“In my experience, gutter guards are essential to help ensure water — and not debris — gets into your gutters,” Micetich says. But it depends on where you live and the surrounding tree canopy. According to Coomes, hood and helmet leaf-guard systems work well for homes with trees that shed leaves or needles, because they’re the top culprit for clogging gutters. In areas affected by snow and ice, gutter screens are usually the better choice, because they are less likely to allow the debris inside to freeze. But in areas with high rain volume, a guard may keep out both debris and water, which will then roll over the top of the gutter. “There’s a fine line between restrictive and too restrictive,” Martin says.
And if you have no trees around your house with leaves to fall into gutters, you don’t need guards. Coomes points out that guards minimize — but don’t eliminate — the need for maintenance, because no system keeps out 100 percent of debris. Even with the best guards, gutters may need to be cleaned once or twice a year and may require the removal of the guards. Gutter guards typically range from as little as $0.40 per foot to $10 per foot, depending on the type and material used.