The guttering on your home does a really important job.

Here’s five things you need to know to take care of it properly.

1. What’s it for?

Guttering is designed to protect your home's exterior walls from rain by channelling water from the roof to a drain in the ground via the gutters, which run horizontally, and downpipes, which run vertically.

If they develop a problem or become blocked, you can get water penetration and damp inside your home and if the problem's left unchecked, the damp can become severe.

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2. Why are they often plastic?

Most gutters and downpipes are plastic these days, which are cheaper, lighter and easier to work with than metal ones, but many period properties still have the original cast-iron guttering.

Over time, these can rust and eventually start to disintegrate.

When doing building work, you often have to replace cast-iron soil pipes and the waste pipes going into them, so you can get rid of waste from kitchens and bathrooms, or change the layout of these rooms.

3. What if I live in a listed building?

While plastic guttering is often a better option, if you live in a listed building and it has cast-iron guttering, you'll probably have to replace it like-for-like - consult your local council's conservation office first, as you may need listed building consent.

Planning permission may sometimes be required to replace guttering if, for example, your home's permitted development rights have been removed - ask your local council if in doubt.

4. How can I stop them getting blocked?

To stop gutters getting blocked, consider fitting gutter guards.

These are grates that block debris but still allow rainwater to get through.

Alternatively, try the Hedgehog Gutter Brush, which is a hedgehog-like brush that sits in the gutter and keeps out leaves and other debris because they are deflected by it or get stuck on the 'spines'.

If you don't have something like this fitted, it's advisable to make regular checks for blockages, especially when the leaves are falling from the trees.

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5. How can I spot a problem?

Leaves are one of the main culprits when it comes to blocked gutters, but you can find all kinds of things in them, including plants happily growing away.

If you notice that water is dripping or falling sharply from one place when it's raining, or dripping even after the rain has stopped, this is usually where the blockage - or another problem, such as a faulty seal - is.

Use a watering can to fill the gutter with water if you think there's a problem, but it's not raining, to make it easier to spot.

What are your tips for taking care of your guttering? Let us know in the Comments section below.