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Tips for Installing Gutter Guards

Jim TrummDec 13, 2017

You’re an intrepid do-it-yourselfer who’s not afraid of ladders, but you’re tired of cleaning out gutter crud two, three, or four times a year. So you run out to the home improvement store and buy some gutter guards to install yourself. You understand that even with the guards, you’ll still have to occasionally clean your gutters, but you’re optimistic that once the guards are in place, you’ll be up on that ladder much less often. OK—what are you in for?

Clean & Repair Your Gutters Before Installation

Before you can think about putting up gutter guards, your gutters need to be clean and in good shape. So get up on that ladder and scoop out the crud, secure in the knowledge that henceforth this job won’t be so nasty or frequent. Rinse out the gutters with a garden hose and make sure the downspouts run freely. Check to make sure that the gutters are tightly snugged up against the fascia. Straighten out any serious bends and dents—the guards may not work as well if the gutter surfaces are wavy or bent.

Measure the Length of Each Gutter Before Purchasing

You know the old saying, measure twice, cut once? That applies here. The length of your gutters will determine how much you have to buy. Gutter guards are generally sold by the linear foot. Some come in long rolls, while others come in pre-cut three- or four-foot lengths. With some kinds of guards, such as brush and foam types, you won’t have to worry much about waste. You can cut those to whatever lengths you need. Filling in with shorter cuts won’t seriously impair their effectiveness. However, it you’re installing micro mesh, screen, or grille-type guards, you’ll want to minimize seams. That means that you’re inevitably going to have some scrap. Allow for 10% waste when you buy. After all, you can always return what you don’t use.

Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions

Maybe you think you’ll get a certain amount of DIY cred from tossing the manufacturer’s instructions and figuring things out for yourself. Listen up: save that kind of posturing for less vital projects. If you don’t install per factory instructions, you’ll likely lose any hope of a successful warranty claim if your guards don’t work. That’s not good. If you take a hammer and nails and start banging away at your roof, you may void your roof warranty. That’s really not good. Guards that aren’t installed right can cause gutters to overflow or the guards to overshoot and dump gallons and gallons of water down the exterior walls of your house into the foundation. That’s so not good it’s not funny.

Fasten Guards in Windy Areas

Pro tip: being high up and exposed as they are, gutters take a lot of buffeting from the wind. Screen guards, grill guards, and even micro mesh guards can be blown right off your gutters in a good storm. If you live in a particularly windy area, or if one side of your house seems to get a lot more wind than other sides, go heavy on the gutter guard fasteners in that area.

Inspect the Guards and Clean Your Gutters Twice a Year

Wait, what? You thought you were going to be excused from cleaning your gutters twice a year just because you have gutter guards? Sorry to disappoint you. Despite what some manufacturers claim, there is no such thing as a gutter guard that keeps out every mote and molecule of gutter crud. Dust, pine needles, tiny pieces of decaying shingles, insects, pollen, seeds, and other debris can still find their way through even the best gutter guards. So put a mark on your calendar to bust out the ladder and head up to your roof six months after the installation is complete. Brush and foam guards may have to be removed and rinsed or blown free of dirt and contaminants. If the gutters themselves are still relatively clean, you can clean them out with a garden hose or a blower. But even the least effective gutter guards will make this job easier, cleaner, and faster than the chore of cleaning out your unguarded eaves troughs.