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
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.