Should You Remove Gutter Guards?

Cleaning your home’s gutters can be about as fun as…well, there’s really no fun in it at all! And paying someone else to do it isn’t much more fun. It is no wonder why so many homeowners think about preventative solutions in order to avoid clogs and blockages in the first place.

In theory, you would assume that gutter guards – which are specially designed to keep drainage systems free-flowing – must be a good thing. Moreover, you would expect every expert in the business to wholeheartedly recommend their installation and use.

But in reality, you’ll find just as many experts advising against this kind of hardware. Some even suggest removing gutter guards that are already in place. There’s a ton of conflicting information doing the rounds from pros and homeowners alike, so what’s the truth? One key to consider is that most experts recommending gutter guards also sell them. And most experts recommending against them are field people that have to deal with the gutter guards that have already been installed. So it can be a sort of theory versus experience issue.

Gutter Guard Types

Before coming to any kind of conclusion, it’s a good idea to first know what your options are, but also to remember that every region of the country is different. And we are constantly told that Portland is different! And the Portland area climate presents some unique challenges. Regardless, there are five primary gutter guard types used routinely across the US, which are as follows:

  1. Mesh – Sheets of metal with thousands of tiny holes attach to the roof and act as a filter, preventing debris from entering the gutter.
  2. Reverse Curve – Manufactured in a manner whereby leaves are diverted to the ground while water is channeled safely away.
  3. Bottle Brush – Rigid upright bristles that are used to catch debris and leaf litter, preventing them from entering the drainage system.
  4. Nylon – Used in areas prone to colder winters and heavy snowfall, due to their effectiveness in reducing heavy buildup of snow.
  5. Foam – Positioned right in the gutters themselves to allow free-flowing of water, while blocking debris and litter.

These five can be split into two categories – guards that serve as screens and those that actually built in to the gutters. Screens are simpler in nature, far less expensive, and easy to install, though have to be replaced more frequently than covers.

In terms of which suits your needs better – this is a question you’ll need to take to the experts, along with a full description of your current gutter and drainage systems. Suffice to say, choosing at random really isn’t the way to go!

What the Experts Say

Keeping up so far? Good, because now it’s time to throw in a few pearls of wisdom from the experts!

For the most part, the consensus remains the same. If you can find, purchase, and have installed a gutter guard system that works in the Portland area’s unique climate, then go right ahead. Likewise, if you currently have guards in place and they are doing a good job, removing gutter guards doesn’t make a great deal of sense. However, the consensus only focuses on one aspect of the gutter guards: do they keep leafs out of the gutters. And they all do that, to a greater or lesser extent. While it would seem logical that quality guards that are fit for purpose can reduce maintenance and labor requirements significantly, while at the same time minimizing clogs and blockages, that is usually not the case. The problem is that the gutter guards, while somewhat keeping the debris out of the gutters, ignore the rest of the system.

On the flip side, gutter guards can actually cause more problems than they solve. For example, some experts warn of gutter guards not allowing sufficient moisture to evaporate, resulting in the development of thick, unpleasant and potentially risky mold and mildew. They also warn of the screens themselves becoming clogged with dirt, debris, seeds and so on, being rendered ineffective in no time and increasing the risk of ‘gutter tree’ cultivation. In the Portland area, we have a lot of trees and a lot of rain. By the time the leaves and needles start to drop, it’s the rainy season. And that’s the problem. The leaves and needles rarely get a chance to dry off and blow away, which is the key to every gutter guard working properly. Instead they form a mat of material on top of the gutters that allows water to flow directly over the gutters and down next to your foundation, and into your basement or crawlspace. The debris on top of the gutter can also encourage roof deteriorating moss growth along the edge of your roof. There’s even the possibility for guards to actually damage the gutters themselves as they accumulate debris.

The Million-Dollar Question

Which brings us back to the original question – what to do? Buy gutter guards? Remove gutter guards? Or just stay away from the idea of gutter guards entirely?

Well, there’s no such thing as a 100% maintenance-free solution and the required installation probably won’t come cheap…not even close. Using gutter guards will at least double your cost of maintenance when your gutters do have to be cleaned.

In fact, it can often prove more cost-effective to have the professionals regularly visit your home and comprehensively clean your gutters for several years, than to go about gutter guard installation. Depending on your personal circumstances, it’s an option that should definitely be considered.

And that’s what it all comes down to – your personal circumstances, preferences, what you can afford and where your home is located. If you’re surrounded by huge trees that shed pretty much the whole year round, gutter guards will probably cause more problems than they solve. If you have a tree or two that doesn’t drop debris directly on the roof, gutter guards may help. If you’ve so far never had even the slightest problem with clogs and blockages, it’s probably not worth bothering.

The Possible Advantages of Gutter Guards:

  • Gutter guards will keep most of the debris out of your gutters.
  • Effective prevention of rodents and pests setting up home in your gutters.
  • Reduced frequency of cleaning and minimal maintenance.
  • Protection and preservation of gutters and downspouts.
  • Fewer trips up the ladder reduce the risk of accidents.

The Possible Disadvantages of Gutter Guards:

  • A high-quality permanent gutter guard system can cost thousands of dollars – effective long-term installations are very expensive.
  • There are still no 100% maintenance-free gutter guards – all still require periodic attention–and that attention will be far more expensive
  • Gutter guards systems can contribute to premature roof failure by creating an environment for moss to grow..
  • Gutter guard systems can cause water intrusion in your crawl space or basement.
  • Guards that prevent moisture escaping can exacerbate mold and mildew growth.
  • Some guards add excessive weight to existing gutter systems, which can cause damage.

So it’s clearly a tale of two halves that comes down to two considerations – what you need and what you can afford. If problems with leaf litter and debris are driving you mad and you have thousands of dollars to invest in gutter guards, they could be your salvation.

But as already mentioned, the same cash could be used to bring in the experts on a regular basis, to give your gutters and drains the kind of clean that goes above and beyond DIY!

Click Here to learn about our gutter cleaning service and be sure to ask us if gutter guards are the right choice for you.