Rain and storm gutter systems are designed to catch rainwater from a home’s roof and direct it away from the foundation. However, debris buildup, uneven water flow, and nesting critters prevent rain gutters from working properly. In addition to impeding water flow, clogged gutters can also pose a serious fire risk in dry parts of the country. Gutter guards, or gutter covers, are devices that prevent leaves, pine needles, twigs, and other debris from entering the gutter, while still allowing water to flow through. Homeowners have a wide variety of options when choosing gutter guards. This guide covers all of the most important information homeowners and contractors need to know when comparing products. For readers who are already knowledgeable on the subject, here is a short list of the best gutter guards based on our reviews:
Top Gutter Guards
|Best for||Best Overall||Pine Needles||Cold Climates|
|Learn More||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
Understanding Gutter Guards
What Are Gutter Guards?
Gutter guards (sometimes referred to as gutter covers, gutter screens, leaf guards, or leaf filters) are devices that attach to a home’s storm or rain gutter system to filter and block leaves, debris, and animals from entering the gutter system and causing clogs, floods, or damage.
The purpose of rain or storm gutters is to direct water flowing off of the roof away from the foundation of the home where it could cause structural damage. Almost anything can get into a rain gutter system and cause it to clog, break, bend, warp, or fail.
The best gutter guards prevent this damage by covering the gutter openings, often with a mesh screen or uniquely shaped cover that allows water to pass through while blocking leaves, debris, and wildlife from entering.
Pros and Cons of Gutter Leaf Guards
Many homeowners wonder, “Do I need gutter guards?” The short answer is no; however, choosing not to install gutter guards on a home can create more work and wasted energy for homeowners in the long run. In fact, while gutter guards do come with an up-front cost and require effort to install, there are many benefits that tend to make the initial investment well worth the cost. Here are the key benefits of using gutter guards:
Pros: Benefits of Gutter Guards
1. Debris Prevention – The primary function of gutter guards is to prevent debris, including leaves, pine needles, twigs, pine cones, gravel, and other small objects, from entering the rain gutter system. This type of debris entering the gutter can lead to a number of serious problems starting with gutter clogs. Once gutters are clogged, they are likely to fill with water, leading them to overflow, crack, or break completely. This then leads to water buildup and puddling near the foundation of the building. If not addressed quickly, the foundation of the home can begin to crack or weaken, which is an expensive issue to remedy that also decreases the value of the property. Overflowing gutters can also cause water to seep into the building’s roof where the gutters are connected, causing major damage that may be pricey to resolve.
2. Rodent and Insect Deterrence – Rain gutters that do not have gutter guards installed can attract insects and rodents for multiple reasons. The buildup of twigs, leaves, pine needles, and pinecones offer an attractive nest for small rodents. With no cover over the gutters, these critters can easily enter them and settle in. Furthermore, when the buildup of debris and leaves creates clogs, stagnant pools of water can begin to form, which creates a breeding ground for insects like mosquitoes. As mentioned above, clogged gutters can also lead to a damp foundation, which attracts termites. Gutter guards prevent all of these problems by keeping out debris, eliminating pools of water, and blocking insects and animals from entering the system.
3. Fire Protection – Perhaps surprisingly, gutter guards can actually help homeowners protect their homes from fire risk—particularly in areas with large amounts of dry brush and wind. When twigs, leaves, pine needles, and the like build up in gutters and dry up, they create a perfect kindling that can easily ignite if embers from a nearby fire, or even a barbeque, land in the pile. When this happens, a fire can ignite quickly and set the rest of the house ablaze. By preventing debris from piling up in the gutter system, the use of noncombustible gutter guards limits this risk. In fact, a California law requires home sellers living in high-risk areas to disclose if the home has rain gutters that lack metal or noncombustible gutter covers.
4. Decreased Maintenance – Since gutter guards prevent debris from entering the gutter system, they decrease the amount of time and frequency that homeowners need to clean them. Of course, the same debris can settle atop the gutter guard and slowly pile up over time, but it cannot get inside of the gutters, where it is much more tedious and difficult to remove. Many gutter guard companies advertise that their products reduce the frequency of required maintenance by 50% or more. Homeowners will still need to clean their gutters—or hire someone to clean them—occasionally, but much less frequently than for uncovered gutters.
5. Ice and Freeze Prevention – As debris collects in uncovered gutters, it creates dams, blocking water from flowing and creating puddles within the gutters. In cold climates, these puddles can freeze and grow larger as more rain or snow enters the gutter and continues to freeze. Frozen ice dams can get so heavy that they weigh down gutters, causing them to sag, warp, crack, or even break completely and separate from the fascia of the roof. By preventing debris from entering the gutter and creating dams in the system, gutter guards can greatly reduce the formation of ice in gutters. Small amounts of ice may still form in colder weather and climates, but as long as water is able to flow smoothly through the system, large pools cannot form and subsequently freeze, significantly reducing this risk. Additionally, adding gutter guards can actually strengthen the gutter system, making the gutters better able to support the weight of ice if it does accumulate on top of them.
6. Rust and Corrosion Prevention – Preventing debris buildup and the pooling of water in gutter systems helps to eliminate the deterioration of the gutters as well. Enduring pools of water as well as damp leaves and sticks within the gutter system can lead to the formation of mold and rust, which can do permanent damage to the gutters. Over time, the buildup of mold can wear away the gutters’ surface, change the color of the gutters, and make them appear permanently dirty. Once the surface of the gutter is worn from mold, they can be nearly impossible to keep clean as dirt collects more easily and as mold reappears in the same places. Even worse, when gutters start to rust, they begin to decay. Holes and cracks can begin to form throughout the gutter system where rust has formed, allowing water to leak through and rendering the gutters useless. Using gutter guards to prevent pools of water and moist debris buildup greatly reduces the risk of rust and corrosion of gutters.
Cons: Negatives of Gutter Guards
1. Maintenance – Some homeowners assume that adding gutter guards to their rain gutter systems will eliminate the need for cleaning and maintenance altogether. However, that is not the case—while gutter guards do greatly reduce the frequency of necessary cleaning, they do not eliminate it altogether. Gutter guards will still need to be cleaned as often as twice per year, depending on the area of the home and the amount of debris that forms around the gutters. In areas with significant foliage, wind, and rain, leaves might begin to pile up over the top of the gutter guard, blocking water from entering the gutters and requiring them to be cleaned even more frequently. Furthermore, to extend the lifespan of the gutter guards and maintain their functionality, gutter guards should occasionally be removed and cleaned, which can be more time consuming and difficult than normal gutter cleaning. Still, despite this necessary maintenance, adding gutter guards will reduce the time and energy spent on gutter cleaning and should greatly extend the lifetime of the gutter system in most cases.
2. Installation – While some gutter guards are merely inserted into the gutter, others require more effort to install, and some even require a professional installation. For the handy homeowner, installation is usually not very complex and can possibly be done in an afternoon. However, for homeowners with larger roofs and multiple-story homes, installation can be a bit tougher. In any case, gutter guards require some form of installation, which will cost the homeowner time, energy, money, or all three.
3. Up-Front Cost – Gutter guards obviously will cost the homeowner money to purchase and, possibly, to install. However, the cost of gutter guards can be less than $1 per foot for certain styles and brands, meaning that homeowners don’t have to pay much if they don’t want to. On the flip side, cost and quality are directly correlated—higher quality gutter guards tend to be pricier than lower quality options. Still, with so many options available on the market, plenty of companies make reasonably priced guards that are also extremely effective.
4. Durability and Replacement – Gutter guards don’t last forever and must eventually be replaced. This usually means that the homeowner must purchase and install new gutter guards when this time comes. However, if the homeowner purchases quality guards in the first place and takes good care of them with consistent maintenance, the gutter guards can last for many years, if not decades. Additionally, some gutter guard companies offer lifetime warranties that guarantee the gutter guards will last.
What to Look for When Buying Gutter Guards
Once a homeowner has decided that gutter guards are necessary for their home, it’s time to consider all of the options. Leaf guards come in a variety of styles and may be composed of several different materials. Each style and material has pros and cons. Additionally, the method that the guards are installed is an important consideration. This section explores how to find the best gutter guards, including all of the options available and the pros and cons of each.
Types of Gutter Guards
The type or style of gutter guard refers to its construction. The different types employ different methods of blocking debris and allowing water to enter and flow through the gutter system. Each type has benefits, and each type is prone to failure in different ways. The location of the home, the types of debris, the buyer’s budget, and the weather patterns in the area are all important factors in determining the right type of gutter guard for a given home. For a quick overview of each type, check out this short video from Consumer Reports that summarizes how well each type functioned over a 16 month test of their performance.
Here is a more detailed summary of each style of gutter guard:
Micro-mesh, or fine-mesh, gutter guards consist of tightly woven screens that create a fine mesh attached to a supporting frame that attaches to the rain gutter. The mesh itself is almost always made of nylon, aluminum, or stainless steel. The fine mesh gutter screen allows water to pass through while blocking even the smallest debris. The fine mesh varies between companies, with some using a mesh screen so fine that it even blocks dirt from passing through.
Most experts agree that gutter screens using fine mesh are the most effective gutter guard systems available. The finely woven filter prevents all types of debris like pine needles, twigs, leaves, and dirt from entering the gutter, while still allowing rain water to easily enter. Similarly, insects and animals cannot enter the gutter either when these screens are used.
The downside of fine-mesh screens is that when they are extremely fine, they can begin to grow algae or mold if used in very wet environments. Because the gaps in the mesh are so small, some water droplets might remain stuck in the gaps due to surface tension. Typically, this isn’t a problem because the water eventually evaporates when rain ceases or the temperature rises. However, if the region is particularly rainy, humid, or cloudy, these droplets might rarely get the opportunity to dry, and microscopic algae or mold can start to grow within the water and slowly spread across the mesh. Over time, this can start to impede water flow or damage the mesh. However, this usually will take months to happen, so regular cleaning can prevent this issue. Furthermore, most companies that offer this style of guard also offer a warranty that will protect the homeowner against early wear and damage.
Often, these gutter guards are intended for installation by professionals; however, they can also be installed by the homeowner in many cases. Micro-mesh gutter guards are the best option on the market, and while no solution is perfect, they are the most highly recommended and used among professional contractors.
Screen gutter guards are typically made from aluminum, steel, plastic, or vinyl sections with small holes in them. The holes may be punched through a sheet of material, but sometimes a wide wire mesh with large holes is used. This style is conceptually similar to using a mesh gutter screen, but the holes are much larger. The larger gutter screen blocks leaves, sticks, twigs, animals, and most debris from entering the gutter system, and water is able to easily pass through the screen.
The size and shape of the holes in these gutter guards vary significantly between brands, and homeowners considering this type of guard should consider the types of foliage in their area. One of the biggest downsides to this style of guard is that the large holes make it easy for small debris and small insects to find their way into the gutter system. That said, this style is best used in areas where leaves and sticks—not needles, dust, and fine debris—are the biggest concern.
One positive aspect of the larger holes is that they are easier to clean. If the holes are large enough, or if a wide mesh is used, homeowners may be able to clean the gutter guards adequately by simply using a high-pressure hose. Another benefit is pricing. While this style of gutter guard can vary quite a bit depending on the materials used, it tends to be less expensive than other options. Plastic is the cheapest option, while aluminum or stainless steel screen guards are usually more expensive.
3. Reverse Curve (Surface Tension)
Reverse curve gutter guards (also known as surface tension gutter guards) leverage the unique properties of water to direct water into the gutters while keeping debris out. The upper surface is usually textured or ribbed to increase surface tension, ensuring that the water will stick to the surface and flow into the gutters. Typically, the top surface also extends beyond the edge of the gutter, making it unlikely that debris can fall into the gutter’s small opening. LeafGuard is the most popular example of this style product.
Reverse curve gutter guards are meant to last for a long time and eliminate the need for cleaning, though occasional maintenance will always be necessary for any type of guard. While rain tends to wash dirt and grime away from the top surface, the underside doesn’t get the same amount of rain water hitting it. Over time, dirty water and small particles can build up and even block water from flowing in.
Surface tension gutter guards are designed to be installed underneath the first or second row of roof shingles, which is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, the gutter guards will likely be visible from the street or walkway in front of the home. Because of this, buyers must pay special attention to ensure they visually match the roof and existing gutters. Second, because the shingles must be lifted during installation, the integrity of the roof may be compromised and become prone to early wear. Lastly, surface tension gutter guards must be installed by a professional—usually a representative or affiliate of the company who makes them. For all of these reasons, surface tension gutter guards are less desirable and less often recommended by professional contractors and experts.
The brush-style gutter guard is constructed in a form that looks very much like a pipe cleaner. It is designed to rest inside of the gutter, block debris, and allow water to pass through its bristles. This type of gutter guard is made from a thick metal wire core, usually between one and three feet in length, with polypropylene bristles extending from the center. This design was originally devised and manufactured by the family-owned GutterBrush. GutterBrush is still the primary manufacturer of this type of gutter guard.
Brush style guards are one of the lowest-cost options on the market. They are also available for purchase at most hardware stores and even from online retailers like Amazon.
A major benefit of the brush-style gutter guard is the ease of installation. They are typically sold in small sections that can be inserted into the gutters. Unlike most other types of gutter guards, they require no screws or connections to the rain gutters they protect. Virtually any homeowner with a ladder can install brush gutter guards themselves, so professional installation is rarely required unless the gutters are difficult to reach. Additionally, the brushes are easily bent to fit corners and unusually shaped gutter systems.
Brush-style gutter guards do not actually cover the gutters, so while they do prevent leaves and other debris from building up and impeding the flow of water, they tend to catch the debris in their bristles, so they may need to be cleaned more often than other types of guards. On the bright side, cleaning these gutter guards is easier than with any other style because they can be easily removed, sprayed with a hose, and replaced with little effort. However, since they do catch and fill up with debris so easily, homes surrounded by trees that drop small leaves or needles may want to try other styles.
This is a very effective type of gutter guard when used in the right situations. Homeowners in areas with light foliage who don’t mind regular cleaning and would prefer to save money on the guard and its installation might like this design over other styles that can be more expensive to install.
Foam gutter guards are triangular blocks of foam designed to sit inside of rain gutters and block debris from entering while allowing water to easily pass through their porous composition. The most popular manufacturer of foam gutter guards is GutterStuff.
These guards are extremely easy to install, and usually won’t require professional installation. They are typically sold in small sections that can easily be inserted into the gutter system. They can also be cut at an angle to fit corner sections. Because these gutter guards are placed within the rain gutters, they are not visible from the street or walkway in front of the home.
One downside is that in extremely wet climates, these foam blocks can get saturated with water and begin to create mold, rot, or mildew. When this happens, the foam guards will need to be replaced. These guards are also not the best for keeping out insects or small rodents, who can burrow into the foam and make nests.
Foam-style gutter guards are some of the cheapest gutter guards available to homeowners. They can be found at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco, Menards, and online at Amazon. While they are cheaper than the other types of gutter guards, they also have more problems associated with them, and need to be cleaned and/or replaced more frequently. However, they may still be a good option for homeowners who don’t want to spend a lot of money on gutter guards and who would prefer a do-it-yourself product.
Summary of Gutter Guard Types
|Micro-Mesh||$$$ – $$$$||Professional||Durable|
|Screen||$ – $$$||Varies||Extremely Durable|
|Surface Tension||$$$$ – $$$$$||Professional||Somewhat Durable|
|Brush||$$||Easy / DIY||Durable|
|Foam||$$||Easy / DIY||Not Durable|
Gutter Guard Materials
Gutter guards also come in different materials which vary in terms of durability. For the most part, the style of guard will determine which materials are available. That said, homeowners will want to consider the following factors when deciding which materials are best for their home:
- Frequency of extreme temperature events
- Amount of sun exposure
- Amount of snowfall
Here are the pros, cons, and key considerations for each material used to make gutter guards.
Aluminum is one of the most commonly used materials for gutter guards, especially gutter screens and surface tension gutter guards. It is lightweight, easy to shape in manufacturing, and structurally durable. As such, it is one of the best options for gutter guards in most areas because of its combination of durability and cost.
Aluminum does very well in both hot and cold environments because it is resistant to warping and cracking. Sunlight also does not damage aluminum. However, if not coated or painted, aluminum can oxidize, which changes its appearance. While this may not look appealing, it does not affect aluminum’s structural integrity. Fortunately, most gutter guards that use aluminum are coated with some treatment layer or painted in order to prevent oxidation and changing appearance over time. However, if the gutter guards are out of view, oxidation of the aluminum shouldn’t be a concern.
Homeowners can expect their aluminum gutter guards to last upwards of 10 to 20 years and rely on them staying intact in almost every environment.
Steel, usually stainless steel, is another commonly used metal in gutter guards. It is heavier and more durable than aluminum, and it is used in many of the same situations: as a screen or structural element for mesh guards, as the body of screen guards, or as the body of surface tension gutter guards. Steel is a great option for gutter guards for its durability, but its weight and cost can be a limiting factor in where it can be used.
While steel is similar to aluminum in terms of its usage, it is generally stronger, heavier, and more expensive. Stainless steel is also both corrosion and rust resistant, so it maintains its structural integrity and visual appeal for the lifetime of the gutter guard.
Steel can be used in any environment—even in extreme heat or cold—because it is resistant to warping and cracking, and it does not experience any damage from intense sunlight.
When steel is a key structural component of the gutter guard and is securely attached to the gutters, it can actually strengthen the entire gutter guard system and prevent the gutters themselves from warping or sagging when they are full of snow or ice. On the other hand, since steel is so much heavier than other materials used in gutter guards, homeowners or professional installers must make sure that the entire system is secured to the roof or fascia, so there is no risk of them bringing down the gutter guard system when weighed down by snow or ice.
Gutter guards that use steel over aluminum or other materials tend to be more expensive but last longer. Steel is a great option for homeowners in locations with extreme weather conditions, and buyers can expect steel gutter guards to last 10 to 20 years, if not much longer.
3. Plastic or Vinyl
Low cost gutter guards are often constructed from vinyl or other plastics. In fact, vinyl is a type of plastic usually made from polyvinyl chloride or other polymer composed from vinyl monomers. Plastic is very cheap and easy to manufacture, which makes it one of the best low cost options for gutter guards.
Plastic is almost exclusively used in screen gutter guards designed to snap in place into the gutter system. Because plastic and vinyl are not as strong as aluminum or steel, they do not make great substitutes as structural elements of gutter guards. But they are generally easier to install and among the cheapest guards available.
The low cost of plastic or vinyl gutter guards comes with some downsides. Plastic is not very strong, relative to the metal options. Since plastic is fairly weak, gutter guards made from it cannot withstand significant weight, particularly from snow, and even bigger sticks piling atop the guard can cause damage. Even animals—like cats, raccoons, or opossums—crawling across the top of the gutters on the guards can knock them loose or cause them to crack or warp.
Further, plastic guards do not perform well in extreme weather conditions. Very hot weather can cause the plastic to warp, which can even create gaps between the individual pieces used to cover the gutter system. Additionally, extremely cold weather can make the plastic pieces brittle and more susceptible to cracking. Similarly, intense sunlight can also make plastic guards more brittle over time. The color of plastic gutter guards is also more likely to fade from months or years of sunlight. That said, plastic gutter guards can last for 5 to 10 years if the homeowner takes proper care and the home is not in an extreme climate.
Homeowners who want to save money and want a gutter cover—rather than an insertable foam or brush guard—can look to plastic screens as a solution. However, homeowners should recognize that these are cheap options that are susceptible to more issues, and they will likely need to be replaced sooner than other products.
Copper is occasionally used in gutter guard screens with the explicit purpose of visually matching the existing copper gutter system. While the vast majority of copper gutter guards are screen-style guards, copper mesh guards are available through a limited number of manufacturers.
When a home has copper gutters, gutter guards that aren’t copper can stand out and detract from the visual appeal that the copper gutters provide. Copper is a durable material with greater strength than aluminum. The chemical properties of copper prevent mold and mildew from forming on the gutters and gutter guards. Copper gutter guards have the potential to last longer than guards made from any other material, often over 25 years. It is also a more expensive material and fewer manufacturers actually make copper gutter guards.
Copper guards perform very well in hot, cold, and sunny environments and tend to experience less damage over time from weather. Copper gutter guards are best for historic and luxury buildings that already have copper gutters in place.
5. Foam and Brush
Foam and polypropylene brush materials are used specifically for foam-style and brush-style guards, respectively. To learn more about how these materials perform in various conditions, reference the above section that discusses the different types of gutter guards.
Summary of Gutter Guard Materials
|Aluminum||$$$||Very Durable||10–20 years|
|Steel||$$$$||Extremely Durable||10–25 years|
|Copper||$$$$$||Extremely Durable||25+ years|
|Plastic||$||Not Durable / Brittle||2–10 years|
|Foam||$$||Not Durable||2–5 year|
How a gutter guard attaches to the gutter system is another aspect that homeowners should consider. The attachment method will impact how difficult or expensive the gutter guard is to install, as well as the structural support that the gutter guard may provide. Usually, the type and brand of guard chosen will dictate how it is to be attached to the gutter system. Here are the various ways gutter guards may attach to the gutter system and the implications.
1. Screw / Bolt-On
Screwing into the existing gutter system is the most secure way to attach gutter guards to the home. This is the most common way for mesh-screen guards (like LeafFilter) to be attached to the gutters. Many screen guards are also built to be screwed in. When gutter guards are built from aluminum or steel—as most micro-mesh guards are—and screwed onto the gutter system, they can add structural support to the gutters, making them more durable and less likely to fail under the weight of snow, ice, or animals crawling across them.
Gutter guards that must be screwed into the gutters are also more difficult to install than guards that attach by snapping in or resting within the gutter. Because of this, brands that produce guards that screw in place usually require or recommend professional installation. If done incorrectly, gutters and the guards themselves could be damaged during installation.
This type of gutter guard has hinge components built in that are meant to be clipped or screwed onto the gutters or fascia. The gutter guards can then swivel around the hinge to expose the inside of the gutters which makes regularly cleaning the gutter guards much easier.
These guards typically clip into place, and they tend to not be very difficult to install. Some of these guards are intended to be screwed onto the gutter at the hinge and can be tougher to install than the clip-on designs. Most of the hinge-attached guards are screen or mesh style and are usually available in different materials such as aluminum, vinyl, or steel.
3. Snap-On / Lock-In
Screen and micro-mesh style guards can sometimes be attached to the gutter system by simply snapping them in place. These guards should be chosen specifically to match the size and type of the home’s gutters in order to properly fit. Snap-on guards are usually very easy to install and can commonly be attached by the homeowner without professional installation.
That said, this is the least secure method of attaching gutter guards to the gutter system. In fact, depending on how well the guards snap into place, they may not be very secure at all. Winds, heavy debris, and animals can knock these gutters loose if they are not attached securely enough. Homeowners can choose to add screws or small bolts to attach snap-on guards more securely if they choose.
4. Resting (In-Gutter)
Some gutter guards are designed to be placed inside of the gutter, instead of covering the top. These are by far the easiest gutter guards for a homeowner to install, but they also tend to require the most maintenance. Some screen-style gutter guards use this attachment method, but all foam and brush gutter guards are in-gutter.
Under-shingle gutter guards are designed to slide under a layer of the roof’s shingles and either snap or screw onto the outside edge of the gutter. These guards are somewhat controversial because many experts advise against moving or adjusting the shingles because of the damage it can cause. Regardless of the controversy surrounding this style of attaching guards, they are quite secure once attached to the gutters and do provide excellent gutter protection. Some mesh and screen guards use this attachment technique; however, it is almost always used with surface-tension gutter guards.
There are several reasons that experts recommend against this method of attaching gutter guards. The biggest reason is that lifting up shingles can break the water barrier that the shingles are intended to provide. Furthermore, if the gutter guards need to be nailed into the roof, this can cause even greater damage to the roof and lead to long term leakage problems. Lastly, using this type of guard will usually void any roof warranties that the homeowner has in place. Homeowners’ associations may even prohibit these gutter guards entirely.
Because of these factors, we generally don’t recommend this type of installation.
Rain gutters on a home are usually one of two popular styles which will affect the type of gutter guard that can be used. Many gutter guards are compatible with both types, but some will not work with half-round gutters, and others are designed specifically to fit k-style gutters. Gutter guard companies will usually make it clear if the guard is specifically designed for one type or if it is incompatible with one of them.
The size of the rain gutter opening is also an important consideration for buyers because the guard must be designed to fit the gutter it will cover or rest within. Almost every company that makes gutter guards makes them in multiple sizes to fit the common gutter sizes. The most common sizes of rain gutter are 5 inches and 6 inches, and these are very easy to find gutter guards to fit. However, some companies produce 4, 7, and 8 inch gutters, while others create custom gutters that can be any size. It is very rare for gutters to be larger than 8 inches, so homeowners seeking to cover such gutters may need to find a company that provides custom solutions.
Gutter Guard Costs
After considering gutter guard options and recognizing that gutter guards don’t eliminate the need for maintenance entirely, many wonder: “Are gutter guards worth the cost?” Most experts agree that they are indeed worth the money. But whether they are worth the money is a personal decision for each homeowner. For some, the cost is too high to justify the cost of purchasing, installing, and maintaining the gutter guards. This section will cover the costs of gutter guards to help homeowners decide whether they are worth the money.
How Much Do Gutter Guards Cost?
Gutter guards typically cost as little as $0.50 per foot and up to $10 per foot depending on the type and material used. For an average house, with 200 feet of gutters, the total cost to purchase gutter guards can be between $100 for low-cost options and $2,000 for high-end guards.
The cost of gutter guards varies significantly, with plastic, screen guards being the cheapest and heavy-duty surface tension guards costing the most.
How Much Do Gutter Guards Cost to Install?
For a typical home with 200 feet of gutters, the average cost to have leaf guards professionally installed is approximately $1,000. However, installation costs can range from $300 to more than $2,000, depending on the type of gutter guard used and the difficulty of the install.
The cost of installation can vary significantly depending on several factors. Here is a list of the factors that affect the cost of installation:
- Geographic location
- Length of the roof
- Gutter accessibility
- Gutter guard installation method
- Installation company or contractor pricing
Summary of Gutter Guard Costs
|Type of Guard||Cost (per foot)|
How to Compare Gutter Guards
Homeowners have many factors to consider when comparing gutter guards and the companies who make them. Here are the biggest considerations to take into account when choosing new gutter guards for a home.
Not all gutter guards work with all rain gutter systems. The style of gutter and its size are the first things that the buyer should consider. If a gutter guard isn’t designed to fit the size and style of the gutter, it won’t work, and the person installing them shouldn’t try to create a custom solution to make them fit. If a home has uniquely sized gutters, the buyer should seek a manufacturer to create an entirely custom solution.
Type of Guard
The next factor for homeowners to consider is the type of guard they want. This should depend on the geographic location of the home, the local climate, the surrounding foliage, how windy the area is, how much rainfall per year and per storm, and the preferred frequency of maintenance. In general, mesh-screen gutter guards are the best all-around solution, though they are not the cheapest. Homeowners need to weigh these factors to find the best solution for their home’s gutter system.
The material that the homeowner selects can usually be chosen based on their budget and their gutter protection needs. But sometimes, certain materials may be chosen specifically to match the existing gutter system. For example, copper gutter guards are best suited for copper gutter systems because every other type of gutter guard stands out visually, and can look aesthetically unappealing. However, in general, homeowners can select the material based on their durability preferences and how well the material stacks up against the natural elements in their geographic location.
The attachment method is also an important consideration because some gutter guards can be invasive to the roof of the home, uplifting shingles and potentially damaging the roof’s liquid seal. Using this style of guard could also void any roof warranty or violate restrictions set by the HOA, if there is one.
Durability and Warranty
The durability of the gutter guard will depend a lot on the material it is made from. If the homeowner wants a longer lasting gutter guard, products made of metal such as aluminum or steel are probably the best options. On the other hand, plastic, vinyl, and foam gutter guards are the least durable and prone to damage from intense sunlight and extreme weather.
Buyers should also look for gutter guards that come with a warranty, so they are protected if their gutter guards fail because of defects or poor manufacturing. Most of the higher-end gutter guards have warranties that are valid for many years as long as the homeowner properly maintains and cleans them. For a good example of a gutter guard warranty, reference the LeafGuard by Englert warranty. Buyers should be careful if they are spending a lot to purchase their gutter guards and give preference to the companies with strong warranties.
Cost is a very important factor for most buyers. In general, cost and quality go hand-in-hand when comparing leaf guards of the same type and material, and cheaper guards often fail before their more expensive counterparts. So trying to save too much up front by buying cheap gutter guards can cost more in maintenance and replacement in the long run. However, that does not mean that all products that are more expensive are necessarily better.
Sometimes, gutter guard prices can vary significantly between retailers. After a homeowner chooses a gutter guard, it can pay off to search the online stores of Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, Costco, and Amazon to see who has the best price.
If cost is the most important factor to a homeowner, above durability, choosing a low-cost style and inexpensive material is the best way to save. The cheapest types of leaf guards are screen-, brush-, and foam-style guards. The most inexpensive material used for gutter guards is plastic or vinyl.
The reputation of the company that makes the gutter guards can be worth considering, especially if the guard comes with a warranty. If the warranty ever comes into play, a reputable company will be easier to work with, and the homeowner can rest assured that the company will follow through on their promise to replace defective gutter guards. Companies with good reputations tend to offer better, more reliable products as well, which is how they build a good reputation in the first place.
The Better Business Bureau is a good place to get information about a company’s reputation. Similarly, guides like this one, which include gutter guard reviews and discuss the companies in depth, can give homeowners a good idea of which brands have the best reputation. All of the companies in this guide are highly reputable, receiving strong scores from the BBB and/or great customer reviews.
Many gutter guards are only available for purchase through the company that makes them. This usually requires the buyer to request a quote online or call the company. Other gutter guards can be bought in person, at hardware stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards. And many are available online from Amazon, Costco, or the online stores of the major hardware stores. Most of the gutter guards available online and in hardware stores are the simpler designs that don’t require professional installation. Many of the highest-quality gutter guards are only available for purchase directly from the manufacturer or through contractors who already work with them and are licensed to install their products.
Many high-quality guards require professional installation either because the manufacturer requires it for the warranty or because installation is actually quite difficult. Homeowners must consider this when making their purchase decision. If do-it-yourself installation is important, buyers will have a more limited selection to choose from. Most of the gutter guards available online and in hardware stores can be installed by the homeowner.
Gutter Guard Reviews
All of the gutter guard products reviewed here meet the stringent set of criteria outlined above. These products are all durable, effective, reasonably priced, and made by companies with strong reputations.
LeafFilter (Best Overall)
LeafFilter produces a micro-mesh gutter guard. It is one of the highest quality gutter guards on the market, and the company has a strong reputation with its customers.
Type / Configuration
LeafFilter uses a stainless steel micro-mesh filter that allows water to easily pass through the guard. The sturdy uPVC frame is very durable and does not warp or deteriorate over time, and further, LeafFilter is constructed with a built-in pitch to help debris easily slide from the gutter guard. At 275 microns fine, the mesh is incredibly tight, and LeafFilter’s stainless steel construction ensures that the guard will not rust or corrode over time.
LeafFilter’s tight mesh keeps out all debris, including pine needles, pollen, dirt, and shingle grit. The guard is held in place with hidden support hangers that are screwed in across the opening of the gutter, from the outer edge to the fascia. This method does not require shingles to be lifted during installation, which is an important benefit of LeafFilter’s guards.
Constructed from a stainless steel mesh and a uPVC supporting frame, LeafFilter gutter guards are extremely durable. The hidden supporting hangers, which screw into the gutter and the fascia also ensure stability, even when heavy debris lands on the gutters.
To have LeafFilter gutter guards installed, homeowners must contact LeafFilter and schedule a free consultation. LeafFilter gutter guards are not intended to be installed by the homeowner, but rather by a LeafFilter professional.
When LeafFilter comes to your home, inspectors will evaluate your existing gutter system for problem areas and to ensure that the gutters are ready for LeafFilter installation. They then clean, realign, and seal your existing gutter system, install the gutter guard’s hangers, and finally place the LeafFilter guards. This process helps ensure that LeafFilter is installed successfully, but it also extends the life of your gutter system.
Homeowners will need to speak with a representative to determine how much LeafFilter costs in their area and for their home specifically. Homeowners can start with a questionnaire on the LeafFilter website and schedule a call to discuss specifics of their home. Some of the factors affecting your costs include location, the number of stories that need filters installed, and how large the home’s roof is. Buyers may have to negotiate with a sales rep, but based on information around the web, LeafFilter’s cost can be anywhere from $8.00–$32.00 per foot. It is worth bargaining the price down if the representative quotes a price at the higher end of that range. Additionally, LeafFilter offers select promotions and discounts, including 10% off for seniors and military veterans. LeafFilter also offers 12-month financing if the up-front cost is too high to pay at once.
LeafFilter offers a lifetime warranty, which is the best in the industry. Under LeafFilter’s warranty terms, if your gutter guards clog with debris that causes water overflow or any interior damage, LeafFilter will repair the problem or refund the purchase price of the materials. LeafFilter’s warranty is transferable and valid for the life of the home. It is important to note, however, like many other warranties, LeafFilter’s policy does require homeowners to clean the filters if debris builds up.
LeafFilter has been accredited with the Better Business Bureau since 2005 and earns an A+ rating from them. These qualities indicate that LeafFilter has responsive customer service and strong levels of customer satisfaction. All complaints filed with the BBB have been addressed by LeafFilter, so customers can rest assured that the company will provide necessary support and follow through if the warranty kicks in.
Where to Buy
Interested homeowners will not be able to find LeafFilter in hardware stores or through online retailers. LeafFilter gutter guards are sold and installed by in-house LeafFilter professionals, so instead, potential customers should consult with a LeafFilter representative for information, estimates, and an installation.
LeafFilter provides an excellent mix of quality, durability, and reputation. This makes LeafFilter a top option for homes in any location and climate. For these reasons, we rate LeafFilter as the Overall Best Gutter Guard.
RHINO (Best for Pine Needles and Small Debris)
RHINO makes a mesh-screen gutter gutter guard that is durable and highly effective. It is one of the best gutter guards on the market.
Type / Configuration
The RHINO gutter guard is made of a stainless steel mesh, supported by an aluminum wire screen and frame. The 440 micron screen prevents virtually all debris from entering the gutter system. However, the RHINO’s screen is designed specifically to allow pollen and dust to wash through the screen during rain, so the fine particles don’t stick within the mesh and create clogs.
RHINO is built from 3000 series aluminum, which is an aluminum alloy created with additional strength, along with a stainless steel mesh. The system is designed to be attached to the gutter system with screws. The front lip of the guard screws into the gutters while the back edge is bent upward so it can be screwed directly into the fascia, which means that installing RHINO gutter guards does not require lifting the home’s shingles. RHINO also produces a series of miters, designed to filter debris and handle increased water flow at joints and corners in the gutter system.
RHINO is one of the most durable gutter guards available. Its tight screen has openings wide enough to allow pollen and small dust particles to pass through it, which actually helps the RHINO guard last longer because stubborn particles don’t become permanently trapped within the mesh and cause it to fail. Further, RHINO’s aluminum and stainless steel construction means it won’t rust over time and can withstand extreme temperatures, intense sunlight, and the weight of heavy debris that might land on it. RHINO recommends occasional cleaning with a hose to ensure proper long-term function, but with appropriate care, owners can expect RHINO guards to last 20 years or more.
The RHINO gutter guard is both sold and installed through RHINO’s authorized dealers and is not available at local hardware stores or through online retailers. Because of this, RHINO guards must be professionally installed. When you contact RHINO, a professionally trained installer will come to your home to examine your gutter system, identify any issues that need to be resolved, and make sure that your gutters are in an appropriate condition and size for RHINO installation.
While homeowners must speak with a RHINO representative and eventually get a consultation to know the exact cost for having RHINO guards installed on their gutters, information available around the web shows that others have paid between $15 and $20 per foot for the guards with installation. This narrow and reasonable price range means that homeowners should safely know what to expect when it comes to an estimate and likely will not need to negotiate for the best prices.
RHINO offers a 20-year transferable warranty. While the length of this warranty is less than that of some other gutter guard providers, RHINO’s warranty has similar terms and protections included. RHINO guarantees that properly installed and maintained guards will not clog or overflow due to debris accumulation or show defects from materials or workmanship. Similar to other warranties, owners must clean and maintain RHINO gutter guards for the warranty to apply.
RHINO has a great reputation with their customers, earning an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Further, RHINO has been BBB-accredited since 2011, which means that the company meets the BBB’s standards for fair business practices when dealing with customers. The company has resolved all issues raised by customers with the BBB, so customers can feel confident that the company will provide a good product, great customer service, and hold up their end of the warranty.
Where to Buy
As mentioned, RHINO gutter guards are only available through RHINO’s authorized dealers, so homeowners must purchase and pay for installation from a contractor in the RHINO network. Interested homeowners can begin this process by calling RHINO directly.
RHINO makes one of the most effective and durable gutter guards on the market. Its stainless steel and aluminum construction make it extremely durable in extreme climates and cold weather. Additionally, the tight mesh that RHINO uses helps prevent small debris from penetrating the guard while still allowing pollen and dust to pass. For this reason, we recommend RHINO’s products as the Best Gutter Guards for Pine Needles and Small Debris.
Valor (Best for Cold Climates and Copper Gutters)
Valor produces several variations of high quality mesh-screen gutter guards, with customizability nearly unmatched among other major gutter guard providers. Additionally, Valor has excellent pricing, a strong reputation and popularity, and a far-reaching network of distributors and installers across the U.S.
Type / Configuration
Valor makes several different mesh-screen gutter guards with slightly varied designs and features. Each of their designs uses a stainless steel mesh screen with a raised “S” pattern that helps prevent debris from sticking to the guard while allowing water to flow quickly. The Valor gutter guards come in several sizes and can fit gutters ranging from 4-inch to 7-inch widths.
Buyers have the choice of fine mesh, medium mesh, or large mesh. Each design also includes the choice of frame options, allowing installations under the roof shingles or mounted to the fascia. Roofing and gutter experts generally recommend a bent wing which can be screwed into the fascia, rather than the configuration that requires lifting of the shingles during installation. Valor also offers several different color and frame material options which vary according to the buyer’s choice in design.
Here is a summary of the four designs:
- Standard Valor – Valor’s standard design is their most basic, including all of the features and options described above, plus four color options—charcoal, white, brown, and mill-finish aluminum.
- Valor Melt Away – The Valor Melt Away design was created specifically for homes in cold environments where snow and ice could be a problem. The frame includes a built-in heat cable, which uses radiant and conductive heating to melt away any snow or ice and keep the gutter guards clear during the coldest months of the year. This highly innovative gutter guard offers all of the options described above as well as four color options, which are charcoal, white, brown, and copper.
- Valor Moss Away – The Valor Moss Away design is similar to the standard design, but it includes an EPA approved zinc strip at the edge of the wing that deters moss and fungi growth in gutters. This is a great option for homes in moist areas where moss and fungus are more prone to grow. This style has three color options, which are charcoal, brown, and white.
- Copper Frame – The Valor Copper Frame style is made from copper, which is perfect for homes using copper gutters. Since it is made from copper, buyers don’t have any color options, but can still choose their desired mesh size and which frame style they’d prefer—under shingle or fascia mount.
Valor’s gutter guards are very durable in general, but with a variety of material options available, Valor customers can choose guards appropriate to their home and climate, which can improve durability even further. For instance, the fascia-mounted and mill-finished aluminum frame options have an even longer lifespan than Valor’s other designs. Valor guarantees all of its products for at least 25 years, but depending on the material and design, homeowners can expect their Valor gutter guards to last even longer.
All Valor gutter guards are professionally installed and sold through their wide network of installers throughout the United States and Canada. This ensures that Valor’s gutter guards are installed to the company’s specifications, which in turn helps homeowners know that their guards will function properly and last for years.
Valor’s pricing varies greatly depending on the design choice and the options chosen by the homeowner. The more expensive options are the heated or copper frames and tighter meshes, while buyers can save by choosing wider mesh on the standard Valor guard. With so many options available, buyers must contact Valor to receive an accurate quote. However, based on information from other online reviews, Valor’s pricing is competitive with or beats the cost of many other high quality manufacturers on a per linear foot basis.
Valor offers a lifetime warranty when the guards are installed by a Valor Authorized Installer. If installed by another contractor or professional installer that isn’t part of the Valor network, buyers still get a 25-year warranty.
Valor’s warranty includes both a performance warranty and a product warranty. The performance warranty asserts that when correctly fitted and installed, Valor gutter guards will not allow clogging or overflow due to debris accumulation. The product warranty promises that Valor gutter guards are free from defects in material and workmanship. As with other warranties, homeowners must follow the guidelines set forth in the warranty for it to apply. This includes occasional cleaning of “problem areas” where debris may build and a requirement not to modify the gutter guards after installation.
Valor is one of the most respected and popular gutter guard companies in the United States. Though Valor was only founded in 2013, they have a network of more than 400 active installers and have been installed on more than 150,000 homes. Valor’s parent company, Artesian Home Products, is a Better Business Bureau-accredited business currently holding an A+ rating.
Where to Buy
Valor guards must be purchased through a Valor dealer or installer. Valor guards are not available in online retail shops or local hardware stores.
Valor is a clear leader in gutter guards and makes some of the highest quality guards of any company. They are also one of the few companies that offers a variety of materials and designs for different gutter protection needs. Their unique heated frame guard is perfect for homes in extremely cold environments, which is why we rate them as one of the Best Gutter Guards for Cold Climates. Additionally, the availability of the copper frame design on such a high-quality guard is why we also rate them the Best Gutter Guard for Copper Gutters.
LeafGuard (Best Surface Tension Gutter Guard; Best One-Piece Gutter System)
LeafGuard is a gutter system that uses a surface tension-based design to direct water into the gutter and direct debris away. The seamless, one-piece design incorporates guard protection into a gutter, allowing customers to completely replace their existing gutters with LeafGuard.
Type / Configuration
LeafGuard employs a patented design that uses surface tension and liquid adhesion to direct rainwater into the gutter while deflecting debris away. One unique attribute of LeafGuard compared to other alternatives is that its one-piece design builds the guard mechanism into the gutter. This means that LeafGuard can replace your existing gutter system altogether, rather than just attaching to a previous installation. This reduces the number of potential openings through which debris can enter the gutter. LeafGuard is so confident in their design that they advertise a clog-free guarantee.
Like other leading options, LeafGuard is installed away from the roof shingles to minimize damage and eliminate risks to roof warranties. LeafGuard has brackets inside the gutter that can be mounted directly to the fascia board.
LeafGuard boasts that its aluminum gutters are 20% thicker than industry standard, and supported every two feet, which is twice the industry standard. Together, these qualities help ensure that LeafGuard is able to stand up to harsh conditions and heavy water flow over the long haul.
LeafGuard installations begin with a visit from a LeafGuard professional, who will evaluate the property and provide an estimate. The installations are completed quickly (usually in less than a day), as LeafGuard’s installation team removes old gutters, custom fits LeafGuard on the home, and tests the pitch of the gutters to ensure that water flows efficiently.
Like many other competitors in the gutter guard market, LeafGuard’s exact price point will depend on factors unique to your home. You can fill out a short form on LeafGuard’s website or reach out by phone for a free estimate to get the most accurate pricing information. However, you can expect that LeafGuard will be more expensive than many other gutter covers on the market. Because of its design, LeafGuard must be customized and professionally installed, which adds to the price.
LeafGuard offers a transferable, limited lifetime warranty with coverage for LeafGuard’s ScratchGuard finish, along with a “clog-free guarantee.” The warranty on LeafGuard’s finish promises to repaint, repair, or replace defective guards if the finish blisters, cracks, or rusts and offers coverage for the life of the property for the original owner and up to 50 years for a subsequent purchaser. The clog-free guarantee promises that a contractor will clean or fix the LeafGuard for free if the system clogs with leaves, pine needles, or other debris.
The Better Business Bureau rates LeafGuard as an A+ business, and further, LeafGuard has been BBB accredited since 2013. This means that LeafGuard meets the Better Business Bureau’s highest standards for fairness, ethics, and integrity in business practices. Additionally, other online LeafGuard reviews indicate that customers are highly satisfied with the product and overall experience with the company.
Where to Buy
LeafGuard sells and installs their own gutter guards, which are customized to each order. LeafGuard has locations all across the country, and you can find the locations nearest you on the LeafGuard website.
LeafGuard’s cost and the fact that it replaces existing gutters may put off some customers looking for a simpler solution, but LeafGuard’s unique and effective design provides excellent protection. For that reason, LeafGuard is our pick for the Best Surface Tension Gutter Guard and the Best All-In-One Gutter System.
Each company featured in our guides has been independently selected and reviewed by our research team. If you select one of these companies and click on a link, we may earn a commission.