It may not be the most glamorous of jobs, but keeping your guttering in good repair is an essential home maintenance task. Throughout the year the exterior of your home takes a constant battering from the elements - particularly wind and rain. This can take its toll on the masonry and guttering systems. If your guttering isn't working properly, water will overflow and saturate the wall below which can turn into a very expensive problem to remedy. For this reason it’s best to try and fix any problems with your gutters as soon as possible.
If you have water overflowing from the guttering or leaking from the joints you know it needs attention. Read on to discover the most common causes for overflowing guttering and how to fix them.
Can you repair guttering yourself?
You don't have to be a professional to fix guttering, so long as you have a good head for heights and take the appropriate safety precautions when working at height. Make sure your ladder is secure before you start work. Never rest it against guttering – use a ladder stand-off instead and ladder stabilisers on uneven ground.
A scaffold tower isn't as easy to manoeuvre as a ladder, but it does offer you a safe working platform and plenty of space to put your tools. On soft or uneven ground, stand the feet of your tower on level scaffold boards to prevent wobbles and make it more stable.
When dealing with long lengths of downpipes or guttering, try to get someone to help you, this will make the job quicker, easier and less prone to accidents.
The most common guttering problems and how to fix them
Blocked guttering outlet
First stuff an old rag the bottom of the downpipe - this will stop any debris getting into the drain. Use a small trowel to scoop out the leaves and silt from the gutter outlet. Remove the rag, and rinse the gutter and downpipe with water – a hose pipe is the easiest way to do this. To stop the problem recurring, fit a leaf guard cover, or a ball of chicken wire, over the outlet, and attach gutter netting over the guttering (simply cut it to size and clip it in place).
Leaking from the end of the gutter
If the end-stop has fallen off a length of guttering, water will run off the end. Replacement end stops are easy to fit and are available from all good DIY stores - just check the dimensions and profile of your guttering to make sure you buy one that fits correctly.
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If a plastic downpipe is loose or rattling, inspect it to see if one of the clips has lost a connecting bolt. If so, replace it with a galvanised bolt of the same size. Another reason the pipe is loose could be that the wall plugs have worked away from the wall. If this is the case, replace them and refix the screws, or fit new 6.5mm gauge galvanised screws. If a cast iron downpipe is loose, remove the fixing nails or screws and insert wall plugs. Then hammer the nails back in or fit galvanised screws. If wooden plugs are loose, simply remove and replace them.
Leaking gutter joints
If the joints on a metal gutter are leaking, scrape any dirt out of the joint and dry it thoroughly. Next, inject roof and gutter sealant into the joint with an applicator gun. If you have plastic guttering joined with a union piece, one of the gaskets may be damaged. Carefully squeeze the gutter to release the union piece, pull the gasket away and replace it with a new one. Loose or wrongly positioned brackets can cause the guttering to sag, so that the water pools in the dip rather than flows away. If the screw has worked loose, simply insert a wall plug and re-screw the bracket. However, if the bracket was not positioned correctly, fill the hole and refix it. If your guttering still sags you will need to fit extra brackets to support it.
If your downpipe leaks when it rains heavily, this could be an indication that the section of pipe below the leak is blocked. You might be able to simply dislodge the blockage with a garden hose. Cover the drain, turn on the water and direct it up the downpipe. If that doesn't fix the problem and the blockage is near the top of the pipe, use a length of wire to clear it. If it's near the bottom, use a drain rod or take a section of the pipe apart.
If the joints on your downpipe are leaking, this is a sign they could have worked themselves loose. To repair them, clean around the area you need to fix with a wire brush to remove any loose paint or rust. Next, cut a length of repair tape a few centimetres longer than the width of the downpipe and remove the paper backing. Carefully wrap the tape around the joint, making sure you overlap the ends. Press the tape firmly with your fingers to mould it to shape around the joint.
Overflowing hopper head
Water overflowing from a hopper head is usually caused by leaves, clumps of moss from the roof or other debris in the hopper head itself, or sometimes its an indication of a blockage in the downpipe below it. To remedy the problem, don a pair of gloves and scoop out any leaves in the hopper head. If the downpipe is blocked, first try unblocking it from ground level. Cover the drain, turn on the water in a garden hose to full force and push it up the pipe to dislodge the debris. If this doesn't work, try using drain rods to unblock the downpipe from the top.
Rusted cast-iron guttering
Many older properties have cast iron gutters, which can show signs of rust over time. Patches of rust can be easily smoothed off using an emery cloth, but don’t rub so hard that you create a hole. If there are large areas of rust, use a wire hand brush or use a round wire cup brush fitted in an electric drill to brush them away. Once the rust has been removed, paint the affected area with a rust-inhibiting metal primer, and then with gloss paint. If there are any small holes in your cast-iron gutter, use roof and gutter sealant to fill them before painting the guttering. Before applying the sealant clean around the area you want to repair with a wire brush to remove loose paint or rust. Use an old screwdriver to dig out any old jointing material. Wearing heavy duty gloves, press the nozzle of the sealant gun into the joint, and slowly run a bead of roof and gutter sealant around the pipe. Make sure you've thoroughly filled the cavity. Finally, smooth the sealant with your finger to leave a neat finish. Larger holes can be filled with glass-fibre filler, but if the guttering is in really poor condition with a lot of holes it is better to replace it altogether rather than patching it up.
If none of the above can solve your problem, or your guttering is irreparably damaged, check out our step-by-step guide to replacing your guttering.
Common mistakes when repairing and maintaining guttering
- Damaging your guttering during cleaning. The most common way this happens is by leaning a ladder against the guttering instead of the wall of your home. The extra weight could cause the gutter sections to bend, buckle, or separate at the seams. It’s also important not to lean your body on the guttering or brace your weight against a gutter section while up on a ladder. Use a ladder stabiliser or a scaffold tower to give you easy access to your gutters without damaging your system,
- Forgetting to clean your gutters often enough. You should clean out your guttering at least twice a year. Otherwise, all of the leaves, moss, pine needles, twigs and debris will build up and cause clogging. When that happens, rainwater will overflow onto the ground near your foundations.
- Forgetting to flush your downpipes. Gutter cleaning is more than just scraping out the debris sitting inside the gutters. You have to make sure that your downspouts are free draining too. Use a hose and spray water into the top opening and make sure that it flows freely out of the bottom one.
- Forgetting to check for leaks. After you remove all of the debris from your guttering, inspect the gutters themselves for rust spots, holes, or cracks. Pay particular attention to the seams where the gutters are soldered together. If a gutter section is leaking, replace it as soon as possible.
How much would it cost to get someone out to repair my gutter?
If you’re not a confident DIYer or don’t have a head for heights and would prefer to get a professional in to repair your gutter you need to be aware of the cost. The average cost of gutter repair depends on a few factors:
- The type of guttering: uPVC, cast iron, or aluminium.
- The amount of guttering that needs repair.
- The type of repair: gutters, downpipes, joints or brackets.
- The size of your property.
- Ease of access to the guttering, for example will it require scaffolding?
- Where you live – expect to pay more in London.
According to checkatrade.com, on average you can expect to pay between £120-£180 to have a single gutter length repaired on medium-sized semi-detached property.
Anna-Lisa De’Ath is a freelance magazine editor and journalist specialising in homes & interiors, gardening and crafts