Home Project Tip – Gutter Guards

This leaf prompted me to install gutter guards.

There's no denying it. Fall is here.

In our last Home Project Tip, we discussed how to Fix Those Leaky Gutters.  In today’s tip, we take on a bigger task—installing gutter guards.  Gutter guards are devices which attempt to minimize the build up of debris and leaves in your gutters. As previously noted, there are a number of companies offering unique systems that are more than happy to do this for you.  However, these systems can cost thousands of dollars so are clearly not for everyone.  Thankfully, I found several products for do-it-yourself types that may offer a solution.


Panic Time


Here in Seattle our weather was unseasonably cold in June, July and most of August and then about the time school started it turned nice.  Unfortunately, the nice spell was far too short, and as wind and rain threatened last weekend I realized I had yet to accomplish one of my major summer goals—doing something about the gutters.


I moved into my house in June of 2010 so have now spent just over a year here.  In my previous home, there were very few trees nearby so most of the time my gutters required no cleaning whatsoever.   However, my new home is surrounded by beautiful tall pines, firs, hemlocks, maples and you name it.  Needless to say, I was unprepared for the amount of cleanup required.  I must have blown off my roof a dozen or more times last winter and each time I did my gutters were full of leaves and other tree debris.  I needed a solution!  And fast!




A friend of mine recently had a gutter system installed.  The cost was several thousand dollars for the installation which included new “seamless” gutters and new downspouts.  Since my house is about the same size I knew this option was not for me.  Instead, I did what I always do—starting looking into alternatives.  It turns out there are a number of gutter systems available after-market for a do-it-yourself types.  I’m sure a handy man might also be able to install these systems, but you’d have to check.



So Many Options


I was certain I could do this job myself after doing a bit of research.  The only question I had was, “Which system should I put on my house?”  After checking Home Depot I found several which showed promise.   I found 4 different types there, three of which are pictured immediately below.


Option 1 for do it yourselfers.

This is an all metal screen style gutter guard.

Option 2 for do it yourselfers.

Another "screened" version of gutter guards.

Option 3 for do it yourselfers.

This screened option is plastic and vinyl and features larger holes to catch water.


All of these were a variation on a theme.  Basically, they come in short lengths, slip under the bottom course of shingles, and then snap down or are screwed down to the existing gutters.   Each has a way to keep debris from filling up the gutter.  They all rely on some type of screen or holes for this.  However the one I chose for my house doesn’t (see below).  Water is designed to roll over it and into a channel—debris will then hopefully blow or fall off the roof.



One other type that looked promising to me is a system that has previously been available at Costco and Amazon.com—one another friend recommended.  It’s called GutterStuff and is quite a bit different as it is basically a stiff foam that sits in the gutter and allows water to flow through and leaves and debris to blow off.  I can’t say why it’s not currently available at the two companies above, but click here for the official GutterStuff website if you’re interested.


Option 4 for do it yourselfers.

Here's the product I chose. Water rolls over the top and into the channel. Debris blows or falls off.

I picked the product I did, because I’m running up against two major issues.  One is the sheer volume of debris and the other is our constant rainfall.  With either one I think most of the products would probably work for me, but when you get wet leaves and pine needles I can’t see that they’ll just blow away if there’s anything that could catch them.  I was concerned the “screen” style would ultimately fill with debris and plug.  I was also wondering if the foam style really sits high enough in the gutter not to leave a lip that might catch debris.  I’m hoping the smooth shape of product I chose will allow more material to just fall or blow off the roof and the built-in channel will catch the water.  We’ll see.


Take Care!


CAUTION!  Do not attempt to install any gutter product by yourself unless you are comfortable on roofs and ladders.  It’s far too easy to slip and fall from a roof or ladder so take all necessary precautions.  This means make sure there’s someone around to help hold the ladder or pass up tools.  If ladders, roofs and heights scare you at all, I’d suggest finding someone to install the product for you or getting a professional to do the job.


Here's a side view of the gutter guards I used.

For these to work, they have to snap onto your gutter. Check for compatibility.

Note:  My gutter guards come in short lengths.  They are designed to snap in place on “traditional” style gutters.  If you have round or non-traditional gutters they may not work at all, so check this out before buying.




You can lift the bottom of the shingles with a flat bar.

Slip the flat edge under the first course of shingles. Then align with gutter.

Installation is fairly straight forward.  After cleaning the gutter, slide the flat edge up under the first course of shingles.


The hard part is getting piece started.

Snap on an end and the work your way down the gutter.

Next, position the piece where you want it and then snap the outer edge of the guard onto the outer edge of the gutter.  I found this easiest to do using both hands.  First, I’d snap one end of the gutter guard on and then hold it with one thumb (let’s say my right thumb).  Then I’d use my left thumb and snap the guard on about six inches down.  Once it was on, I’d slide my right thumb next to my left thumb and thus work my way down the gutter.


There were a couple tricks I learned.  First was to keep one thumb on the gutter guard at all times so it didn’t unsnap by accident.  An extra set of hands might have helped with this.


A little gap shouldn't be a problem.  Just avoid big gaps.

Avoid big gaps. Position your piece right next to the previous piece and then snap it on.

Another was in positioning the guard in the first place.  In order not to leave a big gap between the guards, I would position the guards as close as I could to start.  Then after just beginning my snapping process, I would push on the end opposite the gap to minimize it before finishing the snapping sequence.  If you wait until the whole piece is snapped down, it won’t budge.


Cutting was easier than I expected.

Mark your piece and then cut it with a tin snips.

When I came to the end of the gutter, I often found it necessary to trim the last piece for length.  This was easy enough to do with a tin snips.  I was originally worried the product might crack or break with a snips, but it turned out to be flexible enough I had no problem.


Screwing through the guard was a snap--no drilling required.

For high wind areas secure both ends of the guard with a screw.

For high wind areas, the instructions for my product suggest using a screw at each end of the gutter guard to keep it firmly in place.  I’m not sure my house is located in a high wind area, but we do get quite a few stout breezes in my neighborhood so I went ahead and did this.  I had no problem using a hex head sheet metal screw and portable drill for this purpose—no pre-drilling was required.


A Couple Issues


The hardest part of installing my product was getting each piece started.  The first “snap” is the toughest.  However, once you’ve got one end on the rest goes much easier.  I would say strong fingers and hands are very helpful (almost required) for this product.


The ends of the gutters were also a bit tricky.  You have to cut the gutter guard a quarter to half inch short of the end of the gutter or it won’t snap onto that last part of the gutter.  This occurs because of the way the gutter is made.




I'm pleased to have this project done.

This looks promising. That leaf would have been caught in the gutter, but I watched it blow off.

My entire installation took about 4 hours including gutter cleaning. I spent less than $200 on my new gutter guard system.  Will it work?  I’m hopeful it will help keep my gutters clean, but I doubt I’ll really know until the fall leaves and debris really start to accumulate.   I promise to keep you posted.


If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read:
Home Project Tip 11 – Fix Those Leaky Gutters
Of for a complete list of all our Home Project Tips click here.

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