I’ve been ignoring my eavestroughs for most of the summer, in spite of the nice man who came on several occasions and offered to clean them out.

But checking and cleaning out eavestroughs isn’t usually high on anyone’s agenda. Let’s face it, eavestroughs are easy to ignore.

And that’s precisely what I did.

Now there are little trees and other plants growing up there. And when it rains, the eavestroughs don’t work as intended. How can they? They’re full of crud.

If you’re like me, you may need a little reminder that you’re in for trouble if you continue to ignore your eavestroughs. Water blockages in your trough and leaking water, if left unattended, can eventually cause a world of pain for homeowners. Things like a damp or flooded basement, roof damage, rotted or ruined siding, cracked and prematurely peeling paint and failed mortar joints could result. You’ll be kicking yourself (and you deserve to be kicked) if you find yourself shelling out your hard-earned cash for these completely preventable types of repairs.

Eavestroughs should be cleaned or checked twice a year, preferably in the fall and in the late spring. This is especially crucial if you have large trees.

To clean, drag out the ladder, dig out the heavy rubber gloves, a brush and a bucket, and scoop out all the twigs, old seeds, the odd tennis ball and dirt that accumulates. And don’t forget to use your garden hose to run water down the eavestrough and into the downspout to check for partial or full obstructions such as leaf debris, a wasp nest (!), or an old bird’s nest.

Then check for standing water in the trough, and determine whether it is sag or inadequate sloping that is causing the problem. If the problem is sag, you may want to adjust, reseat or add gutter hangers. If the slope is inadequate, adjust the slope of the eavestrough to increase its pitch.

As the water runs, check for leaking joints and holes. When dry, seal leaky joints with silicone rubber caulking both inside and outside the seam. Patch small holes in metal troughs with roofing cement. If you have larger holes, you may patch with a sheet metal patch and lots of roofing cement to “glue” the patch down and seal it.

Finally, do yourself a favour and make cleaning much easier by installing a gutter product into your eavestroughs to keep leaf and other debris out. Flexible mesh systems ($4.47 for a 20-foot roll at Home Depot) are better than nothing, but a rigid guard or foam system is superior.

• Rona and other hardware stores carry a system called Gutterguard, which is a rigid plastic “guard” that snaps into the edges of eavestroughs, allows water to flow through but blocks leaves and other debris from falling into the trough. It is available at Rona for $5.99 per 36-inch long piece of rigid metal mesh.

• RainTube (raintube.com) is a tube made of recycled milk bottles that fits into the eavestrough, which collects water through small passageways but keeps debris out. It is an American-based product installed by several Canadian companies, including Gutter Love It and Rain Flow Inc., of Toronto, H2O Gutter Flow in Gormley, Ont., and Eaves with no Leaves, in Calgary. Gutter Love It prices the installation per foot, at $6.75 if it’s on the first floor, and $8.25 on the second floor.

– Sylvia Putz is a journalist with an interest in decor and design. She’s written for the TV show Arresting Design; sputz@arrestingdesign.com.