Considering that cleaning gutters is relatively straightforward, we’re surprised by the number of complaints we receive from Checkbook subscribers. Common gripes include work not done correctly, leaving a mess, damage to property, missed appointments and poor communication.
Ask each company you’re considering to provide a price estimate over the phone — or, better yet, to inspect your home and provide a written quote. Most companies are willing to do this, and you usually don’t need to be home. Getting several price quotes will probably save you money. When Checkbook’s undercover price shoppers called a sample of companies for their prices to clean the gutters on a two-story, 2,500-square-foot home with a steep roof and gutters that measured 80 linear feet, prices ranged from less than $75 to more than $190.
Because gutter cleaning can be dangerous, ask any company you consider to provide proof that it carries liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
If you don’t already have gutter guards installed, companies you speak with may offer to install them. Among the least expensive options are metal or vinyl screens that let water through while catching leaves and other debris that eventually fall or blow off. These screens usually cost about $5 to $8 per linear foot, installed.
More expensive options are covers, usually made of aluminum or vinyl, which are designed to allow rainwater to flow into gutters while debris is caught on top or washed away. These typically cost about $8 to $12 per linear foot installed.
Even if large trees surround your home, gutter screens or guards are not necessarily a good investment. They probably won’t prevent berries, nuts, seedpods and roof shingle granules from entering your gutters, and they’ll do little to prevent clogging by pine needles. When we asked dozens of area gutter installers and roofing contractors whether they install screens or covers for customers, more than one-third told us they never do so, because they find them to be ineffective and a waste of money. Even if you invest in gutter guards, you’ll need to inspect your gutters at least every couple of years, and if there are leaves and debris to remove, doing so will be more difficult if the gutters have guards on top.
Kevin Brasler is executive editor of Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org, a nonprofit organization supported by consumers that takes no money from the service providers it evaluates. You can access Checkbook’s ratings of local gutter-cleaning services free until Nov. 25 at Checkbook.org/WashingtonPost/gutter-cleaners.