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The Problems With Gutters

With plenty of winter storms under our belts already this year and more promised over the coming weeks and months, many householders have found themselves dealing with a variety of weather related repairs. From loose or missing roof tiles to damaged and blocked guttering, the list of jobs is seemingly endless. Most of don’t waste a great deal of thought on guttering repairs but left badly maintained they can leave us with plenty on our minds. Blocked or damaged guttering and down-spouts allow water to leak onto the ground and down our walls. In the short term this doesn’t create a huge problem – although it can create unsightly stains on paintwork. However, left blocked or damaged it can allow water to gradually seep into the buildings fabric, create damp patches inside the building and causing longer term damage. The main problems you’ll encounter with guttering are blockages caused by leaves, twigs and other debris, or rusting creating holes in metal guttering, either in the main body of the tube or at joints.

DIY Gutter Blockage Removal

Depending on the problem it may be possible to access and repair the guttering yourself. This may depend on the height of the guttering and your own ability at working at heights! For single storey dwellings the majority of householders will be able to clean gutters out effectively themselves. Ladders will normally be required and simply using a gutter brush (or stick!) to remove debris will keep water flowing in the right direction, namely the down-spouts and drains. Gutters should be checked regularly for blockages; spring and autumn/winter are the obvious times but if they’re easy to access a check every couple of months is a good idea. Down-spouts should also be checked for blockages (metal grills or cages should be fitted at the top to avoid blockages in the first place). Drainage rods are normally enough to clear any blockages in down-spouts and these can be fed through the spouts from ground level, avoiding the need to work at height. When clearing both gutters and drains be gentle with rods, sticks and brushes to avoid damage.

Metal and Plastic Guttering Repairs

Traditional guttering and down-spouts are normally constructed of metal of one sort or another. Lead guttering is rare today but iron, zinc or aluminium guttering can be found on properties of just about any age. Plastic down-spouts and gutters can also be found and plastic can be a good, cost effective choice for complete replacement of problem guttering. More fragile than iron, or other metals, plastic guttering does, however, have the advantage that it does not rust; if fitted well and carefully maintained it can perform very well. When it comes to repair or replacement both metal and plastic guttering are relatively simple. Guttering is normally fitted in sections, falling at a gentle angle to create a flow of water. Individual sections can be removed and replaced; if you are replacing sections of metal guttering ensure you use the same material as the original. Some metals can affect others through a process known as “electrolytic corrosion” which allows one metal to eat away at the other. Roofing cement can be used to simply patch repair metal guttering and seal the new material to the old. However, if possible, replacing a section with holes makes for a more long lasting and effective repair. With plastic guttering, again, replacement of sections is normally the best solution.

Going with the Flow

One common problem with guttering is that the slight sloping angle of the guttering has been lost; this is usually caused by pointing around the pegs that hold the guttering in place failing over time. For guttering to work effectively water should be able to flow from one end to the down-spout quickly. When clearing gutters it’s a good idea to run water along the gutter and flush the system through to check that water is flowing correctly. If mortar has failed this should be simple to repair; chip out the old mortar, remove the peg that holds the gutter in place, replace and re-point.

Safety Issues and Working at Heights

Working at heights does require some sensible safety precautions, and DIY guttering repair should normally be only undertaken by experienced DIYers. Professional roofing firms like Marcus Roofing, are the better option in many cases, as they have the experience and tools to complete a job quickly. If you are attempting repairs ensure you use sensible safety equipment, including hard hats and appropriate ladders – also ensure you have someone working with you to keep ladders stable.

Freelance writer and DIY enthusiasts, Calvin Ford, takes a closer look at the problems with guttering!