Gutters and downpipes play a vital role in protecting your house from the effects of rain. But unless guttering is regularly maintained it will deteriorate, causing leaks or overflows. The damp in turn causes structural damage which often costs a fortune to repair.
Guttering should be inspected once or twice a year, preferably in late autumn and again in the spring. It will almost certainly be necessary to sweep out any accumulation of leaves and dirt with a hand brush and trowel or, in the case of plastic guttering, with a shaped piece of hardboard.
Keep the debris well away from the downpipe outlet. If the outlet does not have a cage or grille fixed to prevent debris from entering and blocking the downpipe, roll a piece of wire into a ball and insert it in the neck of the pipe. Do make sure that the wire ball is sufficiently large not to fall down the pipe.
With cast-iron guttering, check carefully for any rust. Use a wire brush to remove loose flakes of paint and rust and treat the surface with a rust inhibitor. The surface should then be given one or two coats of bituminous paint to form a strong protective layer.
On Ogee-section guttering , rust may well be found around the fixings to the fascia – in which case the damaged section must be removed for treatment.
Clearing blocked downpipes
Before unblocking a downpipe, put a plastic bowl or large tin under the base of the pipe at the discharge into the drain to prevent any debris entering the drainage system.
When cleaning cast-iron hopper heads, use rubber gloves to protect your hands against sharp edges.
To clear a blockage in a straight downpipe, tie a rag firmly to one end of a long pole and poke it down the pipe. Once the blockage has been dislodged, flush the pipe thoroughly with a hose.
If the downpipe is fitted with a hopper head carefully clear by hand any debris which has collected. Try not to compress the debris, or it may cause further blockage in the downpipe.
With plastic hopper heads, wipe the inside with a cloth and soapy water once the debris has been cleared.
With some systems, the guttering is positioned some way out from the wall and water is directed into the down-pipe through an angled section known as a swan neck. To clear a blockage here, use a length of fairly stiff wire in place of the pole so that the bends may be negotiated.
If a blockage is beyond reach, part or all of the downpipe will have to be dismantled.