Q&A / 

Gutter Guards – Do They Really Work?

Important Author’s Note Update: Since this column was written, I have discovered at least two other gutter guards that sport the micro-mesh filtration screen. Testing of these Micro-mesh guards began early Spring of 2008. The results of the test are in! After 10-years of testing various types, a winner has been declared! Click for the gutter guard I installed on my house - Gutter Guard Test Results.


DEAR TIM: I am sick and tired of cleaning leaves and debris from my gutters. I have seen numerous new devices that allow water to enter the gutter but deflect leaves and twigs. I intend to install some before the fall season. Do these products work? Can they be installed by an average homeowner? Which ones are better - aluminum or vinyl? Beth, Morgantown, WV

DEAR BETH: The new gutter covers have really caught many people's attention - salespeople, homeowners and myself. Many homeowners like you are looking for a miracle product that will free them from ever having to clean their gutters again. Certain salespeople are claiming they have this miracle product. There are some great gutter cover designs, however, everyone I have tested has allowed some smaller debris to enter my gutters.

Gutter cleaning, as you well know, is not just a fall activity. Gutters can become clogged in the spring as deciduous trees litter roofs with seed pods, flower petals, buds and small leaves felled by spring storms. It is not uncommon for me to clean my gutters at least four times a year.

All of the products do an excellent job of prohibiting full sized leaves from entering your gutters. That is a simple task. However, many of the gutter cover products fail to stop tiny tree flower buds, seed pods and evergreen needles from entering gutters. See Photos in Author's Notes Below.

Cleaning gutters can be hazardous to your health. Ladders can slip when people reach too far sideways to grab leaves from a gutter. If you clean gutters while standing on a roof, you can lose your balance and fall. Gutter covers can go a long way in preventing many autumn accidents.

Three years ago, I saw a demonstration of one of gutter covers at a local home show. I couldn't believe how the water rolled around the edge of the gutter cover into the gutter. I decided to test it on the spot. While the salesperson was busy with someone else, I made some simulated leaves with pieces of paper. The gutter cover deflected the large "leaves". However, my small "leaves" were sucked into the gutter.

I decided to test a number of gutter covers to see how they would perform in a standard Mid-western setting. Some of the products had rows of round holes. Some had diamond shape knock-outs. Two samples had slits that ran parallel to the front edge of the gutter. The slits allow water to flow into the gutter.

Stop - Check this out! Hi, it's me Tim Carter.
Do you want a bid on the same gutter guards I used on my home?
Click Here

If you do fill out the form at the MasterShield page, they pay me a very small commission.

To view the video about How To Shop For Gutter Guards, CLICK HERE

When the last leaf had dropped from the trees last fall, I checked the gutter covers. All of them had performed very well. No leaves were in the gutters and leaves were not stuck in the holes or slits. However, this spring was a different story. My silver maple and pin oak trees showered my roof with buds and debris. All of the products I tested allowed the tree flower buds to enter the gutters. Choose a gutter cover that can be easily removed and re-installed. You may have to periodically clean your gutters.

Two products, however, are worthy of your consideration. Both were vinyl products. The one had diamond shaped knockouts. It also was the one that installed with the greatest ease. The other product had a single slit on its front edge. This product also had a very unique added feature. It has a built-in hood that covers the top edge of the gutter. This hood prevents dirt from washing down the face of the gutter. This is what causes those ugly vertical streaks on your gutters.

Author's Notes:

May, 1999

There are many, many gutter guard products out there. Some designs have been around for many years. I was not able to test every single gutter guard for this column.

However, it appears that every single design that I tested failed in the springtime. This spring, we had a normal amount of debris fall from our trees. This photo (right) shows the diamond shaped guard clogged with debris. It remained clogged even after repeated windy days. I was able to brush the debris off the top and spray with a hose through the diamond knockouts to flush the gutter.

This photo (left) shows the gutter cover that has the slit in it. The slit also became clogged with all sorts of debris. It was a real pain in the you know what to take the time to clean the small debris from this slit. I urge you to keep in mind that the installation of any gutter guard product will not eliminate entirely the task of cleaning your gutters. These products will simply reduce the amount of times you have to do it.

October, 2002:

This photo (right) clearly supports what I have said for years. I decided to remove the white gutter covers on my garage that you see in the photo up above in the body of the column. It was one of the gutter guards I originally liked when I wrote the above column. These gutter covers had been in place approximately five years. I knew what I was going to see in the gutters but was surprised to say the least. Yuck!

As you can see, a one-half inch thick layer of muck goo covered the entire bottom of the gutter. I pulled away some of it so you could see the bottom of the gutter. The muck was a mixture of decayed organic matter and granules from the shingles. Print this photo out and show it to the gutter guard salesperson that tries to convince you your gutters will "never have to be cleaned again." I can't wait to hear from you how they explain this photo away! T.C.


Tim,

I've read your article about gutter covers and agree completely. Yesterday, I spent 2 hours cleaning out this foul muck in the bottom of my gutters that had clogged them up. I ripped off my gutter covers and threw them in the trash.

While looking for solutions to my being lazy and not wanting to clean out my gutters EVER again, I came across _ _ _ _ _ .  (Named Removed by Tim Carter to Protect the Guilty) Have you tried these? Do they work or am I just hoping that I never have to be covered with muck and mosquito bites again anytime soon.

Thanks!

Amiee Staggs

Bloomington, IN


This email just arrived August 29, 2005.

Loved your discussion of gutter guards. I bought into the "never clean" line and purchased a system that had a solid cover over the gutter. Clogged up within 6 months! The company did come out and clean them, but after we had a major overflow and basement flooding. The company knows its product is not clog free -- they even had the gall to give me a special hose adapter so I could flush out their "clog free" gutters.

Eileen G.

Upstate NY

Stop - Check this out! Hi, it's me Tim Carter.
Do you want a bid on the same gutter guards I used on my home?
Click Here

If you do fill out the form at the MasterShield page, they pay me a very small commission.

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13 Responses to Gutter Guards – Do They Really Work?

  1. Hi Tim

    I have to install new gutters on my home I just purchased and I have been looking at gutter guards. I watched your video about Master Shield but wanted to know what you thought about Leaf Relief gutters guards.

    Thanks
    Cheryl

    • Well, I believe my video and all my past gutter guard columns tell you exactly how I feel. How do your gutter guards stack up to the ones in design to what I put on my house? It's that easy to answer your question.

      • I have looked at all the claims for gutter protection and have concluded that a regular gutter system with 3-4 time yearly cleaning is the preferred way to go.

        • Hi Jack.I would be looking at big bucks to install the Tim approved micromesh type gutter covers,and am considering funnel outlets as the next best thing.If you have to clean your gutters only 3-4 times a year,you might as well stand pat (maybe put funnel outlets on your downpipes). I have mature American Elms around my home,and in the early summer,they drop little round seeds that pile up like snow,and I have to clean my gutters as often as every week.
          Tim has put a good deal of effort into investigating the various gutter protection systems,and I trust his conclusions on the micromesh gutter covers,but right now,the price is too steep for me,especially as my old gutters would have to be lowered to take full advantage of the micomesh gutter covers.

        • Jack,from what I can gather,if you live in an area without lots of full grown trees,you can probably get away with 3-4 gutter cleanings a year.Where I live,there are nearby mature elms,and the seeds they drop are a nightmare for me.I am on a ladder almost every week in summer,and find my gutters half full of seeds.To make things worse,when it rains,the seeds turn into a sticky mass not unlike cooked oatmeal.

  2. Tim: How effective are fast flow funnels? I would like to try a less expensive way of preventing my gutters from clogging before I shell out for micromesh gutter guards.My main problem is elm seeds,which fall like snow from full grown elms.

  3. Hi Tim,

    There's a company called SHO-PRO and they make these gutter covers called Original Gutter Cover. These are essentially the Solid Surface type with a nose that works on the surface tension principle. In addition they have rows of tiny slits running parallel to the nose. These slits also slope inwards to provide many surface tension plays I suppose. Do you have any experience with this type? It is costing me $17/ft for 192 ft of installation ($3400). They offer lifetime "unimpeded flow" warranty. We are having to deal with a combination of catkins/flowers/twigs from a river birch, helicopter seeds from a maple, grit off our roof shingles. Ideally I would have liked to have them install this system on one section of the gutter -- the front second storey section that is difficult to climb to -- to see how it all works, but they are pushing me to install all over because in winter they say their system will help prevent ice dams. What do you think?

    Thanks,
    Vishal

    PS: I am making my way through your videos.

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