Gutter guards

Do-it-yourself systems beat the pros

Last reviewed: September 2010
Gutter guard testing
Rainmakers
Testers simulate rainfall on one of the roof
systems built for this report.
Photograph by Michael Smith

Systems that promise to keep your gutters leaf-free can easily cost thousands of dollars. But our 16 months of outdoor testing show that a low-priced screen may be all it takes to keep out leaves and other debris.

We tested professionally installed and do-it-yourself products sold at Home Depot, Lowe's, and other major retailers to see how well they kept out maple leaves, pine needles, and other gutter-cloggers. We also simulated heavy showers and rain-dumping storms to make sure those systems help capture water so that it flows toward downspouts and away from your home's foundation, rather than pooling there and seeping into the basement.

Our testers saw some big differences among types. We also found that some of those systems could leave you with clogged gutters, cascading rainwater, or both. Here are our results:

Pros disappoint in a downpour

Most of the professionally installed systems use a surface-tension design, where water is supposed to cling to the surface and flow into the gutters while leaves pass over and fall to the ground. Though all were impressive at shedding debris, even the top-scoring LeafFilter screen was only middling at containing a severe downpour.

Convenience costs

At $20 to $30 per foot, the pro-installed systems we tested would cost $3,000 to $5,000 for the roughly 160 feet needed on an average-sized home. The price usually includes free service calls if your gutters ever clog—a plus because cleaning out clogs usually means removing the guard. But you'll pay less than $100 if you install the CR Best Buy Amerimax 85198 or 854054 yourself. You'll still save thousands even if you add in the roughly $100 to $500 a contractor will charge to put in a do-it-yourself system.

Some inserts underwhelm

Most do-it-yourself gutter guards were easy to install. For inserts, you simply cut the foam or bend the brush and press it into the gutter. But none of the inserts were good at keeping out debris. The Raingo let water pour out over the sides of the gutter.