Gutter protection manufacturers promise to make your life easier. Install this amazing system on your roof and you'll never have to clean your gutters again! That's a promise, but how accurate is it? Do these systems really work? Is it worth the money? Maybe.
A bit about clogged gutters.
Clogged gutters are a big deal. Seriously. It is better to have no gutters than clogged gutters because clogged gutters will cause gutters to overflow. This leads to water seepage, rotten soffits, rotten siding, and all sorts of other bad things you don't want in your home.
If you have large trees near your home, you need a plan to keep your gutters clear. The traditional methods are to either climb off the ladder or walk on the roof, but I can't decide which is more dangerous.
Safer methods include using tools like pressure washer attachments, leaf blower attachments, or even extendable tools.
There is no perfect solution, but using a ladder properly is a safe option as far as I'm concerned. That's what I've always done and it's worked well for me. My tool is a $4 gutter shovel.
Pros of Gutter Guards
Gutter guards can do a very good job of keeping gutters flowing freely. If you have large trees in your yard, gutter guards can really save you time and hassle by helping to prevent gutters from clogging. I am a fan of properly installed, high quality gutter guards.
If you go for the really high-end systems, you can even get heated gutter guards to help with ice dams. One such product is the Helmet Heat® system from Gutter Helmet. These systems will not prevent ice dams because ice dams will begin to form above the gutter. However, they will help give melting snow and ice a path to the ground.
There's no maintenance-free gutter protection system. Even the best systems can be completely overwhelmed by roof debris.
I repeat, there is no such thing as a maintenance-free gutter protection system. No matter what you install, someone will need to get on the roof or a ladder to remove the debris. If this is not done, water can overcome the gutters.
Furthermore, there is no such thing as a perfect system. Solid "shield" gutter guards rely on the capillary properties of water to force water into the gutters. This works well in normal rain, but can overflow in heavy rain, despite what the manufacturers claim on their website. The video clip below shows it.
Don't Go Cheap
I've seen a lot of complete failures on cheap DIY systems. I recommend staying away from these.
However, I have seen it fail even on high-end systems. No system is perfect.
In 2010, Consumer Reports produced a report on gutter protection systems. They rated one particular DIY plastic cover like Best Buy, but I don't agree with their findings. I call those plastic things trash. They may work well when initially installed, but I know from experience that they clog and fall into the gutters over time.
If you're going to do gutter protection, do it right. Either get a top-of-the-line system or have a top-of-the-line system professionally installed.
High quality gutter guards are great, but they are expensive. You can spend up to $30 per foot for an installed system. There are many great options out there and I won't try to steer you in one direction or another because I've seen them all work well when properly installed and properly maintained. A rating by Consumer Reports in 2010 has come under heavy fire for leaving out many of the industry's big players. They haven't made any further news since then.
If you plan to install the system yourself, check the installation instructions to make sure it's a job you can handle, and if it seems too easy or too good to be true, it probably is. If you're going to hire a professional, work with a company you like and be sure to ask about warranties.