The Truth About Gutter Guards

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

My company Happy Window Cleaning, has encountered just about every type of gutter guard-helmet, screen, etc., on the market because we have cleaned them all. Considering what companies are charging to install all manner of mechanical devices to help keep leaves, pine needles, and other debris from clogging drainage systems I've considered jumping into the market to offer new installations as well. Honestly, we still may do that at some point. In a sense, we've already done this kind of work, because oftentimes we regularly remove and reinstall the products to clean the channels. Several well-funded companies (that are highly effective at marketing their products and services) expressly state that once installed “you will never have to clean your gutters again”. I figure at least some people would rather do business with an outfit that will tell you the truth from the start. Unfortunately, such companies are few and far in between. The following are the factors that have prevented me from getting into this lucrative income stream.

So here is the truth about gutter guards. There is no such existing product where, in every case, once installed, rain gutters will not require subsequent cleaning and maintenance. However, if you choose one of the better products on the market, and your home does not sit under a canopy of trees then a gutter guard system should work. Moreover, properly installing a gutter guard, will decrease the frequency of necessary cleaning and maintenance required. In many cases, you may be able to go maintenance-free for several years without the worry of neglecting your home’s susceptibility to water damage from poorly functioning rain gutters. This is why about half of the people that get them are satisfied with them long-term. Another problem is the infamous service agreements associated with leading gutter guard companies. Point of fact, many of the gutter guard companies have changed ownership multiple times over the last twenty years! In my view, this might be attributed to the fact that the business model and promises made to customers will eventually become unsustainable without huge infusions of fresh revenue to deal with the constant problems created by the products themselves. I personally would not install gutter guards on my properties.

Another consideration, although gutter guards in the above-mentioned cases will decrease the frequency of necessary cleaning and maintenance since it takes considerably longer to disassemble, clean, and reinstall gutter guards the fees for cleaning and maintenance will be much higher with aquaducts covered with gutter guards than they would be to maintain an open channel. Depending on the type of fasteners involved having gutter guards may take as much as ten times longer in terms of labor costs to clean and maintain.

Say you have a three-story home and 100 feet of gutters. Whereas cleaning an open channel would cost $300.00. In a worst-case scenario, if the fasteners are rivets, they would need to be drilled out and replaced. That is a $3000.00 job in a “fair trade agreement” since it would take hourly employees considerable time to climb a ladder and replace each rivet! yet another consideration is aesthetics. You might decide to use a different fastener rather than rivets, like clips or stainless bolts, washers, and nuts. While this will decrease the labor costs marginally, the final appearance may not thrill you.

One of the biggest problems people have with every kind of gutter guard over time is that they reduce airflow and sunlight on the interior of the channels. This situation naturally promotes the growth of moss and other organisms. Over time these organic materials can accumulate into a large mass that will eventually clog the channel and cause water to short circuit, (if not properly maintained) leading to water damage problems.

In sum, because of the varying kinds of roofing on homes and architectural settings, not every home is a good candidate for gutter guards. But they do work for some people. Right now our company limits our service mix to the cleaning and maintenance of existing rain gutters. However, if we were to undertake the installation of new gutter guards of any kind, we certainly would only do so after informing the homeowner about the risks and overall long term costs associated with maintaiing these products.

Scott Britton, Author is an experienced and certified IICRC Water Damage Restoration Professional. Before opening the Happy Window Cleaning Franchise he operated Scott's Building Solutions Inc and provided restoration services for Insurance claims as a Licensed Builder in the State of Michigan.