Last winter will be remembered for some serious snow storms and, from the looks of it, this summer will see its share of heavy precipitation as well.  Over time, all that snow, ice, and water takes its toll on your home, especially on the gutters.

Although it may not look like it from the ground, your gutters are actually a critical part of the system that drains water off your roof and away from your home. If you have gaps, cracks, or clogs in your gutters and water can’t flow into your downspouts, then it’s going to overflow your gutters, leading to water running down the side of your home—kind of a big deal if you’re trying to keep water OUT of your home! Often times there is a direct correlation between a wet—or damp—basement and a problem with gutters draining properly.

The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to bring your gutters up to spec. here are four things you can do personally to keep your gutters flowing properly and water away from your house:

1. Clean your gutters regularly, at least twice a year. If you live on a property with a lot of trees, you may have to clean the gutters more often. For the adventurous types who don’t mind the ladder work, most of the time you can get the job done in a half a day or less (depending on the size of your house, of course). All you really need is a ladder, a pair of gloves, a garden trowel or putty knife, and a little bit of patience for dirty work.  If you can do it safely, use a hose to spray the gutters and the downspouts out. If you’re not comfortable climbing ladders or think it’s a better fit for professionals, don’t worry; you’re not alone!

2. Inspect your gutters regularly, at least twice a year. If you go the DIY route and clean the gutters yourself, make sure you spend some inspecting while you clean.

  • Are all the gutters tight to the house with no gaps?
  • Are all the seams tight?
  • Are the end caps in place?
  • As there any sag along the run of the gutters?
  • Do the downspouts carry water away from the house and foundation?

If you notice any deficiencies, it might be time to bring in the experts for a little tune-up.

3. Install gutter guards. The best way to keep your gutters clean is to make sure you keep as much dirt out as possible. While no system is fool proof, there are a bunch of good products out there that you can easily install yourself.

4. Trim trees further back from your house. Leaves cause more than raking headaches every fall; they also stay behind in your gutter year-long and become a slimy black mess that will definitely block up your downspouts. The weight of wet leaves paired with snow can also cause your gutters to pull away from the house or even collapse—which causes even more, and more expensive problems—so making sure leaves don’t collect in the gutters is pretty important. Keeping trees trimmed back a couple of feet from the roof line of your home will definitely help keep the gutters clean.