Overview of Gutter Guard Types and Brands

Close-up of dead leaves overflowing a gutter
Bobbi Gathings / Getty Images

\Cleaning leaves from gutters is an annual mess for any homeowner with deciduous trees. If you're lucky enough to have evergreen trees, cleaning needles from your gutters is an ongoing process—all year long. Even if you're not in a high leaf/high needle zone, your gutters will still slowly gunk up with particles from composite shingles, twigs, and dirt.

Many homeowners don't like getting up on a ladder to clean gutters or hate the idea of paying a service to do this relatively simple task. That's why inventors from time immemorial have tried to devise gutter systems that let water in but keep leaves out.

Types of Systems

What's out there? Essentially, you've got a choice of three types of gutter guard systems: those that screen and filter; those that block and fill; and those that separate water from debris by means of surface tension.

  1. Screening/Filtering Devices: Metal or vinyl screens that fit on top of existing gutters. Or gutter systems with such screens built into the product.
  2. Blocking/Filling Devices: Strips of very porous foam or brushes your stuff into the gutters.
  3. Reverse Curve Gutters: Water clings to the hood and flows into the gutter; leaves and other debris do not cling and shoot away.

Perforated Mesh Screens

These aluminum or PVC screens fit on top of existing gutters. Water passes through large holes in the ​screen, but leaves and debris filter away or remain on top.

Diamond Gutter Shield product installed
Amerimax

DIY-Friendly

Yes.

Brands

There are many brands out there. One is Amerimax Home Products, which produces gutter filter screens available at most home improvement stores.

Pros

This product is easily available and inexpensive.

Cons

Leaves remain on top of the screen, and the large holes in the mesh allow small particles to pass into the gutter. These particles will either pass into the downspouts or need to be removed by hand.

Micro-Mesh Screens

Micro-mesh gutter screens let only small particles into the gutters through holes as small as 50 microns diameter. This design prevents even tiny run-off composite shingle particles from entering gutters, but after some time, they create a sludge that must be manually removed.

Leaves sitting near a gutter covered in mesh
Leaf Filter

DIY-Friendly

No. Usually, they need to be purchased from a dealer and installed by their own installers.

Brands

Leaf Filter

Pros

Almost nothing can enter your gutters—a plus if you are collecting rainwater in barrels.

Cons

There are few DIY options for this style. High volumes of water may skate across the screens and not enter the gutters.

Foam Gutter Inserts

The basic idea of the foam inserts is to block the gutter before it gets blocked by leaves and other unwanted junk. The material you use to block the gutter is a highly porous foam that comes in 4 foot-long strips. Rainwater sheets off of the roof and rapidly down through the foam inserts. Debris remains on top of the inserts.

Cross-section of an installed Leaf Defier
Leaf Defier

DIY-Friendly

Yes.

Brands

GutterStuff carries some at about $8.00 per linear foot for 4″ half-round gutters. GutterFill also has similar products.

Pros

There are numerous low-cost options and they feature easy DIY installation.

Cons

You still need to clean your gutters. The only difference is that debris sits at a higher level instead of being buried inside the gutter. Some homeowners report that foam gutter inserts promote moss growth.

Gutter Brush

Much like the foam inserts, Gutter Brushes fill the gutter's cavity. Water passes easily through the bristles. The intent is to allow some debris to remain in the bristles and decompose. Larger debris will blow away or can be removed by hand.

Gutter Brush installed in a gutter
Gutter Brush

DIY-Friendly

Yes.

Brands

Gutter Brush

Pros

Gutter Brush is easy to install and cheap.

Cons

You cannot remove all debris from the brushes.

Reverse Curve Surface Tension Systems

Surface tension gutters are a cool concept. The idea is that water "sticks" to a curved ridge, following that ridge even as it bends upside-down. By that point, the water will flow off of the ridge and pour into the gutter. Instead of following the curve, debris flows straight off onto the ground.

Dynamic Metal Rendering notes that these "reverse curve" gutters are nothing new: they were first patented in 1908 by George Cassens.

Diagrams of Reverse Curve Gutter Systems

DIY-Friendly

No. Generally, you cannot buy these gutters on the retail market and they must be installed by an authorized installer. However, Amerimax does offer a similar, DIY-friendly retrofit device that they call the Solid Gutter Cover.

Brands

LeafGuard

Pros

These gutters are seamless and sealed. The curved hood blends in with ​the roofline.

Cons

Because they are sealed, you can run into problems if you have to get inside the gutters, and you usually cannot install these gutters by yourself.

It's debatable whether reverse-curve gutters work at all. For some homeowners, the water does not flow into the trough at high volumes. Debris doesn't always sheet away, either; it sometimes clogs the opening.