Do gutter guards work?


A workman fits a piece of extruded aluminum to the roof line of a house in Missouri.
A workman fits a piece of extruded aluminum to the roof line of a house in Missouri.
iStockphoto/Dave Herriman

­You know that old couple down the street from you -- they're really too old to climb up on a ladder to do home maintenance activities. It never fails, though -- they take turns every season cleaning their gutters of leaves, twigs and other seasonal debris. You've vowed that the next time you see them haul out the ladder, you're going to volunteer to clean their downspouts for them. But you're also curious if it would benefit them to install a gutter guard. You've always wondered if they actually worked.

The thing is, there really isn't a simple answer. That's good and bad news.

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Experts tend to agree that gutter guards don't provide foolproof protection against all the debris that can litter and clog gutters. You shouldn't purchase gutter guards with the intention of never cleaning your downspouts again. They don't make your gutters invincible or magically resistant to the debris­ of the seasons.

That being said, gutter guards have been known to reduce the frequency of gutter cleanings. Installing a gutter guard properly should lessen the number of times you'll have to clean your gutters.

­It's a good idea to take a look at your gutters, especially in the autumn when leaves are falling. You'll also want to make sure in the wi­nter that snow and ice don't clog your gutters. Spring and summer can pose their own problems, depending on the foliage surrounding your house.

Don't know which gutter guard will work best with your house or your neighbor's? Click to the next page to learn about the different types of gutter guards and how they function.

What are the different types of gutter guards?

There are various ways to classify gutter guards -- you can divide them into very broad or very specific categories. There are six basic types [source: Kraeutler]:

  1. Reverse curve
  2. Mesh
  3. Bottle brush
  4. Nylon
  5. Non-gutter cover
  6. Foam type

The reverse curve is designed to direct water downward into the gutter through a tiny slit but encourage leaves to fall to the ground.

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Mesh gutter guards are sheets filled with holes that cover the gutter and attach to the roof shingles. Small holes are better than large holes because they don't clog as easily. Smaller holes sift out all the debris but let water fall down into the gutter.

Bottle brush gutter guards are similar to those pokey bristles that prevent birds from landing on things like statues. The bristles face upright so debris can rest on top while water flows into the downspout.

Nylon gutter guards work especially well in the winter to prevent snow and ice accumulation. You can get them to fit into your gutter without attaching to the shingles.

Non-gutter covers actually replace your gutters with a set of thin louvers that divert rain off the roof.

The final type of gutter guard is the foam type, which is made from a plastic that fits directly into the gutter. It's supposed to block all the debris falling from the roof and into the gutter.

You've been introduced to the world of gutter guards. Now it's up to you to determine if your (or your neighbors') gutters need a guard!

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Sources

  • Kraeutler, Tom. "Are Gutter Guards Worth the Cost?" (Accessed 12/17/08) http://www.walletpop.com/blog/2008/11/04/are-gutter-guards-worth-the-cost/
  • Smith, Kelly. "Do Gutter Guards Really Work?" (Accessed 12/17/08) http://home-exteriors.suite101.com/article.cfm/do_gutter_guards_really_work