Reuben Saltzman

Are gutter guards worth it?

Gutter guard manufacturers promise to make your life easier. Install this awesome system on your roof and you’ll never have to clean your gutters again! That’s the promise, but how accurate is this? Do these systems really work? Are they worth the money? Maybe. To start, here’s a video discussion on the topic:

A stern lecture from me

Clogged gutters are a big deal. Seriously. You’re better off with no gutters than clogged gutters because clogged gutters will cause overflowing gutters. This leads to water intrusion, rotted soffits, rotted fascia, and other bad stuff you don’t want at your home.

If you have large trees near your home, you need a plan to keep your gutters clean. The traditional methods are either working off a ladder or walking on the roof, but I can’t decide which is more dangerous. I had a client bring his own ladder to an inspection once, so he could clean out the gutters at the distressed home he was buying. He reached too far, his ladder tipped over, and he took a nasty fall.

Safer methods involve tools such as pressure washer attachments, leaf blower attachments, or even robots, such as the iRobot Looj, shown below.

I haven’t tried any of these methods, I’m not endorsing them, and I can foresee problems with all of them. But still, none of these potential problems could be as bad as falling off of a roof.

There’s no perfect solution, but proper use of a ladder is a safe option, as far as I’m concerned. That’s what I’ve always done, and it has worked well for me. My tool of choice is a $4 gutter scoop.

The Good

Gutter guards can do a very good job of keeping gutters flowing freely. If you have big trees in your yard, gutter guards really will save you time and nasty work by helping to prevent your gutters from getting clogged. I’m a fan of properly installed, high-quality gutter guards.

If you go for the really high-end systems, you can even get heated gutter guards to help with ice dams. One such product is the Helmet Heat® system from Gutter Helmet. These systems won’t prevent ice dams, because ice dams begin to form above the gutter. They will, however, help to give melting snow and ice a path to the ground.

The Bad

There is no such thing as a maintenance-free gutter guard system. Even the best systems can be completely overcome by debris on the roof, as the valley trees below clearly illustrate.

valley trees

Let me repeat, there is no such thing as a maintenance-free gutter guard system. No matter what you install, someone will still need to get on the roof or a ladder to clear off debris. If this isn’t done, water can overcome the gutters.

Additionally, there is no perfect system. Solid ‘shield’ type of gutter guards rely on the capillary properties of water to get water into the gutters. This works well with normal rain but can overflow with heavy rain, despite what manufacturers claim on their websites. The video clip below demonstrates this.

The Cheap

I’ve seen tons of outright failures on cheap DIY systems. I recommend staying away from these.

DIY Gutter System Screen

Fairy garden gutter

DIY Gutter guard insert

DIY Gutter insert

Gutter guard overcome

Cheap gutter screen falling out of place

Clogged gutter cover

Seeds in gutter cover

I’ve seen failures on the high-end systems too, however. No system is perfect.

Gutter guard with tree

Back in 2010, Consumer Reports did a report on gutter guard systems. They rated one particular DIY plastic guard as a Best Buy, but I don’t agree with their findings. I call those plastic things junk. They might work fine when they’re initially installed, but I know from experience that they clog and collapse into the gutters over time.

If you’re going to do a gutter guard, do it right. Either purchase a high-end system or have a high-end system professionally installed.


High-quality gutter guards are great, but they’re expensive. You could spend up to $30 a foot on an installed system. There are many great options available, and I’m not going to try to steer you in one direction or another, because I’ve seen them all perform well when properly installed and properly maintained. The evaluation that Consumer Reports did back in 2010 came under heavy fire for having left out a lot of big players in the industry. They haven’t done another report since.

If you’re planning to install a system yourself, check out the installation instructions to make sure it’s a job that you can tackle, and if it seems too easy or too good to be true, it surely is. If you’re going to hire a pro, work with a company that you like and be sure to ask about warranties.

Most importantly, remember that you’ll still need to periodically inspect your roof and gutters for debris. Also, remember that someone will need to get up there to periodically clean stuff off.

Special thanks to Kyle Miller at All Around for his insight and advice.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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5 responses to “Are gutter guards worth it?”

  1. Rob C. Belles
    October 8, 2019, 5:54 am

    I have the robot gutter cleaner, and LOVE it – most of the time. I set it in place from above. Mostly because I can access my roof from the 1-story front, and get to the rear 2-story side easier. I drop it in the gutter, and off I go. BEWARE – it makes a MESS!!! All over the ground. And on the roof if you are not careful. It does a a nice job. It does have trouble getting under the brackets, and has gotten “stuck” a few times. This would be a HUGH problem for those cleaning a gutter that has NO access (like on a cliff side house). I have over-size, 6″ gutters, I don’t think this would work as easily on normal size house gutters.

  2. John Klein
    October 10, 2019, 8:48 pm

    Evelyn’s Leaf Solution

    All stainless steel.
    Coarse mesh covered by a fine mesh.

    I’ve put it on 2 houses.
    Who wants to be on a roof 2 1/2 stories high.

    About $9.00 per linear foot installed.

  3. Dave
    October 11, 2019, 4:21 am

    Seems to me that the best solution for the house, the safest for the homeowner and possibly the least expensive – is to just leave the gutters alone and hire someone annually to get up there and clean them out.

  4. Alex gingles
    October 11, 2019, 4:05 pm

    I used to install gutters – best bang for the buck is ez-lock which is the spring loaded steel mesh. All gutter covers have their draw backs and downfalls. There is no correlation with more money spent and better performance. Ez-lock can typically be installed by a gutter guy for $3/ft

  5. Wes Fahlenkamp
    October 12, 2019, 11:56 am

    Years ago (when I was young and more daring) I’d have to clean my gutters 2X per year – once in the spring after 43,000 whirlygigs from my neighbor’s giant maple trees filled my gutters, and once in the fall after the same trees dumped 3/4 on their leaves into my gutters. I’d have to walk the top of my giant hip-roof house with a hose to clean the gutters about 20-22 feet above the ground.

    When I replaced my roof, I took the old gutters down to access the fascia. I didn’t replace the gutters. No more ice dams and no more gutter cleaning. On the ground, below where the water ran off the roof, I placed a 5-foot wide strip of heavy black roofing rubber around the perimeter of the house to shed the water from the foundation. My plan was to eventually landscape over the rubber, but I sold the house before I could do this.

    I’ve seen the high-dollar gutter guards installed. They look great at first, but after a few years, some start to look pretty crappy. As the video above showed, they don’t handle the big rains well, and they aren’t easy to clean out when they do need cleaned.

    There is a system I installed on my garage called Rainhandler. I put some on my Dad’s house and he loves them because they are virtually auto cleaned by the wind and the rain.

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