Affiliate Disclaimer: All products and services featured are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
When your rain gutters get clogged with leaves, pests, and debris, water can back up and cause damage to your roof, walls, and foundation. Gutter guards can address this issue by blocking debris from entering your gutters while allowing water to flow freely. Choosing the best gutter guard from the numerous available styles can be challenging, though.
To help you protect your home without fuss, we compiled this detailed guide on common gutter types and materials. Read on to choose the gutter guard that will fit your home’s aesthetics while reducing your gutter maintenance.
Types of Gutter Guards
Not all gutter guards are created equal, but it’s more complicated than simply choosing the best one. Some designs are more effective for certain debris or different climates, while others may not mesh with the aesthetics of your home.
Below are the types of gutter guards you should be familiar with when assessing your options.
Screen Gutter Guards
Screen gutter guards are perforated metal or plastic sheets that lay on top of the gutter. The material’s holes block medium to large debris while still letting water flow through. Because the holes are fairly large, screen gutter guards are inefficient at blocking tiny debris like pine needles, pollen, and shingle grit. Their light construction also makes them inadvisable in windy areas, where they can blow off the gutter.
Overall, screen gutter guards are good for DIY installation and affordable compared to more durable options, but their life span is short and they don’t reduce the required frequency of cleaning as much as some options.
Mesh Gutter Guards
Mesh gutter guards often perform better than screen guards and strike a balance between filtration and water flow. They consist of a flat perforated barrier, like screen guards, but the holes are smaller. This allows them to block a larger variety of pests and debris.
You can choose between metal and plastic options and multiple installation styles. Hiring professional contractors for installation is recommended if you’re not particularly handy. It’s also best to avoid products that slide under your shingles, which can jeopardize your roof warranty, and flimsier options, which might blow away in the wind.
Micro-Mesh Gutter Guards
Micro-mesh gutter guards have finely woven mesh screens that keep even the smallest debris at bay. They’re great for areas where pollen, pine needles, and dirt are common, and experts generally agree they are the most effective design on the market today. However, their superior filtration comes at the cost of flow rate; it’s important to be careful when installing them in high-flow areas, such as roof valleys.
These gutter guards are designed for professional installation and often include additional services, such as gutter cleaning and sealing. Though some DIY options are available, these gutter guards are designed for professional installation. Some providers will also clean and seal your gutters and point out potential problems that could lead to damage in the future.
Reverse-Curve Gutter Guards
Reverse-curve gutter guards, also called surface-tension guards, are an old but effective design for blocking debris from entering your gutters. They feature a plastic or aluminum hood with a curved edge that leaves a slot between the guard and the gutter lip. Water flows down the hood, around the curve, and back into the gutter while debris slides off to the ground below.
While this is one of the most effective designs available, it’s not perfect. Surface tension diminishes when water gains too much momentum, making it possible for water to shoot over the edge of your gutter during heavy rain. It also inserts under your shingles to match your roof’s pitch, which may conflict with your roof warranty.
Surface-tension gutter guards are visible from the street, which could clash with your home’s aesthetics, as well. Most companies offer multiple colors to help them blend in with your existing roof and gutters.
Brush Gutter Guards
Brush gutter guards resemble large pipe cleaners in the gutter’s trough. Conceptually, water flows through the bristles while debris gets caught. Because gutter brushes trap debris instead of shedding it, they have to be removed for cleaning more frequently than other designs. They’re also not durable under harsh sunlight, meaning you may have to replace them every few years.
The advantages of gutter brushes include unmatched affordability and ease of installation. If you’re looking for a durable and effective gutter guard that will last the life of your home, though, gutter brushes are not worth considering.
Foam Gutter Guards
Foam gutter guards are affordable and easy to install but should be a temporary solution if used at all. Triangular foam pieces sit inside the gutter, allowing water to flow through the porous material while debris stays on top.
When the foam is wet, it presents favorable conditions for seedlings and trees to grow inside the guard, damaging your gutters or possibly catching fire. Additionally, many customers have reported that the foam deteriorates quickly due to sun and other weather conditions and requires frequent cleaning.
Gutter Guard Materials
Gutter guards are constructed from various materials, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Options for materials will be limited by the style of guard, but homeowners should be familiar with the following gutter guard materials.
Foam is the only material used for its namesake gutter guard. It’s affordable and easy to manipulate for DIY projects but can introduce mold or seedling growth. Both of these issues can damage your gutters, fascia boards, and more.
Vinyl and Plastic
Plastics are commonly used in gutter guard frames, screens, reverse-curve designs, and the bristles of gutter brushes. Plastic is affordable and doesn’t corrode but is weaker than metal alternatives. It’s also prone to cracking, warping, and bending.
Aluminum is a lightweight, corrosion-resistant metal used for mesh screens, supports, and more. Though it’s not the most durable metal option, it is one of the most commonly used materials. It’s resistant to warping and cracking and won’t degrade from the sun.
Steel is a commonly used material in mesh and micro-mesh screen designs. It’s highly durable, making it a good choice for homes with overhanging trees where branches could pierce the guard. Stainless steel alloys are naturally resistant to corrosion and temperature fluctuations.
Copper is a premium yet rarely used material in gutter guards. It possesses unique chemical properties that resist mold and mildew growth, and it is somewhere between aluminum and steel in terms of strength. Few companies produce copper gutter guards, but they may be worth seeking to match the look of existing copper gutters and keep your home’s visual appeal intact.
Gutter Guard Providers
Finding the right gutter guard is important for protecting your home, so we recommend getting estimates from at least three providers and taking enough time to choose the best gutter guard for your needs.
Learn more about our top providers below.
- Offers transferable lifetime warranty
- Provides new gutter installation
- Conducts a detailed, convenient installation
- Includes several limitations in its warranty
- Sales tactics can be aggressive
What we like: LeafFilter offers a three-piece, steel micro-mesh gutter guard system that uses surface tension to pull water through your gutters but push off debris. Its steel body means that extreme temperature changes will not warp the guard over time. LeafFilter pitches the guard flush with your roof to minimize maintenance and avoid excessive tampering with roof shingles. The company also claims that its design can catch small debris, such as pollen and shingle grit.
LeafFilter’s gutters come in various colors, such as off-white and beige, to help match your home’s scheme.
Read more: LeafFilter Review
- Offers a durable one-piece, reverse-curve gutter guard
- Features all-metal construction
- Includes transferable lifetime warranty
- Does not offer pricing information online
- Requires new gutters for installation
What we like: LeafGuard is a great option for homeowners looking for gutter protection to last a lifetime. The recurve design isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing but features sturdy, one-piece construction built to last. The company has been in the gutter industry since 1993, and its seamless gutter guard design guard has carried the Good Housekeeping seal for more than 15 years.
Each LeafGuard gutter run consists of a gutter and integrated gutter hood crafted from a single piece of aluminum. It customizes the length of each piece during professional installation for the perfect fit and long-lasting performance.
Surface tension pulls water around the hood and into the gutter while leaves and other debris simply roll off the edge and away from the home. Its downspouts are 30% larger for maximum efficiency, and LeafGuard backs up its product with a transferable lifetime warranty.
Read more: LeafGuard Review
All gutter guards are designed to prevent gutter clogging and reduce the time and effort homeowners spend on gutter maintenance. However, not all gutter guards are equal, and some designs have situational strengths and weaknesses.
Choose your gutter guard type and material to suit the weather in your area. Also, take into account the type of roof you have and your aesthetic preferences.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between Gutter Helmet and LeafGuard?
The main difference is that LeafGuard is a full gutter system with an integrated hood, while Gutter Helmet is a gutter cover that installs on existing gutters. Both systems operate on surface tension principles.
What are some of the benefits of gutter guards?
There are many benefits to installing gutter guards, such as reduced gutter maintenance and protection from water damage, fire, ice dams, premature gutter rusting, and more.
How effective are gutter leaf guards?
Gutter guards, especially micro-mesh guards, are highly effective when you set reasonable expectations. They can drastically reduce required gutter maintenance, but no gutter guard will completely eliminate it. Eventually, debris will build up on top of the gutter guard, get stuck in its mesh, or pass through to your gutter, requiring occasional upkeep.
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.