Are Gutter Guards A Waste Of Money? We Ask The Pros

For the longest time, the traditional gutter functioned unguarded. However, there was a problem with an unguarded gutter. Clogs occur mainly in the autumn, meaning you have to keep the gutters clean of organic matter.

The buildup can cause water damage to the fascia boards and, in some cases, flooding that causes structural damage and foundation problems. Innovators came up with gutter guards to keep the debris causing the buildup out of the gutter channel. The question is, are they a waste of money?

After reviewing the long-term costs you might save, it’s safe to say gutter guards are a waste of money. They do a relatively good job at keeping out debris that might save you the chore of gutter cleaning. However, other problems exist, such as poorly capturing roof runoff and rotting fascia boards, costing thousands to repair.

The main problems I find with gutter screens or guards are:

  • they are not installed correctly
  • the gutter guard is poorly designed or it’s not the right guard for the type of gutter
  • homeowners neglect to maintain them

Gutter Guard Costs: Does it Make Sense?

Ultimately, it would be best if you thought about the upfront cost of gutter guard installation and whether or not they genuinely save you money in the long run.

Gutter guards can cost anywhere from $2,400 to $7,900 for a typical house, depending on the material and professional installation.

The cost is to have a professional gutter cleaning service come out to clean your gutters is about $160. The average cost to clean gutters on a one-story house is $75 to $200, while the average cost to clean the gutters on a two-story home is $100 to $250.

Based on the median cost of gutter guard installation of $5,150, it will take you about 16 years to recoup the original cost of the gutter guards against the average price of a $160 gutter cleaning service done twice per year.

That would be a conservative estimate if you maintain a continuous residence for 16 years without encountering any significant difficulties with the gutter guards, don’t move, and don’t change your mind.

Why Are Gutter Guards Bad?

Gutter guards, in principle, have the simplest of premises. Install them and deal with less debris and less gutter cleaning. Except, under that veneer, there are limitations.

They’re made of lightweight material and come in a variety of designs. However, they carry some long-term effects that you will have to address. If neglected, they can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Gutters typically clog from a buildup of varying types of debris, including shingle grit, leaves, and pine straw. Gutter clogs will form in the gutter pipes or downspouts without regular cleaning. I’ve even seen gutters so poorly maintained that small tree saplings grew from the gutter pipe.

When installing gutter guards, it’s important to remember that you need to:

  • Keep larger debris from building up on top of the gutter screen. The buildup can cause the guard to tear or collapse.
  • Keep overhanging tree limbs trimmed away from the roof.
  • Have your guards visually inspected for damage after storms and on an annual basis.
  • Some gutter guard manufacturers provide a ifetime warranty when marketing their products but these warranties are limited and do not cover things like age and neglect.

Type of Gutter Guards

As stated, there are three common types of gutter guards. Each of them has its problems. 

Plastic Gutter Guards: Plastic might suit many things, but an outdoor gutter cover is not one. Long-term exposure to the sun weakens plastic. The damage is even worse during winter. Tree limbs can tear the gutter screens. Also, as leaves and debris build up on the gutter cover, the perforated holes become weighted down and tend to collapse into the gutter. These probably have the greatest ease of installation and are suitable for DIY jobs, but they have little to no warranty and don’t last.

Aluminum Guards: Also referred to as a gutter cover or gutter helmets; ideally, this sounds perfect for any household exterior. It’s light, lasts longer, and is usually relatively affordable. However, cheap subpar aluminum degrades fast and corrodes easily. They tend to get damaged easily in hail storms or from overhanging tree branches.

Micro-Mesh Gutter Guards: In principle, screen gutter guards offer some visibility into the gutter. You can get nylon micro-mesh or metal micro-mesh gutter screens. However, they tend to clog easily, and it is susceptible to rust, corrosion, and constant replacement. Tree limbs can tear the gutter screens. Nylon micro-mesh screens use surface tension to separate water from debris but often don’t work as well in heavy rain.

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Gutter Guard Cost

When you’re calculating the cost of gutter guards, consider two options. Like gutters, gutter screens or guards are priced by the linear foot. Are you getting professional installation, or are you going the DIY way? 

MaterialCost of material per linear footCost of material for 200 linear feetInstallation feeTotal cost
Plastic gutter guard$0.40-$1.00$80-$200DIY$80-$200
Aluminum$0.50-$1.50$100-$300$2.50-$3.75$600-$1,050
Steel screen$1.50-$3.50$300-$700$2.50-$3.75$800-$1,450
Micro-mesh$2.00-$4.00$400-$800$2.50-$3.75$900-$1,550
Vinyl Screen$0.40-$4 per foot.$80-$800DIY$80-$800
Foam inserts $2$400DIY$400
Brushes$3$600DIY$600

What Are The Pros and Cons of Gutter Guards?

There are many valid reasons gutter guards are not worth the money you spend. People that have gutter guards enjoy some benefits of gutter guards. However, that doesn’t mean they lack redeeming qualities. 

If you decide to invest in gutter guards for your home, here are some pros and cons. 

ProsCons
You have an array of choices in material and designsThey’re pricey
They last longYou still have to clean the gutter
You keep most debris outYou might not notice long term buildup, especially from moss and algae
Cut down your maintenance frequency and timeThey might worsen ice dams
Prevent mice and insect infestationThey are worse during winter
If you have a rainwater collection tank, you get fewer contaminants in the waterRoof strain
Easier water flowSometimes, they hide insects inside.

What Are The Advantages Of Gutter Guards?

There are various advantages of gutter guards on your rain gutters. Here are some of them.

Flexibility In Choices

You have so many brands with different flexible design options to choose from. For you, this should be a win. You can check for the best one in your budget bracket and install it. Many satisfied customers like the options available during the pre-purchase phase.

They Last Long

Most gutter guards are built to last since they are made for exterior use. It is common to see a lifespan between 10 years and 25 years for well-maintained and high-quality gutter guards. Note that any gutter protection system will require some maintenance.

You’ll Clean Less

Autumn and fall seasons are challenging if you live in an area rich in trees. Your gutter, if left unguarded, would collect plenty of leaves. You would have to clean out the gutters a lot more. 

The more you climb up the roof to clean the gutter, the more you expose yourself to the likelihood of injury. With a gutter guard, the bigger leaf chunks that would settle in the gutter now blow off the roof or wash away and not in the gutter trough. 

What Are The Disadvantages Of Gutter Guards?

Gutter guards can cause problems by restricting the amount of water entering the gutter. As a result, it retains moisture in the gutter, allows smaller debris to enter the gutter, and detracts from the look of your home. Even professional installation can also result in gutter overflow problems.

Gutter Guards can Restrict Water Inflow

The primary purpose of a gutter guard is to keep much of the debris out of the gutter systems and redirect water. However, rainwater will run off and miss the gutter down to the ground if there’s a heavy downpour. 

When the water isn’t redirected via the gutter, the rainwater floods the surrounding area and possibly seeps into the foundation and the basement. 

The main problem that gutter guards cause is water flow restriction into the gutter channel, particularly when the rain gets heavy.

Some designs of gutter guards can be too restrictive and prevent the entrance of sufficient amounts of water, especially in heavy rain. This slow drainage can result in rainwater flowing over the gutter and falling where you don’t want the water to go.

Gutter Guards Don’t Stop all Debris

Small gaps to allow water through can become covered by larger debris such as leaves, restricting the flow of water into the gutter.

They may not stop all debris from entering the main gutter trough, and the gutter guard may make it difficult to clean the gutters thoroughly should you get a blockage that needs removing.

Smaller debris such as pine needles can often find its way through gutter guards and build up in the main gutter channel resulting in blockages that need occasional cleaning.

Gutter Guards can Look Ugly or be Poorly Installed

Some gutter guards are visible from the ground, which has the potential to detract from the beauty and look of your home.

You Need a Professional to Clean Out the Gutter Guard

Once you install a gutter guard, DIY clean-up becomes more challenging for you. You have to call in a professional gutter cleaning service to ensure all the debris buildup is removed, which could be up to four times a year in a foliage-rich area. 

Even with professional installation of the gutter guards, they often don’t perform as they should and result in water cascading over the gutter in a heavy downpour rather than flowing into the gutter.

Guards Can Void Your Roof Warranty

One of the gutter guard designs, the K-style gutter guard, goes under the roof shingle, slightly lifting the front row of roof shingles. Depending on the installation, this could void any shingle warranty you have if the row of shingles sustains damage or if a roof leak develops, damaging the roof structure that was a direct cause of the guard installation.

Do Gutter Guards Cause Problems?

Commonly, gutter guards cause two significant problems, especially during winter. It does underneath the roof if rainwater doesn’t flow into the gutter. This water goes into the house, clings to the roof, creating an ice dam. 

The next big problem is the buildup of weight. When ice freezes in the gutter, the gutter gets weighed down when algae and moss grow for an unchecked period. An overwhelmed gutter trough can pull away from the fascia, affecting the gutter slope, and water trapped in the gutter trough weighs it down. 

Do Gutter Guards Work in Heavy Rain

Gutters protect your home from extensive water damage caused by heavy rains. But rain gutters can be clogged, too that’s why gutter guards exist. But do gutter guards stand up to heavy rain?

Gutter guards can restrict the water flow into the gutter channel during heavy rainfall. Some designs work better than others, but heavy rain will often overwhelm the gutter guard, causing stormwater to overflow, especially on a roof with a large surface area or a steep roof.

Gutter guards prevent leaves and other debris from entering the gutter and causing clogged gutters while still allowing the water to pass through and have it directed away from your home.

Gutter screens come in various designs, and some work better than others, but the principle is generally the same.

There are some concerns about whether gutter guards are adequate for their intended task and whether they can cause you some problems when the rain gets heavy.

Is It Normal For Gutters To Overflow In Heavy Rain?

It is not normal for gutters to overflow in heavy rain. If your gutter overflows in heavy rain, it usually indicates a problem in the gutter system, like a blockage or a poorly sloped gutter to direct the roof runoff adequately away from the foundation.

The purpose of gutters is to control water runoff from the roof and direct the water away from the house, where it will not pose a problem for your foundation.

Gutters can handle the water runoff from the roof under normal circumstances. However, they can struggle to handle the increased volume of water during heavy rainfall. Gutter guards can complicate this even further.

If your gutter is overflowing during average rainfall volume, you should investigate the cause for this. A constantly overflowing gutter can result in water damage to your home’s roof, foundation, and walls. The cost of sorting out the gutter problem is much cheaper than repairing water damage to your home.

Are Gutter Guards Worth It?

Gutter guards may be appropriate in certain circumstances, but they are not applicable or worthwhile for all homes. You would need to evaluate your circumstances to determine whether a gutter guard would be a good choice for your home or not.

Some of the aspects you can consider regarding gutter guards are as follows:

  • The surface area of your roof. A roof with a large surface area will be directing a large volume of water to the gutter. Gutter guards would probably not be suitable for a large surface area roof but could function well on a smaller roof area.
  • Gutter guards are expensive. Gutter guards are not cheap to install, so if they will not be effective and detract from the home’s look, the cost may not be justified.
  • Gutter guards need maintenance. Gutter guards are not an install-and-forget solution to gutter maintenance. Gutter guards still need maintenance, and gutters cleared of debris that made it past the gutter guard.
  • Bees and critters. Gutter guards can provide a shelter in the gutter space that is attractive to animals that could cause a problem, such as bees, wasps and hornets, and in some cases, small birds. These animals can build nests in the cover of gutter guards and cause a blockage in the gutter.
  • Small debris. If the debris on your roof is from smaller leaved trees, such as pine needles, the gutter guard may not effectively keep the gutter free of this kind of debris.

Generally speaking, leaf guards on gutters are not a practical solution to keeping your gutters clear from blockages, and the number of new problems you could introduce makes them not worth the cost.

Conclusion

Gutter guards are a somewhat controversial topic, and companies who sell and install these systems will include in their marketing that their system will keep your gutters clog-free and maintenance-free.

In most cases, this is marketing jargon intended to sell the product. Most gutter guard systems will have problems coping with heavy rains or heavy volumes of water from a large roof area.

If you are contemplating a gutter guard system, it would be wise to be conscious of the type of debris on your house and the volume of water flow you expect from the roof to ensure the system will cope according to your expectations.

Gutter guards are not worth the trouble in the end. We discourage employing gutter guards because of how delicate they are, environmental conditions that can harm them, and the low return on investment. Providing a professional gutter cleaning service is a safer, more cost-effective, and far more dependable approach to maintaining your gutter system in good working order.

Sources:

WHY YOU NEED TO SKIP (OR DITCH) THOSE GUTTER GUARDS

Do Gutter Guards Really Work?

7 Benefits of Gutter Guards Only the Pros Know About/

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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