Tom Lohr is an avid home improvement enthusiast. He prefers to spend the money he saves on new tools and gardening supplies.
The Eighth Wonder of the World
It's magic. Simply install some guards on top of your home's gutters and live the rest of your life worry free as far as gutters are concerned. At least that is what the advertising would lead you believe.
In actuality, it is far more complicated than that. Adding guards to your gutters to keep leaves and debris out is a pricey home upgrade, leaving many to wonder if it is really worth it.
The average home has nearly 200 linear feet of gutters. Cleaning those out can be a challenge for many. Even for the able-bodied, purchasing a ladder tall enough to reach the gutters can be expensive—and handling a 36-foot ladder is difficult to do safely. Additionally, the pitch of some roofs make it dangerous to clean the gutters while perched on the roof. Who wouldn't want to install a device to eliminate all of this hassle and danger?
Here a few items to ponder while you mull over shelling out the cash for a gutter guard upgrade.
You Still Have to Clean Them
You will still have to clean your gutters if you have guards installed. You just won't have to do it as often. The screens and other methods are good for keeping most of the leaves out, but debris from the roof like shingle residue, twigs, stems, pine needles and other things will still make it into your gutters. Even with the best of gutter guards, you are going to find yourself on a ladder at some point.
They Don't Last Forever
Depending on the type of material your guards are made from, they last anywhere from 5–20 years for an average of around 12 years. If you plan on selling your home within the next ten years, then it makes more sense to consider guards, but if you are in your forever home and 65 or younger, expect to have to write another check for new gutter guards.
Don't Expect Great Warranty Response
Most gutter guards are installed by independent contractors. Getting a good contractor these days is about as easy as getting a roll of toilet paper during the great toilet paper famine of 2020. Only car salesmen rank below contractors in terms of dealing with them. If you have a problem with your gutter guards after 3 or 4 years, good luck getting that contractor back out to fix it.
You will save thousands by not having to hire someone to clean your gutters! So says the hype. But let's look at the actual numbers:
- Average home's linear feet of gutters: 200
- Average cost of gutters guards installed: $6 per liner foot
- Average cost per home: $1,200
This is just an average though. You will find many dealers out there that cost far more:
- Average lifespan of gutter guards: 12 years
- Average cost to have your gutters cleaned: $160
- 12 years of gutter cleaning: $1,920
Assuming you can clean the guarded gutters yourself every few years the difference between having guards installed and having them cleaned every year is $720 in favor of gutter guards. But if you need to have your guarded gutters cleaned every two years, then having to hire someone to clean them reduces the gutter guard advantage to $240 in savings. After all of that, you will need to have to replace the guards again.
So, Is It Worth It?
In my opinion: no. The cost difference with the guards needing cleaned every two years favors just hiring it out yearly. But the difference for me is close enough to call it even. So why the thumbs down? Firstly, the addition of the guards may detract from the looks of your home. Also, dealing with contractors is a huge negative. Plus, the fact that they still need cleaned makes me wonder why gutter guards exist at all.
Also, having someone come to clean out your gutters annually means someone can also clear any clogs in your downspouts if you cannot do it yourself, and while they are up there they can report on any issues with shingles, chimneys or other roof related problems.
I think of gutters guards like the old ads for the “gut buster” ab machine. It looked great when a model on TV was using it, but in reality it was just a piece of curved plastic that produced questionable results.
But here is the real red flag for me: if gutter guards are so great, why do they need all of that advertising? Good products sell themselves by word of mouth, and the only words coming out of the mouths of homeowners that had gutter guards installed are not praise for the product.
Spare yourself the headache, and skip the guards.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
CJ Kelly from the PNW on June 15, 2021:
My wife was all set to get them installed and I've been hesitant as I knew they still had to be cleaned. This helped clarify some of the issues. Thanks.