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Understanding Gutter Guards

Installing a good gutter system on your home is crucial. It can mean the difference between having a structurally sound home that is safe from water damage, and having a home that deteriorates over time from the ravages of inclement weather. This is especially the case for those in areas prone to heavy rains or snow. But in order to have good gutters that provide the protection, safety and functionality you need, should you also install gutter guards?

What are Gutter Guards?

Gutter Guards

Gutter guards protect your gutter and downspout system from damaging debris build-up

  • Eases homeowner gutter maintenance

  • Prevents flood and foundation damage

  • Last 2-25 years

Gutter guards are coverings or screens for your gutter system that are designed to keep them from clogging. Many homeowners are familiar with the fact that gutters tend to collect large amounts of debris, precipitation, dirt, and other outdoor muck. Cleaning out the gutters is one of the necessary but tedious chores that comes along with being a homeowner. Gutter guards can help to alleviate the issue of clogged gutters by preventing large amounts of debris from clogging the system. To this end, guards can effectively divert water away from your home and keep it better protected.

How Do Gutter Guards Work?

Gutter guards are a simple, preventative system for your gutters. They help gutters do their main job more effectively – keep water from flooding or pooling in or around your home. Without guards, gutters can become easily clogged with outdoor debris, which prevents water from seamlessly flowing away from your home and out the downspouts. This can quickly become a problem.

Gutter guards are coverings that are equipped with small holes, which allow water to pour into the gutter and out the downspouts, while preventing larger debris from becoming trapped and preventing water flow.

Keep in mind that most roofing and gutter experts agree that most guards are not 100% effective. However, they can do a great deal to help prevent dangerous clogs and gutter replacements, as well as adding tons of unnecessary maintenance for the homeowner.

The Pros of Gutter Guards

Although they do have their benefits, there are some downsides to consider before installing gutter guards. Let’s investigate the pros and cons of installing guards.

1. Preventing damage from ice and debris

First and foremost, one huge benefit of using gutter guards is to help protect gutters from harmful ice clogs, also known as ice dams. When ice clogs your gutter system, it can cause water to pool around your house or even flow into your home.

Keep in mind that during the winter, in colder geographical regions, preventing snow and ice entirely is impossible. While gutter guards will probably not be 100% effective in preventing ice dams and icicles, they can help to minimize the problem. You can explore heated gutter guards if you are worried about ice building up in your gutter system.

Gutter guards also provide protection from debris, like leaves and sticks, which can get stuck in gutters and downspouts easily – especially during the spring and fall. This is why home services experts recommend cleaning out your gutters twice a year – at the end of spring, and the end of fall. You should be using this twice-annual cleaning routine in addition to using gutter guards to best avoid clogged gutters.

2. Saving gutters from pests

In addition to debris, gutter guards can also spare gutters from damage caused by pests. When gutters are uncovered, rodents, squirrels, and birds like to build nests inside of them. Uncovered gutters can lead to insects, such as mosquitos and spiders, breeding inside of stagnant water that has accumulated.

Certain types of guards are better at keeping certain pests out of your gutters. To determine which type of gutter guard is best for your home’s location, it’s best to seek advice from a professional.

3. Preventing fires

Gutters can easily become a fire-hazard without gutter guards, especially for homeowners who live in areas that are prone to bushfires.

During fires, winds can carry embers through the neighborhood. Gutters, which naturally collect flammable debris such as twigs and leaves, are prone to dangerously catching fire. Gutter guards can prevent your home from igniting, since there will be no dry, combustible materials caught inside the gutters.

4. Reducing maintenance

Since gutter guards can protect gutters from debris and pest infestations, you may not need to clean them as often as you would with uncovered gutters. Gutter guards can also defend your gutters against rust and rot that can be caused by debris and water. These benefits can go a long way toward saving homeowners time and money, as well as prevent avoidable gutter replacements.

5. Can prevent mold, mildew, and foundation damage

When outdoor debris is kept out of your gutter system, this is turn helps you avoid mold and mildew from growing inside your gutters. You should always check for mold and mildew growth as you clean out your gutters regularly. However, gutter guards can help to minimize this issue and keep your roofing in better shape for longer.

Certain types of gutter guards prevent mold and mildew better than others. To best prevent mold and mildew, make sure to ask a gutter professional about the best type of gutter guards for your home and area.

Additionally, gutter guards protect the foundation of your home. When water, debris, mold and mildew sit inside your gutter system undetected for long periods of time, it can create pressure cracking, and/or erosion to your home’s foundation. Foundation damage is a serious and costly problem, especially when detected too late.

The Cons of Gutter Guards

1. Cost

One concern many homeowners have when it comes to a gutter guard installation is the cost. Gutter guards can be a bit pricy, ranging from $700 to $1,000. The overall cost largely depends on the type of gutter guard, material, and whether or not you need to have it professionally installed.

It’s important to keep in mind that some types of guards may cost less, but not be as effective as others. For instance, foam and bottle brush gutter guards are cheap and can be installed DIY. However, they are typically less durable, long-lasting, and effective compared to other types. Make sure to do your due diligence to find a product that will work well with your gutters so you can reap the benefits.

2. Not all debris will be caught

Although much of the debris that can damage your gutters will be caught by gutter guards, that doesn’t mean they stop all debris from getting in. Even with guards, small debris like pine needles and seeds can still accumulate inside of the gutters. Also, if small leaves get into your gutters, you may be confronted with moss and algae growing inside.

Make sure to investigate the best types of gutter guards for your geographical area and typical weather conditions to avoid these issues to the best of your ability.

3. Gutter maintenance still required

While gutter guards can reduce the time and money spent on cleaning gutters, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook entirely from gutter maintenance. If you get guards, you will still need to clean your gutters, though probably not as often as you would otherwise. Depending on the type you install, you will also need to clean the gutter guard themselves according to recommendations.

4. Added weight

When gutter guards are installed, they add additional weight to a roof that can over time put pressure on it and cause damage. The added weight of the guards can also cause the gutters to sag—especially if the guards are not cleaned often enough. Be sure to check the weight of the gutter guards you are installing, and ask a professional whether or not the material and weight is going to be compatible with your gutters’ material and structure.

Types of Gutter Guards

Some gutter experts say that there are three main types of gutter guards — screens, mesh, and surface tension (also known as reverse curve). However, it’s important to know about two additional types as well – bottle brush and foam gutter guards. Take a look at the details of each type of gutter guard below.

1. Screens

Screen gutter guards are one of the most simple and popularly used gutter guard types, thanks to their low cost and easy installation.

Typically made with either metal, nylon, plastic, or wire, screen gutter guards are installed by lifting the bottom row of roof shingles and inserting them beneath. When installed, screen gutter guards sit atop your gutter openings and prevent debris from entering.

screen-gutter-guard

Screens can be installed on one’s own, but many homeowners choose to have them professionally installed to ensure they are secure. Still, they are one of the easiest and most affordable types of gutter guards to install. Homeowners can typically purchase gutter screens at a local home improvement store.

Screen guards start at just $1 per linear foot and go up from there, depending on the screen material. However, screen gutter guards are not entirely foolproof and leave the gutters somewhat susceptible to clogs from smaller debris, such as pine needles or seeds.

The most durable and long-lasting screen gutter guards are usually metal types, such as steel or aluminum guards. You should plan to clean screen gutter guards at least twice per year.

Benefits

Drawbacks Cost

Lifespan

  • Inexpensive
  • DIY-friendly
  • Lightweight
  • Not 100% effective
  • Can damage, blow away, or break over time
  • Starts at $0.30 – $1 per linear foot.
  • 2-20 years. Metal screens typically last the longest, compared to plastic or wire

2. Mesh

Mesh gutter guards work much like screens, but they are made of a lightweight mesh material. Just like screen gutter guards, mesh guards can be inserted beneath the roof shingles and sit tightly against the roof, atop the gutter opening.

One benefit of mesh gutter guards in comparison to screens is that they are lighter-weight and because mesh openings are smaller in size, they provide better protection and filtration from debris. Only very small particles are filtered through mesh guards into the gutters, which is usually very effective at keeping leaves away. Micro-mesh gutter guards are also available to offer even more effective protection from debris build-up. Still, you should plan to clean mesh gutter guards at least once annually.

However, keep in mind that mesh guards are slightly more difficult to install on your own. You will probably need to have them professionally installed, which results in a higher cost than DIY options.

In addition, sometimes during heavy rainfall, water can slide across mesh gutter guards (and especially micro-mesh guards) due to the very small openings. This can defeat the purpose of the guard entirely, and also potentially cause damage to your home.

Benefits

Drawbacks Cost

Lifespan

  • Inexpensive
  • Highly effective filtration
  • Lightweight
  • Not very DIY-friendly. Installation can be costly.
  • Heavy rain can slide across guards and onto home
  • May void certain roof warranties
  • Starts at $2.50 – $4 per linear foot. Often requires additional installation costs.
  • 10-20 years. Professional installation can result in longer lifespan.

3. Reverse Curve

Reverse curve gutter guards, also known as surface tension gutter guards, and made with light-weight metal or plastic. They are different from other types of gutter guards in how they divert water from your gutter system. Reverse curve guards, as their name suggests, directs water over the top of the gutter, around a curve, and ultimately into the gutter beneath. At the same time, debris is directed away from the gutter by sliding off the top of the curved guard and onto the ground.

Reverse curve gutter guards can be slightly more attractive compared to other types like screens and mesh. They often come in various colors that can match your home’s visual style. Keep in mind that will likely be able to see the guards from the ground level, which some homeowners may not like. Additionally, they tend to work effectively in keeping leaves out of the gutters, especially compared to brushes and foam.

At the same time, reverse curve gutter guards are more costly and do require professional installation. Similar to mesh guards, they could potentially void your roofing warranty if they lift roof shingles significantly over time. Also, keep in mind that during heavy rainfall, they may not be totally effective.

Roof and gutter experts tend to debate their effectiveness, appearance, and longevity. Some experts do not believe in the effectiveness of reverse curve gutter guards at all.

Benefits

Drawbacks Cost

Lifespan

  • Various color options.
  • Effective in preventing leaf build-up.
  • Highly durable.
  • Not DIY-friendly. Installation can be costly.
  • Can damage roof shingles or void roof warranty.
  • Can be expensive.
  • Start at $3.50 – $6.50 per linear foot for materials. Installation may cost more.
  • Longevity is debated. Likely 5-20 years.

4. Bottle Brush

Brush gutter guards are unique in their material. They are made of heavy bristles, also known as “bottle brush,” which are inserted directly into the gutter. This allows water and smaller particles to flow through the gutters, while keeping out larger debris such as leaves and twigs. After a storm, heavy wind, or simply once a month as routine, homeowners can use a ladder and easily remove debris from the bristles by hand.

brush-gutter-guards

Luckily, bottle brush gutter guards are DIY-friendly and very easy to install. Homeowners can simply measure and cut the brushes to fit their gutters. They are also cheap, can be purchased easily at a home improvement store, and make gutter maintenance easier. They will not void your roof warranty since they are inserted easily into the gutter, rather than beneath roof shingles.

On the downside, brushes can trap smaller debris in their bristles which can require additional attention. Plan to remove them and clean them thoroughly at least twice per year. Over time, you will want to either switch out the brush guards to invest in a heavier duty option.

Benefits

Drawbacks Cost

Lifespan

  • Easy DIY solution.
  • Affordable.
  • Effective for water flow.
  • Not a great long-term solution.
  • Small debris can collect in bristles.
  • Start at about $3 per linear foot.
  • 5-10 years when properly maintained.

5. Foam or Sponge

Foam or sponge gutter guards are similar to bottle brush guards, as they sit directly inside the gutter. Since they are made of porous materials, they allow water to flow through the gutter while keeping debris out. Debris will normally sit on top of the foam without falling inside the gutters, then simply blow away or can be removed by hand.

Foam and sponge gutter guards can easily be purchased and installed on one’s own. Like bottle brush, they can be measured and cut to fit the gutter easily. Before inserting them into the gutters, clean out the gutters and make sure there is no debris stuck inside that will sit beneath the foam or sponge.

Although they are a seamless and affordable gutter guard solution, foam and sponge guards are not intended to be used for the long-term. They may need to be removed and cleaned, or even replaced, twice a year. Plus, they have the ability to freeze in the winters when temperatures drop very low. When this happens, water flow can be impacted. Lastly, due to their material, they can cause mold, mildew, and moss build-up.

Benefits

Drawbacks Cost

Lifespan

  • Easy DIY solution.
  • Very affordable.
  • Does not void roof warranty.
  • Lowest lifespan of all guards.
  • Can freeze in low temperatures, causing inefficiency.
  • Start at about $1-2 per linear foot.
  • 2-3 years.

Finding an Experienced Gutter Guard Installer

If you decide to add gutter guards to your home, be sure to consult with an experienced professional. A gutter guard installer can help you explore the best options for your home, as well as your budget. Be sure to investigate whether or not you want a short-term DIY solution, or a long-lasting professional solution that will protect your gutter system for years to come.

The pros at Modernize can connect you with trusted, local gutter professionals who will help you choose the best guards and complete the installation. Also, be sure to consult our interactive checklist, which will help you evaluate contractors and make the most informed decision.

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