A stitch in time… Makes good sense and saves money

Rainwater disposal system

What to look for:

  • Cracks
  • Silt
  • Leaf blockage
  • Nests
  • Displaced fixings
  • Leaks
  • Inadequate falls
  • Missing gutters
  • Missing sections of pipe

Every Spring and Autumn, clear any plants, leaves and silt from gutters, hopper heads, flat roofs and drainage channels. Look for blocked downpipes (best done during heavy rain as you will see water coming out of any leaky joints). In dry weather look for stained brickwork. Keep gullies and ground gutters clear, and have them cleaned out if necessary. Snow should be cleared from valleys, parapet gutters and flat roofs; use wooden or plastic shovels to avoid puncturing lead or zinc linings. Consider having an electrician install electric heating tapes for snow protection, especially in inaccessible places. Activated by low temperatures on an external thermostat, the tapes warm up sufficiently to melt channels through the ice and snow, preventing build-ups around flashings and hopper heads.

Remove vegetation from behind downpipes by cutting back or by removing the plants altogether. Use a hand mirror to look behind rainwater pipes, as splits and cracks in old cast iron and aluminium often occur there and are not easily noticed. Fit bird/leaf guards to the tops of soil pipes and to rainwater outlets to prevent blockages.

Check that gutter junctions are watertight by watching them in rainy conditions. Have gutters refixed if they are sloping the wrong way or discharging water onto the wall. If sections are beyond repair, make sure that any replacements are made of the same material as the originals (on older houses, this is sometimes lead but more usually cast iron). Regular painting of cast iron is essential to prevent rust.

Climate change and more frequent and heavier rainfall mean that many existing gutters and rainwater disposal systems may soon prove inadequate to protect your property. It may be time for a wholesale review of your disposal systems. Wider guttering may assist, for example, but if the building is listed you would need consent before making any change to the piping.