Rain and storm gutter systems catch rainwater from a home’s roof and direct it away from the building foundation. However, debris, uneven water flow, and nesting critters can prevent rain gutters from working properly. Gutter guards are devices that prevent leaves, pine needles, twigs, and other debris from entering the gutter and interfering with water flow to keep gutters working smoothly. Homeowners have a wide variety of options when choosing gutter guards and have many factors to consider. This guide covers all of the most important information homeowners and contractors need when comparing gutter guards. For readers who are knowledgeable, here is a list of the best gutter guards:
Top Gutter Guards
|Best for||Best Overall||Pine Needles||Cold Climates|
Understanding Gutter Guards
What Are Gutter Guards?
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.
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 Guards
Many homeowners wonder, “Do I need gutter guards?”, and 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. 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. 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 percent 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.
4. 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, gutter guards limit this risk. Even though debris can slowly build over the gutter guards over time, it has a much smaller propensity to pile up in dry clumps. Especially in windy areas, most dry debris landing on the gutter guards will be blown away before creating this risky situation.
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 low 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. Gutter 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 all of the options available for gutter guards 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 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 guards using fine-mesh screens are the most effective gutter guards 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 they are covered by these screens.
The downside of fine-mesh screens is that when they are extremely fine, these screens can begin to grow algae or mold when 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 regularly cleaning gutter guards can prevent this issue. Furthermore, most companies that offer this style of guard also offer a warranty that can protect the homeowner against early wear and damage to these guards that affect their functionality.
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 screen, but the holes are much larger in these guards. The 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. 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 and a more open design is that they can make these guards 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 and their gutter system using a high-pressure hose nozzle to spray off and push through any debris or leaves that get caught in the holes or make their way into the gutter.
This type of gutter guard is very popular, and highly effective. Price for this style can vary quite a bit, depending on the material the guard is constructed from. Plastic is the cheapest option, while aluminum or stainless steel guards are a little more expensive. Plastic-screen gutter guards are the most affordable option available of any gutter guard. Metal screen guards are also among the most affordable options. Screen gutter guards provide the best return on investment for homeowners looking to save money when purchasing gutter guards.
3. Reverse Curve (Surface Tension)
Reverse curve gutter guards are designed to leverage surface tension on a downward sloping surface to lead water from their top surface through a narrow opening into the rain gutters, which is why they are also commonly referred to as surface tension gutter guards. The surface is usually textured or ribbed to increase the surface tension, making sure the water flowing from the roof sticks to the surface and flows into the gutters, rather than flowing off the edge onto the ground below. Typically, the top surface of the gutter guard also extends beyond the edge of the gutter, making it unlikely that debris can fall into the gutters’ small opening.
This type of gutter guard is meant to last for a long time and eliminate the need for cleaning, though occasional cleaning will always be necessary for any type of guard. In fact, the underside of the curve tends to become dirty over time. While rain tends to wash dirt and grime from the top surface, the underside doesn’t get the same amount of rain water hitting it, and dirty water and small particles can start to build up and even block water from flowing in smoothly.
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, they will likely be visible from the street or walkway in front of the home. So buyers must pay special attention to ensure they match the roof and/or gutters so they don’t stand out in an unappealing way. Second, because the shingles must be lifted to accommodate this style of gutter guard, the integrity of the roof shingles may be compromised and become prone to early wear, compared to the rest of the roof’s shingles.
These 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 of gutter guard was originally designed 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 significant numbers of 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.
On the downside, in heavy rain or moist climates, these foam blocks can get saturated with water and can 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, Menard’s, 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 installation.
Summary of Types of Gutter Guards
|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 options because some materials are specific to certain types of guard. The material that a homeowner chooses will make a difference in how a gutter guard will work and how long it will last. Homeowners will want to consider the following factors when deciding which materials are best for their homes’ gutter guards:
- Extreme temperatures in their area
- Amount of sun exposure on their roof and gutters
- Amount of snowfall in the area
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. It is lightweight, easy to shape in manufacturing, and structurally durable. It is one of the best options for gutter guards in most areas because of its combination of durability and cost.
Aluminum is often used as the mesh or the structural component in mesh screens. Some screen gutter guards are made entirely of aluminum. Additionally, surface tension guards can be made of coated or painted aluminum.
Aluminum does very well in both hot and cold environments because it is resistant to warping and cracking. Sunlight also does not damage aluminum.
Aluminum, if not coated or painted, can oxidize, which changes its appearance, adding a hard-whitish colored surface layer. While this may not look appealing, it does not affect aluminum’s structural integrity. 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 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.
Steel is a common and structurally sound material for gutter guards. Gutter guards that use steel over aluminum or other materials tend to be more expensive but last longer. It 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.
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 a cheap option that are susceptible to more issues, and they will likely need to be replaced sooner than other guards.
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|
Gutter Guard Attachment Method
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 or bolting onto the gutter system is the most secure way to attach gutter guards to the gutter system. This is the most common way for mesh-screen guards 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 onto 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.
2. 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 snap in place. Snap-on guards are usually very easy to install and can usually be attached by the homeowner without professional installation.
This is the least secure method of attaching gutter guards to the gutter system. In fact, depending on how snugly 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 on securely enough. Homeowners can choose to add screws or small bolts to attach snap-on guards more securely if they choose.
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.
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 nullify any roof warranties that the homeowner has purchased to insure themselves against problems with their roof. Homeowners’ associations may even prohibit these gutter guards entirely.
Despite the protection to gutters that this attachment style can help to provide, it is generally recommended to avoid gutter guards that employ this attachment method.
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?
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?
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 roof / gutter
- Gutter accessibility
- Gutter guard installation method / difficulty
- Installing 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 homeowners’ association of the community, if there is one. Besides the surface tension guards and other screens that could require installation beneath a home’s shingles, the attachment method shouldn’t be the primary concern.
Durability & 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 the guards. 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 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 guards 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, Menard’s, 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 gutter guards are screens-, 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 company reviews and discuss their products in depth can give homeowners a good idea of which companies have the best reputations. All of the companies in this guide have strong reputations, 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 guards.
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.
Best 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 with a sturdy uPVC support piece that allows water to easily pass through it. The uPVC frame is very durable and does not warp or deteriorate over time. The mesh is incredibly tight—275 microns tight—and its stainless steel makeup ensures it will not rust or corrode. The 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. LeafFilter does not require shingles to be lifted during installation, which is an important benefit of these guards. The guard is constructed with a built-in pitch to help debris easily slide from the gutter guard.
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.
Homeowners will need to speak with a LeafFilter representative to determine how much the guards will cost 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. The cost depends on location, 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, the 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. One great perk offered by LeafFilter is their 10% discount for seniors and veterans. They also offer 12-month financing if the up-front cost is too high to pay all at once.
LeafFilter offers a lifetime warranty, which is the best in the industry. Like other warranties, it requires homeowners to clean the filters if they build up debris. The warranty also guarantees that the gutters will never clog again.
LeafFilter has been accredited with the Better Business Bureau since 2005 and earns an A+ rating from them. This represents strong customer service and 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
LeafFilter gutter guards are sold and installed by LeafFilter themselves. Interested homeowners must consult with a company representative to purchase and won’t be able to find these guards on the shelves of hardware stores or through online retailers.
LeafFilter is a fantastic blend of quality, durability, and reputability make it a top option for homes in any climate. For all of these reasons we rate LeafFilter as the Best Overall 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. It is attached to the gutter system with screws. The 440 micron screen prevents virtually all debris from entering the gutter system. However the 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, stainless steel mesh, and 3000 series “embossed” aluminum for the body and lip. The front lip of the guard is designed to be screwed into the gutters while the back edge is bent upward so it can be screwed directly into the fascia, and doesn’t require lifting the home’s shingles for installation. RHINO also produces a series of miters, designed to filter debris and handle increased water flow at corners in the gutter system.
RHINO is one of the most durable gutter guards available. Its tight screen, which allows pollen and small dust particles to pass through it, actually helps the RHINO guard last longer because stubborn particles don’t become permanently trapped within the mesh and cause it to fail. Its aluminum and stainless steel construction mean it won’t rust over time and that it 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. Owners can expect their RHINO guards to last north of 20 years.
The 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.
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 fair price range suggests that homeowners won’t need to negotiate to get the best price and that RHINO operates with integrity, refusing to gouge their customers on price.
RHINO offers a 20-year warranty which is transferable if the home is ever sold. The warranty protects against gutter clog and overflow as well as defects in the materials or issues that result from workmanship. It does require the owner to clean the system when mold or mildew begins to form or if any stubborn debris begins to collect atop the gutter, but this is common in gutter guard warranties.
RHINO has a great reputation with their customers, earning an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, which it has been accredited with since 2011. 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. They 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 as the Best Gutter Guard 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. The company is quite popular and they have distributors and installers all over 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 intaking water more quickly. The Valor gutter guards come in several sizes, designed to 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 under-shingle (flat wing) or fascia mount (bent wing) installations. 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. They also have several different color and frame material options which vary by the buyers choice in design.
Here is a summary of their 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 retards and 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 gutter guards are very durable and with the variety of options can be made even more durable. By choosing the fascia mounted and mill-finished aluminum frame options, buyers are getting a more durable design that can last even longer than Valor’s other designs. Homeowners can expect their Valor gutter guards to last north of 30 years.
All Valor gutter guards are professionally installed and sold through their wide network of installers throughout the United States and Canada.
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. Online reviews suggest that Valor has competitive pricing with other high quality mesh screen gutter guard manufacturers.
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. Like most gutter guard warranties, the Valor warranty protects buyers from material defects and faulty workmanship. Homeowners must follow the guidelines set forth in the warranty, which include occasional cleaning of “problem areas” where debris may build and a requirement not to modify the gutter guards after installation.
While Valor is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, they are one of the most respected and popular gutter guard companies in the United States. They have over 400 active installers and have been installed on over 150,000 homes. Valor was founded in 2013.
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 options for different gutter protection needs. Their unique heated frame guard is perfect for homes in extremely cold environments, which is why we rate them the Best Gutter Guard 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.