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How to Buy Gutter Guards & Leaf Catchers

Gutter leaf guards, screens, and filters can reduce problems with clogged, overflowing gutters. This expert buying guide will help you choose the right gutter guards.

This micro-mesh gutter screen filters out debris. Photo: Mastershield

Rain gutters should be kept free of leaves and other debris; otherwise, water will back up at the downspouts, filling them up. When this happens, the weight can dislodge or bend the gutters and—worse—the water will spill down the house, potentially damaging windows, doors, siding, and the foundation.

You should inspect and clean gutters and downspouts at least twice a year to make sure they’re not clogged with leaves and debris. If you have your gutters cleaned out professionally, expect to pay about $95 to $125 for a single-story, 2,500-square-foot house and more for a two-story or larger house.

A popular remedy for periodic gutter cleaning is to install some type of gutter guard or leaf-catching system. Many different products are available, ranging from very inexpensive wire screening to extremely pricey enclosed gutter-control systems.
If a particular gutter guard company is pitching you on its product, the best way to check it out is to request the names and phone numbers of satisfied customers and give them a call.[GARD align=”left”]

Types of Gutter Guards

Most gutter guard products can be grouped into these basic categories:

• Various types of screens that filter the debris from the water, from expensive micro-mesh screen systems to super-cheap screen panels.

Solid gutter covers that deflect leaves and debris while capturing rain runoff

• Gutter inserts made of foam or brushes that prevent leaves and debris from clogging the gutters but allow water to drain through the channels.

Within each of these categories, there are many different manufacturers, each touting the benefits of their products. In making a selection, you will be faced with some major decisions, beginning with budget. You can spend as little as $.30 per lineal foot for simple screening that you install yourself and as much as $30 per foot for professionally installed, solid gutter covers. As a rule, fine-mesh screening and solid covers requiring professional installation will run from $20 to $30 per foot.

Depending upon the product, gutter guards will have varying degrees of effectiveness. Some are foolproof at blocking debris but may allow considerable rainwater to spill over the eaves, for example.

Some reject most but not all leaves and debris, so they need to be cleaned occasionally. Depending upon their design, this can become a bigger hassle than cleaning gutters with no covers if the guards can’t be removed easily, for example.

Some gutter guards work great beneath broad-leaf trees but marginally at rejecting needles or seeds. Others are good for low-sloped roofs but allow too much spillover on a steeply pitched or metal roof. Still others encourage massive icicles in snowy, freezing weather.

Unless you’re going to opt for the least expensive, easiest-to-install options such as simple screens available at home improvement centers, it’s wise to check with neighbors who are happy with their gutter control systems, especially if their homes have a similar architecture and roof pitch to yours.

Fine-Mesh Gutter Guards & Screens

Fine-mesh gutter guards (also called “micro-mesh” gutter filters or screens) are placed across the tops of gutters to keep gutters clear. They employ sieve-like mesh panels or screens to separate leaves and roof debris from rainwater.

These gutter guards are much more effective than the common gutter screening available at home improvement centers. Their mesh is super-fine—typically 50 microns, which is small enough to capture sand. Because of this, these systems are popular for both conventional gutter guards and rainwater recovery systems that collect rainwater for landscape watering.

Compared to other gutter-guard technologies, fine-mesh gutter screens perform very high. They reject nearly all roof debris while also capturing most of the water. Although fine-mesh gutter guards are much more expensive than standard gutter screens, gutter brush inserts, and gutter foam inserts, they are comparably or lower priced than solid-top gutter guards and have long if not lifetime guarantees. (For more about these types of gutter products, see Gutter Guards & Leaf Catchers.)

If you have a micro-mesh gutter screen installed on either a very old asphalt roof or a brand-new asphalt roof, be advised that the super-fine mesh can be clogged by roof tar that leaches out of these materials. Mossy or moldy roofs can also clog the mesh. Ask your fine-mesh gutter screen provider about what cleaning might be necessary if this happens.

Three popular companies that make fine-mesh gutter guards are MasterShield, Gutterglove, and LeafFilter. Here is a closer look at each:

 

MasterShield

Mastershield Micro-Mesh Gutter Screen

MasterShield manufactures a patented stainless-steel micro-mesh gutter screen with a strong ribbed design that protects the mesh from sagging and helps capture most of the rainwater cascading down a roof. The mesh rejects all debris larger than 50 microns.

One of the highest-performing designs available, MasterShield is a sophisticated gutter guard that requires professional installation. In many cases, the existing gutters must be lowered slightly to ensure the proper angle for the gutter guard. Mastershield guarantees that gutters will never clog.

The approximate price per lineal foot is not available; cost fluctuates dramatically depending upon the roof’s construction, location, and the complexity of the job. That said, don’t be surprised if this product costs about $20 per lineal foot. Contact a MasterGuard distributor or installer to get a bid.

 

Gutterglove

Gutterglove Micro-Mesh Gutter Screen

Gutterglove, another micro-mesh gutter screen system, has an anodized aluminum frame. The frame is made of U-shaped channels that won’t collapse or allow the mesh to droop. The Gutterglove system is designed to tuck up under existing shingles and lip over the edge of existing gutters.[GARD align=”left”]

The company makes three models: Gutterglove Pro, Gutterglove Ultra, and Gutterglove IceBreaker, which has a channel that receives an integrated heating cable to minimize ice dams and icicles. A fourth product, LeafBlaster, is a simpler and less expensive product that doesn’t have the same aluminum support frame.

Though Gutterglove can be installed by a handy do-it-yourselfer, it is typically installed by a professional. For materials only, expect to pay about $9 per lineal foot; with installation, it will run closer to $20 per foot. Gutterglove comes with a lifetime guarantee.

 

LeafFilter

LeafFilter Gutter Guard

LeafFilter is a top-rated patented gutter-guard system that employs a stainless-steel mesh stretched across the top of a perforated PVC body. It can be installed on either existing or new gutters.

LeafFilter, along with its other fine-mesh competitors, is among the best-performing gutter guard technologies on the market. It does an exceptional job of filtering out roof debris while capturing rainwater. Gutters are guaranteed never to clog.

This product is not designed for do-it-yourself installation; it is sold and installed by local LeafFilter dealers. Expect to pay about $20 per lineal foot.

Solid-Top Gutter Guards

Reverse-curve solid-top gutter covers are at the high end of the gutter guard scale. Are they worth it?

Solid-top reverse-curve gutter guard. Photo: GuttaGard.

Gutter guards and covers are designed to minimize or eliminate the need for regularly cleaning and maintaining gutters. Many different types of gutter guards are made. Here we look at a relatively sophisticated group: solid-top reverse-curve gutter covers. (For more about other types of gutter guards, see Gutter Guards & Leaf Catchers.)

This type of gutter system typically has a solid cover that tucks up under the shingles along its top edge and clips or fastens to the gutter’s outer lip along its lower edge. Most have a “reverse curve” nosing that rolls back into the gutter.

When water pours down the roof, it crosses the top of the cover, clings to the nosing through “surface adhesion,” and then flows into the gutter. Water may enter the gutter through a long slot or perforations under the nosing. Leaves and debris float across the surface but separate from the flow at the slot or perforations and fall to the ground.

As a group, solid gutter covers are quite effective—and very pricey.

When comparing brands, you’ll find that manufacturers hype their own benefits but avoid mentioning issues that potential customers might not be aware of. Though the various available brands are similar in appearance and design, they can vary dramatically in several ways.

Here, we tell you what any gutter guard should do:

  • Keep debris out of the gutters
  • Capture and control rainwater at the roof
  • Be affordable to install and without compromising the roof
  • Be easy to maintain
  • Be a good investment

If a gutter guard doesn’t do all of these, it may not be a smart choice.

Following is a closer look at how solid-top gutter guards perform at some of these issues.

 

Keeping Debris Out of Gutters

With the majority of solid-top gutter-cover designs, a small amount of leaves and debris may be carried by the water back into the gutter. This may or may not be a problem, depending up the size of the debris that makes it into the gutter and how easily the gutters and downspouts flush the debris out during a heavy rain.

Some products have troughs with perforations that let in some of the water and filter out debris. Types with more perforations in the top surface may let in more debris than ones that have perforations on the vertical front edge, such as the Waterloov product. And, of course, the size of the perforations will determine the size of the debris that can enter the gutter.

 

Perforations admit water but expel debris. Photo: Waterloov

Controlling Rain Runoff

Theoretically, a solid, completely sealed gutter cover would never fill up with leaves and debris—but it would be useless because water would just pass over the top as if there were no gutter at all. A gutter with a solid cover has a special challenge: capturing water while filtering debris.

How effectively a gutter guard captures rainwater (and filters debris) is a result of its design, from the radius of the nosing to the size of the slots or perforations that admit water. Its performance is affected not just by the weather conditions but also by the roof’s material and slope. Most solid-top gutter covers are great at rejecting leaves but marginal at preventing runoff overshoot in a major downpour.

Metal roofs or steeply pitched roofs don’t always work well with solid, surface-adhesion gutter guards, particularly during heavy rains, because the water can spill down the roof too quickly and overshoot the gutters. At roof valleys, overshoot can be a big problem, so most systems employ a special barrier/collector at those spots.[GARD align=”left”]

These gutter covers can also be seriously problematic when it comes to snow and ice. Solid gutter guards are infamous for producing massive icicles. And snow buildup along roof edges can break away from the aluminum covers when the weather warms. If you live in a region where this may be a problem, be sure to investigate how the particular system you’re considering performs in snowy conditions.

 

A solid-top gutter guard. Photo: Free Flow

Gutter Guard Affordability

Most solid-top gutter guards are pricey—typically from $20 to $30 per lineal foot when professionally installed—and most must be installed by pros.

When considering a particular type of gutter guard, ask the salesperson for the names and phone numbers of satisfied customers who have roofs and conditions similar to yours. This type of reference is important because a particular gutter guard may not perform the same on differing types of roofs or in differing climates or conditions (many overhanging trees vs. no trees, for example). Then make a couple of calls to the references to discuss whether or not they are happy with the product and if they have any concerns.

Gutter Brushes & Foam Gutter Guards

These leaf-blocking gutter inserts are inexpensive, easy to install, and guaranteed for years.

GutterBrush simply pushes into the eaves’ troughs.

Among the least expensive and easy-to-handle gutter-protection systems are leaf-blocking inserts made of brushes or foam. They fit right inside gutters to prevent leaves and debris from clogging the troughs while allowing water to drain. Here’s a closer look at them.

 

Gutter Brushes

You have to love the ingenious simplicity of this gutter system. It is made like a huge bottlebrush—stiff polypropylene bristles are twisted into a sturdy wire core. You just stuff the cylindrical brushes into your clean gutters. The bristles allow water to flow into the troughs but block leaves and debris, which either pass over the roof’s edges or settle into the bristles. Even when debris catches in the bristles, it only marginally inhibits the flow of water in the trough.

GutterBrush is by far the easiest gutter guard system to install that we’ve found. If you can work safely along your roof’s eaves, you can install these lightweight, easy-to-handle pieces yourself. Other than a ladder, no tools are required.

Sizes are made for both 5-inch standard gutters and 6-inch oversized gutters. Additional pluses: GutterBrush doesn’t add much weight to your gutter system, keeps birds and rodents out of the troughs, and does not require any screws or fasteners that might otherwise compromise the roof. And, unlike some other gutter guards, this system tends to discourage runoff to overshoot the gutters during a heavy rain.

GutterBrush is also one of the least expensive leaf-catching systems. Expect to pay from $3.25 to $4.25 per foot. This means you may be able to fit your entire house for about $400. When you compare this to the $2,000 or more that more sophisticated systems cost, you may find that the pluses outweigh the minuses. And the brushes are very lightweight so you can have them shipped to you at not much cost. In addition, Gutterbrush is very durable. The polyproylene bristles are treated with UV protection so they stand up to sun exposure, and the twisted center wire is galvanized steel that resists rust. Gutterbrush has a one-year guarantee and a 25-year warranty against defects.

What are the minuses? First, because the brushes fit inside the gutter, they could restrict water flow, particularly when they have collected considerable debris. Because of this, the GutterBrush system may require more maintenance than systems designed to completely filter out all debris. And, while the system reduces the frequency of gutter cleaning needed, you still have to lift the brushes out of the gutters and shake out debris. According to the manufacturer, most leaves and debris will either blow away in a heavy wind or eventually decompose and be washed away. Whether or not this will actually happen with your system will depend on the specific conditions of your roof and climate and the type of debris the gutters receive.

 

Flo-Free Leaf Guard

The UV-protected nylon gutter guard tucks into the channel.

The nylon gutter guard made by Flo-Free Leaf Guard is a 3-foot-long, flat, 3/4-inch-thick industrial-strength woven nylon mat (with a consistency similar to a smooth-surface dish-scrubbing pad) that is sized to tuck into either existing or new seamless gutters. Because the Flo-Free Leaf Guard fits entirely in the gutter, it doesn’t compromise the roof system with fasteners. It also allows the full mouth of the gutter to collect water.

Three sizes are made: for conventional 5-inch gutters, oversized 6-inch gutters, and round gutters. Because the guards fit inside the gutter, they are usually out of view. This type of leaf guard is especially effective at repelling pine needles and preventing winter snow and ice build up.

Though some roof debris may catch on the guards, most is blown away by heavy winds or decomposes over time. Depending upon the conditions of your roof, it may be necessary to brush off the surfaces occasionally.

The nylon is treated with a UV protection. A lifetime warranty guarantees replacement of the material due to failure but does not cover damage caused by “acts of God,” which may leave you holding the bag if they’re damaged by severe weather.

This material is sold through authorized dealers only.

 

Leaf Defier Gutter Filter

The polyurethane foam gutter insert is easy to install.

This polyurethane foam gutter insert is made in 4-foot-long half-round and K-style (triangular profile) sections for both 5-inch and 6-inch gutters. To install it, you don’t need any hardware or tools, though you’ll want a miter box for cutting lengths. The filter just slides in place under the gutter’s brackets, or, if there are no brackets, they’re held in place with a bead of caulk along the back side.

The retail price for the material runs about $17 per 4-foot section for 5-inch gutters and $25 per 4-foot section for 6-inch gutters ($4.25 and $6.25 per lineal foot, respectively).

The foam material has been treated for protection from sun and severe weathering so that it won’t break down over time. It has a 25-year warranty for both manufacture quality and performance; however, this warranty begins declining in value after the first two years. After 20 years, only 10 percent of the purchase price is refundable.

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Gutter Guard Specialists

Call for free estimates from local pros now:
[telnumlink] 1-866-342-3263[/telnumlink]

How to Buy Gutter Guards & Leaf Catchers

Gutter leaf guards, screens, and filters can reduce problems with clogged, overflowing gutters. This expert buying guide will help you choose the right gutter guards.

This micro-mesh gutter screen filters out debris. Photo: Mastershield

Rain gutters should be kept free of leaves and other debris; otherwise, water will back up at the downspouts, filling them up. When this happens, the weight can dislodge or bend the gutters and—worse—the water will spill down the house, potentially damaging windows, doors, siding, and the foundation.

You should inspect and clean gutters and downspouts at least twice a year to make sure they’re not clogged with leaves and debris. If you have your gutters cleaned out professionally, expect to pay about $95 to $125 for a single-story, 2,500-square-foot house and more for a two-story or larger house.

A popular remedy for periodic gutter cleaning is to install some type of gutter guard or leaf-catching system. Many different products are available, ranging from very inexpensive wire screening to extremely pricey enclosed gutter-control systems.
If a particular gutter guard company is pitching you on its product, the best way to check it out is to request the names and phone numbers of satisfied customers and give them a call.[GARD align=”left”]

Types of Gutter Guards

Most gutter guard products can be grouped into these basic categories:

• Various types of screens that filter the debris from the water, from expensive micro-mesh screen systems to super-cheap screen panels.

Solid gutter covers that deflect leaves and debris while capturing rain runoff

• Gutter inserts made of foam or brushes that prevent leaves and debris from clogging the gutters but allow water to drain through the channels.

Within each of these categories, there are many different manufacturers, each touting the benefits of their products. In making a selection, you will be faced with some major decisions, beginning with budget. You can spend as little as $.30 per lineal foot for simple screening that you install yourself and as much as $30 per foot for professionally installed, solid gutter covers. As a rule, fine-mesh screening and solid covers requiring professional installation will run from $20 to $30 per foot.

Depending upon the product, gutter guards will have varying degrees of effectiveness. Some are foolproof at blocking debris but may allow considerable rainwater to spill over the eaves, for example.

Some reject most but not all leaves and debris, so they need to be cleaned occasionally. Depending upon their design, this can become a bigger hassle than cleaning gutters with no covers if the guards can’t be removed easily, for example.

Some gutter guards work great beneath broad-leaf trees but marginally at rejecting needles or seeds. Others are good for low-sloped roofs but allow too much spillover on a steeply pitched or metal roof. Still others encourage massive icicles in snowy, freezing weather.

Unless you’re going to opt for the least expensive, easiest-to-install options such as simple screens available at home improvement centers, it’s wise to check with neighbors who are happy with their gutter control systems, especially if their homes have a similar architecture and roof pitch to yours.

Fine-Mesh Gutter Guards & Screens

Fine-mesh gutter guards (also called “micro-mesh” gutter filters or screens) are placed across the tops of gutters to keep gutters clear. They employ sieve-like mesh panels or screens to separate leaves and roof debris from rainwater.

These gutter guards are much more effective than the common gutter screening available at home improvement centers. Their mesh is super-fine—typically 50 microns, which is small enough to capture sand. Because of this, these systems are popular for both conventional gutter guards and rainwater recovery systems that collect rainwater for landscape watering.

Compared to other gutter-guard technologies, fine-mesh gutter screens perform very high. They reject nearly all roof debris while also capturing most of the water. Although fine-mesh gutter guards are much more expensive than standard gutter screens, gutter brush inserts, and gutter foam inserts, they are comparably or lower priced than solid-top gutter guards and have long if not lifetime guarantees. (For more about these types of gutter products, see Gutter Guards & Leaf Catchers.)

If you have a micro-mesh gutter screen installed on either a very old asphalt roof or a brand-new asphalt roof, be advised that the super-fine mesh can be clogged by roof tar that leaches out of these materials. Mossy or moldy roofs can also clog the mesh. Ask your fine-mesh gutter screen provider about what cleaning might be necessary if this happens.

Three popular companies that make fine-mesh gutter guards are MasterShield, Gutterglove, and LeafFilter. Here is a closer look at each:

 

MasterShield

Mastershield Micro-Mesh Gutter Screen

MasterShield manufactures a patented stainless-steel micro-mesh gutter screen with a strong ribbed design that protects the mesh from sagging and helps capture most of the rainwater cascading down a roof. The mesh rejects all debris larger than 50 microns.

One of the highest-performing designs available, MasterShield is a sophisticated gutter guard that requires professional installation. In many cases, the existing gutters must be lowered slightly to ensure the proper angle for the gutter guard. Mastershield guarantees that gutters will never clog.

The approximate price per lineal foot is not available; cost fluctuates dramatically depending upon the roof’s construction, location, and the complexity of the job. That said, don’t be surprised if this product costs about $20 per lineal foot. Contact a MasterGuard distributor or installer to get a bid.

 

Gutterglove

Gutterglove Micro-Mesh Gutter Screen

Gutterglove, another micro-mesh gutter screen system, has an anodized aluminum frame. The frame is made of U-shaped channels that won’t collapse or allow the mesh to droop. The Gutterglove system is designed to tuck up under existing shingles and lip over the edge of existing gutters.[GARD align=”left”]

The company makes three models: Gutterglove Pro, Gutterglove Ultra, and Gutterglove IceBreaker, which has a channel that receives an integrated heating cable to minimize ice dams and icicles. A fourth product, LeafBlaster, is a simpler and less expensive product that doesn’t have the same aluminum support frame.

Though Gutterglove can be installed by a handy do-it-yourselfer, it is typically installed by a professional. For materials only, expect to pay about $9 per lineal foot; with installation, it will run closer to $20 per foot. Gutterglove comes with a lifetime guarantee.

 

LeafFilter

LeafFilter Gutter Guard

LeafFilter is a top-rated patented gutter-guard system that employs a stainless-steel mesh stretched across the top of a perforated PVC body. It can be installed on either existing or new gutters.

LeafFilter, along with its other fine-mesh competitors, is among the best-performing gutter guard technologies on the market. It does an exceptional job of filtering out roof debris while capturing rainwater. Gutters are guaranteed never to clog.

This product is not designed for do-it-yourself installation; it is sold and installed by local LeafFilter dealers. Expect to pay about $20 per lineal foot.

Solid-Top Gutter Guards

Reverse-curve solid-top gutter covers are at the high end of the gutter guard scale. Are they worth it?

Solid-top reverse-curve gutter guard. Photo: GuttaGard.

Gutter guards and covers are designed to minimize or eliminate the need for regularly cleaning and maintaining gutters. Many different types of gutter guards are made. Here we look at a relatively sophisticated group: solid-top reverse-curve gutter covers. (For more about other types of gutter guards, see Gutter Guards & Leaf Catchers.)

This type of gutter system typically has a solid cover that tucks up under the shingles along its top edge and clips or fastens to the gutter’s outer lip along its lower edge. Most have a “reverse curve” nosing that rolls back into the gutter.

When water pours down the roof, it crosses the top of the cover, clings to the nosing through “surface adhesion,” and then flows into the gutter. Water may enter the gutter through a long slot or perforations under the nosing. Leaves and debris float across the surface but separate from the flow at the slot or perforations and fall to the ground.

As a group, solid gutter covers are quite effective—and very pricey.

When comparing brands, you’ll find that manufacturers hype their own benefits but avoid mentioning issues that potential customers might not be aware of. Though the various available brands are similar in appearance and design, they can vary dramatically in several ways.

Here, we tell you what any gutter guard should do:

  • Keep debris out of the gutters
  • Capture and control rainwater at the roof
  • Be affordable to install and without compromising the roof
  • Be easy to maintain
  • Be a good investment

If a gutter guard doesn’t do all of these, it may not be a smart choice.

Following is a closer look at how solid-top gutter guards perform at some of these issues.

 

Keeping Debris Out of Gutters

With the majority of solid-top gutter-cover designs, a small amount of leaves and debris may be carried by the water back into the gutter. This may or may not be a problem, depending up the size of the debris that makes it into the gutter and how easily the gutters and downspouts flush the debris out during a heavy rain.

Some products have troughs with perforations that let in some of the water and filter out debris. Types with more perforations in the top surface may let in more debris than ones that have perforations on the vertical front edge, such as the Waterloov product. And, of course, the size of the perforations will determine the size of the debris that can enter the gutter.

 

Perforations admit water but expel debris. Photo: Waterloov

Controlling Rain Runoff

Theoretically, a solid, completely sealed gutter cover would never fill up with leaves and debris—but it would be useless because water would just pass over the top as if there were no gutter at all. A gutter with a solid cover has a special challenge: capturing water while filtering debris.

How effectively a gutter guard captures rainwater (and filters debris) is a result of its design, from the radius of the nosing to the size of the slots or perforations that admit water. Its performance is affected not just by the weather conditions but also by the roof’s material and slope. Most solid-top gutter covers are great at rejecting leaves but marginal at preventing runoff overshoot in a major downpour.

Metal roofs or steeply pitched roofs don’t always work well with solid, surface-adhesion gutter guards, particularly during heavy rains, because the water can spill down the roof too quickly and overshoot the gutters. At roof valleys, overshoot can be a big problem, so most systems employ a special barrier/collector at those spots.[GARD align=”left”]

These gutter covers can also be seriously problematic when it comes to snow and ice. Solid gutter guards are infamous for producing massive icicles. And snow buildup along roof edges can break away from the aluminum covers when the weather warms. If you live in a region where this may be a problem, be sure to investigate how the particular system you’re considering performs in snowy conditions.

 

A solid-top gutter guard. Photo: Free Flow

Gutter Guard Affordability

Most solid-top gutter guards are pricey—typically from $20 to $30 per lineal foot when professionally installed—and most must be installed by pros.

When considering a particular type of gutter guard, ask the salesperson for the names and phone numbers of satisfied customers who have roofs and conditions similar to yours. This type of reference is important because a particular gutter guard may not perform the same on differing types of roofs or in differing climates or conditions (many overhanging trees vs. no trees, for example). Then make a couple of calls to the references to discuss whether or not they are happy with the product and if they have any concerns.

Gutter Brushes & Foam Gutter Guards

These leaf-blocking gutter inserts are inexpensive, easy to install, and guaranteed for years.

GutterBrush simply pushes into the eaves’ troughs.

Among the least expensive and easy-to-handle gutter-protection systems are leaf-blocking inserts made of brushes or foam. They fit right inside gutters to prevent leaves and debris from clogging the troughs while allowing water to drain. Here’s a closer look at them.

 

Gutter Brushes

You have to love the ingenious simplicity of this gutter system. It is made like a huge bottlebrush—stiff polypropylene bristles are twisted into a sturdy wire core. You just stuff the cylindrical brushes into your clean gutters. The bristles allow water to flow into the troughs but block leaves and debris, which either pass over the roof’s edges or settle into the bristles. Even when debris catches in the bristles, it only marginally inhibits the flow of water in the trough.

GutterBrush is by far the easiest gutter guard system to install that we’ve found. If you can work safely along your roof’s eaves, you can install these lightweight, easy-to-handle pieces yourself. Other than a ladder, no tools are required.

Sizes are made for both 5-inch standard gutters and 6-inch oversized gutters. Additional pluses: GutterBrush doesn’t add much weight to your gutter system, keeps birds and rodents out of the troughs, and does not require any screws or fasteners that might otherwise compromise the roof. And, unlike some other gutter guards, this system tends to discourage runoff to overshoot the gutters during a heavy rain.

GutterBrush is also one of the least expensive leaf-catching systems. Expect to pay from $3.25 to $4.25 per foot. This means you may be able to fit your entire house for about $400. When you compare this to the $2,000 or more that more sophisticated systems cost, you may find that the pluses outweigh the minuses. And the brushes are very lightweight so you can have them shipped to you at not much cost. In addition, Gutterbrush is very durable. The polyproylene bristles are treated with UV protection so they stand up to sun exposure, and the twisted center wire is galvanized steel that resists rust. Gutterbrush has a one-year guarantee and a 25-year warranty against defects.

What are the minuses? First, because the brushes fit inside the gutter, they could restrict water flow, particularly when they have collected considerable debris. Because of this, the GutterBrush system may require more maintenance than systems designed to completely filter out all debris. And, while the system reduces the frequency of gutter cleaning needed, you still have to lift the brushes out of the gutters and shake out debris. According to the manufacturer, most leaves and debris will either blow away in a heavy wind or eventually decompose and be washed away. Whether or not this will actually happen with your system will depend on the specific conditions of your roof and climate and the type of debris the gutters receive.

 

Flo-Free Leaf Guard

The UV-protected nylon gutter guard tucks into the channel.

The nylon gutter guard made by Flo-Free Leaf Guard is a 3-foot-long, flat, 3/4-inch-thick industrial-strength woven nylon mat (with a consistency similar to a smooth-surface dish-scrubbing pad) that is sized to tuck into either existing or new seamless gutters. Because the Flo-Free Leaf Guard fits entirely in the gutter, it doesn’t compromise the roof system with fasteners. It also allows the full mouth of the gutter to collect water.

Three sizes are made: for conventional 5-inch gutters, oversized 6-inch gutters, and round gutters. Because the guards fit inside the gutter, they are usually out of view. This type of leaf guard is especially effective at repelling pine needles and preventing winter snow and ice build up.

Though some roof debris may catch on the guards, most is blown away by heavy winds or decomposes over time. Depending upon the conditions of your roof, it may be necessary to brush off the surfaces occasionally.

The nylon is treated with a UV protection. A lifetime warranty guarantees replacement of the material due to failure but does not cover damage caused by “acts of God,” which may leave you holding the bag if they’re damaged by severe weather.

This material is sold through authorized dealers only.

 

Leaf Defier Gutter Filter

The polyurethane foam gutter insert is easy to install.

This polyurethane foam gutter insert is made in 4-foot-long half-round and K-style (triangular profile) sections for both 5-inch and 6-inch gutters. To install it, you don’t need any hardware or tools, though you’ll want a miter box for cutting lengths. The filter just slides in place under the gutter’s brackets, or, if there are no brackets, they’re held in place with a bead of caulk along the back side.

The retail price for the material runs about $17 per 4-foot section for 5-inch gutters and $25 per 4-foot section for 6-inch gutters ($4.25 and $6.25 per lineal foot, respectively).

The foam material has been treated for protection from sun and severe weathering so that it won’t break down over time. It has a 25-year warranty for both manufacture quality and performance; however, this warranty begins declining in value after the first two years. After 20 years, only 10 percent of the purchase price is refundable.

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Rain Gutters Buying Guide

diy vinyl gutter
Rain gutters & downspouts parts diagram

In This Article:

Rain Gutters Overview
Do-It-Yourself Gutters
Professionally Installed Gutters

This illustrated unbiased rain gutters buying guide shows you how to buy the right rain gutters and mounting system for your house.

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Rain pounds your roof and torrents of water spill over the eaves. You can’t walk out the front door without passing under a mini-Niagara. And the basement? Better fire up the sump pump. Get the idea?

Before that next storm arrives, it’s a good idea to consider how your house will weather it, which brings us to the subject of gutters.

Rain Gutters Overview

Granted, rain gutters aren’t exactly glamorous, but they handle a critical task: routing the runoff from a very large surface—your roof—to proper drainage away from the house. By doing this, they keep your house high and dry, protecting siding, windows, doors, and foundation from water damage.

Though most gutters are installed on existing roofs, adding them during re-roofing simplifies installation and allows them to be fully integrated into the roof system. If you’re thinking about installing a new roof, your timing couldn’t be better.

Of course, gutters aren’t necessary for every house. Broad overhangs may cast runoff well away from a house, where proper grading and drainage can carry it safely away. If this is the case with your house, save your money for a different type of rainy day.

Both do-it-yourself and professionally installed gutters are available. You can buy do-it-yourself gutter systems made of vinyl, sheet metal, and aluminum at home improvement centers. Or you can have professional gutter companies install any of numerous gutters touted as “seamless,” “soldered,” “continuous,” “copper,” “sheet metal,” and more. What type of gutters and mounting system should you choose for your house? The following information will help you sort through the options.

Rain Gutter Types

Rain Gutter Sizes & Profiles

Gutters are formed in several profiles and sizes. The standard profiles are a simple “U” shape and a “K” style, which has an ogee-shaped front vaguely resembling the letter “K.”

Channels are 4, 5, or 6 inches in diameter; 5-inch K-style gutters are a popular type. Matching downspouts are 2-by-3-inch or 3-by-4-inch rectangular profiles or 3- or 4-inch round (often corrugated) pipes.

The larger systems are generally worth the difference in price because they’re less likely to clog. Especially if trees overhang your house, 3-by-4-inch downspouts are the wisest choice.

Rain gutter mounting systems include hidden hanger (top) and spike (bottom).

Rain Gutter Mounting Systems

Gutters are attached along a house’s eaves by any of several means, including straps, brackets, and hangers.

Says one gutter installer, “We primarily use the hidden hanger method because, over the years, as the wood gets a little older, spikes [of a spike-and-ferrule hanger] tend to pull out. We screw a hanger to the fascia or rafter tail. When we don’t have that alternative because there are no rafters or fascia to attach to, we have to use a strap. If we can’t get the strap under the shingles, we encourage the homeowner to wait and install gutters in conjunction with a new roof.”

A crossbar hanger is particularly sturdy. It clips onto the front, goes over the top of the gutter, and clips on the bracket at the back.

Do-It-Yourself Gutters

If you’re planning to install your own gutters, DIY vinyl gutters may be your best bet. DIY vinyl gutters are made by a variety of manufacturers. And they’re commonly available at home improvement centers and lumberyards and generally can be installed by homeowners with moderate skills and tools. If you plan to have gutters professionally installed, be sure to check out extruded aluminum gutters, discussed in the Rain Gutters Buying Guide.

Benefits of DIY Vinyl Gutters

Rain Master, made by Bemis, makes vinyl gutters and components with silicone gaskets that compress to form tight, leak-proof seals. These systems allow the gutters to expand and contract with heat changes. You virtually just plug the entire system together.

Vinyl doesn’t rust, rot, or require a finish, but it can become brittle over the years and crack when the weather is particularly cold. Colors are also limited—white and brown are the most common—and dark tones tend to degrade from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Vinyl sectional gutters are relatively inexpensive at $3 to $5 per 10-foot length, but you must factor in the cost of fittings, which push the overall price per lineal foot up a bit.

DIY Aluminum & Steel Gutters

DIY gutters are made from aluminum, too. Sectional aluminum gutters come in over 25 different colors; if you’re looking to match a particular color of siding or trim, you may have the best success with these.

Sectional galvanized sheet metal gutters are another option. Says one sheet metal manufacturer in California, “Before the last five years, most people chose galvanized gutters, which had to be painted. As a sheet metal contractor, I still prefer to do [sheet] metal products. Aluminum doesn’t hold up substantially to a metal product. Even so, we do mostly aluminum because that’s what people want.

Galvanized steel gutters may be professionally installed or purchased from home improvement centers as do-it-yourself systems like DIY vinyl gutters, but the components must be soldered together, a challenge for the novice. Despite the galvanized finish, if water stands in the troughs, the gutters will eventually rust. And they must be painted periodically.

Suggests the sheet metal manufacturer, “Get bonderized steel gutters—they’re pre-etched, so you just need to get a good red oxidized primer and a high-quality paint. And be sure to get the chemical residues off before painting. Wipe them down with a vinegar or galvanized wash from a hardware store.” Installed, galvanized steel gutters cost from $5.50 to $10 per lineal foot.

Professionally Installed Gutters

The most popular kind of installed gutters are seamless, which are custom-fashioned right on-site. Metals such as copper and stainless-steel are generally chosen for high-end installations. And though wood is rarely used anymore, architectural purists will opt for it. Here we take a look at the three types of installed gutter systems.

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Inside a van, flat aluminum stock is fed into a seamless gutter extruder.

Seamless Gutter Systems

Seamless gutters, today’s most popular type of professionally installed gutter, are extruded from metal “coil” stock, using a special machine that’s brought to your home by a gutter fabricator. Gutters of nearly any length can be made by this machine.

The extrusion machine produces a perfectly formed gutter.

As the name implies, seamless gutters do not have potentially leaky seams along their lengths, which is their biggest selling point. The extra-long troughs are mounted along the eaves and joined at corners—both inside and outside—using special connecting components and downspout outlets.

Seamless gutters are usually formed from aluminum that has a baked-on finish, but they may be made from copper or factory-painted steel. The material that is best for your home depends on your situation.

Even extremely long seamless lengths can be extruded.
Aluminum gutters are lightweight and easy to maintain.

Pluses for aluminum gutters are that they’re relatively inexpensive and will never rust. Steel gutters are sturdier, but this isn’t necessarily an issue unless you live where high winds, trees, or other factors may cause wear and tear on them. Most homeowners opt for seamless aluminum.

According to one gutter installer in Fargo, North Dakota, “In this area, we’re probably 90 percent seamless gutters. I like aluminum because even though downspouts get plugged and you get water sitting in the gutter, you don’t have to worry about rust. Steel will rust out after a time.”

In addition, he says, “I’ve laid them side by side on the ground and dropped a screwdriver on them and the steel dents just as easily [as the aluminum]. Every once in a while, we use steel to match a color that only steel comes in. Steel is a little bit cheaper.”

The price range for steel gutters runs from about $2.50 to $4 per foot, installed. Aluminum gutters cost from $5 to $9 per lineal foot, installed. Coil stock is sold in several thicknesses, including .032, .027, and .025 inch. Be sure to specify the thicker .032-inch material. If you opt for aluminum, ask whether the material is primary or secondary. Primary aluminum is more likely to be of a more consistent quality.

Both aluminum and steel are made in a broad palette of colors. Alcoa produces a faux copper gutter that, at about $9 per lineal foot, installed, offers the look of copper at about half the price of the real thing.

Also keep in mind that anyone who can afford about $20,000 for a seamless gutter machine can start a gutter business, so be sure to check references and get more than one bid. If one bid is considerably lower than another, check the gauge of the material and other details.

Be sure the contractor will hang gutters along a chalk line, snapped to allow the proper slope of 1/4 inch for each 10 feet toward a downspout. That way, your new gutters will flow properly, look good, and add to the value of your house.

Copper & Stainless-Steel Gutters

Copper Gutter    Photo: Commercial Gutter Systems
Copper Gutter Photo: Commercial Gutter Systems

Most people agree that copper makes the ultimate gutter. Handsome, with a natural patina that ages to a verdigris color, it doesn’t require any finish. It will last as long as the house because it doesn’t rust.

Copper gutters are installed either as half-round sectional systems or in the same profiles as seamless aluminum gutters. Sectional systems, fabricated by metal shops and soldered at the joints, are very expensive. Prices fluctuate with the value of copper, but expect to pay $15 to $20 per lineal foot. Seamless copper gutters, typically made from 16-oz. copper, are slightly less—from $13 to $18 per lineal foot, installed. At these values, copper gutters have become a target for thieves in some cities.

For restoration purists, lead-coated copper is also available in some areas. These gutters will last over 75 years. A 5-inch sectional system runs more than $20 per lineal foot, installed.

Finally, though seldom used, stainless steel is another high-end custom material. Like copper, it doesn’t rust and will last as long as the house. It is a little too glitzy for most homeowners, particularly at an installed cost of about $20 per lineal foot.

Wood Gutters

Wood rain gutter
Wood rain gutter

Wood gutters are rarely installed anymore because they are expensive, very heavy, and require considerable maintenance. But, for architectural purists, wood is still an important option.

Select lumber dealers specially mill wood gutters and sell them in 10- and 20-foot lengths. Wood gutters are usually used with metal downspouts.

The price range for wood gutters runs from about $12 to $20, depending on the species, profile, and general availability. Redwood and red cedar heartwoods have a natural resistance to decay; Douglas fir is also used.

Wood gutters should be treated with linseed oil once a year to enhance their water resistance. Wood can be painted, but because paint will crack and peel with moisture, painted gutters require periodic repainting.

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How to Install Rain Gutters

DIY tips for vinyl, steel, and aluminum gutter installation, including taking measurements

Rain gutters & downspouts parts diagram

Rain gutters & downspouts parts diagram ©HomeTips

While most gutter installations are replacements for a failing system, the best time to install new gutters is when you are putting on a new roof. It’s not only easier but they also function better since they are installed as an integral part of the roofing system.

Most of today’s gutters are made from vinyl, aluminum, or galvanized steel; stainless steel and copper, which are specially fabricated, are often chosen for high-end homes. These materials have largely replaced wood gutters—which used to be ubiquitous—because they are considerably lighter and not prone to the moisture-related problems common to wood.[GARD align=”left”]

Gutter installation is a fairly simple DIY project, but professional installation is so affordable that it may not make the cost savings significant enough compared to your time and labor. For a reasonable fee, fabricators extrude so-called “coil” stock (most commonly finished aluminum) right on your property, forming seamless gutters that when installed are stable and leak-free.

Conversely, do-it-yourself gutter systems are sectional, sold in 10- to 22-foot pieces made from vinyl, pre-painted steel or aluminum, or galvanized steel. You purchase the lengths you need and the components to join them such as elbows and connectors. With some systems, silicone gaskets seal the connections; with other systems, the connections are sealed with PVC cement.

Gutter Sizes & Profiles

Gutter profiles are named for the shape they form in cross section. Standard profiles are the “U” and “K,” or “ogee,” style. The diagonal length may be 4, 5, or 6 inches, chosen according to the size of your home. Downspouts are chosen to fit the channel size and come in rectangular—2-by-3-inch or 3-by-4-inch—profiles, or in round—3- or 4-inch—profiles. Downspouts are frequently corrugated for increased flexibility.

Gutter sizing chart

Of course, the larger the gutter size, the less likely the system is to clog, but gutters still should be chosen to be in scale with the square area of the roof. The chart at right gives guidelines for choosing the correct size. The diameter refers to the diagonal length of the channel.

Installation Advice

Gutters attach along the roof’s eaves by means of straps, brackets, and hangers. Bracket hangers affixed to the fascia or rafter tails every 3 feet of gutter is the most secure option. However, if these support members are not exposed, a strap mounted beneath the shingles is the preferred alternative.

Downspouts connect to the gutter system with elbows, which in turn are strapped to the house—three straps for every 10 feet.

If you have decided to install your gutter system yourself, first assemble as many parts as you can on the ground alongside their final location. Glue the parts together with PVC cement if the system you have chosen does not have silicone gaskets, but do not glue the downspouts or you will not be able to remove them for unclogging.[GARD align=”right”]

The slope of a gutter to the downspout should drop 1 inch for every 20 feet of run. To do this, place a nail at each end of the gutter run and tie a string between the nails. Check for level and then drop the string 1 inch every 20 feet.

After aligning the gutter with the string, affix a hanger at the downspout end. Then, working up the slope, affix a hanger every 3 feet. Strap the downspout to the siding with screws for wood and expanding anchors for masonry. Use caulking compound to seal the straps.

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How Gutters & Downspouts Work

An illustration and helpful explanation on how home rain gutters and downspouts work.

Rain Gutters and Downspouts Parts Diagram  ©HomeTips

Gutters and downspouts are made from wood, vinyl, or any of several different metals, including aluminum, galvanized steel, stainless steel, and copper. Wood gutters are virtually obsolete, except in restoration work.

You can buy vinyl gutter systems at home improvement centers; lightweight and simply snapped or glued together, vinyl systems are favored by do-it-yourselfers. Called sectional gutters, they are fitted together from 10- to 22-foot-long pre-painted gutter sections and a variety of corner connectors, end caps, drop outlets, downspouts, and other fittings.[GARD align=”left”]

Sheet metal shops and gutter specialists make and install most metal gutters. Professionally installed seamless gutters, today’s most popular type of gutter, are extruded from metal “coil” stock using a special machine that’s brought to your home by a gutter fabricator. As the name implies, there are no potentially leaky seams along their lengths—a big selling point. The lengths join to inside and outside corner components and downspout outlets. Seamless gutters are usually formed from aluminum that has a baked-on finish, but they may also be made from copper or factory-painted steel.

Standard gutter profiles

A gutter’s profile, as shown at right, depends on the material it’s made from. Wooden gutters are milled; sheet-metal gutters are formed; and aluminum and vinyl gutters are extruded.

Depending on the system, gutters are either nailed to the fascia with a clip or spike-and-ferrule hanger (as shown at left) or hung from the sheathing along the eaves before the roof is shingled, which is more secure and less visible.

Quality downspouts expel water well away from the house. Downspout extenders that run horizontally and carry the water away from the house can be added if need be.

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How Gutters & Downspouts Work

An illustration and helpful explanation on how home rain gutters and downspouts work.

Rain Gutters and Downspouts Parts Diagram  ©HomeTips

Gutters and downspouts are made from wood, vinyl, or any of several different metals, including aluminum, galvanized steel, stainless steel, and copper. Wood gutters are virtually obsolete, except in restoration work.

You can buy vinyl gutter systems at home improvement centers; lightweight and simply snapped or glued together, vinyl systems are favored by do-it-yourselfers. Called sectional gutters, they are fitted together from 10- to 22-foot-long pre-painted gutter sections and a variety of corner connectors, end caps, drop outlets, downspouts, and other fittings.[GARD align=”left”]

Sheet metal shops and gutter specialists make and install most metal gutters. Professionally installed seamless gutters, today’s most popular type of gutter, are extruded from metal “coil” stock using a special machine that’s brought to your home by a gutter fabricator. As the name implies, there are no potentially leaky seams along their lengths—a big selling point. The lengths join to inside and outside corner components and downspout outlets. Seamless gutters are usually formed from aluminum that has a baked-on finish, but they may also be made from copper or factory-painted steel.

Standard gutter profiles

A gutter’s profile, as shown at right, depends on the material it’s made from. Wooden gutters are milled; sheet-metal gutters are formed; and aluminum and vinyl gutters are extruded.

Depending on the system, gutters are either nailed to the fascia with a clip or spike-and-ferrule hanger (as shown at left) or hung from the sheathing along the eaves before the roof is shingled, which is more secure and less visible.

Quality downspouts expel water well away from the house. Downspout extenders that run horizontally and carry the water away from the house can be added if need be.

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Gutter Installation Contractor

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