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Rain gutters are an important part of every home. They redirect the flow of water away from your homes, and as a result, prevent soil erosion, greatly reducing the risk of damage to your home’s foundation and water damage in your basements. In other words, gutters protect your homes from water damage.
However, if you do not clean your gutters regularly, your gutters are likely to get clogged. Clogged gutters bring with them a whole new range of issues, such as mold infestations and even roof damage.
While in most places, it is advisable to clean gutters at least once a year, in places where there is dense vegetation, the occurrences of gutters getting clogged by leaves and twigs are more frequent. This means you may need to clean your gutters at least twice a year.
Gutter guards to the rescue?
A lot of people believe that by installing gutter guards, gutter systems don’t need to cleaning. Manufacturers claim that properly installed gutter screens, gutter helmets, leaf guards, or gutter covers, as gutter guards are also known, can at the very least reduce the frequency of cleaning, if not make it completely unnecessary.
There are multiple choices of materials when it comes to gutter guards. You have plastic gutter guards, vinyl screen guards, foam inserts, and brushes that you can install yourself, as well as aluminum, steel, and micro-mesh gutter guards that require professional installation.
However, a lot of homeowners and consumer reports claim that irrespective of the type of gutter guards, and even with professional installation, gutter guards are a waste of money and largely ineffective. Read on to learn more about why gutter guards seem to be a bad investment.
Reasons why gutter guards are bad
They don’t keep all debris out
Gutter guards are advertised as being effective in keeping out leaves, twigs, and other debris from entering rainwater gutters. Once again, this claim is not entirely accurate.
While larger debris remains out of the gutters, smaller pieces of debris, such as pine needles and small twigs, still manage to find their way through the gaps into the gutters. Over a period of time, these can accumulate and form a dam that chokes up the gutter itself.
Your woes don’t just end there. You will not be able to locate the blockage unless you climb up a ladder and inspect the gutter at various points. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? You just might be better off cleaning your rainwater gutters periodically and leaving them be.
Beware of roof damage
Causing drainage blockages is just one of the problems you will have to deal with if you install gutter guards. Even if a little bit of debris such as leaves and twigs decompose under the gutter guards, they could lead to the growth of moss and algae. Moss is especially dangerous to roofs. Left unchecked, you may need to replace your roof entirely.
And if you think that’s the limit of the damage these gutter guards can do to your home’s roof, you’ve got another thing coming. They could make your home’s roof collapse.
Your roof’s fascia is not designed to bear heavy weights, which is why gutters and downspouts are largely very lightweight. However, gutter guard installation can considerably increase the strain on the fascia of your roof.
While both gutter guards and the gutters themselves may be individually lightweight, the combined weight can, over a period of time, cause the fascia to bend, coil, and eventually collapse from the roof. And if you do not have a regular gutter maintenance schedule, you may not even notice this danger until it is too late.
What about the winter?
Then, there is the irrefutable fact that gutter covers cannot stand to withstand freezing winters. In fact, some gutter guards increase the risk of roof damage caused by ice dams.
If, for example, the material the guard is made from is not very strong, it may not be able to bear the weight of the ice that is likely to form on it during the winters (on an average, a cubic foot of ice weighs around 60 lbs.).
This is likely to cause the guard to collapse, and as a result, block the flow of melted ice and snow. As a result, you have to deal with the risk of ice dams, which, as we all know, can cause severe damage to a home’s roofing system.
Reverse curve gutter covers pose a different type of ice dam risk. Because of the design, they freeze on the surface and at the nose of the guard very easily. This once again means melt water has no way to get out of the gutter, leading to the formation of ice dams.
They aren’t really maintenance-free
While gutter guard manufacturers claim they are largely maintenance-free and at the very least, reduce the amount of work you need to put in when it comes to gutter maintenance, this isn’t really true.
Gutter guards themselves require regular upkeep. As with cleaning gutters, you will need to climb up ladders to access gutter guards. Then, there is the fact that depending on the type of gutter guard you have installed, you may need to remove the guards in order to clean them. In some cases, you may even need to hire a professional cleaning service to do the job for you. All of this is both time-consuming and costs money, which defeats the purpose of investing in the guards in the first place.
The cost is just not justifiable
The bottom line is always whether any home improvement or addition is worth the money. So, are gutter guards worth the investment? The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding, “No!”
Let’s break down the costs of installing gutter helmets, based on material. A plastic screen is the cheapest alternative, costing around $400 including installation, while foam could cost anywhere between $700 and $1,350. Brush helmets could cost as much as $1,750 on the higher side.
Installing a gutter guard system made of more durable material will definitely cost you more. Steel-screen averages between $1,100 and $2,200. Micro-mesh could go as high as $2,800, while the most expensive gutter guards are the surface tension ones, which could cost you a whopping $6,900 including professional installation.
On the other hand, the national average cost for cleaning 200 feet of gutters by a professional cleaning service is around $160. Even if you clean your rainwater gutters twice a year, like you would if you lived in the Pacific Northwest, that’s around $320 for the whole year. That is a mere fraction of the cost of investing in a gutter guard system that is likely to be inefficient.
And then, there are risks the system poses to the structural integrity of your home’s roof, as well as the fact that you will still need to spend time and effort cleaning the guards themselves.
No matter how you look at it, the cost of installing gutter guards just does not seem justifiable. You’re better off paying a professional service to clean out your rainwater gutters a couple of times every year.