Cleaning gutters is certainly no fun, but it's a job that has to be done -- unless you install gutter guards, and then it's a job that you have to do a lot less.

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Is there any household chore that sounds less appealing than cleaning out the gutters? It requires you to get up on a ladder, or in some cases, climb around on the roof. And once you get up there, you'll be met with handfuls of soggy leaves, twigs and other debris that have been building up in the gutters.

So why bother? Well, rain gutters are a crucial part of the infrastructure that keeps your house dry and in good shape. They're designed to collect rain from the roof and move it away from the house, preventing water from pooling around the foundation and flooding your basement. But gutters can only do their job if they are kept clean and clear, so that water can flow through them and down the downspout (and hopefully into a gray water storage system) [source: Gurskis].

Left unchecked, twigs and leaves can build up, and weeds and fungus can grow in the gutters and roof. If gutters become clogged with branches, leaves and other debris, they won't be able to do their job. In fact, ignoring your gutters is probably worse than having no gutters at all, because clogged gutters are likely to result in water damage to your roof and fascia board (the molding that sits just below the edge of the roof). When gutters fill up with decaying organic material mixed with water, they become very heavy, and in extreme cases they can become so heavy that they tear off the house.

To prevent damage, most experts suggest cleaning out your gutters twice per year -- once in the fall and once in the spring -- and possibly more often if your home is shaded by trees that drop lots of leaves and branches on the roof. But many people don't keep up with gutter maintenance. The debris that fills our gutters is out of sight and out of mind -- both literally and figuratively -- and it's just one more item on the long list of yard work and home maintenance that often goes overlooked.

If you have trouble keeping up with your gutters (and really, who doesn't?), perhaps it's time to consider installing gutter guards, a device that helps keep debris from clogging your gutters. Gutter guards or covers keep the leaves and twigs and any other junk that can clog your gutters while ushering rain to the downspout and away from your home. Your house is probably the biggest investment you'll make in life, goes the common real estate mantra, so take the simple steps to protect it, starting at the top [source: Hageman].