As many homeowners don't experience problems with their gutters, they don't think about the maintenance until it's too late. The roof drainage system should be cleaned at least three times a year to remove the build-up of leaves, pine needles, silt and other debris. It's also very important to check the gutters and downspouts before major storms come in and in the Fall when the leaves have fallen from the trees. Gutter guards do not completely eliminate the need for the checking of systems for problems.
The best time to have a visual inspection of your gutter systems is during a heavy rain storm. The rainwater should flow freely from the roof to the downspouts where it is collected in a rain barrel or taken away from the foundation using downspout extensions or splash blocks. It's very important to make sure all the roof water is directed AWAY from the home's foundation. If your system is connected to underground lines or drywells, check them with a garden hose two or three times a year to be sure the flow is unrestricted.
Most homes have "built-in" or "hanging" gutter systems. Hanging gutters, being the most common, are noticable along the edge of the roof. The "built-in" gutter system is not generally visible as they are considered to be part of the roof/eaves structure. Flat roofs will have an internal system that can only be seen when you're on the roof.
Built-in gutters, created from wood with a metal or roofing membrane can be hard to inspect and maintain. If not properly maintained you'll see damage as they eventually deteriorate and leak. The leak can go unnoticed until it finds it's way inside the home or causes bad damage to the roof/eave area.
Problems with hanging gutters are easier to spot. Poorly maintained gutters will clog and overflow. The build-up of leaves and garbage will cause blockage, but also the additional weight will cause them to sag or come away from the roof's edge.
In a few cases, specially designed Gutter Guards may prove effective in helping to keep the water moving but these too ineed to be checked on on regular basis. Don't use lightweight gutter screening, it is not cost effective and tends to get blocked and sag, adding to the maintenance and repair of your gutter system.
Various services are available and a professional should be brought in for built-in systems or for gutters located high off the ground.
If you are unsure of how to maintain your gutter systems, call in a professional. The pro's far outweigh the con's.