Do Gutter Guards Work?

Gutter cleaning isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, so when a product like a gutter guard promises to keep gutters clear, it makes sense that homeowners will come running. These guards work to filter out debris and dirt while allowing water to penetrate, travel down the gutter, and flow safely out into the yard. But you may be wondering: Do gutter guards work?

You probably don’t want to hear this, but the answer is “yes” and “no.” Gutter guards do work, but they aren’t the maintenance-free solution they disguise themselves as. Let’s pull the covers back on gutters guards to find out why that is.

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Are Gutter Guards Worth It?

There are several designs of gutter guards, each of which works to filter out large debris and reduce the chances of gutters clogging. In most cases, these guards cover the gutter and feature a mesh or slit that allows the water through but keeps leaves, sticks, large debris, and other gutter-clogging media from getting in.

There are a few different types of gutter guards, each of which has the same goal in mind, but goes about it in a different way.

  • Mesh screens lay across the top of the gutter, attaching to either the front of the gutter or the shingles, depending on the product. The mesh prevents large debris from getting into the gutter, collecting on top of the gutter guard instead.
  • Reverse curve gutter guards form a cover over the gutters. They have a small slit that will collect water but prevent debris from getting into the gutter where it can collect and clog. They’re effective, but they still allow small bits of dirt to get into the gutter where they can cause a clog.
  • Foam gutter guards install inside gutters, and their open-cell design allows the water to flow freely through the foam while it keeps leaves and twigs out. The foam does an excellent job of keeping large debris out, but it sometimes clogs with dirt and becomes heavy.
  • Gutter brushes are like upside-down wire brushes sitting in the bottom of the gutter. The idea here is that leaves and debris will sit on top of the bristles while still allowing water to pass through. These guards are effective until they collect enough debris to prevent water flow, at which point they act more like a dam at the bottom of the eaves.

Do gutter guards work?

Yes, they do. For a while, at least.

Gutter guards do an excellent job of keeping dirt, twigs, leaves, and other junk out of the gutters. Their designs allow the water to flow through while the screen, mesh, slit, foam, or bristles keep the debris from collecting in the gutter. In that regard, they work very well.

But, will they turn your gutters into a maintenance-free, set-and-forget system? Absolutely not.

Gutter guards do work, and they work well. But they will clog. Leaves pile up on the screens and bristles, dirt will still make it through the holes in the mesh, and foam rollers can be a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and even tree seeds blown by the wind or dropped by birds. Once this happens, someone has to step in and clear the debris. Otherwise, the gutters can become just as clogged as unprotected gutters, causing backups and damage to your home.

So, even after investing in a gutter guard system, you’ll still have to climb a ladder to clean your gutters or hire a contractor to do it for you. Despite the manufacturer’s claim, they’re not maintenance-free.

Are gutter guards worth it?

Ultimately, this is a question only you can answer. If you never, ever want to deal with your gutters again, gutter guards are not worth it. They’ll require almost as much maintenance as an unprotected gutter, defeating the purpose entirely. They’re also not very effective against small dirt particles, which can easily build up in the gutter and require the gutter cleaner to remove the guard to get to the dirt dam.

But, if you’d prefer to clean your gutters a little less often, gutter guards might be worth the investment. They do an excellent job of keeping leaves and debris out of the gutter—for a little while, at least. Checking your gutters often is still recommended, and a gutter cleaning service might even be able to install a system for you.