Gutter repair and maintenance can be a giant headache for homeowners—nobody likes grabbing fistfuls of muck out of gutters. But catching leaves, twigs, and dirt isn’t the only thing gutters are good for. They also stop rain and snowmelt from ruining your roof. Therefore, you want to make sure your gutters are in tiptop shape. That means zero sagging, corrosion, or sludge buildup.

Below is a primer on all things gutter repair, including tips and recommendations for how to fix the most common gutter problems and how to keep yours clean to prevent any issues in the future.

How to fix sagging gutters

Droopy gutters don’t only look horrible, they can also direct roof runoff to places you don’t want it to go, like into your foundation and under eaves. Gutters sag because gutter brackets fastened to fascia boards have broken. Or because some contractor tried to save a buck and didn’t attach enough brackets to carry the weight of the gutter.

A gutter hanger attaches gutters to the fascia boards on the roof.

Replace the damaged brackets and add a few more brackets along the length of the gutter. Make sure the downspout end of your gutters is sloped a bit lower; the ideal amount of slope for gutters is a quarter-inch per 10 feet of gutter. So if you have a 25-foot gutter, set it at a slope that’s five-eighths of an inch. This gravity from the slope helps water flow through the gutters to the downspout.

For a closer look at how to fix a sagging gutter, see the video below from This Old House.

How to repair seams

Another type of gutter repair that homeowners might have to take care of is fixing the gutter seams. Time, stress, and rust can cause gutter seams to corrode or pull apart, basically rendering gutters useless.

If you notice rust on the seams, remove it with a wire brush, sand it, then spray with a rust-resistant paint the same color as the gutters.

If the caulk around the seams has dried, cracked, or peeled, remove the damaged strips, wipe off the seams, and then grab a caulk gun loaded with sealant and apply to the inner lip of the two gutter pieces you want to join.

You can also apply gutter sealing tape or rubberized paint to prevent water from seeping through the seams. Or you can patch a hole with window screen or a small piece of metal flashing covered with sealant.

How often should you clean gutters?

One of the best ways to keep your gutter from sagging is to clean them regularly. Cleaning gutters is a dirty job, but you’ve got to do it at least twice a year, in autumn and spring when leaves, twigs, and buds fall. The Gutter Rake is one of the best products to get the job done.

How to clean gutters

Choose a tool that expands your wingspan and minimizes trips up and down the ladder, lessening the likelihood of a ladder accident. The first thing you should do is pull on some gloves to protect your hands from sharp twigs or errant pieces of metal. Scoop and remove debris out of the gutter, being careful not to push the muck down the downspout. When you’re finished, rinse the gutters with water from a garden hose; fill the gutter to make sure it drains correctly.

How to clean downspouts

Sometimes leaves and twigs can clog downspouts, those rectangular waterways that catch gutter water and direct it to your yard and away from the house.

To clean downspouts, train a pressure washer down the spout and onto caked-together debris, suggests Brock Hall, owner of New Vision Exterior Solutions, in Amarillo, TX.“The water will also help get rid of mud,” he says.

If water isn’t up to the cleaning task, stuff a garden hose or plumber’s snake down the spout and push the obstructions through. Then turn on the water, which will force broken-up debris out the bottom.

If none of these techniques works, you’ll have to do some sleuthing to find out what’s sticking to downspout walls and joints and preventing water from flowing through.

Tap on the length of the downspout, and when the sound changes from a hollow echo to a solid thud, you’ll have located the clog. Detach the downspout from the side of the house, remove debris, and spray water down the spout to make sure the problem is solved.