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Gutter Guards & Systems – What Works & What Doesn’t

Unclogged, free-flowing gutters are a homeowners dream. Really, the thought of never having to clean your gutters can put a smile on your face.

With any home improvement product on the market, there are many versions of that product all clamoring to be the best, which makes it a bit challenging in choosing one over the other. And gutter guards are no exception.

Collectively, as homeowners, we want to feel that our time, money, and effort are well spent. Especially the money part – who wants to throw money away?


Types of Gutter Guards

With so many variations of this product, we wanted to focus on those categories that seem to be the most popular with homeowners:

  • Snap-in-place gutter guard; so many versions of this style – we will show you a few examples; typically a DIY project
  • Add-on gutter guard; this style include versions that are installed over the guard like a hood, and those that are installed by attaching it to existing gutters with a fastener; we saw a demonstration of an add-on gutter guard that we were very impressed with that we will show you; DIY project, or professional installation required
  • All-in-one seamless covered gutter system; one of us has this product installed on their house; professional installation required

As you may have guessed, the types of gutter guard products in the list above, increase in cost as you move down the list. But what works, and what doesn’t work?


Snap-in-Place Gutter Guard

The snap-in-place gutter guard takes on many different shapes and designs, and is usually constructed of PVC or other type of plastic. It is designed for ease of installation by snapping it on to the top edges of the gutter. This type of installation does not provide a secure connection and allows the guards to be vulnerable to high wind conditions. They are readily available at hardware stores and home improvement centers. They typically come in 3-foot sections, and what probably makes them attractive to the first time buyer is that they are relatively inexpensive.

Ease of installation and being inexpensive are the few pluses of this type of gutter guard. We are very familiar with the snap-in-place gutter guard, since our Mom has them on the gutters of her house. When the time comes, where she is in the market for replacing them, we will help her select a more reliable product! Some of the problems that have occurred are:

  • Clogged openings
  • Rainwater overshooting the clogged openings, which caused leaks in the basement
  • Sagging due to inferior materials; this creates recesses for excess debris to settle and collect
  • High winds have blown the guards off of the gutters; snap-in-place feature does not offer a secure connection; some guards use clips to connect to the guards – we have seen strong winds blow these off of the gutter, too


As the photos reveal, the openings easily get clogged with debris, and in this case, tiny acorns, too. Many snap-in-place gutter guards share the same short comings.


This style of gutter guard is not really designed to be a reliable, maintenance free, long term solution. They may keep the gutters somewhat free of debris for a while, but the guard itself seems to need a lot of attention. It becomes a trade-off – you may not have to clean out the gutters as often, but instead you will be cleaning off and unclogging sections of gutter guard, and replacing those sections that the wind blows off.


This is another version of the snap-in-place gutter guard. A mesh plastic fabric is attached to the under side with an adhesive, only to the parts of the guard indicated by the arrows. As a result of the limited use of adhesive, gapping occurs between the mesh and the guard. It is flimsy, and we can’t help but wonder what will occur when the adhesive fails.


This photo shot is looking down a 3 foot section of the snap-in-place plastic gutter guard in the above photo. The arrow is pointing to the part that snaps onto the existing gutter. It is easy to see how lightweight the snap-in-place style is, and how vulnerable it can be to high winds.


Add-on Gutter Guards

Add-on gutter guards work with your existing gutters. Some versions are installed to the fascia board over your gutters, while some versions are installed directly to the gutter.

Many homeowners who have existing gutters in excellent condition, don’t really want to incur the expense of the all-in-one gutter system, and would prefer to find a solution using the gutters that are already on their house. These homeowners also want a better solution than the snap-in-place gutter guard. If you are such a homeowner, you will be happy to know that there are very good add-on gutter guard products on the market that are both reliable and efficient.

One version whose design and technology we really like, uses a micro fine stainless steel (no rusting) screen to filter out practically all debris, and is about a third of the cost of the all-in-one system. The micro fine screen creates an almost smooth surface that allows rainwater to slide the debris out of its way.

We had the opportunity to see this type of gutter guard in action at a home remodeling show we attended recently, and we were impressed with its performance. This particular product was from Gutterglove Pro line (photo below), and it handily took care of a high volume of water allowing it to flow freely into the gutter even with debris on top of the guard.


There are other quality micro mesh gutter guard brands in the marketplace in addition to the one we saw demonstrated at the remodeling show, so you have a choice in this field. Here are some design features to look for:

  • micro fine screen – facilitates in moving the debris over the screen so that the rainwater is free to flow into the gutter; keeps out the tiniest of debris particles including the granular residue from asphalt shingles
  • a strong and sturdy frame so there is no sagging or bowing
  • secure connection to the gutter – preventing it from becoming dislodged, and from being forced out by high winds or a high volume of water


All-in-One Seamless Gutter System

The all-in-one gutter (one piece) system is an integral gutter system design that includes both the gutter and the gutter cover (guard) manufactured in a continuous seamless section of gutter. This gutter system is made right at the job site to the required section length needed. It has a very streamline tidy appearance, not at all clunky or bulky looking.

One of these all-in-one gutter systems is LeafGuard. Kathy and her husband had this system installed on their house a few years ago, and, so far have been satisfied customers.  This seamless system uses the adhesive property of water and surface tension that is created by the curvature of the gutter system’s cover (photo below). The water follows around the curvature adhering to it, and flows into the gutter.


All-in-one gutter system


This type of gutter system is a bit pricey, though. But it doesn’t ever hurt to get a free quote.


Helpful Tips

  • Whatever product you select, be sure the product and its method of installation does not void your roofing warranty.
  • Ask if the product is backed with a warranty
  • Some versions of the add-on gutter guard, for example the hinged half-round wire mesh gutter guard, may create damming of debris up against the shingles. This can cause moisture and water to creep backwards, getting under the roofing materials, which can result in leaks and wood rot.
  •  Your project may require professional installation. The article may be helpful to you –  ‘Tips For Hiring a Contractor’

What Consumer Reports Has to Say

Consumer Reports magazine did a comparison study rating gutter guards and gutter systems in their September 2010 issue. Here is the link to check out their results.



Photo credits:  betterOutdoorLivingatHome, Gutterglove


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