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Clogged gutters impede water flow, causing damage to your home’s roof and foundation. Gutter guards sit inside or atop rain gutters to prevent debris from getting in. The less debris that falls into your gutters, the less likely they will become clogged. Gutter guards can also keep insects, birds, and rodents from making homes in your gutters.
This comprehensive guide covers choosing the best gutter guards, the pros and cons of professional and do-it-yourself (DIY) installation, and safety tips. We have also included step-by-step instructions to walk DIYers through the installation process.
Choosing the Right Gutter Guards
The different types of gutter guards vary in effectiveness, installation process, and durability. To choose the right product, consider your home’s location and design as well as your expectations.
Foam Gutter Guards
Foam gutter guards, or gutter sponges, fit snugly into your gutters. Although water can pass through the porous material, most debris stays out. However, foam gutter guards are prone to freezing, shrinking, and cracking. They can also become waterlogged and foster algae, moss, or other vegetation.
Installing foam gutter guards requires no hardware, but you may need to trim them to match the length of your gutters. If your area experiences freezing temperatures, you should remove them in the winter. Foam gutter guards deteriorate over time and will likely need to be replaced every few years.
Brush Gutter Guards
Brush gutter guards may be the easiest type to install. You simply trim them to size, if necessary, and place them inside your gutter. They’re made of stiff bristles—picture a gutter-sized pipe cleaner or bottle brush—that block leaves and other large debris from entering your gutters.
Pine needles and other small debris may get caught in the bristles. To maintain adequate water flow, these gutter guards should be removed periodically and cleaned to remove debris buildup. You can expect them to last five years or longer, depending on how well you maintain them.
Screen Gutter Guards
Gutter screens come in a wide variety of materials and styles. They are a fairly effective option designed for DIY installation. However, you will likely need tools and hardware to secure them properly. The average life span of this type of gutter guard is five to 10 years.
When selecting screen gutter covers, pay particular attention to the size of the holes. The larger the holes, the less debris they will keep out. Smaller holes are more effective but can make gutter guard cleaning more difficult.
Micro-Mesh Gutter Guards
Micro-mesh gutter guards are similar to gutter screens but with much smaller holes. They are exceptionally effective, require little or no maintenance, and last 20 years or longer.
Lowe’s and The Home Depot carry several brands of DIY micro-mesh gutter screens, including Raptor and Amerimax. However, some brands must be purchased from and installed by the manufacturer. LeafFilter’s product is one example. Gutterglove offers both DIY gutter guard kits and a professional installation option.
Reverse-Curve Gutter Guards
Reverse-curve gutter guards rely on surface tension to pull water into your gutters. These guards typically extend slightly farther than your gutters before curving back. Water flows down the slope and back into your gutters while debris rolls off.
These gutter guards require professional installation, often by the manufacturer, and may require new gutters. LeafGuard, with its one-piece design, is among the best-known brands. Like professionally installed micro-mesh screens, reverse-curve gutter covers often come with a warranty that lasts 40 years or longer.
Preparing to Install Gutter Guards
Installing gutter guards can be a relatively easy project if you prepare properly. Although this prep work may seem tedious, it can save you time and money later in the process. Here’s how to prepare:
1. Measure Gutters
Start by measuring the length and width of your existing gutters. This will help you determine what size gutter guards to buy and how many linear feet you need. You should also identify the style of your gutters as not all products are universally compatible.
2. Purchase Gutter Guards
After confirming the size and style of your gutters, research the available gutter guard options. Determine which type you would like, then compare different brands and products. Keep in mind that choosing a DIY installation will eliminate some options.
3. Read Instructions
Carefully read through the installation instructions for the gutter guards you purchase. Note the equipment that you will need and any safety warnings. You may also want to look for online tutorials that demonstrate the process.
4. Gather Equipment
The exact tools, hardware, and equipment needed to install gutter guards will vary depending on your chosen product. However, even the simplest jobs will require the following:
- Bucket with an S-hook
- Hose with spray nozzle
- Tape measure
You may also need some or all of the following:
- Circular or miter saw
- Corresponding drill bit
- Safety glasses
- Self-tapping metal screws
- Tin snips
Installing Gutter Guards
Now that you have everything ready, you can begin the installation process. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. Clean Gutters
The first step is to clean and test your gutters. For this step, you will need a ladder, gloves, a hose with a spray nozzle, a bucket, and an S-hook to hang the bucket on the ladder. After scooping out large debris by hand, use the hose to wash smaller debris out of the system. Then run water through the gutters to check for leaks or other issues that require repair.
2. Trim Guards
Most gutter guards are sold in pieces or sections, which makes it difficult to purchase the exact amount you need. As a result, you may need to trim the end pieces to fit your gutter. You can do this with tin snips, a circular saw, or a miter saw. You may also need to cut end pieces at an angle to accommodate any corners in your gutter system.
3. Place and Secure Guards
Next, install the gutter guards according to the instructions. Foam and brush gutter guards simply need to be placed inside the gutter.
Screen and micro-mesh gutter guards typically slide under the first row of roof shingles. You may also need to secure the outer edge of these products to your gutter with screws, tape, clips, or other fasteners. Some gutter covers use support hangers that must be screwed into the fascia.
DIY vs. Professional Installation
Your gutter guard installation costs will be lower if you choose a DIY installation. However, some of the best products can only be installed by a pro. Professional installation is also a safer choice, both physically and financially. The products installed by professionals generally offer better warranties and performance than DIY solutions.
Before deciding to take on this project yourself, consider the following:
- Are your gutters in good condition or will they need to be replaced?
- How easily can you access your gutters?
- Do you already own the tools and equipment needed for this project?
- Are you comfortable with heights and ladders?
- Will DIY installation affect the warranty on your roof?
- How much maintenance do you want to do?
- Do you want the protection of a long warranty?
- Will the available DIY solutions be effective enough for your home?
If your existing gutters are nearing the end of their life span, you might consider hiring a professional to bundle gutter guards and new gutter installation into one project.
Tips and Safety Precautions
The below tips will help you achieve a safe and effective DIY installation.
Use the Proper Equipment
Leaning a ladder against your gutters will damage them. To avoid this, use an A-frame ladder or a stand-off stabilizer. You should also consider using safety glasses, gloves, and a hard hat for your own protection.
Practice Ladder Safety
Minimize the amount of time you spend on the ladder and the number of times you move up and down it. Start by completing as much work on the ground as possible. When on the ladder, recruit a partner to stabilize it and hand you materials and tools.
Do the Prep Work
Before beginning, make sure you read the instructions carefully and clean your gutters thoroughly. It is much easier to address any gutter issues before installing gutter guards than after.
For homeowners armed with the tips and information above, gutter guard installation can be a relatively simple and cost-effective home improvement project. Foam and brush guards are made for DIY installation. However, it’s important to note that some gutter guard systems, such as most micro-mesh and reverse curve systems, can only be installed by a professional.
Consider getting quotes from a few gutter companies before making a decision. You might find that the benefits of professional installation make it a worthwhile investment. A professional can also recommend the type of gutter guard that will work best for your home.
Installing Gutter Guards FAQ
What is the easiest gutter guard to install?
The easiest gutter guard to install is a brush or foam gutter guard. These gutter guards sit inside the gutter and require no tools unless they need to be trimmed for length.
What is the warranty for gutter guards?
The warranty for gutter guards will vary depending on the type and brand and whether they are installed by the homeowner or a professional. Most gutter guard installers provide a labor warranty on top of whatever warranty is provided by the gutter guard manufacturer. Micro-mesh and reverse-curve gutter guards carry the longest warranties. Some brands even offer a lifetime guarantee.
What is the difference between gutter guards and gutters?
Gutters are the horizontal portion of your home’s rainwater discharge system. Gutters run along the edges of your roofline to collect rainwater as it flows off your roof and direct it away from your home via downspouts. Gutter guards are an add-on component that fit inside or on the gutters. Gutter guards are designed to prevent leaves and other debris from falling into gutters and obstructing the water flow.
How long does it take to install gutter guards?
It generally takes three to five hours to install gutter guards, including the time it takes to clean your gutters beforehand. Foam and brush gutter guards will take less time to install than screen or micro-mesh gutter guards. Professional installation may take more or less time, depending on the amount of work done and the type of gutter guards installed.
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.