Gutters catch rainfall and melted snow and direct it to the downspouts, which discharge it away from your home. Without this system of removing water, runoff could collect at the base of your house and seep into the basement. Gutters can be made of wood, steel, aluminum, or vinyl. Steel is the least expensive, but has to be painted regularly to prevent rust. Vinyl is the most durable, with an average lifespan of 50 years, and never needs painting. You can get screens to keep leaves from clogging your gutters, but the screens themselves tend to clog up, leaving you with the same problem. The only real solution is to check your gutters at least twice a year, in the spring and fall. If they need cleaning, the simplest method is to make yourself a tool by attaching an angle bracket to a long stick. Use it to rake leaves toward you. Steel gutters can have sharp edges and insects can lurk in piles of leaves, so wear heavy gloves. Downspouts can usually be unclogged by blowing them out with water from the hose. Otherwise, try a plumber's snake. Make sure your splash blocks are angled so they direct water away from the house. An alternative is to get a plastic hose that unrolls during rainstorms and lets the water seep into the yard.