gutter guard failure

Why You Need to Skip (or Ditch) Those Gutter Guards

Gutters play a vital role in protecting your roof. Without them, or when they are clogged, water will damage fascia boards over time and can get back up under shingles. Beyond your roof, proper water drainage is important to protect the rest of your home:

  • The soil around the house is stabilized
  • Foundation problems can be avoided
  • Flooding under houses and in basements can be prevented
  • Erosion can be prevented and this preserves landscaping and turf
  • Water damage to siding can be prevented
  • Water staining on brick and stone masonry can be prevented
  • Settling and cracking of sidewalks, patios, and driveways can be lessened
  • Exterior doors and garage overhead doors can be preserved

~Square House

In an effort to have their gutters cleaned less often and decrease required maintenance, many homeowners opt to install gutter guards. These, however, don’t usually solve the need to clean your gutters and, when they do need to be cleaned, make it more difficult.

 

The problem with gutter guards

In the Pacific Northwest with all of our tree species, we get a mix of broadleaf varieties and fir trees. That means plenty of leaf and tree litter which can easily get through the gutter guards or screens and more than can completely cover them so water cannot get through.

While there are varieties of guards which will help prevent leaves from covering them by using a curved design, that design creates a different problem. Small twigs and other debris can create a dam by building up against the raised portion of the guard.

Even if the gutter guards work as intended, there is still the issue of moss and algae growth. As long as a small amount of leaf material makes its way into the gutters, it creates the perfect growing environment for lichen and moss. Left unchecked, it will continue to grow. As it does, it can block downspouts or break free and clogged them.

 

You are still going to need your gutters cleaned, even if less often.

There is no way to prevent it. That is where the second big issue arises – gutter guards make it difficult to clean your gutters!

As good as they can be at keeping leaf and other debris out, they do a better job at keeping us out. In some cases, we may not be able to remove the screens at all. In this case, the choice to flush them out with pressure and get what we can or they will need to be replaced. If the brand you choose to install can be removed in sections, cleaning your gutters will be far easier, though far more time consuming as well. You may need to have them cleaned less often, but it will likely cost much more.

The best guards are the hinged ones. They are easy to ‘open’ to allow cleaning so not likely an added cost for the time. We still wouldn’t recommend these as they open away from the roof. That makes it difficult to clean your gutters from a ladder.

 

What about those brands which claim to keep debris out?

They may. However, the material and design which makes that possible will also work to keep airflow and sun out. If debris gets in, if there are seams in your gutters, or the guards get damaged, moisture will remain trapped. The combination of moisture and a small but of debris can result in mold growth. With no easy way to see it, you may never know it’s there.

 

Gutter guards are not a great investment.

  • The best ones worth installing are expensive.
  • The best brands can still cause your gutters to be blocked even if they keep them free from debris.
  • Gutter guards will not prevent everything from getting in so they don’t prevent the need to clean your gutters.
  • They can make it more costly to clean your gutters when necessary.

For those brands which state they work perfectly, consider that the main reason for installing them is to reduce maintenance. Since your roof should be inspected annually, should be cleaned annually, and a chimney should be inspected and cleaned annually, adding gutter cleaning at this time adds little to no cost.

Our professional advice is to skip (or ditch) those guards and set up a maintenance schedule to have your gutters cleaned twice per year. You’ll find it more effective and less expensive over time.

12 replies
  1. Sarah Haynes
    Sarah Haynes says:

    Leaf Filter does not attach to the roof, keeps all debris out, even shingle grit, does not prevent proper water flow into the gutter, and never has to be cleaned off, because the debris doesnt block the water flow. I can’t sell it to you or anyone else through commenting here. I am commenting because your article is incorrect, because that is true of every other type of gutter guard, but Leaf Filter actually works. Our customers go from cleaning their gutters twice a month in the fall to never cleaning them again. I havent touched mine in two years. No more ladder climbing or roof walking.

    Reply
    • rooftop-services-llc
      rooftop-services-llc says:

      Sarah,

      There is an exception to many rules. In general, the information is correct. The other consideration is location. We have seen products work well for customers who have property in other areas yet the same ones did not here. With broad leaves and pine needles prevalent, we’ve seen issues with every brand, though some worse than others. The other concern in our area is the amount of rainfall and heavy at times. Anything that limits the amount of water which can get into the gutter itself is a potential issue. That includes products covering the gutters to keep leaves and debris out. As such, we do not recommend these products.

      Since the vast majority of our experience is that gutter guards are ineffective, we do not recommend them.

      Reply
      • Dominic
        Dominic says:

        Do your research, then, on ALL products. When surgical stainless steel mesh filters all rainwater & snow, then nothing can get into gutters to clog them. The mesh also does not clog, stain or get sticky with sap. Check out Consumer Reports, too. And check out their lifetime, transferable warranty!

        Reply
      • Tom tusing
        Tom tusing says:

        So let’s have homeowners climb on roofs or tall ladders. (Not. A good idea) you show a gutter guard that is not designed good. Valor Gutter Guards dont let anything in the gutter. So cleaning out the gutter is never needed. Will you at time have to blow the roof off but with pine needles you would have to do that reguardless. As pine needles sitting on the roof is not a good idea and will cause back ups and leaks. Cleaning the gutters out will only be a very short term option. It takes a handful of leaves to clog a downspout and back up the gutters.

        Reply
        • Dan Koesterman
          Dan Koesterman says:

          Tom, we recommend homeowners call a professional to clean their gutters and to never get on a roof. We are very adamant about that. As to gutter guards with a fine mesh or screen, in our very wet climate, especially in wooded areas where we see little sun, the guards best at preventing debris can and will prevent the gutters to dry out or get enough airflow. This can cause mold growth.

          Since homeowners should have at least an annual roof and an annual chimney inspection, having the gutters cleaned twice a year can be part of a good maintenance plan. Our experience has been that most guards are ineffective. The rest don’t eliminate concerns completely. You did point out pine needles so the roof still needs to cleaned. Gutter guards aren’t entirely necessary when maintenance is routinely performed. Experience has also been that they are installed to decrease the necessary maintenance.

          Reply
    • JJ
      JJ says:

      I have worked in the gutter industry for over 20 years and have removed 1000s of feet of clogged Leaffilter. Eventually the micro mesh will clogged and debris will build up on top . There is no perfect Gutter Protection system. Best bet is to find out who in your area has been in business the longest and go with them. These products are only as good as the people that install them and service them.

      Reply
  2. JaredWelch
    JaredWelch says:

    Thanks for the information. I know how important for the homeowners to clean the gutter on a regular basis. Preventive maintenance service is the only primary way by which one can prevent clogging.

    Reply
  3. Brian E.
    Brian E. says:

    I have seen just about every type of “leaf-guard/gutter- filter “, in different scenarios (I e. Different trees/ no trees), and just as with everything in life, there are pros and cons.
    In my line of work (for the past 30 years), I provide a service to homes (from brand- new construction, to 100 years old), and gutters are a big issue.
    So, let’s say homeowners follow the advice of not using any kind of leaf protection. 1) out of sight out of mind. People forget. 2) getting to old to climb a ladder and neglect. 3) hire a service that clears the leaves and twigs, but not the asphalt fron the shingles, or they rinse out the gutters without detaching the downspout from the buried extension and now thers a blocked extension that needs replacing. 4) cleaning 2x a year isn’t enough when surrounded by trees. 5) between $100-$200 each cleaning.
    I’ve seen and heard it all. The worst is when vegetation is growing in the gutters.
    Now let’s think about protection. When deciding what type of protection system, there are a few factors that need to be taken into consideration, such as, the types of trees, the pitch of the roof, etc.. (the pitch of roof needs to be considered because, on those heavy down-pour’s, water flows off the roof, mainly the valleys, very fast).
    I’m all for using gutter filters to stop leaves, and asphalt from washing down the downspout to block up my buried extension (which I installed 15+ft away from foundation). If the roofers were any good, they would have overlapped the edges and wrapped the corners with the ice and water shield. The gutters and the gutter flashing should be installed properly as well.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] thrives in damp conditions. Leaking downspouts and clogged gutters provide a perfect environment for growth. Make sure they are free of debris and flowing properly. […]

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