Cleaning a home’s gutters 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, 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. Keep reading to learn more about gutter protection and the 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 Simple Gutter Guard
- BEST MICRO MESH: Superior Gutter Guards | NEW Raised Stainless-Steel
- BEST HEAVY DUTY: FlexxPoint 5” Gutter Cover System
- LEAST NOTICEABLE: A-M 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 to protect the gutter system are screen, micro mesh, reverse curve (or surface tension gutter guards), brush, and foam—each with its own set of advantages and considerations.
These 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 the weight of the shingles holds the screen in place. Screen gutter guards are an inexpensive option and the easiest type to install—oftentimes no tools are needed.
Gutter screens are not screwed down and may be dislodged by high winds or knocked out from under the 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. The mesh guards are available in plastic or metal mesh and involve 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.
These micro mesh gutter guards are easy to install and effective at blocking even small bits of debris, such as blowing sand, while allowing rain to flow through. They’re available in various forms, 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 heavily treed yards.
Reverse curve gutter guards are more expensive than mesh and screen options. They’re less DIY-friendly than other types and must attach at the correct angle to the roof’s fascia (the vertical strip just above the top of the gutter). 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 gutter guard 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 made with a thick metal wire core that has 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, making it easier for DIYers to install these gutter guards without professional assistance.
Another easy-to-use type of gutter guard is the foam guard. This type of guard is essentially a triangular block of foam that sits in the gutter with a flat side to the back of the gutter, another flat side facing up to the top of the gutter to prevent debris from entering, and the third flat side lying diagonally in the gutter, which allows water and small debris to flow through the drainage system without an issue.
These gutter guards are inexpensive and easy to install, making them a great choice for avid DIYers. The foam can be cut to the proper length and the guards don’t require the use of nails or screws to remain in place, so there isn’t a risk of water damage or leaks with these guards. 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
With the different gutter guard types in mind, it may seem simple to just pick a product and get started, but there are a few more things to consider, including the gutter guard material, size, visibility, and installation. Keep reading to learn more about these important product factors before selecting the best gutter guards to protect your home.
The material used to make gutter guards can vary depending on the type of guards and the quality of the product. Common materials include stainless steel, copper, aluminum, plastics, and foam.
- Stainless steel is a commonly used metal to make micro-mesh, screen, and reverse curve gutter guards. It’s one of the most durable options for gutter guards, though this tends to mean that stainless steel products are also more expensive. Stainless steel is resistant to rust, corrosion, and temperature extremes, preventing the gutter guards from expanding, warping, or cracking.
- Copper is sometimes used to make screen and micro mesh gutter guards because it’s highly resistant to rusting and corrosion. These gutter guards are typically more resilient than any other type of guard, but they have a high price and few manufacturers actually produce these guards.
- Aluminum is a more affordable metal material that’s used to make lightweight micro mesh and screen gutter guards. These guards are lightweight and not as durable as stainless steel or copper, but durability isn’t as important for homes that don’t have overhanging tree branches because there is less chance for branches, twigs, and other hard objects to pierce through the guard.
- Plastics are regularly used to make the frame of gutter guards and for both reverse curve and brush guards. However, brush guards do typically have a stainless steel or an aluminum core, but the brush bristles are usually made from polypropylene. Plastic is inexpensive, and it doesn’t rust or corrode. The drawback to plastic is that it’s 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 of gutter guard isn’t difficult, but it does require the user to climb up on a secured ladder and measure the width of the gutter. Users will also need to measure the length of each gutter to determine the correct size of the gutter guard and 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 outside edge to the outside edge.
Depending on the type of gutter guard that is used, the side or even the top of the guard may be visible from the ground, so it’s a good idea 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. However, micro-mesh, screen, and reverse curve gutter guards are more visible.
Generally, guards come in three standard colors, including white, black, and silver, though there are some products that offer additional color options, allowing users to find gutter guards that match the gutters. Matching the gutter guards to the color of the roof is also a good method to keep the home looking great.
Professional vs. DIY Installation
Professional installation is strongly recommended for anything higher than a first-story roof. With one-story houses, many shoppers prefer to DIY this relatively simple job. It requires only basic tools and costs considerably less than professional installation.
However, avid DIYers that are equipped with an appropriate ladder and have experience working at heights should be able to install gutter guards on a two-story house as well. Just keep in mind that you should not be up on a ladder without a spotter and a proper fall-safety system to prevent injuries in the case of an accident. The information ahead focuses on the best DIY-friendly gutter guards.
Our Top Picks
Put an end to semiannual gutter cleaning with one of the following options. Each of these high-quality gutter guards is a top performer in its category.
This stainless steel gutter guard boasts a fine mesh that keeps even the smallest wind-blown seeds out of your gutters. The durable micro mesh cover slips under the lower row of roof shingles, and 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.
For those who would 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 or birds. The plastic screen gutter guard can be cut with regular 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 the need for 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. This simple system doesn’t rust or corrode, and it’s resistant to extreme temperature changes, keeping the gutters protected all year long.
This brush gutter guard has a flexible wire core made of stainless steel that can be bent around corners. The bristles on the brush are made of UV-resistant polypropylene and they 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 feet to 120 feet, and it’s very easy to install without the use of fasteners. Simply set up the ladder and place the gutter guard into the gutter. Push down gently until the guard is sitting on the bottom of the gutter. The bristles allow water to flow freely through the gutter, but they prevent leaves, sticks, and other large debris from entering and clogging the drainage system.
Prevent the buildup of leaves, sticks, mud, and dirt with this micro mesh gutter guard that’s made with 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 is 48 feet in length, and it’s made for standard 5-inch gutter systems. The mesh has a raised pattern that slows down 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.
The FlexxPoint 5” Gutter Cover System offers enhanced protection from sagging or 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 micro mesh 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 no need to slip it under the shingles. It comes in white, brown, and matte and is available in 22- 102-, 125-, and 200-foot lengths.
Those who don’t want gutter guards to show from below may want to consider the A-M 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.
Even a novice DIYer can find it simple 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 screen to resist rust, the Amerimax Home Products’ gutter guard will keep leaves and debris out of the gutter while permitting even the heaviest downpour to flow through easily. It comes in easy-to-handle 3-foot strips and can be installed with no extra tools.
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 attracting insects.
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 to 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 2 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 large debris, like leaves and sticks.
- Gutter guards also help to keep out rodents and larger insects that like to nest in damp gutters, causing the drainage system to back up.
- The maintenance for gutters gets easier when gutter guards are used for preventing rodents, insects, leaves, sticks, and other obstructions from entering the stormwater drainage system.
FAQs About Gutter Guards
Gutter guards are an excellent addition to reduce maintenance requirements and protect the gutters from debris buildup and pest infestations. If you still have some questions about how gutter guards work and how to maintain them, keep reading for answers to the most frequently asked questions about gutter guards.
Q. Do gutter guards go under shingles?
The installation methods depend on the type of gutter guard, but some gutter guard products are installed 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, which is why it’s important to keep the gutters and gutter guards clean during the 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 make ice dams worse by trapping snow and ice inside the gutter. However, most gutter guards can actually help to 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.
- Put on a pair of 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 steps 1 through 5 until the stormwater drainage system is completely clean.
Q. How often should you clean gutters with gutter guards?
Gutters that are equipped with gutter guards don’t need to 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.
Keep gutters free of debris and help to prevent insect and rodent infestations while allowing water to freely run through the stormwater system by installing gutter guards. These gutter protection systems are typically easy to install and they come in a variety of different types, so users can choose the best gutter guards according to their drainage system and personal preference.
If the installation requires the use of nails, screws, or any other type of fastener that pierces through the siding or the roofing, make sure to apply a sealant to prevent leaks and water damage.