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Community and Q&A

Effectiveness of Gutter Guards

mchernoff | Posted in General Questions on

About two years ago we installed gutter protectors – the simple kind – with many small holes to let the rain in – they still require brushing leaves and pine needles off every so often. We don’t get up on ladders anymore so we hire people to do it. One of the companies we’ve used just suggested that they take away the gutter protectors – that they make cleaning more complicated and they think regular open gutters with regular cleaning is the way to go.

We had the “Leaf relief” type; Gutter Protection – New England Gutter Kings (

 When we installed the protectors, they screwed them into the wood (the fascia?) and so if we take them out there will be screw holes. Do you think it makes sense to take off the gutter protectors?

The company that installed them also does cleaning and we could hire them to do the cleaning. They did tell us when we installed them that they would still need to be brushed occasionally.

Thanks, in advance for any feedback.

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  1. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #1

    The only gutter guards I've found that actually work tend to be pretty expensive. The best one I ever saw was a sort of stainless steel slat arrangement, and it was pretty expensive. There are also some that use fine metal mesh which will work well for larger debris, but can still clog if you have fine stuff like tree fuzzies.

    My experience is that you either have to pay quite a lot of money for the top end gutter guards, otherwise whatever you get tends to not really work all that well. On my own house, I just clean the gutters once or twice a year and don't worry about it too much. You might consider a hybrid approach, with high end gutter guards on any gutters in locations that are particularly difficult or dangerous to access for cleaning, and then just worry about cleaning the easier/safter areas to save some money.


    1. mchernoff | | #12

      Good points!

  2. user-723121 | | #2

    I use a galvanized 8 x 023 (1/8") hardware cloth from this company to cover gutters. It is very heavy duty, keeps the gutters clean and lets all of the rain in. Have used this on many homes and is affordable, can do an average house for about $75.00 in material.

    1. Expert Member
      BILL WICHERS | | #3

      +1 for the TWP guys.

      I would recommend using stainless steel mesh though, especially in aluminum gutters, since it will hold up better (and not react with the aluminum the way steel will).

      Note that these guys also sell handy 6" square samples of material that make great critter guards for small drain and vent pipes. I often order these small pieces of their welded stainless steel mesh (which holds together better than the woven stuff) when I need to keep critters out of small pipes.


    2. mchernoff | | #13

      Thank you for this idea!

  3. boxfactory | | #4

    That mesh looks like it would work well to protect the top and bottom of a rain screen from rodents. Or would I be overthinking this too much?

  4. walta100 | | #5

    I say cry once and spend the boat load of money it cost to buy the “leaf guard” brand gutters or cut down the trees. Besides the cost the only other problem is occasionally they can form ice ciciles.


    1. mchernoff | | #14

      I will think on this!

  5. Expert Member


    My experience has been that the type of debris you get in the gutters determines which guard - if any - will be effective. Around me the problem is almost entirely needles from coniferous trees, and leaf guards seem to be singularly ineffective against them.

    1. mchernoff | | #15

      We have oaks and maples but our neighbors have pine trees. So we get their leaves/needles also!

  6. christopherw | | #7

    I really hate our current gutter guards. It's some type of mesh that's always clogged. Brushing doesn't do too much. The only way to clean them effectively is to use a pressure washer.

    We're surrounded by trees, and have a huge oak tree over our house, so it seems likely that any sort of gutter guard solution would likely have issues.

    I've spent quite a while looking into the various options. I'm interested in trying the Raindrop Gutter Guard system. Seems like it would work well, but who knows.

    1. mchernoff | | #10

      Thank you for this suggestion!

    2. mchernoff | | #16

      That must be why our local company says it’s more expensive to clean gutters with guards.

  7. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #8

    Here's what I've wondered: standard gutters are designed to clog. Where the downspout is attached is a chokepoint. They aren't normally installed with much of a pitch.

    The principles for making pipes clog-resistant have been known for 150 years: pitch them at 1/4" per foot, and never have a reduction in diameter. It seems like a much better strategy would be to design the gutters to keep out anything over a half inch or so, but transport the debris that does gets in and then have a screen at ground level that you can clean out with both feet on the ground. Has anyone ever seen a system like this?

    1. mchernoff | | #11

      Interesting idea!

    2. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #17


      I never pitch my gutters. It may help flow a bit, but doesn't do much for debris clogging them.

      On even a small house you get runs in excess of 25 feet - meaning the gutter would have to drop 6". That poses a few problems: The sloped gutters look like hell architecturally, it means you need a very deep fascia, and the relationship between the gutter and the drip-edge above varies wildly, so the gutters can be ineffective in windy conditions.

      I agree the best defence is large downspouts - but also deep gutters that don't need sloping.

      1. Expert Member
        NICK KEENAN | | #18

        I guess what I'm pithing is an entirely different approach to gutters. Not taking existing designs and trying to install them differently. But instead designing them from the ground up to be installed differently. So yeah, to have the correct pitch a 25' run has to drop over six inches, so design them so that when you do that they meet the drip edge properly and look intentional from the ground. Maybe have some accommodation for attaching a fascia board to the outside of he gutter to cover the pitch, I don't know.

        A grate that is sloped won't clog, if debris covers it the debris gets washed away. So imagine the gutters are covered with a grate that is sloped to match the roof with 1/2" openings. Below the grate is a tapered piece of sheet metal that brings the water to a piece of 4" PVC pipe, just like the drains in your house. It's sloped at 1/4" per foot on the horizontal and goes without obstruction to the ground. That pipe can easily transport anything that gets through a 1/2" opening -- your house drains transport much worse from the garbage disposal and toilets. At ground level you have something like a Leaf Eater -- -- to filter out the small chunks before disposing of the stormwater.

        I just feel like the whole approach of having the filter spot be up on the edge of the roof is going about it wrong.

        1. Expert Member
          MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #19


          I'd be all for that. Probably a lot easier with a modern west-coast design that Craftsman or New England styles.

          James Tuer did that on a house that was featured in FHB some years ago. Deep gutters that were open at one end, draining into a small concrete vessel where debris could accumulate at ground level.

          1. Expert Member
            NICK KEENAN | | #20

            I like the off-the-end gutters rather than downspouts. It seems like a step in the direction away from built-to-clog. You could even have a conventional downspout with an open end gutter, if the downspout clogs then the water goes out the end and presumably helps clear the clog.

          2. Expert Member
            MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #21


            That's what I did (not very elegantly) on this workshop. A continuous gutter that extended past the fascia several feet and drains into a surface ditch. As there are no trees nearby, it is maintenance free so far.

  8. mchernoff | | #9

    Thank you to everyone who replied. It sounds like there are various options. And that in some cases gutter guards are appropriate. But I’m still wondering if I should remove the ones we installed.

    1. Expert Member
      Akos | | #22

      I have mostly oak and maple around me and have similar perforated leaf guards. I haven't done any maintaince and cleaning on them in about 10 years, last I peaked into the gutters they were perfectly clean. Mind you, this is with a metal roof so I don't get granule buildup.

      Before removing the guards to make cleaning easier, I would see if the cleaning is needed.

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