Your gutters are a vital part of your home’s drainage system and protect your siding, landscaping, and foundation from water damage. If your gutters regularly overflow from too much rainwater, they’re not able to do their job. Before you replace your whole gutter system, consider installing splash guards at problem areas along your gutters. Read more about this gutter protection technique below.
What Are Gutter Splash Guards?
Splash guards are thin panels of metal or plastic that attach to the outer edge of existing rain gutters to stop rainwater from overflowing. These splash shields are typically L-shaped and installed at the base of roof valleys, but some models are flat and vertical and are installed along the lengths of gutters.
Splash guards ultimately send water back into the gutter and into the gutter downspout, where it can be safely channeled away from your home’s foundation. Splash guards are usually installed DIY, and they can be screwed directly onto your existing gutters. You can choose to hire a contractor to install them.
Splash guards are different from gutter guards, which keep leaves, twigs, seeds, and other debris from clogging gutters. You can install gutter guards DIY or hire a professional to help keep your gutters clean.
When to Use Gutter Splash Guards
Gutter splash guards are most commonly found at the intersection of two roof planes that create a valley. Gutters at the end of the valley create an inside corner that may not be able to handle the volume of water coming down the valley. Installing a splash guard in this corner acts as a physical barrier to keep water inside the gutter.
You may need to install flat splash guards in addition to corner guards if your roof is especially steep or you live in an area prone to heavy rainfall. Installing splash guards is much less expensive than replacing an entire gutter system that remains unprotected.
Signs You Need Gutter Splash Guards
If your gutters regularly overflow even though they’re clean and free of clogs, or if you notice damage to nearby landscaping and exterior siding, gutter splash blocks may help. Basement or crawl space leaks may also point to an issue with your gutter system, as overflowing gutters can damage a home’s foundation.
Leaks in the ceiling or attic may be additional signs that water isn’t draining properly off your roof and has caused damage. A gutter that is rusting, moldy, sagging, or coming apart at the seams is also a sign of a problem. Check for overflow during the next rainstorm, and make sure to repair the damaged gutter before you install a splash guard.
Types of Gutter Splash Guards
Splash guards are typically made of plastic or metal, but there are other types to consider.
- Aluminum gutter splash guards: Aluminum is lightweight, rust-resistant, and more durable than plastic or vinyl. It’s more likely to show dents and dings than other metals.
- Copper gutter splash guards: Copper is more expensive than other materials, but it’s more durable and requires less frequent replacement.
- Stainless steel gutter splash guards: Steel is strong and less expensive than copper, but it’s heavy, and even oxidized steel will eventually rust.
- Vinyl gutter splash guards: Vinyl is a common and inexpensive gutter material, but it’s also one of the least durable and can become brittle or crack over time.
Brands such as Amerimax, LeafFilter, and Gutterworks sell gutter splash guards.
Installing gutter splash guards can be a DIY home improvement job as long as you’re comfortable working on a ladder with a power drill. We reviewed products on Amazon and noted that splash guards typically cost about $5 to $10 for a corner guard or a 12-inch section of vertical flat guards. Individual sections are sold in packs of two to eight.
Consider picking up these materials for installation:
- Caulk or other sealant
- Extension ladder
- Gutter screws (may be included with splash guards)
- Power drill
Make sure you’re not voiding a gutter system’s warranty by installing splash guards yourself. Be aware that installing splash guards will be easier on K-style gutters, which have a flat lip that will make tightly attaching splash guards simple. It’s more difficult to install splash guards on other types, such as half-round gutters. Materials such as aluminum and vinyl are easier to pierce with screws than steel or copper.
Once you’ve gathered your materials, follow these steps:
- Locate the area most in need of a splash guard. This will usually be an inside corner but can also be along flat gutter sections or on the outside corners.
- Make sure there are 48 hours of dry weather ahead before you apply sealant, which will need time to dry.
- Clean and dry the lip of the gutter where the splash guard will go.
- Apply a thin line of caulk or other sealant to the lip.
- Place the splash guard atop the gutter lip so that the splash guard’s lip is facing inward and its vertical face is flush against the outer edge of the gutter.
- Secure the splash guard to the gutter lip with your power drill and the appropriate fasteners. There may be predrilled holes in the splash guard to help you place the screws.
- Apply more caulk to seal all seams and edges
Periodically inspect gutter splash guards for cracks, rust, corrosion, warping, or other damage. Examine the splash guards’ performance in the rain to ensure water isn’t leaking in the seam between the gutter and the splash guard. Small leaks can be fixed with caulk or other sealant, but extensive damage may require replacing the guard itself.
Splash guards will only be effective as long as gutters remain clear of debris, so clean gutters at least twice a year or more frequently if your property has a lot of trees. Consider investing in top-rated gutter guards to reduce the frequency of gutter cleaning.
Alternatives to Splash Guards
Consider one of the following alternatives to splash guards if you’re having trouble with your gutter system:
- Downspout extenders: Splash blocks aren’t always enough to prevent poor drainage. Adding metal or plastic extensions to the end of downspouts ensures that water keeps flowing away from the house. Extenders can also be installed below the ground for better aesthetic appeal, though this is a more expensive process than aboveground installation.
- Downspout splash blocks: Downspouts need to empty far enough away from your home’s perimeter to prevent foundation problems. Adding a plastic or concrete ramp called a splash block at the end of the downspout prevents soil erosion and sends runoff further from your foundation.
- Gutter covers: This type of gutter guard consists of either a solid or mesh screen that sits atop the gutter and blocks debris from getting inside. It’s most effective against large pieces of debris, such as leaves and twigs, so it’s sometimes called a leaf guard.
- Interior gutter guards: Interior gutter guards are the least expensive option and consist of a sponge or brush that sits inside the gutter and allows water to pass through while screening out debris. These guards are easiest to remove for cleaning, but the guards need frequent cleaning to prevent clogs.
- Rain barrels: If downspout extensions or splash blocks aren’t cutting it, consider funneling water into water collection barrels. You can use this water for irrigating the lawn or washing your car.
- Surface tension gutter guards: This type of gutter cover allows debris to slide off while directing water to drip directly into the gutter. Surface tension gutter guards are the most expensive gutter guards, but they’re often considered the most effective.
Gutter splash guards help prevent gutter overflows, but be sure your gutter warranty allows DIY installation before you invest in a new system. If you’re not comfortable with DIY installation, a professional gutter contractor can install guards for you. You may want to explore if gutter guards are worth it if your gutters regularly cause problems.
Gutter Splash Guards FAQ
How do I know if I need splash guards?
You may need splash guards if your gutters are clean but still overflow after heavy rain. Other problems, such as poor yard drainage, siding damage, and foundation damage, can be a result of overflowing gutters.
How often should splash guards be cleaned?
Splash guards should be cleaned as often as you clean your gutters. Gutters should be cleaned twice a year, depending on the amount of debris they collect. You can clean your gutters less frequently if you have gutter guards installed.
Are splash guards DIY or professional install?
You can install splash guards DIY. You may want to hire a professional if the process seems too complicated or you aren’t confident working on a ladder.
Can I install splash guards myself?
Yes, you can install splash guards yourself. Check your gutter warranty first to make sure that you don’t accidentally void it in doing so.
Are there alternatives that work better than splash guards?
Gutter splash guards work best when rainwater overflows gutters at specific points, such as roof valleys or steep areas. If your downspouts aren’t directing water far enough away from the foundation, splash blocks or downspout extensions are a better choice.