Do Leaf Filters And Gutter Guards Really Work?

By Gutter Expert Henry Gerbin
Updated On

Are you wondering if leaf filters and gutter guards really work?

Well, you definitely came to the right place!

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How gutter cleaning saves you money
  • The dangers of dirty gutters
  • How to clean your gutters

And much more!

RGR FEATURED Leaf Filters And Gutter Guards

So, if you’re looking for answers on how gutter guards work, keep reading our guide below to learn everything you need to know.

Do Leaf Filters and Gutter Guards Really Work?

Yes, leaf filters and gutter guards do work! While they have different designs, they are both effective methods of keeping leaves, twigs, debris, and pests out of your gutters and downspouts

With that being said, due to their different designs, leaf filters and gutter guards have different pros and cons. We’ll explain these soon, but first, we’ll explain how they work and how to maintain your clean gutters. 

What Are Gutter Leaf Guards?

Gutter guards feature unique designs that help prevent small and large debris from entering your gutter system and causing problems. While they still allow water to filter through, the design prevents leaves, twigs, or other debris from building up in the rain gutter. 

Basically, they are curved pieces of aluminum caps with a notch that allows water to flow into the gutter while keeping twigs and leaves out. 

They are also known as gutter helmets, screens, or covers. The way they work is quite simple: Gutter guards go over the top of your gutters to filter out debris but still allow water to trickle down through the system, to the downspout, and away from your home. 

While gutter guards do drastically reduce annual maintenance, they are not foolproof. They require correct installation and routine maintenance to do their job at the utmost efficiency.

What Are The Benefits of Having Gutter Guards?

The benefits of having gutter guards should be clear to most homeowners that deal with leaf-filled gutters every fall. 

Let’s face it; gutter cleaning is yet another time-consuming chore on your already lengthy to-do list. It often gets forgotten or set as a low priority. 

However, if you don’t have gutter protection and let leaves and debris collect in your gutters for too long, you will end up having costly problems.

Many unwanted side effects accompany dirty and clogged gutters – flooding, water damage, sagging gutters, foundation issues, and more. 

But with gutter guards, you can prevent clogs in the first place, meaning you can check these potential problems off your worry list. 

Less Maintenance

Gutter guards are best for areas where there is thick tree cover. They are great for homes with flanking trees that drop leaves during seasonally. If you don’t have nearby trees, they probably aren’t worth the expense. 

With that said, gutter guards provide excellent coverage over your gutters, which leads to cleaner gutters for most of the year. 

However, when spring and fall roll around, we still recommend cleaning out your gutter system. But, given that the majority of leaves, sticks, and debris will never get into the gutter thanks to the gutter guards, it is much easier. 

Generally, you don’t have to remove the gutter covers to clean the gutters. However, if you need to remove the covers for a deeper cleaning, it can be a chore and cost you or your gutter cleaning professional more time.


Gutter guards can be an outstanding investment, especially on homes requiring professional gutter cleaning multiple times per year. The cost of gutter guards varies widely, primarily based on:

  • The size of your home
  • Your location
  • Brand
  • Local labor rates 

For example, let’s say a homeowner spends an average of $250 per year on gutter cleaning services, and for their home and location, gutter guards cost $1,500 to install

In this case, it would take the homeowner about six years to break even on their gutter guard investment, which is a decent return timeframe (especially if you plan to live there longer than six years). 

In cases where the gutter guards will pay for themselves in just a few years, gutter guards are a great idea.

Avoid Pest Infestations

Clogged gutters packed with leaves, twigs, and other debris make an appealing home for all sorts of pests. Plus, gutters are located high up and away from the ground, providing a safe nesting area away from predators. 

Birds, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and even snakes hang out in clogged gutters. Stinging insects, including bees, wasps, and hornets also flock to gutters, as they provide a sheltered spot to craft their nests. 

Mosquitoes, ants, and termites also may take up residence in clogged gutters – they like the standing water and food sources that collect in the gutter. 

If carpenter ants or termites get into your gutters, they’ll be more likely to access your home through the roof and attic, causing substantial structural damage. 

By eliminating clogged gutters, homeowners can decrease the likelihood of pest infestations outside and inside their homes. Gutter guards can help you do exactly that. 

What Are The Drawbacks Of Gutter Guards?

As with most things, even the best gutter guards come with some drawbacks. Here are some disadvantages all homeowners should consider.

Maintenance is Still Required

Although gutter guards can be great for mitigating maintenance needs in situations where tree coverage is thick, they do not 100% eliminate maintenance. 

Debris that sits on top of the gutter guards will still need cleaning, as leaves can block the crevice and prevent water from flowing into the gutter. Instead, the water will just roll over the edge next to your home, making the gutter useless. 

Seeds, pine needles, and other types of small debris may slip through the gutter guard, causing a blockage. Even though it usually takes much longer for smaller material to build up, cleaning is still necessary. 

Over time, the gutters may begin to accumulate so much debris that the weight causes the gutter to sag or pull away from your home, or it could clog the downspouts.

Most homeowners will save on their gutter maintenance costs with gutter guards. However, you should recognize that gutter guards won’t make your gutters maintenance-free. Your gutters will still need maintenance and cleaning, just less often. 

You Can Damage Them

Gutters protected by gutter guards still need routine care, although not as often as unprotected gutter systems. 

Homeowners must be careful when hanging seasonal lights and decorations or doing roof and gutter maintenance, as ladders can dent the gutter guards. 

When the gutter guards are damaged or dented, the incurred gaps reduce their effectiveness. Leaves, twigs, seeds, and other debris may be able to enter the gutter system through these gaps, limiting the efficiency of the gutter system. 

Issues With Ice Dams

Gutter guards could lead to roof ice dams. While ice dams can happen with any type of gutter, designs such as a reverse curve or gutter helmets may exacerbate the problem. 

Ice and snow can accumulate on the roof and around the gutters, putting excess weight on the gutter brackets. If the ice dams get too big, the gutters and brackets may fail to support the weight. This could lead to sagging gutters, and they might even fall to the ground along with part of your fascia and roof. 

However, there are solutions to ice dams. Heated gutter guards are one option. The heat prevents the buildup of snow, icicles, and ice dams. 

Another solution is ensuring your attic temperature does not get too hot in the winter. Increasing attic ventilation could prevent snow on the roof from melting and turning into ice. 

Waterfall Effect

Certain types of gutter guards can cause a ‘waterfall effect.’ This is essentially where water cascades off the roof during heavy rains and completely misses the gutter systems due to the gutter guard. 

In this case, the water flows so fast that it dumps over the gutter’s edge instead of falling into the crack. It is similar to filling up a water glass with the sink going full blast– most of the water sprays out instead of filling it. 

Many types of gutter guards, such as hooded guards, rely on liquid adhesion principles to direct water into the gutter. During heavy rain showers, the water may flow too quickly down the roof and overcome the adhesion. 

On homes that have metal or slate roofs, rainwater travels much faster than on traditional asphalt roof shingles, amplifying this problem. 

Pooling and flooding may occur around your home, potentially leading to costly foundation damage. Water tends to follow the path of least resistance and, in some cases, could leak into your basement walls, causing mold and water damage. 

It is best to pair gutter guards with splash guards or water diverters in the corners beneath all roofing valleys. The splash guards help prevent water from splashing over the gutter system in the event of heavy rain.

What Are Leaf Filters?

Leaf filters are a different type of gutter cover featuring a unique design. Instead of the hooded design of gutter guards, leaf filters have a micro mesh screen that filters out debris. It looks and works like the colander you use to strain pasta after you boil it.

Leaf filters have small holes that filter out the vast majority of debris. The mesh screen is metal, rugged, and high-quality.

What Are The Benefits of Leaf Filters?

Like gutter guards, leaf filters have a unique set of benefits too. But, since they’re entirely different from the composition of gutter guards, their range of advantages differs slightly.

Easy Installation

Leaf filters do not require a lot of tampering with the existing gutters or roof, allowing for easy installation. Some other gutter guard types have to attach directly to the roof, which in some cases may void the homeowner’s roof warranty. 

On the other hand, leaf filters sit on top of the existing gutters. Since they don’t require any technical attachments to the roof, homeowners don’t need to worry about damaging the roof of their home. Moreover, the design is not an eyesore and isn’t easily visible from ground level.

Although a DIY installation is relatively simple, professional help is usually necessary. Most homeowners feel unsafe balancing on a ladder while installing a gutter guard. 


Leaf filters are incredibly efficient. Since the mesh screen has tiny holes, they can stop even tiny debris. However, water is still able to travel through without an issue. 

Since they effectively trap the vast majority of particle sizes, homeowners do not need to worry about pest infestations either. 

Not only are the gutters less likely to become clogged, but the mesh screen also prevents pests from entering the gutter from above. 

Quality Composition

For the most part, leaf filters are high-quality and have a long life. They are typically composed of high-grade stainless steel. 

Stainless steel is corrosion-resistant, meaning it’ll last for a long time in all weather conditions. The leaf filter’s frame is typically PVC, which is temperature resistant and helps with its durability.

What Are the Disadvantages of Gutter Guards

Although leaf filters provide excellent protection to your gutters and are a high-quality option, they do have some disadvantages. Homeowners should consider each of the pros and cons of leaf filters before deciding which gutter guard is best for their home. 

Effectiveness May Be Limited

The small size of the holes in leaf filters is great for sifting out varying sizes of debris, but the tiny fine mesh size is also one of the leaf filter’s downfalls. Since it filters out so much debris, including leaves, twigs, seeds, gravel, and other small particles, a buildup of dirt and debris can clog the holes. 

If homeowners do not clean them regularly, the debris may lead to water pouring over the gutter straight down along the house (it is best to clean them with a brush with stiff bristles). This can lead to foundation damage, water damage, and a whole handful of headaches.

Inability To See The Filter

The design of leaf filters can be both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, the filters aren’t an eyesore. 

However, if the homeowner cannot easily see the filters, they are easy to forget. Not only that, but debris can build up and clog the holes, potentially limiting how effective the system is. 

Unlike other gutter systems, where the buildup may be clearly visible, this may not be the case with leaf filters. Since the leaf filter sits almost flush with the top of the existing gutter system, homeowners may not notice debris buildup until it becomes a problem. Again, this could cause damage to the home through water damage.

Water May Miss The Gutters

When substantial buildup occurs on top of the leaf filters, water may flow directly over the top of them, rendering your home’s gutters and leaf filters useless. 

If the water rolls over gutters, it may cause considerable damage to the foundation, not to mention the landscaping around your home.

All in all, without proper maintenance, the leaf filter system could potentially render your gutter system temporarily useless. While you’ll need less frequent maintenance with the leaf filter system, if you skip out on it entirely, you could be sorry.

Should You Install Leaf Filters and Gutter Guards?

Leaf filters and gutter guard systems can be excellent options in certain situations. In areas where there is heavy foliage, they can be beneficial. 

As such, the investment would be completely worth it, as they help reduce the frequency of cleaning and maintenance (and the costs). 

In most cases, homeowners will have to wait at least 1.5 to 2 years to get a return on their investment. 

One of the things to keep in mind when choosing leaf filters and gutter guards is the cost. On large homes, these systems can become extremely expensive very rapidly—the average gutter guard installation costs between $1 and $9 per linear foot. 

On the other hand, leaf filters can cost between $15 and $30 per linear foot. Professional installation may range from $2 to $12 per linear foot, although that is subject to change based on your location.

When choosing gutter guards or gutter screens, make sure to evaluate all of your options thoroughly. Gutter guards and leaf filters can be an excellent option, but make sure to do your research. If you are still unsure, call our gutter professional for help today.

Meet Your Gutter Expert

Henry Gerbin


Whether your gutters are leaking, broken, or you're just someone considering the purchase of your first set of gutters Henry is here to help. He regularly contributes his thoughts and knowledge with the RegionalGutterRepair readers publishing guides and studies on the latest in gutters.

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