It seems simple to have properly installed, well-maintained gutters and downspouts that move rainwater away from the foundation, help keep water out of the basement, discourage insect populations that breed in standing water and protect landscaping.
However, successful gutter installation depends on getting a lot of things right: secure attachment to the roof system, proper sloping, sufficient width and depth for your roof size and style, downspouts/extensions to prevent ponds in the spring and ice rinks in the winter, and construction material (usually vinyl, aluminum, or steel, occasionally copper) that makes the purchase worth your investment.
And then there's the maintenance. Even the best gutters require regular inspections for deterioration and upkeep to remain free of debris. "The key thing most people don't think of when they go to the store and just pick something off the shelf is what kind of debris they're trying to keep out of their gutters," says Jamie Gilbert, owner of Statewide Gutter Co.
Statewide installs, cleans, repairs and has seen or heard of just about all gutter guard options. They recommend one of three gutter guard styles for most homeowners. "We use a gutter guard that fits 5- and 6-inch K-style gutters, which are the most popular residential gutters in the country," says Gilbert. It comes in three styles.
"The first style keeps leaves out," Gilbert says. "The second keeps maple seeds and finer debris out, and the third has an even finer mesh to prevent pine needles from getting into the gutter." In neighborhoods with a variety of trees, Gilbert uses the finest mesh. Prices range from approximately $3.85 to $5.85 per lineal foot, installed.
All are attached securely with a combination of clips, screws, a patented Z-bend along the back edge for rigidity, and have fitted ends to prevent birds from nesting in the gutter. Any silky or cottony debris that does stick to the guard, says Gilbert, usually dries and blows off. And, he says, even the finest mesh style still allows enough water into the gutter to effectively direct water away from the foundation.
With or without guards or covers, says Gilbert, gutters still require maintenance. You still have to inspect the gutters a couple of times a year, especially at the bottom of roof valleys and gutter corners, to ensure the gutter is still clear of dust and debris, and check for any cracks, holes or other damage from trees, weather or animals.
So before investing in gutter guards, decide how much maintenance you're willing to do yourself. Will you clean the gutters twice a year? Will you inspect the gutters and guards for damage and make the needed repairs, patches and replacements? Is your house just one story tall? If the answer to any of those questions is "no," consider whether it would be easier to save your money and hire a full-service professional in your area to clean, repair and maintain your gutters, guard-free.