Plastic vs metal gutter guard | What’s best?

Need a gutter guard? There are many types of gutter guards on the market but generally, they are classified under two types: plastic and metal. Each has features and benefits of their own, so homeowners should be aware of each:

Property owners frequently ask: which is better plastic or metal gutter guard? The answer is that it depends. Metal gutter guards are the best choice for most properties, but it ultimately depends on the location, roof material, roof size, and homeowner’s budget. 

In Australia, metal gutter guards are the most popular type of material used to protect homes. High-quality metal won’t warp or rust under harsh temperatures and extreme weather. However, there are some applications where plastic gutter guards are more suitable. 

In coastal areas, metal materials are likely to corrode due to the heavy salt spray from the ocean. In areas like this where corrosion is an issue, plastic gutter guards are a better choice than metal. Plastic gutter guards are also a great choice on properties with galvanized roofs. The galvanic coating won’t react with plastic as it will with metal materials. 

Which is Better, Plastic or Metal Gutter Guards?

Both plastic and metal gutter guards provide certain benefits for property owners. The best choice will depend on a few factors, like the property’s location, the type of property (residential or commercial), the type of roof and gutters, and the owner’s budget.

Metal Gutter Guards

Plastic Gutter Guards

Fire-resistant

Ideal for coastal application (not all)

Durable, long-lasting

Used for galvanised roofs

Available in aluminium, Colorbond® steel, stainless steel and galvanised steel alternatives

Cheaper alternative to metal

DIY options available

Available in gutter mesh, vinyl sheets, brush gutter guard and foam inserts and more. 

Large range of metal gutter guards

DIY options available

Easy installation and proffesional installation options

Easy installation and proffesional installation options

Bird proofing, possum and vermin protection

1-15 years longevity (depending on the product)

AS420 Drinking water standards available

Ember guard products available with BAL ratings

15-25 years 

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Metal Gutter Guards

Most property owners in Australia prefer metal gutter guards as they are stronger and safer in areas prone to bushfires. Metal gutter guards typically last longer than their plastic counterpoints which is another reason homeowners tend to choose metal over plastic. 

The most commonly used types of metal are aluminium and stainless steel. High-quality metals like aluminium and stainless steel are more expensive but you get what you pay for. Using cheaper metals could lead to problems down the road, like rusting which can damage the roof and gutters. Cheap metals are also more likely to distort under the sun. 

Types of Metal Gutter Guards

There are a variety of different metal gutter guards and each has its own pros and cons. The important thing to remember is that high-quality metals are better for longevity. Metal gutter guards are available in solid plates or rolled mesh. Mesh gutter guards are popular because they have a tiny aperture (hole) size which allows water to flow through while blocking out debris. 

 

Different metals have different Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) ratings. BAL ratings are based on a building’s fire risk, especially related to bushfires. When choosing the metal gutter guard protection type to install, make sure you pick a material that complies with the property’s BAL score.

Aluminium Gutter Guards

Most Australian property owners choose aluminium mesh to protect their gutters because the material is corrosion-resistant, non-combustible, and flexible which makes it easy to install. 

 

Corrugated roof gutter guard

Aluminium mesh gutter guards are made by weaving the aluminium into diamond shapes which expand and contract. This expansion can cause the seams to leak over time, especially in areas with heavy tree branch fall and large rodents. So while aluminium is not quite as strong as steel, it is easier to work with and strong enough for most buildings.

TuffMesh is Australia’s toughest aluminum gutter guard mesh.

Quality aluminium gutter guard mesh is powder-coated in colorbond colours. Powder coating increases the mesh’s durability and protects against UV exposure and corrosive trace elements in rainfall. The coating also prevents the colour from fading in the sun, ensuring you have a perfect colour match for your tile or metal roof. 

Some exceptions to gutter mesh powder coating are poly mesh and steel mesh. This does not mean poly mesh is a lesser gutter mesh solution – highly recommended for coastal area application or used with galvanised roof metals. However, it is generally considered less durable than metal guards. 

Aluminium is a strong metal that deter birds, vermin, and other pests from nesting in gutters and is compatible with properties up to a BAL-29 rating. Aluminium’s versatility makes it the perfect choice for most homes in Australia. 

Some aluminium meshes, such as our TuffMesh range, are AS4020 rated for rainwater consumption and usage. This material is suitable in the gutter filtration components of rainwater harvesting systems. 

Average Specifications:

  • LWG: 6.25mm
  • SWG: 4.35mm
  • Aperture: 3.5mm (average hole size)
  • Plate thickness: 0.48mm
  • Strand width: 0.7mm

Stainless Steel Gutter Guard

Stainless steel gutter guards are available as panels or mesh. Australian installers generally prefer mesh over panels because they permanently fix the roof and gutter. 

The mesh panels easily lift in bad weather which can be extremely dangerous. 

Low-cost panels are highly susceptible to rust and corrosion.

Colorbond® Steel Gutter Guard

steel mesh gutter guard ember guard

The most popular type of steel mesh is Colorbond® steel mesh. Steel mesh is strong and durable and is made from Colorbond Bluscope® Steel that provides an excellent colour match with your roof and gutters. Compared to aluminium mesh, steel mesh is stronger but more difficult to install due to its weight and inflexibility- meaning it is harder to create a slope that encourages leaves to fall naturally to the ground. 

SteelMesh is also an excellent ember guard for BAL-40 or BAL-FZ ratings in bushfire-prone areas. In these areas, homes and commercial buildings are extremely vulnerable to fire and ember attacks: Colorbond steel mesh is non-combustible and fire-rated.

steel mesh

FEATURES & BENEFITS

  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • BAL-12.5, BAL-19, BAL-29, BAL-FZ
  • 0 Flammability Index
  • CSIRO non-combustible rated
  • Made in Australia
  • Custom galvanised products are available
  • 20-year material warranty

Galvanised gutter guard

Galvanised steel is a durable metal, but it is not the metal of choice for most Australia homeowners. Galvanized steel is made by dipping the steel into zinc, which gives it an anti-corrosive property. However, the steel mesh is disadvantaged for a number of reasons, including:

  • The metal is highly reactive to other metals, such as copper, brass or uncoated aluminium roofs – causing rust and corrosion. 
  • The protective zinc coating is also susceptible to wear off, making the gutter guard more susceptible to rust
  • It is heavier than aluminium metal, making installation more difficult. 

However, galvanized steel gutter guards are used when the roof and/or gutters are also galvanized, ensuring that there is no reaction between metals. It is especially popular in commercial projects and in rural areas where galvanized steel is popular. 

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Plastic Gutter Guards

Although most homeowners use metal to protect their gutters, that’s not to say that plastic gutter guards don’t have their advantages. Some people choose to go with plastic material for the following reasons: 

  • Cheaper than metal materials
  • Available in high-quality polyethylene
  • Won’t rust or corrode 
  • Doesn’t react with galvanised roofs 
  • Easy to self-install

If you are going to use plastic gutter guards, it’s important that you look for high-quality plastic like polyethylene. Cheaper plastics won’t last long so it’s worth your time and money to go with more expensive plastic material. Polyethylene is strong enough to handle extreme heat and UV rays without fading or warping. 

Plastic gutter guards are available in different products and materials like metal gutter guards. The quality and prices vary among the different plastic gutter guard products, so ensure you do your research.

Polyethylene Gutter Mesh

integrated plastic gutter mesh

Polyethylene mesh, or poly mesh, is a great choice for homes near the coast. These properties benefit from a gutter mesh that won’t corrode from saltwater exposure. 

Poly mesh is the strongest plastic mesh and gutter guard available in Australia and has been used on roofs for over 25 years. Like the metal mesh, it is strong and durable and achieves a great finish on the roof as the guard is colour-matched to the roof and gutters using Colobond® colours.

Importantly, the poly mesh is not suitable as an ember guard or bushfire protection and does not comply with bushfire safety standards. The material is also not suitable for properties with tank water used for general household consumption as it does not meet AS4020 standards

TuffMesh Poly is Australia’s toughest poly mesh.

corrugated roof gutter guard

FEATURES & BENEFITS

  • Suitable for coastal areas
  • Strongest Poly available
  • Suitable for all roofs including galvanized
  • Extra strong UV stabilised polyethylene
  • 15-Year Material Warranty

Brush Gutter Guards

A brush gutter guard is made from UV-resistant plastic bristles connected to a metal wire core. They are simple to install in a standard gutter. The guard sits inside the gutter and the bristles keep out debris and leaves while allowing rainwater to flow easily. 

brush gutter guard

Brush gutter guards are not easily seen from ground level, however, they require constant cleaning when leaves and debris get caught in the bristles. It is easy to remove from the gutter, but it can also be easily removed by birds, vermin and possums. Leave and debris accumulation may also attract insects and other pests into the bristles. Thus, it is not suitable for bird proofing your gutters.

Foam inserts

Foam inserts are cheap and easy to self install but don’t always get the best results. Although foam inserts can prevent leaves and debris from clogging gutters, they do not provide protection from rodents, birds, branches or bushfires.

foam inserts

Over time, UV exposure can shrink and warp the foam leading to unwanted leakage. Leakages and water build-up are common under the guard as the foam inserts prevent it from naturally evaporating causing damage or rust. 

Foam inserts are a good temporary fix, they are cheap and easy to get ahold of but they won’t last longer than a few months.

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Residential vs Commercial Properties

Trimdek commercial gutter guard

The main difference between residential and commercial properties is the gutter style. K-style and U-shaped gutters are the typical choice for residential properties. Traditionally, box gutters are favored for commercial properties. However, the modern-style architecture now incorporates more box gutters and larger span gutters.

Box gutters are wider and deeper than gutters used in residential homes. Additionally, they are located between two adjoining roofs and collect rainfall from both. This location can make clogged gutters a real problem for business owners, so installing a quality gutter guard is important. 

An aluminium metal gutter guard is the best choice for commercial properties with parapets and box gutters as its spans across the wide gap. The TuffMesh range is specially designed to fit these styles of gutters and installation is easy.

Choose the right material

Before you decide which type of gutter protection to use, think about the longevity of your project, your budget, your location, and how you will install the guard. Remember that high-quality materials like a commercial grade aluminum gutter mesh will last longer and keep the most debris out of your gutters.

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