Cleaning the gutters along the roof of a house is a messy chore, but it’s vital to keep this stormwater drainage system free of clogs. Decomposing leaves, twigs, and other debris can create blockages in the gutter system, forcing water over the side of the gutter and potentially causing damage to foundation plantings and the foundation itself.
Fortunately, you don’t need to teeter on a ladder twice a year to keep your gutter system clear. Easy-to-install rain gutter guards prevent debris from clogging up gutters and help eliminate this issue. We tested a host of these products in different categories to judge performance on a variety of levels. Keep reading to learn more about gutter protection and our hands-on-tested recommendations for some of the best gutter guards on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Raptor Gutter Guard Stainless Steel Micro-Mesh
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Thermwell Frost King VX620 6″x20′ Plastic Guard
- BEST BRUSH: GutterBrush Gutter Guard
- BEST MICRO-MESH: Superior Gutter Guards | NEW Raised Stainless-Steel
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: FlexxPoint 30 Year Gutter Cover System, 5″
- LEAST NOTICEABLE: A-M Gutter Guard Aluminum Gutter Guard 5″
- EASIEST TO INSTALL: Amerimax Home Products 636025 Lock-In Gutter Guard
Types of Gutter Guards
The five main types of gutter guards available are screen, micro mesh, reverse curve (or surface tension gutter guards), brush, and foam. Each type has its own set of advantages and considerations.
Screen guards feature a wire or a plastic grid that blocks leaves from entering the gutter trough. They’re easy to install by lifting the bottom row of roof shingles and sliding the edges of the gutter screens beneath the shingles along the entire length of the gutter, so that the weight of the shingles holds the screen in place. Screen gutter guards are an inexpensive option and offer the simplest installation—often, no tools are needed.
Gutter screens are not screwed down and so may be dislodged by high winds or knocked out from under shingles by falling branches. Additionally, prying up the lower row of roof shingles to install slip-under gutter guards voids certain roof warranties. Contact the shingle manufacturer before installing this type of gutter guard if you have concerns.
Micro-mesh gutter guards are similar to screens, allowing water to run through small holes while blocking twigs and debris. They require one of three simple installation methods: slipping the edge under the first row of roof shingles, snapping the guard directly onto the top of the gutter, or attaching a flange to the fascia (the vertical strip just above the top of the gutter).
Micro-mesh gutter guards are effective at blocking even small bits of debris, such as blowing sand, while allowing rain to flow through. They’re made of various materials, from inexpensive plastic to strong stainless steel. These gutter guards may require occasional cleaning with a hose sprayer and scrub brush to clear ultrafine debris from the mesh holes.
Reverse-curve gutter guards are made from lightweight metal or molded plastic. Water flows over the top and around a downward curve before dropping into the gutter beneath. Leaves and debris slide right off the edge and fall to the ground below. These gutter guards work well for keeping leaves and debris out of the gutter, even in yards with numerous trees.
Reverse-curve gutter guards are more expensive than mesh guards and screen options. They’re less DIY-friendly than other types and must attach at the correct angle to the roof’s fascia. If not installed properly, water can run over the edge, rather than following the reverse curve into the gutter. Since they install above the existing guttering, they can appear like full gutter covers from the ground, so it’s advised to look for a product that matches the color and aesthetic of the home.
Brush-style gutter guards are essentially oversize pipe cleaners that rest inside the gutter, preventing large debris from falling into the gutter and causing clogs. Simply cut the brush to the proper length and slide it into the gutter. The easy installation and inexpensive price make brush-style gutter guards a popular option for DIYers on a budget.
This type of gutter guard is typically composed of a thick metal wire core with polypropylene bristles extending from the center. The guards require no screws or connections to the rain gutters, and the metal wire core is flexible, allowing the gutter guards to be bent to fit around corners or unusually shaped stormwater drainage systems. These features make it easier for DIYers to install these gutter guards without professional assistance.
Another easy-to-use option is essentially a triangular block of foam that sits in the gutter. One flat side lies to the back of the gutter, another flat side faces up to the top of the gutter to prevent debris from entering, and the third flat side lies diagonally in the gutter, which allows water and small debris to flow through the drainage system.
These gutter guards are inexpensive and easy to install, making them a great choice for DIYers. The foam can be cut to the proper length, and the guards don’t require nails or screws to remain in place, so there’s less risk of damage or leaks. However, they aren’t the best for locations that experience high levels of precipitation because heavy rain can quickly saturate the foam, causing the gutters to overflow.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Gutter Guards
There are a few more things to keep in mind beyond the best type of gutter guards to protect your home. These include material, size, visibility, and installation.
The material used to make gutter guards can vary depending on the type and quality of the product.
- Stainless steel is commonly used to make micro-mesh, screen, and reverse- curve gutter guards. It’s one of the most durable options, though typically more expensive. Stainless steel is resistant to rust, corrosion, and temperature extremes, preventing the gutter guards from expanding, warping, and cracking.
- Copper screen and micro-mesh gutter guards are highly resistant to rusting and corrosion. Typically more resilient (and more expensive) than any other type, copper gutter guards can also be hard to find, as few manufacturers produce them.
- Aluminum, a comparatively affordable metal, is used to make lightweight micro-mesh and screen gutter guards. Though they’re not as rugged as stainless steel or copper options, durability isn’t as important for homes that don’t have overhanging tree branches because there’s less chance for branches, twigs, and other hard objects to pierce the guard.
- Plastics are regularly used to make the frame of gutter guards for both reverse-curve and brush guards. However, brush guards typically have a core of stainless steel or aluminum core, while the brush bristles are usually made from polypropylene. Plastic is inexpensive, and it doesn’t rust or corrode, but it is prone to swelling and cracking.
- Foam is the only material used in foam gutter guards. The entire guard is essentially a block of foam that allows water to filter through the materials while preventing large debris from falling into the gutter. Foam is an inexpensive, durable material, but it is susceptible to mold growth.
Choosing the correct size gutter guard requires climbing up on a secured ladder to measure the width of the gutter. The length of each gutter must also be measured to determine the correct size as well as the number of gutter guards necessary to protect the entire gutter system.
Most gutter guards come in lengths ranging from 3 to 8 feet. Gutters come in three standard widths, with guards sized to match: 4-inch, 5-inch, and 6-inch, with 5-inch being most common. To get the correct-size guard, measure the width of the top of the gutter from the inside edge to the outside edge.
Depending on the type of gutter guard that is used, the side or even the top may be visible from the ground, so it’s best to find a guard that highlights the house or blends in with the existing aesthetic. Foam and brush gutter guards are essentially invisible from the ground because they sit completely in the gutter, but micro-mesh, screen, and reverse-curve gutter guards are more visible.
Generally, guards come in three standard colors: white, black, and silver. Some products are available in additional color options, allowing users to find guards that match the gutters. Matching the gutter guards to the color of the roof is also a good way to obtain a cohesive, attractive look.
Professional vs. DIY Installation
Professional installation is strongly recommended for anything higher than a first-story roof. With one-story houses, this is a relatively safe and simple job that requires only basic tools.
Avid DIYers equipped with an appropriate ladder who are experienced working at heights should be able to install gutter guards on a two-story house as long as safety precautions are followed. Never go up on a ladder to the roof without a spotter. Ensure that a proper fall-safety system is in place to prevent serious injuries.
Our Top Picks
Put an end to semiannual gutter cleaning with one of the following options, each a high-quality gutter guard in its category. We installed each product and put it through its paces with hands-on testing that proved it to be a top performer. Check out our choices while also keeping the top considerations in mind.
This stainless steel gutter guard boasts a fine yet durable mesh that keeps even the smallest wind-blown seeds out of your gutters. The durable micro-mesh cover can slip under the lower row of roof shingles while the outer edge attaches to the gutter with screws for extra security. Raptor’s V-bend technology boosts filtering power and adds rigidity to the mesh, enabling it to withstand debris without sagging.
The Raptor gutter cover fits standard 5-inch gutters and comes in easy-to-handle 5-foot strips with a total length of 48 feet. The screws and the nut-driver socket needed to install the strips are included.
The Raptor Gutter Guard system proved itself to be a good option for DIY installation, and we appreciated that it offers different installation methods, including installing directly across the gutter as well as under the roof shingles, depending on the situation. However, we found the stainless steel material to be very difficult to cut, even with a good pair of snips—although that no doubt speaks to its durability. The stainless steel mesh caught everything that could be expected, and it’s also easily removable for cleaning.
- Style: Micro mesh
- Material: Stainless steel and aluminum
- Visible? Depends on installation method
- Stainless steel mesh
- Flexible mounting styles
- Easy to remove for cleaning
- Very difficult to cut, even with good snips
For those who prefer not to invest in an expensive stainless steel product, this Frost King gutter guard by Thermwell is an affordable plastic option that keeps the gutter system safe from large debris and nuisance pests, like mice and birds. The plastic screen gutter guard can be cut with standard scissors to the custom fit of the gutter, and it comes in a 6-inch by 20-foot roll.
The gutter guard installs easily without screws, tacks, nails, or any other fastener. Just place the guard into the gutter, ensuring that the center of the guard is bent up toward the opening of the gutter, instead of forming a trough where debris would collect. The plastic material won’t rust or corrode, and it’s fairly resistant to extreme temperature changes, protecting the gutters all year long.
In testing, the affordable Thermwell Frost King system proved to be a decent option. The screen was easy to cut to 4- and 5-foot lengths while on the ground, and the plastic is so lightweight, we had no concern carrying it up a ladder (which can be a challenge with heavier materials). However, we found these gutter guards to be somewhat finicky to install correctly, as they don’t use hardware to hold them in place.
- Style: Screen
- Material: Plastic
- Visible? In most cases, yes
- Easy to cut
- Very affordable
This brush gutter guard has a flexible wire core made of stainless steel that can bend around corners. The brush bristles, made of UV-resistant polypropylene, extend out about 4.5 inches from the core, allowing the entire gutter guard to fit comfortably into standard-size (5-inch) gutters.
The gutter guard comes in a range of lengths from 6 to 120 feet, and it’s very easy to install without fasteners: Simply place the guard into the gutter and push down gently until the guard is sitting at the bottom of the gutter. The bristles allow water to flow freely through the gutter while preventing leaves, sticks, and other large debris from entering and clogging the drainage system.
In testing, the beauty of the GutterBrush’s gutter guard system proved to be the easy installation, as described above. The system works for fascia-mounted brackets as well as shingle-mounted, making this the most universal of all gutter guards we tested. They allow for ample waterflow, but we did find them prone to clogging with larger debris. While big pieces are easy to remove, we learned that the GutterBrush isn’t a maintenance-free solution.
- Style: Brush
- Material: Nylon bristles
- Visible? No
- Incredibly easy to install
- Universal fit
- Allows plenty of waterflow
- Will definitely clog eventually
Prevent the buildup of leaves, sticks, mud, and dirt with this micro-mesh gutter guard made of durable stainless steel. The solid metal frame slides under the first row of shingles, and the other side of the guard sits on the outside edge of the gutter. Secure the gutter guard to the roof and to the gutter to ensure that the drainage system is protected in any type of weather, all year round.
This micro-mesh gutter guard system totals 48 feet in length, and it’s made for standard 5-inch gutter systems. The mesh has a raised pattern that slows flowing water, allowing it to drain into the gutter below, while debris slides off the top of the guard. The guard should be installed at the same sloping angle as the roof to help debris slide or blow off the gutter guard.
Superior Gutter Guards are superior in build quality to any other option on the list. They’re very sturdy yet not too difficult to cut. Also, the raised pattern on the micro mesh seemed to help improve strength. It’s highly unlikely that these gutter guards will hold onto any debris, making them among the most effective options. But while the manufacturer claims that the guards have flexible mounting options, the only method we found effective in testing was under the shingle, which made the guards visible from the front yard.
- Style: Micro mesh
- Material: Stainless steel and aluminum
- Visible? Most likely
- Debris washes off easily
- Appears to be the most effective option
- Very durable
- A little confusing to install
- Visible from the ground
The FlexxPoint 5” Gutter Cover System offers enhanced protection from sagging and collapse, even under heavy leaf or snow accumulation. It’s reinforced with raised ridges that run the length of the strip, featuring a lightweight, rustproof aluminum build. The screen gutter guard has a subtle design that can’t be seen from the ground.
This reliable gutter guard attaches to the outer edge of the gutter with included screws. It snaps into place, so there’s no need to slip it under the shingles. It comes in black, white, brown, and matte and is available in 22- 102-, 125-, 200, and 204-foot lengths.
Certain features of the FlexxPoint Gutter Cover System really made it stand out in testing. It was the only system that required screws not only in the front of the gutter but also the back. This makes it extremely heavy-duty and stable—it won’t come out on its own under any condition. And while it’s very durable, it’s not difficult to cut. It can’t be seen from the ground, which is a huge plus for a heavy-duty guard. However, we found that it will collect larger debris, which must be manually (though easily) removed.
- Style: Screen
- Material: Aluminum
- Visible? No
- Very heavy duty
- Super-secure installation system
- Invisible from the ground
- It can clog and require attention
Those who don’t want gutter guards to show from below might consider the A-M Gutter Guard Aluminum 5” Gutter Guard. Made from industrial-grade aluminum, the perforated panel contains 380 holes per linear foot to handle heavy downpours. It fits snugly inside the top of the gutter and is virtually invisible once installed, so nothing will detract from a roof’s good looks.
Containing slip-under shingle support and tabbed for easy installation, the panel attaches to the gutter’s outer lip with self-tapping screws (not included). It’s designed for 5-inch gutters and comes in 23, 50, 100, and 200-foot lengths. This product is also available for 6-inch gutters in 23-, 50-, and 200-foot lengths.
In testing, we developed a love-hate relationship with the A-M Gutter Guard system. Yes, it’s a high-quality system with strong reinforcement ridges running the length of the guard, and it can’t be seen from the ground. It’s easy to cut and install, even around brackets, and it does a good job of allowing waterflow and collecting debris. But it doesn’t come with the necessary self-tapping screws! All the other systems that required fasteners included them. Also, this system will clog with larger debris, so it will require light maintenance eventually.
- Style: Screen
- Material: Aluminum
- Visible? No
- Easy to cut
- Invisible from the ground
- Durable reinforcement ridges
- Can clog with larger debris
- Screws not included
Even a novice DIYer may find it literally a snap to install the Amerimax Home Products’ Lock-In Gutter Guard. This screen-type gutter guard is designed to slip under the first row of shingles and then snap over the outer edge of the gutter. Its flexible design accommodates 4-, 5-, and 6-inch gutter systems.
Made from powder-coated steel to resist rust, the Amerimax Home Products’ gutter guard will keep leaves and debris out while permitting even the heaviest downpour to flow through. It comes in easy-to-handle 3-foot strips and can be installed without tools.
The hardware-free installation performed very well in testing and was so secure, it proved a bit challenging to remove the gutter guard by hand. The screen was easy to cut, and we appreciated the flexible mounting option (we couldn’t get it under our shingles, so we put it across the top of the gutter). It did a good job of keeping debris out, though smaller bits made their way in. But the only real issue was with removing the guard, as the cut mesh hung up on the brackets.
- Style: Mesh
- Material: Powdered-coated steel
- Visible? Probably
- Flexible installation options
- Locking design works well
- Easy to cut
- Installing around brackets can be difficult
- Removing can be difficult
By and large, we found the best overall gutter guards to be the Raptor Gutter Guard, as it’s durable, effective, and flexible. However, folks looking for a truly heavy-duty option might prefer the FlexxPoint Gutter Cover System for its robust design and ultra-secure installation.
How We Tested the Best Gutter Guards
We wanted to suggest only the best gutter guards available, so our hands-on testers installed, considered performance, and removed each product to ensure we knew exactly how each worked.
First, we installed one section of each gutter guard according to the directions, cutting for brackets when necessary. We assessed the flexibility of installation (no two sets of gutters are exactly the same), as well as the quality of the hardware and how difficult each was to install. We observed the gutter guards from the ground to determine visibility.
We then left the gutter guards to collect debris, but since things had been relatively calm in our area lately, and there wasn’t a lot of debris coming down naturally, we took matters into our own hands. We used mulch to simulate twigs, tree dirt, and other debris, scooping it onto the roof above the gutters. Then, after hosing the roof down, we could accurately assess how well the gutters caught the debris.
We removed the gutter guards to access the gutters and determine how well the guards kept out debris. Finally, we cleaned the gutter guards to assess how easy it was to remove any clinging debris.
The Advantages of Using Gutter Guards
The main benefit of using gutter guards to protect the stormwater drainage system is keeping debris out. Leaves, sticks, feathers, and other large debris can quickly clog up a gutter system, preventing water from properly draining. Once formed, these clogs grow as mud clings to the clog, filling in gaps and potentially attracting pests.
Rodents and insects that are drawn to wet, dirty gutters can make nests or use the proximity to the home to begin burrowing into the roof and walls. However, installing gutter guards helps keep out these nuisance pests and protect the home.
With gutter guards preventing debris buildup and pest infestations, the gutters remain relatively clean, so they only need to be thoroughly washed out once every few years, saving time and effort.
The gutter guards should still be inspected semi-regularly to clean away any debris from the top of the guard that could be limiting the flow of water into the gutters.
- By using gutter guards, the gutter system remains free of such large debris as leaves and sticks.
- Gutter guards help keep rodents and larger insects from nesting in damp gutters, thereby causing the drainage system to back up.
- The maintenance for gutters is easier when gutter guards are used to prevent obstructions from entering the stormwater drainage system.
Gutter guards offer an excellent way to reduce maintenance and protect the gutters from debris buildup and pest infestations. If you still want more info about how gutter guards work and how to maintain them, keep reading for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about these products.
Q. Do gutter guards go under shingles?
Installation methods depend on the type of gutter guard, but some products do install under the first or second row of shingles.
Q. Do gutter guards work in heavy rain?
Handling heavy rain is entirely possible for most gutter guards, though guards that are full of leaves or sticks may have a hard time passing the quickly flowing water. This is why it’s important to inspect and clean both the gutters and the guards in spring and fall seasons, when falling debris from nearby foliage is at its worst.
Q. Do gutter guards cause ice dams?
Some gutter guards, like reverse-curve guards, can worsen ice dams by trapping snow and ice inside the gutter. However, most gutter guards help prevent ice buildup by limiting the amount of snow that passes through into the gutter system.
Q. How do you clean gutters without removing gutter guards?
While gutter guards do help to keep out larger debris, the gutters still need to be cleaned. Follow these simple steps to clean the gutters without removing the gutter guards.
- Place a drop cloth at the bottom of the ladder to catch falling debris.
- Set up and secure the ladder to prevent it from falling or shifting.
- Don safety gloves and climb up the ladder to access the gutters.
- Remove any debris that’s built up on the top of the gutter guards.
- Rinse the gutters with a hose or a pressure washer to break up any clumps of small debris and clean out excess dirt and other material.
- Move to the next section of the gutter and repeat, continuing until the stormwater drainage system is completely clean.
Q. How often should you clean gutters with gutter guards?
Gutters equipped with gutter guards needn’t be cleaned often, as long as the top of the gutter guard is kept relatively free of leaves and sticks. A thorough cleaning once every 2 years is typically enough to keep the main stormwater drainage system free of debris.
However, it’s recommended to check the gutter guards for excess debris during the spring and fall seasons, as well as inspecting the gutters for ice dams during the winter to prevent damage to the gutter system.