Gutter Guards vs Gutter Screens: What's the Difference

Gutter Guards vs Gutter Screens: What’s the Difference

Although homeowners often overlook them, gutters and the entire gutter system play a central role in protecting a home from the elements. The gutter protection system carries water away from vulnerable roofing materials and the home’s foundation.

While the types of gutter systems can vary, they all prevent water damage to the home's foundation and other key parts of the structure. And, they keep downpours from wreaking havoc in yards by guiding the water flows to where they can safely drain away.

Even though gutters are essential to protecting your home, they also present unique maintenance challenges for homeowners. If you don't keep your gutters clean, it doesn’t take much for debris to clog them up. 

Even worse, it's difficult or impossible to assess the status of your gutters from the ground. And when you fail to keep your gutters clean for an extended period of time, they can become ineffective and/or lead to expensive repairs.

Fortunately, there are some ways that homeowners can keep their gutters clean while protecting the entire gutter system from the constant onslaught of debris. Two of the more popular options are gutter screens vs gutter guards. 

Both gutter screens and gutter guards offer a measure of protection against debris, but they do so in different ways. Let's take a closer look at gutter screens vs gutter guards to learn more about each.

A Closer Look at Gutter Screens

Gutter screens have long been the most popular gutter protection option. That’s because most gutter screens are inexpensive, easy to install, and easy to maintain.

Metal Gutter Screens vs Plastic Gutter Screens

Most of the time, gutter screens are made of metal or vinyl/plastic and consist of long perforated strips that cover rain gutters. While metal gutter screens are innately more durable, plastic gutter screens can vary in durability and dependability. Whether it's metal gutter screens or plastic gutter screens, they tend to work the same way.  Over time, particularly in the Northeast, metal (mostly aluminum) screens will outlast the vinyl/plastic ones.

Are Gutter Screens Effective?

The screen guard usually features perforations that should block out small debris while allowing rainwater to enter the gutter system. But in practice, gutter screens are imperfect gutter protection systems. The gutter screens tend to do an excellent job of blocking large debris — like leaves or twigs — from entering a gutter system.

However, when it comes to dirt and finer types of debris such as pollen, seedlings and buds, these types of gutter screen protection systems leave a lot to be desired. In particular, gutter screens struggle against pine needles and other thinner, smaller particulate matter.

Different Installation Methods for the Screen Gutter Cover

As we mentioned, not all gutter screens are created equal. Some require simple clip-on installation methods, while others require professional installation that can include modifications to existing gutter systems.

And because they don’t stop all debris infiltration — the install method makes a big difference when it comes to ongoing maintenance. Fixed metal gutter screen systems aren’t easy to install or remove, which can create its own set of problems when the time comes for a thorough gutter system cleaning.

A Closer Look a Gutter Guards

Gutter guards, unlike gutter screens, tend to consist of more rigid solutions like solid gutter covers. They offer decent gutter protection against most types of debris. But not all gutter guards are created equal. That’s because the term gutter guards can refer to a wide variety of gutter protection solutions.

Bottle Brush Gutter Guards

One of the most common among them is so-called bottle brush gutter guards. These types of gutter guards consist of long, cylinder-shaped brushes that lie inside standard gutter systems to prevent leaves and large debris from entering. The trouble is, debris can lodge within the brush bristles and eventually lead to a clog anyway.

Reverse-Curve Gutter Guards

Another variation of gutter guards makes use of gutter covers with a reverse-curve design. Reverse curve gutter guards exploit the surface tension of flowing water to pull water into the gutter system while allowing leaves and other debris to slide harmlessly off of them. But this type of gutter guard is very expensive,  isn't easy to install and can cause problems if the gutter guard isn't aligned just right to allow water to enter a gutter system, oftentimes allowing the water to shoot right over the gutter guard.

Foam Gutter Guards or Foam Inserts

Foam gutter guards use semi-permeable foam inserts to provide gutter protection. Foam gutter guards are designed so the foam inserts absorb rainwater and slowly release it into rain gutters. But while foam gutter guards do an excellent job of stopping debris, the foam inserts aren’t as durable as other gutter protection systems. One of two outcomes tend to occur:

  • The foam inserts begin to degrade (just like a well-used sponge degrades)
  • The foam gutter guard gets overwhelmed during major storms or heavy rainfall.

Although these types of foam insert gutter guards can be relatively easy to install, they are largely ineffective after a couple of seasons.

Micro-Mesh Gutter Guards

Micro mesh gutter guards are something of a cross between gutter screens and gutter covers. They’re a kind of metal gutter screen system — frequently made of durable, precision-milled aluminum — that has hundreds of micro-perforations designed to direct water into gutters while keeping other debris out.

Unlike traditional gutter screens, the micro mesh gutter guard can keep even the small debris out of a gutter system. In that way, the micro-mesh gutter protector acts more like conventional gutter covers than simple screens. That best-of-both-world approach makes micro-mesh gutter guards stand out from the pack as a unique and versatile gutter protection solution. After over 20 years of testing hundreds of gutter screens and covers, we have found the Englert Micro-Mesh Gutter Guard to be the most effective, most economically feasible solution.

Are Gutter Guards or Gutter Screens Better?

Although gutter screens and gutter guards are made to achieve similar results, it’s not always easy to choose between the two. To do so, it's imperative to understand the difference between gutter guards and gutter screens.

Gutter screens, on one hand, offer acceptable debris protection at a relatively low price point. Gutter guard systems, however, work much more effectively to prevent debris, ice buildup and are more complex systems. Because of the superior effectiveness of gutter guards, they tend to be more expensive.

Get the Best of Both Worlds with Micro-Mesh Protective System

But that’s what makes micro-mesh systems such an interesting option. Micro-mesh systems combine the best qualities of gutter screens and gutter guards to deliver superior gutter protection. And because micro mesh gutter guards are typically built out of sturdy aluminum, they come with some other advantages, too.

One such advantage is that they provide additional rigidity to existing gutters. In that way, micro-mesh gutter guards provide debris protection and additional stability at the same time. And the micro-mesh systems will last longer than several of the other gutter protection options covered here.

In fact, micro-mesh systems perform excellently in extreme weather conditions and work to prevent debris, mold growth, pine needles, all sizes of leaves and twigs, buds, seedlings, and more. As a virtually invisible solution, micro-mesh systems come in a variety of configurations and fit neatly out of sight.

This unique aesthetic attribute means this system tends to suit the needs of any existing system. That means getting them installed usually doesn’t require any major modifications to a home’s gutters.

In short, micro-mesh gutter guards check all the boxes — they’re more economical than other solid cover systems, easy to install, and effective — and are the best possible choice among the numerous gutter screen and gutter guard options. 

Contact Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island for the Best Protection for Your Gutters

At Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island, we offer the Englert Micro-Mesh Gutter Guard system because it's simply the most effective and attractive option and a great value. This guard system is proven to outperform screens while protecting your home through heavy down pores. 

As the most attractive option, our Micro-Mesh Gutter Guard System works around the clock to prevent larger debris, smaller debris, and everything in between while reducing the number of required cleanings.

Contact Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island today.

Erika Cruz

Erika began her career at Ned Stevens in September 2009 after 4 years of managing investment portfolios for banks and credit unions. She graduated with her business degree in Management in May of 2016 while working Full-time at Ned Stevens. With 11 years of gutter expertise, as office manager she is in charge of the day to day operation and is fully dedicated to her staff and customers.