Mixed Messages about Gutter Guards

Gutter guards do an excellent job of protecting the gutters from debris build-up when meeting certain criteria. If the gutter guard system is chosen to complement the style of the roof and its configuration, and match the home’s climate zone (amount of annual rainfall, etc.) and microclimate (the number and type of trees, etc.), gutter guards can provide a workable solution for homeowners who constantly have to clean their gutters. But if you’re in the market for leaf protectors and reading the reviews, you might wonder why there are so many mixed messages about gutter guards.

Gutters need to be cleaned (eventually).

Salespeople and leaf protection manufacturers emphasize that their gutter guard system keeps debris from entering the gutters, which is absolutely true. However, they often also claim that gutters never need cleaning again. But debris can break down into small enough bits that filter into the gutters along with rainwater and become blockages over time.

The reality is any gutter system with any type of leaf protector will need cleaning, but just not as often. For example, a homeowner living with a lot of mature trees on the property who is currently cleaning the gutters three times a year could reduce gutter cleaning to annual maintenance after installing gutter guards.

It takes longer to clean the gutters.

Another mixed message associated with gutter guards is that they save time and money. In some cases they do – when the gutter guard system is sturdy, well-made, and installed correctly. As mentioned above, even if it is once a year or once every two years, gutters that have leaf protection do have to be cleaned.

If a visual inspection and flushing with water do not get rid of the debris inside the gutter channel, the gutter guards will have to be removed first before the gutters can be thoroughly cleaned. Depending on the type of leaf protector, it can take longer to clean the gutters because each section of the gutter guard system will need to be detached and then reattached.

Gutter protection systems can add weight.

Most gutter systems are attached to the fascia. They are designed to be lightweight so there is minimal impact on the roof. Some types of gutter guard systems such as covers or mesh systems installed underneath the first row of shingles at the roofline can add weight. When debris lands on top of the leaf protection system or eventually makes its way into the gutters, the combined weight of the gutter guard system and organic materials can cause additional stress to the fascia.

Decide if a gutter protection system is worth it.

A homeowner might get caught up in the hype and end up thinking that they should install some type of leaf protectors, even if it’s the least expensive. The reality tends to be that the more expensive systems such as micro-mesh gutter guards perform the best. However, such a gutter protection system can run into thousands of dollars. Weigh the price of biannual gutter cleanings against the total price (materials, installation, etc.) of high-end leaf protection to see if it is the most cost-effective choice for you and your home.

You might not need leaf protectors.

The claims that every gutter system benefits from gutter guards can be logically convincing. But you might not need leaf protectors if the trees growing on your property are at least 61 meters (200 feet) away from the roof. While it is true that leaves, twigs, and other types of debris can be carried onto your roof by the wind, will there be enough debris dumped on your roof to warrant the installation of a gutter protection system?

Decide what’s best for your home.

To cut through all of the mixed messages surrounding gutter guards and choose the best gutter guard system for your home, consider the following:

  • Type of debris that will land in the gutters (tree genus, living next to a busy road, etc.)
  • Number of trees growing on your property and in the surrounding community
  • Roof pitch or degree of the roof slope
  • Type of roof – cedar shakes, asphalt shingles, metal
  • Configuration of the roof (simple, complex, etc.)
  • Size of the gutters