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Cleaning out gutters is a miserable, messy, stinky job. Installing gutter guards could put that headache behind you, but how the heck are you supposed to know which type to buy? In this article, we'll examine the three most popular types of gutter guards: screen, surface tension and fine mesh. We'll compare the different features, installation methods and prices to help you decide which ones will work best for your house. And if you install them yourself, you can save tons of money-some pro installers charge as much as $20 per ft.! The guards we'll cover are designed for 5-in. K-style gutters, typical on many homes.

The Best Gutter Guards for Your Home
Simple to install
Plastic drop-in screens like this are super easy to install. Just cut them into sections and wedge them into place between the gutter and the fascia-no fastening necessary.

Frost King Plastic Gutter Guard, 10¢ per foot, available at home centers.

Screens are the most common type of gutter guard. They come in a wide variety of shapes and materials and can be installed in a few different ways. Screens work well in situations where leaves are the main problem. However, the openings in screens are large enough to let in seeds and pine needles, and cleaning them out may require removing the screens. Second, the screens themselves can become plugged, and cleaning screens can be tricky because some of the debris gets entangled and isn’t easily brushed or blown off. So if you currently find lots of seeds or needles in your gutters, screens may help, but don’t expect them to eliminate gutter chores.

Screens are the easiest to install. Some can be slid up under the shingles, which is ideal because the screen will angle downward and allow debris to slide off the roof. Other screens just drop in, which makes them a good choice if you have old, brittle shingles, or a shingle type other than asphalt that can’t be pried up.

Cost: 10¢ to $2 per foot


Keeps out larger leaves and debris.
Readily available.
Easy to install.
Works with various roof types: shingles, steel, slate, wood, tile, etc.
Can work with old, brittle shingles.

Plastic versions may eventually be damaged by UV sunlight.
Branches, snow, ice and strong winds can damage high-profile styles that protrude above gutters.
Can get clogged with seeds and needles.
Higher-profile versions may cause debris dams.
Limited color choices.
Screens and gutters may need occasional maintenance/cleaning.
Difficult to clean.
Pros and cons of gutter screens
Option 2: Surface tension
The Best Gutter Guards for Your Home
Slip under shingles and screw to gutters
Surface-tension guards work best if they’re installed so the slope of the guard is similar to that of the roof. This may require rehanging existing gutters.

LeaFree, $10 per foot; get buying instructions at

With surface-tension gutter covers, water clings to the rounded nose of the guard and flows into the gutter, while leaves and other debris fall off over the edge. Surface-tension guards work very well with leaves and other large debris. Small debris sometimes gets in but usually washes out the downspouts without a problem.

This type of guard works only if the guard is installed at an angle that’s similar to the slope of the roof. This isn’t always possible on long gutter runs because the gutters need to be pitched so the water flows to the downspouts, which means one end will need to be hung high. If you install surface-tension guards on gutters that are mounted high on the fascia, they will cause debris dams and allow more junk inside the gutter.

Surface-tension gutter guards are more visible than other styles, and water can shoot over them in heavy downpours. However, if they’re installed correctly, the amount of debris that enters the gutter is usually small enough to be washed away, and the solid surface of the guards can be cleaned with just an occasional spraying with a garden hose.

Best Overall
Cost:$3 to $6 per foot


Withstands branches, snow, ice and strong winds.
Keeps out the big stuff.
More colors available.
Needs little or no maintenance if installed correctly.

Most expensive.
Not as available: May have to order online or from a contractor.
More difficult to install: Gutters may need to be rehung to accommodate them.
More visible from the ground.
Water can shoot over the guards in a heavy downpour.
May not be an option on steel, tile, slate or wood roofs.
Best Overall: Surface tension guards
Prevent gutter clogs
Here are some tips that can prevent gutter clogs, even if you don’t have gutter guards:

Larger Downspouts: Replacing 2 x 3-in. downspouts with 3 x 4-in. will help any debris that reaches the inside of your gutters to be washed away.

Rivets Instead of Screws: Debris is more likely to get hung up on the sharp tips of machine screws. Rivets don’t protrude as far and have a more rounded end.

Proper Pitch: If your gutter doesn’t pitch toward the downspout, even the smallest amount of debris will accumulate.

Option 3: Fine mesh

The Best Gutter Guards for Your Home
One guard, two options
This fine-mesh product can be installed under the shingles, or with the back bent up, it can be fastened to both the fascia and the gutter for added strength.

Fine-mesh guards function like screens, but they block all but the smallest debris. The tiny spaces in the mesh won’t clog with seeds and needles, but they can fill with small particles like shingle grit. Fine-mesh gutter guards still need an occasional cleaning, but unlike screens, fine mesh is easy to blow or brush clean.

This EasyOn product can be installed under the shingles, or the back can be bent up and screwed to the fascia. This method strengthens the gutters themselves, making them hold up better to snow and ice avalanches, which are common with steel roofs in cold climates.

Fine-mesh products made with window-type screen material are easily damaged by ice and branches. The good ones will be made from tough surgical stainless steel.

How much does it cost to install gutter guards?
The average home has roughly 200 feet of gutters. These need frequent cleanings throughout the year, with an average of three cleanings as the absolute minimum. The standard cost for a professional to clean them is around $75 per cleaning, which means maintenance is $225 per year.

The average home or property owner can easily install gutter guards and also tackle the annual cleanings quite a bit easier too. For the purpose of this discussion we will look at the price and requirements to install gutter guards in 200 feet of pre-existing gutters.

Cost breakdown
For the gutter guard installation, the typical costs include:

Materials - costs on gutter guards of all kinds range quite widely with some being as little as $3 for a three foot section and some climbing as high as $18 to $20 per single foot. The variations are due to the materials and efficiency of the particular system. New designs appear quite often, and as time passes the designs have begun to work better and better. It will take a bit of comparison shopping and exploration to see which are currently considered the best. Regardless of which system is selected, it will require the basic materials and the time to install. Costs for complete cover systems will range from $200 to a hefty $3600!;
Labor - if a homeowner decides to have the job done by a professional, they will need to also consider the pricing of this part of the work. A good carpenter or "handyman" can easily tackle a gutter guard installation in a very short period of time and this should take roughly 6 hours and come at a cost of roughly $255 in labor; and
Gutter Company - there are also gutter guard companies that specialize in their own custom designs and systems. The costs for such installations can be exorbitant with prices starting $6 a linear foot. The average cost for a full installation tends to be around $1500
Enhancement and improvement costs
Cleaning - it is important to note that there are no gutter guard systems that can eliminate the need for gutter cleanings. Though most will be able to easily prevent larger debris and leaves from clogging the gutters, the smaller particulates will always accumulate. This means that at least once a year the homeowner (or their handyman - for $75) can run a hose through the top of the gutter to rinse out any accumulations of debris;
Downspout Screens - in addition to using gutter guards, the homeowner may want to inquire about a downspout screen. This redirects any floating debris away from the downspout opening and allows water to head into the drain immediately; and
Heat Tape - there are many heating elements that are impervious to the effects of water and they can help to prevent ice from developing on top of, or inside a gutter, and while the installation of gutter guards is occurring it is a good idea to consider installing heating elements wherever ice tends to be a problem.
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