy to install, with no need to slip it under shingles like many other brands. Installing gutter guards by sliding them under roof shingles could actually void some roof warranties, so try to avoid that."
"In addition to preventing clogs, this option keeps gutters from sagging or collapsing due to leaf or snow accumulation," Silkoff adds. "Since it is a DIY option, it can also save homeowners a lot by not needing professional installation."
Raptor Stainless Gutter Guard (48 Feet): From $114.90
If you were interested in a reverse curve gutter, Roofmaster's Bulsara likes the Raptor Stainless Gutter Guard. "This heavy-duty guard offers easy installation, adjustable and blocks all debris. Plus, it is backed by a 25-year warranty, which will last as long as most roofs."
Bulsara also likes this screen gutter guard, "as it is super easy to install, rust-free, easily adjustable, and allows for seamless water flow."
It's important to pay attention to the material used in your gutter guards, because installing some guards made from low-quality material can violate your home warranty. Shane Dutka is the founder & general manager of the D.C.-based Review Home Warranties, and he's all in on steel micro-mesh gutter guards, especially those made by Ultra Flo.
"Micro-mesh guards are the only system type that blocks all major gutter-clogging debris while still permitting water passage. Debris like leaves, twigs, pine needles, and even growing plants sit atop the system's fine protective mesh surface rather than wedging into the guard itself, making cleaning easy and protecting gutters from structural wear and tear," he says.