Do gutter guards work? That question is not easy to answer because there are many different types of guards on the market, hundreds actually. Each guard has a design that puts it into a respective category. There are basically 5 categories of gutter guards. 1. Wire/Plastic Mesh. 2. Surface Tension. 3. Flat deck. 4. Sponges/Brushes. 5. Stainless Steel Micro-Mesh. We will detail each of these types of guards and their pros and cons.
Wire/plastic mesh guards are prolific; they are everywhere. You can find them at your big box home improvement store and virtually every roofer offers them when doing a new roof. These guards are flimsy and provide little to no protection. They may work for a year or two, but then the guards begin to fall off the gutters, or they fail in various ways. Cheap metal and plastic guards usually allow too much debris in, and they are not secured well. Also, they lack a frame, so the guards bend and break under the weight of snow and ice. We recommend you stay away from these guards. Although they are inexpensive, they typically cause costly issues and allow a false sense of protection.
Surface tension guards were the hottest thing back in the 1980s when they came out. The idea was to keep most of the debris out by rolling it over the gutters via gravity. Water is sucked into the gutter system by the surface tension created. These guards tend to be the most expensive on the market, because they will install as a one-piece system, or they involve a good amount of construction. There are a few big problems with helmets or bull-nose-style guards. When the surface gets dirty, the guards don’t work as well, sending water cascading over. Also, they tend to create large icicles due to the profile of the gutter being raised. Finally, the flimsy metal does not hold up well when heavy snow and ice sits on them during the winter months.
Flat deck gutter protection is just that, flat metal or plastic with milled holes. These guards usually screw onto the front lip of the gutter and rest on the spikes or hidden gutter hangers. The open area yield (the amount of area open for water to flow through) is low. typically, over 90% of the gutter is covered. When looking at pure gutter protection, this is great, because very little debris enters into the gutter system. But that’s only half of the battle. Water flow is another issue though. For the same reason debris has a difficult time entering into the gutters, so does water. The major complaint about flat deck gutter systems is the water overshooting the guards and causing damage to the home or landscape.
Sponges and brush types of gutter protection are interesting. The concept is cool, fill the gutter void to essentially keep debris out and let water flow. The guards are usually pretty inexpensive and are easy to install. Like wire/plastic mesh guards, they work for the first year or so, but they become mucked up with debris and look very unsightly. After a couple of years, they completely defeat the purpose of the gutter system with constant water overflow and debris clogs. Of any gutter guard, these require the highest amount of maintenance. With so much maintenance, traditional gutter cleaning ends up being cheaper and easier.
The last category is the micro-mesh gutter guard. These guards are the newest on the market. They combine lightweight frames with micro-mesh to filter the debris. We highly recommend these guards, but not all are created equal. Some mesh guards do not utilize the recommend lightweight aluminum frame. They use plastic, which warps over time. Also, mesh types vary. 440-micron mesh sizing works best. Certain brands either have too tight/too loose of a mesh weave. Optimally sized micro-mesh is what keeps out debris and allows for maximum water flow. One of the best innovations though is the raised S Curve design. This allows for even greater water throughput while making debris self shedding a lot easier.
Check out the video below as Ken Wilson of The Gutter Boys details the best guard on the market.