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Homeowners often have the same question when it comes to gutter guards: Are they worth it? Yes, we believe that quality gutter guards are worth it because they do in fact prevent debris buildup within your gutters. A buildup of debris can easily cause the gutters to clog and overflow which may lead to water damage to your home’s exterior and foundation.
While most homeowners would benefit from having gutter guards installed, there are exceptions. In this article, we’ll explore why you might—or might not—want to invest in gutter guards. We’ll also explain the different types available and highlight a few of the best gutter guards on the market.
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If gutter guards are right for you, here is an easy reference to the best gutter guards for 2023 as reviewed by the Architectural Digest Reviews team:
- LeafFilter: Our Top Pick
- LeafGuard: Best Reverse-Curve
- Gutter Guards America: Best Customer Reviews
- All American Gutter Protection: Best Customization Options
- HomeCraft: Best Add-On Services
Reasons to Install Gutter Guards
The biggest reason to install gutter guards is to save yourself the time, money, and hassle associated with backed-up or overflowing gutters. Gutter guards may not be able to prevent every possible issue, but they can make your life easier in many situations. “Gutter guards offer significant advantages in terms of preventing water damage and basement flooding,” says Gavin MacRae, owner of GJ MacRae Foundation Repair. “[Gutter guards] reduce gutter maintenance and extend the lifespan of gutters.”
The cost to install gutter guards may be worth it if you have experienced or are concerned about any of the following issues:
Without gutter guards, pests can make themselves at home in your gutters. Mice, squirrels, bats, and birds can build nests in them, for example. Spiders might spin webs and lay eggs, and mosquitos can take advantage of the wet environment. In addition to any other problems these pests might cause, their presence can clog or damage your gutters. Gutter guards help by making your gutters much less hospitable and more difficult to access.
Ice Dams and Freezing
If you live in an area with cold winters, any water that doesn’t drain from your gutters can freeze. Your gutters might also develop ice dams if the snow on your roof melts, flows down to the gutters, and then refreezes. Gutter guards help by preventing clogs and improving water flow so that the melted snow can drain from your gutters properly instead of refreezing.
Gutters filled with dry leaves and pine needles can be a fire hazard, especially if you live in an area prone to wildfires. Embers can travel in the wind, land in your gutters, and set the debris ablaze. Gutter guards help by reducing debris buildup and forming a physical barrier between wind-blown embers and any debris that makes its way into your gutters.
When your gutters develop a blockage, you must spend time, money, or both to address the issue before it becomes a bigger problem. For instance, the weight of trapped water and waterlogged debris can cause the gutters to sag or pull away from your home. They can also develop rust and leaks. High-quality gutters guards can significantly reduce or eliminate blockages, which means less frequent maintenance and repairs.
Clogged gutters can cause several types of water damage. They can overflow, causing soil erosion, foundation cracks, and basement flooding, or the water can back up in your roof and ceiling. As the water makes its way into places it should not be, mold and mildew can begin to grow. The runoff can even carve trenches through your yard and damage your landscaping. Gutter guards help block clog-causing pests and debris and, in turn, prevent water damage.
Clogged or dirty gutters provide everything seeds need to germinate: water, air, light, and warmth. Your gutters might even provide sufficient soil and food. As a result, mold spores, spinners, and other seeds can make their way into unprotected gutters and begin to grow. Mold, mildew, and bacteria can also grow in your gutters. The best gutter guards can keep seeds out and allow water to flow properly.
Types of Gutter Guards
Homeowners today can choose from several types of gutter guards. Each type has its advantages and downsides. Below, we cover how each option works and which are worth the investment.
Foam gutter guards sit inside your gutters. They come in different shapes and sizes to ensure a snug fit. While water should be able to pass through the foam easily, most debris will be kept out.
The downside to foam gutter guards is that they’re prone to freezing and shrinking. Though they are a relatively inexpensive option, they deteriorate over time. As a result, you need to replace them every few years.
Brush gutter guards also sit inside your gutters. They resemble large bottle brushes or pipe cleaners with stiff bristles, and they can easily last five years or longer if properly maintained.
Although gutter brushes are effective against large debris, small debris might get stuck in the bristles. You will need to remove the brushes and spray them off periodically to remove any debris that builds up. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance option, brushes may not be the best choice.
Screen gutter guards typically slide under the first row of shingles on your roof. They may be perforated pieces of metal or plastic, or they could resemble fencing or mesh. Either way, they sit on top of your gutters rather than inside them.
The performance and longevity of screen gutter guards vary depending on the design, and most will require regular cleaning to remove any debris caught in the holes. However, screen gutter guards can be an easy-to-install and cost-effective DIY option.
Reverse Curve or Surface Tension
Reverse curve gutter guards are among the most effective. They generally extend slightly past the outer edge of your gutters before curving back in. As water and debris flow off your roof, surface tension will cause the water to follow the curve into your gutters while debris slides off.
This type of gutter guard requires professional installation, often by the manufacturer. While some brands can simply be added to your existing gutters, others require new gutter installation.
Mesh or Micro-Mesh
Micro-mesh gutter guards resemble screen gutter guards but have much smaller holes. They are effective and, depending on the type, relatively easy to clean. Some brands even offer DIY installation options.
The most effective micro-mesh gutter guards typically require professional installation and carry a higher price tag than DIY mesh or screen gutter guards. However, the top brands are generally worth the cost for their longevity and effectiveness.
Downsides of Gutter Guards
While gutter guards can be a valuable investment for many homeowners, there are a few downsides to them that include the need for periodic maintenance and cleaning, not eliminating all debris in your gutters, and the cost considerations.
Not Maintenance Free
While many people might assume that once you install gutter guards, you do not have to worry or care for them, this is not entirely the case. Occasionally, they need to be cleaned to remove any debris on top of the gutter guard that might be impeding water flow. They also need to be inspected periodically to determine if any damage has been incurred from strong winds or heavy debris.
Don’t Eliminate All Debris Buildup
It is important to recognize that some debris will likely still accumulate in the gutters, especially depending on the type of gutter guard you choose. Therefore, gutter guards do not eliminate the need to clean out your gutters, but greatly reduce the frequency of it.
Gutter guards, particularly professional installation from trusted companies, can be a large investment. This is particularly the case if you install new gutters along with gutter guards. It is important to understand the costs before you commit to installing gutter guards so that you can make the best decision for yourself and your budget.
DIY vs. Professional Installation
The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other home improvement stores sell a variety of DIY-friendly gutter guard solutions. You can even find certain brands on Amazon. Installing gutter guards yourself will give you much more control over the timeline and cost. However, the installation could take several hours, depending on the type of gutter guards you choose and your skill level. Your selection will also be limited compared to what a professional gutter company can offer.
Professional installation is the safer option, especially if you want to ensure that your investment is worthwhile. Not only do professionals have access to the highest quality products, but they are also better equipped to install them. Professionally installed gutter guards also tend to have better warranties than their DIY counterparts. This option will come with a much higher price tag, though.
Best Gutter Guard Companies
LeafFilter, LeafGuard, and Gutter Guards America are our top three recommendations for gutter guards. Note that while none of these companies provide pricing on their websites, you can request a free quote from each. All three offer a transferable lifetime warranty and require professional installation.
Gutter guards are a worthwhile investment if your gutters tend to collect debris or attract pests—especially if your area also experiences heavy rain. However, if you live in an arid climate or urban area with no trees nearby, keeping debris out of your gutters may not be a priority.
If you decide to invest in gutter guards, reverse-curve or micro-mesh designs are the most effective and easiest to clean.
Gutter Guards FAQ
Is there a downside to gutter guards?
Gutter guards have a few potential downsides. Depending on the type you buy, they could amount to a sizable investment. They also do not entirely eliminate the need for regular gutter cleaning, however, they do make it much less frequent. In the winter, some types of gutter guards make ice dams more prevalent.
How much should I pay for gutter guards?
How much you should pay for gutter guards depends on what type you want. For professionally installed micro-mesh or reverse-curve gutter guards, you can expect to pay an average of $10–$25 per linear foot, including materials and installation. High-quality DIY options might only cost you $4–$5 per linear foot for materials, however, the installation will be your responsibility.
Do you still need to clean gutters with gutter guards?
Yes, even with gutter guards, you may still need to clean your gutters occasionally. How often and how much effort is required will depend on the type of gutter guards you purchase.
How We Chose the Top Gutter Guard Providers
We researched and analyzed dozens of gutter guards and gutter guard companies to create an in-depth review methodology. We formulated a rating system based on the factors homeowners find most important. We evaluated each provider’s gutter guard design and aesthetics, service offerings, customer service and communication, quote process, warranties, and financing options.
We created a separate rating system for DIY-installed gutter guards sold on retailer sites. We evaluated these guards based on their quality of materials, aesthetics, communication, warranty, customer reviews, and cost.
We evaluated each provider’s reputation using independent, third-party sites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Google My Business pages. For products, we analyzed the customer reviews on whichever online retailer primarily hosts the product.