Guard your gutters without being overprotective
Every homeowner can benefit from clear gutters, which is why gutter guards are worth it for so many people. If you’re an avid DIYer, you may opt to build gutter guards yourself, rather than pay for professional gutter guard installation. DIY gutter guards can help keep debris from invading your gutters, but you should consider a few factors before clearing your weekend schedule for this project. Read on to learn about DIY gutter guards, including the different types, the pros and cons, and more.
What Is a Gutter Guard?
First, it’s good to know how your gutters work. These vital home features keep rain flowing off your roof and away from your home, keeping everyone inside nice and dry, and your foundation safe. But rainwater often brings debris like leaves and sticks into your gutters, leading to clogs. That’s where gutter guards come in. They’re made of mesh or screen covers placed on top of the gutter to block debris, which is helpful—because if your gutters get clogged, they could overflow and cause damage to your home and foundation.
Types of Gutter Guards
Gutter guards are available in several styles, materials, and price points. You’ll want to choose gutter guards that best fit your home and your budget.
The most common gutter guards are:
Screen Gutter Guards
Screen gutter guards are easy to install. Just lift the bottom row of shingles and slide the screens underneath, making sure to cover the entire length of your gutters.
They’re made of wire, plastic, aluminum, or stainless steel grid (with tiny holes), which keeps leaves and debris out of your gutters.
They’re simple to install (no tools required).
Screen gutter guards are more budget-friendly than other options.
Screens may come loose underneath the shingles, leaving them open to damage.
Taking up your shingles may violate your roofing warranty. Make sure to check with your roofing company before installation.
Seeds and needles can seep through the tiny holes.
Micro Mesh Gutter Guards
Micro mesh gutter guards look similar to screen guards, with tiny holes for rainwater to flow through easily. However, these gutter guards offer more choices for style and price point.
They’re easy to install.
Available to wedge underneath shingles, snap on top of your gutters, or attach a flange (pipe) to your roof’s fascia (the part right below your gutters and above your soffit).
You can choose your material: plastic and aluminum (least expensive) to stainless steel (higher cost).
Micro mesh gutter guards are very durable.
These require regular cleanings, which may add up in maintenance costs if you’re not able or comfortable going up on your roof.
They can’t capture all debris, and the holes make it harder to clean—you’ll need to scrub it.
Reverse Curve Gutter Guards
Reverse curve gutter guards are installed above your existing gutters, creating a seamless look with many colors and styles available to blend with your home’s aesthetic. As stated in the name, these gutter guards work by forcing water around a downward curve before flowing into the gutter below.
Reverse curve gutter guards effectively keep leaves and debris out of your gutters (they slide right off the edge of the curve).
Available in multi-color styles of metal, stainless steel, or plastic.
They're the preferred choice for properties with lots of high trees.
They’re higher-priced than mesh or screens.
They typically require professional installation—only experienced DIYers should install them.
They can cause flooding and damage if not installed correctly.
Brush Gutter Guards
Brush gutter guards have a thick, metal interior with large bristles made of polypropylene (soft, flexible plastic). They work by sliding right into your gutter and blocking large twigs and debris from settling there, allowing rainwater to flow freely.
Brush gutter guards are easy to install.
You can cut them to size so they can fit in any gutter.
They’re budget-friendly compared to the other options.
No tools are required for installation.
Brush gutter guards are perfect for DIYers.
Fine debris fragments and leaves can get caught in the bristles.
They can be very difficult to clean.
Foam Gutter Guards
Foam gutter guards consist of polyether or polyurethane foam. The foam slides right into the gutter, lining up against the back, top, and bottom—the small mesh holes in the foam prevent large debris from entering the gutter while still allowing rainwater to flow through.
Foam gutter guards are easy to install.
They are also a budget-friendly option.
No tools are required for installation.
It’s easy to cut the foam to the proper length and shape.
They’re easily damaged in areas with heavy rainfall.
They require frequent replacement.
Debris piles up in the tiny mesh holes.
Foam gutter guard materials are combustible and could pose a fire hazard, according to the non-profit organization Fire Safe Marin.
Perforated Metal Gutter Guards
Made from aluminum or stainless steel, perforated metal screens sit on top of your gutters. Their tiny holes keep large debris out while allowing water to flow freely.
They’re easy to install
Small debris can get through the holes and cause clogging.
They can blow off during heavy rain or snowfall.
Advantages of DIY Gutter Guards
DIY gutter guards can be an effective alternative to professionally-installed gutter guards. Here’s why.
DIY Gutter Guards Can Reduce Maintenance
Yes, smaller debris still makes its way into your gutter and will build up over time. But it will take a lot longer, meaning that while you can't eliminate maintenance altogether, getting quality gutter guards can reduce how often you need to climb up that ladder. The development of moss is a concern, but as long as you check the gutters regularly—even if less frequently than before—you should be able to get ahead of problems.
They’re Easy to Install
Unlike some gutter guards that require professional installation, you can buy a DIY gutter guard at a home improvement store and simply slide it over top of the gutter.
They Improve Water Flow
A gutter guard can help water flow better through your gutter system by keeping debris out that can disrupt the flow or clog it up. A blocked gutter will cause water to overflow, which can result in foundation damage or even cause water to get inside the home.
You Can Buy the Gutters and Call a Pro to Install Them
This is the best of both worlds. With DIY gutter guards, you can purchase the gutter materials you want from the retailer of your choice, then call a pro to come out and install them at a convenient time for you. This way, you have control over which gutters you want for your home, but you don’t have to handle the installation if you don’t want to.
Disadvantages of DIY Gutter Guards
DIY gutter guards come with a few setbacks. Here’s what you’ll compromise on if you go the DIY route.
You'll Still Have to Clean Your Gutters
Gutter guards, whether they’re DIY or professionally installed, don't stop you from having to clean your gutters. Debris can build up on top of the gutter guards, so you’ll still have to pull out the ladder for cleanings.
Moss May Thrive
If you're maintaining your gutters less often because of gutter guards, then the small amount of debris that does make it into your gutters has more time to decompose and grow moss, which can spread to your roof and damage it.
They Have a Significant Upfront Cost
Gutter guards typically cost between $600 and $2,150, depending on what type of system you get and how much square footage you need to cover. At that price, it may be cheaper—at least in the short term—to hire someone to maintain your gutters.
When to Get Gutter Guards
If you’re looking to protect your home and reduce the likelihood of damage to your gutters, but you’re still unsure of whether gutter guards are the right fit for you, factor in these considerations:
Time of Year
Plan to install your gutter guards in late summer (August) to early fall (September). This way, you'll have freshly-cleaned gutters with guards armed and ready to tackle fall's leaves and debris.
You should consider getting gutter guards if your yard accumulates a lot of debris—like leaves, branches, and tree prunings. Your yard's grass clippings and debris from your gardens can also make their way into your gutters and cause clogging, especially if you live in an area prone to heavy wind or rainfall.
Also, if your home is in a wildfire-prone area, installing metal gutters and gutter guards protects against clumps of dried debris—a fire hazard when ignited.
Having tall trees surrounding your home is cause enough for installing gutter guards. Although all trees drop debris, leaves, and seeds, certain trees can drop damaging debris if left uncleaned, including:
Pine trees drop pine needles that can clog and damage your gutters.
Sweet gum trees drop spiky gum ball-sized debris and sap into your gutters, which cause clogging (and the spikes can hurt your hand).
Oak trees drop flowering husks, leaves, and acorns, leading to clogging and gutter damage.
Cottonwood trees drop seeds and debris that can easily clog gutters.
Maple trees drop spinner-like fruit debris that fills gutters fast.
Buying Gutter Guards vs. Hiring a Professional
It’s important to clean your gutters twice a year, and more if you get a big storm or have lots of tall trees. If you aren’t keen on spending money to hire a local professional gutter cleaner, then gutter guards are a good idea. They can save you some time and effort when you clean your gutters throughout the year.
Considering cost savings, it's worth noting that gutter guards won't save you money in the long run if you plan to pay for regular professional gutter cleanings. That’s because gutters that have gutter guards still need cleanings. Gutter guards cost between $600 and $2,150 to install, while hiring a pro to clean your gutters costs about $160 per visit, and the gutter guards won’t change that fee.