We often get asked are there special guards for existing gutters or if any guard can get installed over any gutter, new or old. The best answer is a catchall one–It depends.
Guards for Existing Gutters
If you want guards for existing gutters, you’re going to have to take a look at the gutters themselves. How old are they? Believe it or not, but the “lifetime” of a standard aluminum gutter is about 20 years, so if your gutters were hung before the late 1990s, they’re considered past their expected lifetime. But they’re fine, you think to yourself. Are they really? Here are some things to consider.
Light colored gutters can look old very fast because they show dirt and those gutters act like light trim on your home. When they’re clean, your house looks well maintained. When they get dirty, it can look like your not into maintaining your home. Sometimes a dirty gutter is the reason why your house doesn’t sparkle or is missing curb appeal. While manufacturers state paint won’t rust or chip, the color will fade in the sunlight. If this is an issue for you, consider a gutter color like dark bronze, which looks like copper once it fades from orange and doesn’t look dirty.
How They’re Hung
Next, you’re going to have to look at how your gutter is hung. If it’s old and hung with spikes and ferrules (you may think that those are nailheads in your gutters, but that’s the way gutters were hung until the early 1980s in most parts of the country so they’re already well past their expected life), you should really update your gutters with new ones. But they’re fine, you think. What you can’t see is how those spikes are hung. Often, they’re sloppy and make holes in the back about halfway up the gutter trough. Every time your gutters fill with water and debris, those spikes are a place where water can get pulled onto your fascia, which can cause it to rot. Live in a climate where the temperature changes a lot? Then it’s very common for these gutters to work themselves away from the fascia so they don’t take water correctly and water can get pulled into your home. While you want guards for existing gutters, you don’t want to spend money and cover a gutter that’s already a problem.
Guards for Existing Gutters: Where They’re Hung
Continuing with how your gutters are hung, if your gutters are hung right under the shingles (this is the WRONG way to install a gutter, but
the one that makes it the easiest for a gutter installer to get your job done and then get to the next job of the day) you’ll never get any leaf guard to install correctly unless the installer makes some serious adjustments. If your gutters were hung with hidden hangers, they can sometimes do this easily, but it really depends on your home. If your gutters have lots of corners, you’ll have issues as corners are often held together with lots of messy caulk which makes moving them almost impossible without destroying them. If you’ve got mostly straight runs, you may be in luck because guards for existing gutters have the best chance of working with straight runs.
Are They Pitted?
What’s the point of guards for existing gutters if the aluminum in the gutter has started to pit and deteriorate? If your gutters get filled with debris each season, and if you’re here they probably do, as debris starts to break down they form acids that impact the aluminum. Pinpoint holes or larger can form causing the gutters to leak or sealants to fail. You won’t want to spend money to have a gutter guard installed over gutters that are past their prime. In this case, it’s time to get new gutters.
How Are They Sealed?
Yes, your gutter guard installer will promise to reseal your existing gutters, but that just means squeezing more sealant over whatever globs of sealant are already there. To really do this job right, you have to painstakingly take out all the existing caulk. And that could easily be half an hour’s work or more at each endcap or other joints. Resealing won’t guarantee leak-free gutters, either.
How Are They Hung?
In addition to typically hanging gutters too high, we can’t tell you how often we come across gutters that aren’t pitched properly. Gutters are supposed to be installed on a slight, almost invisible to the naked eye angle down towards the downspout. Makes sense, right? But downspouts aren’t always put exactly at the corners at the end of a run, but the angle of the gutter continues downward. If you can visualize this, it means a whole section of the gutter that stays filled with water like a bathtub, that always catches debris, creating a perfect breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. If you choose guards for existing gutters and that gutter guard design continues to let debris in, you shouldn’t be surprised when you still get a gutter that you have to clean out despite making the investment to protect your gutters.
We could continue to go on with other issues, but at the end of the day, you’ve just got to pick a reputable contractor to work with to figure out if guards for existing gutters makes sense for your home. Let them come out, look things over and give you a fair assessment of your situation. If they have to compromise the effectiveness of the product you’re looking to buy from them just to save a few dollars, we’d hope they’d let you know. And hopefully from the points raised here you’ll have questions to ask when someone comes out and says they can leave everything as-is just to get a sale and leave you with gutter guards that may not work the way you’d expect them to.
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