If you live anywhere near trees that drop their leaves and needles in the winter, you likely know the pain of cleaning out a clogged gutter. Gutter guards are the obvious solution, slipping into your gutter and keeping debris out of the way, but which one should you buy?
After testing for more than a year, we think the best gutter guards right now are the FlexxPoint Residential Gutter Guards(available at Amazon). They're affordable, easy to install with a basic cordless drill, and they held up through a full fall season and a New England winter of heavy, wet snow. While you can pay a professional to install gutter guards for you, these guards are simple enough for even a basic DIYer to put in place—at a fraction of the price.
No matter what kind of gutter you have, we have tested a guard that should work for you.
Here are the best gutter guards we tested ranked, in order:
FlexxPoint 30-year Gutter Guard System
A-M Aluminum Gutter Guards
LeafTek Gutter Guard System
Smart Screen Gutter Guard System
Raptor Stainless Steel Micro Mesh Gutter Guard
Amerimax "Snap-in" Gutter Guard System
Frost King Plastic Gutter. Guard
Amerimax "Lock-in" Gutter Guards
E-Z Gutter Guards
Superior Gutter Guards
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The FlexxPoint "30 Year" Gutter Guard system is the best of the gutter guard systems that we tested. Though it just barely edges out some similar all-metal systems that we tested, we're giving it the nod because of its affordable price, range of options, and its effective design, which keeps debris on top—including pine needles—but allowed water to flow freely in the gutter below.
The FlexxPoint system comes in a variety of colors (black, brown, silver aluminum, and white) and sizes, from 22 feet up to 200 feet per box and in 5-inch and 6-inch widths. The system installs using stainless steel zip screws in the back and front, which provides exceptional durability; I had these installed all winter and they never bent even with several feet of snow on my roof. The screws grabbed the gutter really easily and the hex head makes it easy to both drive them into an appropriate depth and easy to remove even if they were to somehow get rusted, since they're much less likely to strip than standard Philips head screws. They were also easy to cut with basic tin snips, making it easy to cut to the right length as needed.
Overall, these were clearly the best guards that we tested and they also were among the most affordable costing around $1.20 per linear foot. As with all the gutter guards, they do tend to collect debris on top, especially smaller pieces of leaves and pine needles that are less likely to be blown clear by the wind, but the guard was easy to clean and didn't cause any ice dam issues on my home. If you're planning on installing your own gutter guards, these are the ones to get.
My name is TJ Donegan, I'm the Executive Editor of Core Content at Reviewed, which includes our home and tech sections. I'm an avid DIY'er when it comes to home repair, but by no means an expert tradesman. I'm comfortable on a ladder and with power tools, but if I can manage this, so can you.
To test how each gutter guard performed, we first installed each into a 12-foot section of gutter accessible from my deck. It sits below a 200-square-foot roof pitched at approximately 35 degrees, with a single downspout on one end.
The roof has a single layer of asphalt shingles that extend slightly over the gutters, which are installed into the fascia boards on the house. It's not the cleanest installation—I believe a previous owner installed the gutters themselves—and there are places where the bottom row of shingles extends nearly halfway over the gutter itself. This created some challenges for installing the gutter guards, but it also represents the sort of typical issue you'll have to deal with if you're DIY installing these guards in your home.
Finally, I left the top 5 guards installed in my gutters for 10 months to track wear and tear over time.
Testing was pretty simple once the guards were in place. I sprayed a stream of water from a hose for 5 minutes across the entire surface of the roof to ensure water could move unobstructed into the gutter. I then deposited two 5-gallon bucketloads of dry leaves and needles onto the roof and repeated the water test, rating each gutter guard on how well it kept debris from slipping into the gutter and how easy the guards were to clean off without getting clogged.
Finally, I left the top five guards installed in my gutters for 10 months, checking periodically to see how well they kept leaves and other debris out of the gutters, how easy they were to clean regularly, and if they caused any kind of ice buildup or damming over the winter. I also examined each guard for signs of buckling, bending, denting, or rusting.
What You Should Know About Buying Gutter Guards
Gutter guards are relatively simple devices, but there are some key differences to keep in mind that will make one more appropriate for your home over another. The first thing to ensure is you are buying the right width guard for your gutters. Most residential gutters are 5 inches wide, which most of our picks will cover. If you have a large roof that is heavily pitched or a commercial building it may have bigger 6-inch gutters to accommodate the extra water coming off the roof. Nearly all our picks also come in 6-inch widths at the retailers we link to, just make sure you order the right size for you.
Metal vs Plastic: Which Type is Best for Gutter Guards?
The most basic difference between the guards we tested comes down to the material used to construct the guard. Like anything you will install outside, you need to consider how it will hold up to the elements. The obvious issues there are water, snow, sun, and temperature changes. Many cheap gutter guards are made of plastic, which means they won't rust or warp over time.
More expensive guards are usually made of metal, either aluminum or some kind of steel. These will typically be painted in order to protect them from the elements, and unless they get heavily scratched I'd expect them to hold up for quite some time. The main benefit of a metal gutter guard is that it will better support weight without buckling.
The goal of a gutter cover or guard is to let water roll off it and through various drainage holes. Metal guards tend to keep their rigid shape, so they will do a better job of keeping water and snow out. If a guard buckles under the weight of wet leaves and then that water can't drain and freezes, an ice dam can begin to form. It also makes the guard harder to clean, because you can't just brush off the leaves—you'll just brush them under another piece of guard and into the gutter itself.
Installation: Screws or Tension?
The other main difference in the guards we tested is how it is installed. Gutters come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, but they all tend to conceptually work the same way, with a shaped trough for water to flow through and a lip for the gutter hanger to attach. The hanger is the piece of metal that screws through the gutter and into your home, it supports the weight of the gutter when full and helps determine the pitch of the gutter (so water drains out with gravity).
The gutter guards and leaf screens usually attach in a similar way, but some simply are held underneath the lip of the gutter or your shingles with tension, while the sturdier ones are actually screwed into the gutter and fascia boards itself.
All of our top picks are made of metal and screw into the gutter itself. While it may seem easier to work with plastic or mesh-style gutters you don't need to screw in place, this just creates more headaches than it's worth. The plastic, tension-held guards tend to buckle, or leave gaps between sections.
Conversely, the metal, screw-held guards stayed firm even under heavy snow and were much easier to just brush off when leaves began to build up. You will need to cut some to length and spend a few more minutes per section, but you can just use a pair of basic tin snips and shorten them as needed.
What are the Best Gutter Guards for Pine Needles?
Pine needles are very tricky for any kind of gutter cover because they are so thin and can easily slip through the gaps of many conventional guards. Our top picks have very small entry holes that do a good job of allowing water to pass through but manage to keep pine needles out. We tested over nearly a full year and my backyard is loaded with pine needles as well as oak and maple leaves, so you know all of our picks have proven capable of keeping most pine needles from slipping into the gutter and causing issues.
Other Gutter Guards We Tested
A-M Aluminum Gutter Guard 5"
The A-M Aluminum Gutter Guards are an excellent backup choice if our top pick is unavailable. The design is very similar, with a simple all-aluminum construction, though it fastens to the front of the gutter and rests on the back of the gutter instead of using screws on both sides. It does have nice tabs so that two pieces can fit together seamlessly without creating gaps, but we prefer the gutters that have screws at the back at well, which did a better job resisting buckling than this model.
Everything else about the A-M gutters was exceptional: They are easy to install, very easy to cut, affordable (at the time of testing they cost right around $1.20 per linear foot), and they look great. They don't come in the same range of colors as our other gutter picks, if that's something you care about, but they are available for both 5-inch and 6-inch gutter widths and work with a wide range of gutter designs.
In our long-term testing, these gutters excelled. They handled everything from rain to wind to snow without issue, and they didn't allow any debris to clog up the gutter that we could find while checking periodically.
The LeafTek Gutter Guard system is one of the most popular that we found, and it definitely lives up to that billing. Though it's not the best gutter guard we tested, it was easy to work with, lightweight, durable, and affordable. It is a tad more expensive at most lengths than the top picks we tested, though the prices of aluminum (and thus these all-aluminum gutter guards) are variable and that can change.
Overall, it's a quality product that is worth the investment, though it did seem a little flimsier at the seams and the vented ridges weren't as tall as on other gutters. That said, it didn't have any issues in our long-term testing with debris or clogging. It is available in white and black, with enamel coatings for both, and it comes in lengths ranging from 32 feet up to 200 feet at about $1.50 per linear foot. Like our top pick, it comes with a range of hex-head self-tapping screws that were able to easily drive into the existing gutter and will be easier to remove later, even if they were to rust.
The Smart Screen gutter guard system earns high marks for ease of installation and its ability to block debris. They are more like gutter covers that can be screwed in place, with heavy-duty aluminum that wraps over the front edge of your gutter. The instructions aren't particularly intuitive, but it was easy enough to install.
My main issue with these is they allow water to pool up too easily, which could contribute to freezing or ice damming eventually. They were simple to use and are not terribly expensive at around $1.50 per linear foot, but with better products on the market these are tough to recommend.
The Raptor Stainless Steel Micro Mesh is a unique type of gutter guard that uses a heavy-duty mesh of woven stainless steel, letting water permeate but not any debris. It is definitely better at blocking everything that might enter your gutter than the Swiss cheese-style guards, but I found the installation a lot trickier, they're nearly twice as expensive at $2 per linear foot, and cleaning them off can be cumbersome.
The basic installation of these, like other gutter guards, was pretty simple. It comes with self-tapping hex head screws (and a magnetic drill bit, a very nice touch), and you're meant to pop these into place and then fasten them down. It goes smoothly enough, though the micro mesh can pretty easily cut your skin if you're not careful.
The installation guide was refreshingly simple with very clear pictures and diagrams. The one thing I took issue with is the recommendation to potentially pop these under the last row of shingles. It doesn't specifically mention this, but I would have real concerns about that causing ice dams in freezing climates, driving frozen (and eventually thawed) water right back into your home. The guide presents plenty of alternative arrangements though, so it's not a requirement.
The main benefit here is the micro mesh, which will keep out more debris than our top picks. If you're using a rainwater catch system and you want to prevent anything and everything from getting into your basin, this may be a good alternative, but for everyone else our top picks are a better value.
Amerimax Home Products 86670 Snap-in Filter Gutter Guard
The Amerimax "Snap In" Gutter Guard promises a dead-simple installation that doesn't require any screws at all. These are lightweight, affordable, mesh-style guards that are made primarily of plastic. They're meant to just pop into your gutter, using the size of the guard and the gutter to create the tension to keep them in place.
In our experience, these just don't hold up to any significant weight. Even our basic downpour test using a hose caused these to buckle slightly, leaving openings that leaves and needles could flow right into. They may slow your gutters' clogging problems, but they won't fix them. They are affordable at less than $1 per linear foot, but the savings just aren't worth the hassle.
The Frost King plastic gutter mesh promises a simple tool-free solution to your clogged gutter woes, but it just doesn't hold up. This is little more than a roll of plastic mesh that you bend and place in your gutter. It will generally do a half-decent job of keeping large leaves out and letting water pass through, but it's barely able to keep any sort of pine needle or small leaf debris out in our experience.
The main issue here is that this just can't stand up to any significant weight. Though not everyone gets the kind of snow that we do in New England, even more than a lightweight load of leaves and the guard pieces begin to buckle. These are dead simple to install and very affordable (less than $0.50 per linear foot at the time of testing), but unless your needs are extraordinarily limited these likely won't hold up.
Amerimax Home Products 636025 Lock-In Gutter Guard
The Amerimax "Lock-In" Gutter guards are another mesh-style guard but these are just sections of open mesh shaped to fit your gutter instead of the kind that screw into place. They are very easy to install, though the lack of fasteners can be annoying as pieces slide around while you go from section to section (try a coat hanger for a little extra reach if you are on a ladder).
In general, they seemed to work well. They didn't block the pouring rain much at all, but they did keep most of our test debris out. The main issue I had with these is they install by fitting up under your shingles. This isn't as dangerous with the mesh-style guards because water shouldn't pool and freeze on top, but it still presents a huge problem if, like me, your gutters weren't professionally installed. Since I have sections where the shingles hang up to 3 inches over the gutter, this type of "lock-in" installation is basically impossible.
The E-Z gutter guards are very popular online, and they seem like the perfect solution for a DIYer looking to install guards in a weekend. Unfortunately, I didn't find them easy to work with and the build quality didn't leave me with a whole lot of confidence.
Though these guards handle the basics just fine (they're easy to install, cost around $1 per linear foot, and kept most debris out and water in), they just don't seem likely to hold up to punishing winter climates. The mesh is among the strongest that we found that has such large openings, but we did find that pine needles could slip through and the guards were prone to sliding and creating gaps near the ends and in the seams, which could eventually lead to clogging.
Superior Gutter Guards Raised Stainless-Steel Gutter Cover
If regular gutter guards seem boring to you, these "Superior" Gutter Guards feature a patterned raise stainless-steel mesh design that looks great. Unfortunately, they were difficult to work with, didn't install easily, and the mesh gave me one of the nastier paper cut-style slices I've had. They are also expensive, costing nearly $2 per linear foot—about as much as a professional installation in some places.
This product may be different, but having marginally better-looking gutters (that will get filthy with time anyway) isn't worth the price.
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
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