Gutter Guards: Do They Work & Are They Worth It?

Gutter manufacturers market gutter guards as a maintenance-free solution to gutter cleaning and upkeep. There are pros and cons to having gutter guards. They can be expensive to install, and companies fail to tell you that your gutters still need routine maintenance, even with gutter guards.

So, are gutter guards worth it, or are they a big waste of money?

After reviewing the long-term costs, we’ve found that gutter guards are not worth it and are a waste of money. Gutter guards do a relatively good job at keeping debris out of gutters, saving you the chore of gutter cleaning. They still need routine maintenance, which defeats the purpose of the investment in gutter guards.

In addition, other problems exist, such as poorly capturing rainwater from the roof and rotting fascia boards caused by spillage behind the gutters that can cost thousands in repairs.

The main problems I find with gutter screens, covers, 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 think they are maintenance-free and neglect to maintain them

Of the gutter guards systems I’ve inspected, the Leaf Filter system design has been one of the best. You can get a no-obligation estimate.

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Do Gutter Guards Work?

There is a lot of debate about do gutter guards work. Some people say that they do a great job at keeping gutters clean. Others claim that the guards clog the gutters and ultimately cause more harm than good.

We will examine both arguments and whether or not gutter guards work. Let’s start by looking at the breakdown of the cost of gutter guards.

Cost of Gutter Guards: 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.

Cost of Gutter Guards

The cost of gutter guards varies widely. We found pricing online from $200 to $6,000 for a typical house, depending on the material and professional installation.

Most companies price per linear foot, and we found rates from $1.20 to $10 per linear foot. National brands like Leaf Filter, LeafGuard, and Gutter Helmet cost $12 to $35 per linear foot installed.

SourceLowHighAverageCost per Linear Foot (LF)
HomeAdvisor$200$6000$596 to $2,184$1.20 to $10
Fixr$400$3500$1,200 to $2,000$2 to $10
HomeGuide$132$4800$570 to $1,529$4 to $12
Thumbtack$1000 to $1600$1.50 to $10
Cost of the gutter guard installation only. It does not include changing gutters that you may need to obtain certain gutter guards.

We feel like these averages skew low because of DIY gutter guard installations. You can purchase guards from local retailers like Lowes or Home Depot.

Our research shows that most people will average closer to a median cost of $1,377 to $2,722 for 150 linear feet. The national brands mentioned above will likely range from $1,800 to $5,250 for the same 150 linear feet of gutter guard.

Cost of Gutter Cleaning

The cost of having a professional gutter cleaning service clean your gutters is about $120. The average cost to clean gutters on a one-story house is $70 to $100, while the average price to clean the gutters on a two-story home is $95 to $225. (Forbes)

Cost of Gutter Guards vs Cost of Gutter Cleaning

Based on the median cost of gutter guard installation of $2,500, it will take you about ten years to recoup the original cost of the gutter guards against the average price of a $120 gutter cleaning service done twice per year.

That would be a conservative estimate if you maintain a continuous residence for 20 years without encountering any significant difficulties with the gutter guards, don’t move, and don’t change your mind.

Most gutter guards only last 10 to 20 years and still require some maintenance.

Type of Gutter Guards

As stated, there are several 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 damage 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

Aluminum guards are often referred to as gutter covers 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 rusts easily. They tend to damage 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 are 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 well in heavy rain.

We Breakdown the Cost of Gutter Guards

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
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The Pros and Cons of Gutter Guards

There are many valid reasons gutter guards are not worth your money. 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.

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 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 is challenging on gutters if you live in an area rich in trees. Your gutters, if left unguarded, would collect plenty of leaves. You would have to clean out the gutters more often. 

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, not in the gutter trough. 

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 Flow into Gutters

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 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 water flow 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 can potentially detract from the beauty and look of your home.

Gutter guards that are poorly installed or don’t fit correctly can affect the gutter’s performance and detract from the house’s curb appeal.

You’ll Need a Professional to Clean Out the Gutter Guards

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.

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.

Why are Gutter Guards Bad?

While they reduce cleaning maintenance, gutter guards don’t eliminate cleaning as most companies claim. In addition, they cause other problems, such as restricting rainwater runoff into the gutter and ice dams in winter, which can cost thousands of dollars to repair, far exceeding the perceived value of gutter guards.

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 debris buildup, including shingle grit, leaves, and pine straw. Gutter clogs will form in the gutter pipes or downspouts without regular cleaning. I’ve even seen poorly maintained gutters where 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 annually.
  • Some gutter guard manufacturers provide a lifetime warranty when marketing their products, but these warranties are limited and do not cover things like age and neglect.

Do Gutter Guards Cause Problems?

Most of the problems that gutter guards cause are a result of neglect. Gutter guard marketing sells homeowners on peace of mind to prevent clogged or blocked gutters. While no longer having to clean gutters again is appealing, it isn’t true. They also contribute to the formation of ice dams in winter and can be a nesting place for birds and bees.

Commonly, gutter guards cause two significant problems.

People Falsely Assume that Gutter Guards are Maintenance Free

Gutter guard marketing sells homeowners on peace of mind to prevent clogged or blocked gutters. While no longer having to clean gutters again is appealing, remember that this isn’t true.

No gutter guard can provide total protection against leaves, needles, and other debris. Some debris may get past these guards and clog your gutters in time.

To remove the debris that has slipped through the defenses, you’ll still need to clean your gutters regularly. A portion (or all) of the gutter guard will need to be removed to clean the gutters, which costs more than standard gutter cleaning.

While effective at keeping leaves and debris out of the gutters, Gutter guards can cause debris to accumulate on your roof. The debris piles up on the gutter guard and then onto the roof. The debris then begins to hold water causing premature damage to roofing materials and eventually roof leaks.

For gutter guard brands that claim they operate well, consider that the primary purpose for putting them up is to lower maintenance costs.

Because your roof should be checked and cleaned yearly, gutter cleaning at this time adds little or no cost. According to expert advice, avoiding those guards and establishing a cleaning schedule for your gutters twice a year is the best practice. Over time, you’ll find it more efficient and less expensive.

Gutter Guards can Cause Ice Dams in Winter

Rainwater flowing off the roof goes underneath the roof materials if it doesn’t flow into the gutter. This water goes into the house and clings to the roof, creating an ice dam in freezing weather. 

When ice freezes on top of the gutter guard, the gutter gets weighed down from the weight of the ice. An overwhelmed gutter trough can pull away from the fascia, affecting the gutter slope, and water trapped in the gutter trough weighs it down. 

Birds and Bees Nest Underneath the Gutter Guards

They make it easy for bees and birds to nest beneath them. If you’ve got a curved gutter guard system or one with a solid gutter cover, you’ve just given wasps, hornets, and birds a place to call home.

Do Gutter Guards Work in Heavy Rain?

Gutters protect your home from extensive water damage caused by heavy rains. But rain gutters can also be clogged, so 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 allowing the water to pass through and direct it away from your home.

Gutter screens come in various designs; 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. 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: What’s the Bottom Line?

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 direct 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.
  • Gutter guards are expensive. Gutter guards are not cheap to install, so if they will not be effective and can detract from the home’s look, it may not justify the cost.
  • Gutter guards need maintenance. Gutter guards are not an install-and-forget solution to gutter maintenance. Gutter guards still need maintenance, and gutters are 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 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, be conscious of the trees in your house and the annual rainfall 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 their delicate nature, environmental conditions that can harm them, and the low return on investment.

Providing a professional gutter cleaning service is safer, more cost-effective, and more dependable to maintain your gutter system in good working order.

Do You Need Gutters Cleaning?

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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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