Do Gutter Guards Work With Existing Gutters? (Explained)

Autumn is picturesque in most climates, with leaves littering the roads and rooftops. It’s common to see people all over neighborhoods raking leaves into bundles. However, it can be a stressful time for homeowners. Leaves from trees overwhelm gutters. And somebody has to clear them out before they cause damage.  

You can install most gutter guards on existing gutters quite easily. Brush insert gutter guards are easiest to install, but you can also easily add micromesh, screen, and reverse curve guards as well. Installing gutter guards on existing gutters does not require special skills or tools.

If you’ve had enough climbing up your roof to clean debris out of your gutters, you are in the right place. We delve into gutter guard types and if they can ease your autumn gutter cleaning. 

Installing Different Types of Gutter Guards On Existing Gutters

These are the types of gutter guards you can get that will work with your existing gutter. 

Gutter Guard TypeCan You Install On Existing Gutters?Ease of Installation On Existing Gutters
MicromeshYesExtremely simple and quick
Brush InsertsYesVery easy and quick
ScreenYesSimple but more challenging
Reverse CurveYesMore complex, but still relatively simple

Micromesh Gutter Guards

Mesh system gutter guards are some of the most popular among homeowners. They have a simple design, two strips of material with a fine mesh between them. The mesh keeps debris out. 

Micromesh gutter guards work well with existing gutters. An installer would only have to slip one end under the shingle while the other end attaches to the outer edge of the gutter. 

Alternatively, you can curl the mesh into an L on one end and screw it into the fascia under the roof. The other end would slip into the gutter for a tight fit. 

There are different types of mesh gutter guards. It’s up to you to pick one that keeps your gutters as clean as you like, depending on the fineness of the mesh. 

The Downsides of Micromesh Gutter Guards

The two installation styles of micromesh gutter guards have flaws. 

The under-shingle micromesh has an angle that makes water glide over the gutter and down to the foundational edge of the house. Over time, it will erode that area or even cause some flooding. 

The second installation style, where the guard is flat, tends to leave the leaves bulked on top of the mesh. Finer particles clog the tiny holes, forcing you to bring out the power washer to clean the mesh. 

However, they are a great affordable option for existing gutters in an area where you don’t deal with too much leaf coverage. Also, the ease of installation makes it easy to remove and install during routine cleanups. 

Brush Inserts

Brush inserts are one of the least complicated gutter guards you can use to keep your gutters debris-free. They have two components; a stainless steel wire spine and polypropylene brush filaments. These filaments can withstand any weather condition. 

You can install these inserts yourself. All you need is to get the right fit and lay the inserts inside your existing gutters. The filaments keep debris out, allowing only water to pass through. In principle, it sounds easy. However, there are drawbacks.  

The Downsides of Brush Insert Gutter Guards

Though they’re easy to manage, they will still accumulate finer particles. Also, they don’t keep out tiny twigs, seeds, or pines. You’ll still have to take the inserts out and clean out the gutters. 

Screen Gutter Guards

Screen gutter guards are like a stronger, more perforated version of mesh gutter guards. They come in aluminum material and a variety of styles. 

  • K-Style Drop-In screen guards
  • K-Style Lock On-screen guards
  • K-Style Hinged screen guards
  • Half Round Hinged

Despite the various screen guard types, the size of the perforation makes them prone to more danger. 

The Downsides of Screen Gutter Guards

Screen guards gather bigger debris over a shorter time compared to micromesh guards. The buildup of debris can make the gutters heavy, destroying your roof and making the entire gutter an accident waiting to happen. 

Screen gutters installed under the shingles can void the roof’s warranty by distorting the roof. Roof distortion can be problematic to new homeowners who want to minimize their risk if they’ve just bought or moved into a new home. 

Reverse Curve Gutter Guards

Reverse curve gutter guards get their name from how they work. Water runs down the roof towards the gutter. It slides off the top, flows down the bend at the edge, and spills backward into the gutter. The bigger leaves get washed down to the ground while surface tension directs water into the gutter and down the downspout. 

They don’t filter the debris to keep them on the gutter guard. They direct as much water with as little debris as possible. 

Most reverse curve gutter guards have a ⅜ inch opening for the water. They can take up to 22 inches of rainfall at a time – which is plenty more than you’ll typically need in the US. Like the other gutter guards, reverse curve gutter guards have shortcomings, too. 

The Downsides of Reverse Curve Gutter Guards

Reverse curve gutter guards are notorious for ice dams. You lift the shingle at an angle when you install them. Water on aluminum freezes quickly, making the water underneath the shingle solidify into icicles. 

Also, reverse curve gutter guards are not 100% effective in keeping all the rainwater in the gutter and keeping out the debris from the gutter. Water and debris will skirt down the surface of the guard down to the side of your house, defeating the purpose of the gutter guard.

Reverse curve gutters are growth havens for insects and plants. The gutter guards provide enough shade, dirt, and a wet spot. Plants will likely take root there if seeds germinate. Insects such as bees and wasps will make their colonies in that space. 

Finally, they don’t leave the most sightly marks on the gutter. The oily runoff from the roof usually clings to the side, creating a dirty lining. It takes a while to notice, but it’s not the most appealing thing to see to a keen homeowner. 

Can You Install LeafGuard To Existing Gutters?

LeafGuard is a one-piece complete gutter system. It operates using a principle called liquid adhesion. Liquid adhesion is when rainwater runs down your roof, flows round the LeafGuard’s edge, and goes down the gutter instead of overflowing over the gutter. 

The leaves from the roof go over the LeafGuard so that you can rack them up later. The upside of the LeafGuard is that it does not clog as frequently as other gutter guards. 

You cannot add LeafGuard to an existing gutter. It already comes as a complete package. You would have to install it on a gutterless roof or rip out the existing gutter. 

Removing an existing gutter to install LeafGuard sounds like a risky move for any homeowner. However, it has some perks. 

They Drastically Cut Cleaning Frequency

You must still frequently clean out conventional gutter guards placed in existing gutters. LeafGuard’s one-piece design doesn’t collect and accumulate debris inside, unlike those gutter guards. We know gutter cleaning isn’t exactly glamorous work. Whether you do it yourself or have to outsource the service, a chance to do it less is always welcome. 

You’ll only need to do routine maintenance twice a year. Less cleaning frequency also reduces the likelihood of any gutter-related accidents. 

More Water Handling Capacity

Under different circumstances, 32 inches of rainfall per hour would be overwhelming for the average gutter guard. However, LeafGuard’s curved design can handle up to 32 inches of rainfall per hour. For context, Hurricane Harvey dumped over 25 inches of rain in just 24 hours. 

The LeafGuard one-piece system will send all that water from torrential downpour down the downspout with minimal risk of damaging the sides of your house or buildup in the gutter. 

It Comes With a No-Clog Guarantee

A lot of gutter guards are mesh-based or screen-based. The design creates an inherent flaw that makes the gutter guard susceptible to buildup and clogging over time. Depending on the leaf shedding around your home, it might take a short time to clog. 

However, LeafGuard’s design makes it almost harder to accumulate debris. Also, the downspouts are 30% larger than the industry standard to take on any additional water from the roof. That slight hack makes the makers give customers a no-clog guarantee as one of the upsides to choosing LeafGuard. 

It Eliminates Excess Water Pooling

Most gutter guard systems, especially foam gutter guards, are prone to pooling. Debris usually collects overtime on the guards. It creates a barrier that gets more backed up if you don’t clean it out. The amount of water down the downspout decreases whenever it rains, creating pools in the gutters. 

The pooled water can become a harbor for insect hatchlings or areas for unwanted growth. It puts a strain on your gutter and your roof. You might have to cop out extra cash for gutter repairs if you continue to neglect it. 

No-Rust Material

If you’re going to have an exterior addition to your home dedicated to handling rainwater, it needs to be the least susceptible to water damage. You can have the LeafGuard one-piece system in any color you want. It’s made from aluminum 20% thicker than the industry standard. 

The paint is scratch-proof. Rain sometimes comes with harsh winds that make every twig a potential projectile capable of scratching the surface. The gaps would expose the metal underneath and cause it to rust and eventually collapse. 

Custom-Fit for Your Home’s Design

Getting a one-piece system means you always have to clarify your design specifications to get the right fit. The installer takes your home’s measurements and creates a system unique to your home. They also consider the location’s conditions. 

LeafGuard sounds like a superior choice compared to other gutter guards. However, that’s not to discredit other gutter guards. If you buy a home with a pre-installed gutter system, a gutter guard might be more convenient than getting a new system. 

How Much Does It Cost to Get the Best Gutter Guards Installed?

You can rank the best gutter guard as the ones that last the longest or the ones that keep most debris out. 

On average, homeowners can expect to spend between $950 and $1900 for gutter guard installation. It is typically between $5 and $13, rounded off to the nearest dollar. Installation totals depend on four factors.

  • Choice of gutter guard
  • The professional installer or installation company
  • The gutter guard’s brand
  • The area you expect to cover
Gutter Guard TypeMaterial Cost (Per Linear Foot)Installation Cost (Per Linear Foot)
Plastic PVC Screen$0.35 to $1.13$2.50 to $3.75 or DIY
Steel Screen$1.50 to $3.17$2.50 to $3.75
Metal Mesh Guard$1.16 to $2.75$2.50 to $3.75
Micro-Mesh$2 to $3.50$2.50 to $3.75
Aluminum Perforated Cover$0.67 to $1.33$2.50 to $3.75
Reverse Curve Gutter Guard$3.58 to $6.69$3 to $12.00
Foam Guard$2.17 to $4.25DIY
Brush Guard$3.12 to $4.50DIY

Additional Costs

Other factors might increase your installation costs. They might cover the added convenience of comfort or cover the risk to the installer. 

  • Heat tapes cost about $0.73 per linear foot. They prevent ice dams from forming on your gutters and the air spaces between shingles. 
  • Gutter cleaning before installation or during routine maintenance costs between $120 and $203.33. 
  • Gutter removal costs about $0.83 and $1.18 per linear foot if you want to install a one-piece gutter system. The one-piece gutter system will cost about $4 to $30.33 per linear foot.
  • Tree trimming before gutter guard installation or during cleanup costs between $300 and $700 a tree.

Your installation company and prior research are the keys to getting suitable deals. Consult your installation experts and service providers in your field before settling. Most service providers will give you free quotes if you have precise measurements. Also, professional installers might ask for a visitation fee to assess the site before work. 

Why Are Gutter Guards Bad?

While gutter guards might have a case for themselves, they are also not above criticism. Sure, they keep debris out. Some people will even point out that the initial setup costs pay for themselves in the long run. On the other hand, they have their pitfalls

  1. The best gutter guards don’t come cheap. The complete perfect gutter guard system has great material, excellent installation, and exceptional debris prevention. This combination doesn’t come cheap.
  1. You can’t escape gutter cleaning. You can reduce the frequency of cleaning your gutters, but cleaning out your gutters once or twice every year is mandatory.
  1. Cleanup can be more expensive if you have gutter guards. A professional cleaner might add a levy on top of the usual price to clean a gutter with guards. However, you can use your negotiation skills to retain a sensible price. 
  1. Gutter guard installation can void your roof warranty depending on the guard type and mode of installation. 
  1. If the gutter guard goes below the shingles, your home becomes more vulnerable to ice dams and incoming cold during the chilly months
  1. Wrong gutter guard installation can leave your roof with holes from awful nailing. 

You can mostly avoid these scenarios if you work with highly skilled professionals. 

Pro tip: You can make better choices if you work with a professional company or through testimonials. 

Can You Put Gutter Guards On Half Round Gutters?

Yes, you can put gutter guards on half-round gutters. Although modern homeowners view half-round gutters as old school, they still have a place in modern architecture. Their smooth interior makes them more durable and provides less space for water pooling. 

Although gutter guards are limited, you can still install half-round gutter guards. The half-round gutter guards attach to the shingle’s bottom, then curve and clip to the front bottom of the half-round gutter. 

Ensure the gutter guard doesn’t rest flat on the half-round gutter. When it’s flat, it forms a shelf and makes the gutter guard clog, beating its purpose. 

Alternatively, you can try malleable options such as brush inserts and foam gutter guards to keep debris out of your half-round gutters. 

Final Thoughts

Gutter guards are a valid and viable solution to keeping debris out of gutters. They reduce the gutter cleanup frequency and lower the risk of injury by reducing how frequently you have to go up near the roof. They’re not a foolproof plan, but they work. 

Consulting a professional installer or gutter service provider will save you the hassle of repairs and exorbitant fees. 

Sources

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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.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
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