Imagine a home tucked into the woods, with several mature trees standing close and high over the roof. Between the needles, pinecones and leaves on deciduous trees, there is debris falling onto the roof several times per year. Plus, there are always critters up in the trees that might be tempted to head down to the gutters to make a home. But the owners of this house love the natural atmosphere and shade provided by the trees and would never cut them down. This is pretty much the perfect home for gutter guards.

In this home, gutter guards will prevent clogs in the gutters, significantly reduce how often the owners need to clean the gutters and also prevent problems with pests. However, even in this perfect circumstance, gutter guards are not without their downsides. If you’re considering gutter guards, you should know about these disadvantages.

1. Small Debris

Gutter guards will prevent large debris, like sticks and big leaves, from dropping into your gutters. On the other hand, they may be much less successful at stopping needles from evergreen trees. Pine needles are large and may not cause this issue, but small spruce needles may get by the gutter guards in large numbers. That means that if you have trees with very short needles, you will still need to clean out the gutters fairly regularly.

2. Ice Dam Issues

Ice dams can be caused by clogged gutters, so part of the reason you may want to install gutter guards is to resolve these issues. Unfortunately, that may not work. Most ice dams are actually caused by ventilation issues. The roof isn’t properly ventilated, and so it stays as warm as the home–or warmer. It melts snow and ice, which then freezes as it moves to a cold eave or to the cold gutters. Adding gutter guards doesn’t do much in this case.

It’s important to have a roofer assess and address your ice dam issues before you install gutter guards as, if the problem is roof ventilation, they will not fix it and may make it harder to deal with.

3. Occasional Cleaning

Many people believe that if you install gutter guards, you never have to clean your gutters again. However, especially on roofs that receive a lot of debris, gutter guards will not eliminate the need to clean the gutters. Every so often, you will still need to clean them out, just much less than you did before.

4. Potential for Damage

Gutter guards can be especially delicate and heavy. If you lean a ladder against them, you are liable to damage them. And, if the gutters get clogged anyway, the extra weight from the gutter guards means that your gutters are more likely to sag and break under the pressure.

Should You Get Gutter Guards?

Whether gutter guards are right for you really depends on how often you have to clean your gutters and how worthwhile it is for you to significantly reduce that amount. A roofing professional can help you weigh the pros and cons.