Cleaning Gutters and DrainpipesCleaning your gutters and drainpipes is a useful habit to get into. Overflows can allow damp to enter your brickwork and damage the interior of your home. On this page we provide useful tips on how to clean your guttering and drainpipes effectively.

The Guttering System

The basic guttering system is made up of gutter channelling fixed in a way that allows rainwater to drain towards the outlets. The main gutter is connected via a swan neck fitting to a downpipe that passes the water at the base either straight to a rainwater gulley or via a shoe – a bended attachment – which guides the water away from the wall. Sometimes the system may incorporate a hopper – a rectangular funnel – which allows more than one pipe to feed into the downpipe. If you have problems with overflows always ensure your pipes gutters, hoppers, etc are of a sufficient size to deal with the amounts of water that pass through them. About 10cm is usually adequate for any half round guttering while 7cm pipes are usually sufficient for most household water disposal needs.

Causes of Damp via Gutters

  • Blockages in the gutter
  • Blockages in downpipe
  • Leaks caused by rusty joints
  • Leaks caused by damaged joints
  • A sagging gutter caused by overloading; or faulty brackets or screws.

Clearing a Blocked Gutter

When clearing a gutter always work from the downpipe outlet towards the stop end. This will prevent debris being pushed down the pipe. You can use a garden trowel or a piece of wood. If you want to be clever you could cut a piece of hardboard or plywood into the shape of the gutter to create a smooth scraping action along the whole of the gutter. You can check the system is flowing adequately by pouring a bucket of water down. It’s a good way of checking for leaks. Most guttering is plastic these days. It’s light, hard wearing, non corrosive and cheap to produce. If you have metal or iron gutters you should consider painting them occasionally with a bitumen product or a hard wearing paint suitable for metal surfaces. Apply a couple of coats to prevent corrosion and the risk of leakages.

Clearing a Blocked Downpipe

Always check for blockages below the leak. Place a bucket or tray under the downpipe to catch any debris or gunk. Clean the swan neck at the top – if there is one – with a cleaning wire. An old wire coat hanger can be bent to suit this purpose. Similarly clean the shoe at the bottom as these are both locations which will attract obstacles. If you want to do this thoroughly you can remove both sections. This will enable you to clean much more easily. The main part of the downpipe can be cleaned with garden bamboo sticks, tied together if necessary. If you wish to be more professional you can always buy a drain cleaning kit which will include flexible rods and other useful equipment to maintain your drains and gutters over a longer period. Drain Kits often include rods, pressure hoses, scrapers, clearing wheels, etc. Such kits also usually contain a Double Worm Screw, an effective professional tool for untangling and removing debris from pipes. Cleaning kits are inexpensive and can be bought swiftly online.

Repairing Leaking Gutters/Pipes

  • Clean the gutter first and allow to dry.
  • To repair a metal gutter use a mastic or sealant injected into the joint from inside and outside or rebuild the joint with strips of thick mastic.
  • Adhesive flashing strips can be applied to seal any damaged joints.
  • With a plastic gutter undo and replace the sealing gasket.
  • Repair a leaking downpipe with non setting mastic or a waterproof bandage or tape.
  • If your gutter is sagging, perhaps due to a build up of matter, this can easily be rectified. Simply replace the brackets with new screws if necessary – if the old screws are rusty and bent – or replace the bracket if damaged. The old brackets or new replaced brackets can also be repositioned in a different part of the brickwork for added strength.

Regular Maintainence

Keeping an eye on your guttering is an easy job and if you maintain your gutters and downpipe regularly it will repay you in the long-term by helping to keep your guttering system and your home in good shape. Like any DIY maintenance a little occasional work could be enough to prevent major problems from occurring further down the road.