cleaning, replacing, repairing, gutters

Remedial Work:

Unblocking:

It is amazing what finds its way into a gutter — dead birds, tennis balls, twigs and fine soil. Before grass and plant growth completely choke your gutters, this debris needs to be scooped out with a trowel; a job that can normally be done with ladder access.

Cast Iron guttering is generally more time consuming to work on. Joints are bolted together (and usually firmly rusted in place), but once released, joints can be cleaned with a wire brush before applying rust-inhibiting metal paint. When dry, the sealant should be applied to the joint, which will then be bolted back together and reinstated. With uPVC guttering, defective rubber seals or connectors at gutter joints, or stop ends, can be replaced with new fittings.

Sagging rainwater goods need improved support so that there is at least one bracket per metre of guttering. If the brackets are fixed to a timber fascia board, check the condition of the fascia; if it has rotted or is not level, it will first need to be overhauled or replaced. If there is no fascia to secure them to, gutters are sometimes held in place with special brackets fixed to the rafter feet. In some cases, the guttering may need realigning so it forms a gentle constant 1:40 slope down to the nearest outlet without sagging. Some support brackets can be adjusted in-situ to alter the fall of the guttering, but unfortunately most cannot. (Although it may be possible to make small height adjustments by inserting strips of packing under a length of gutter where it sits on a clip.)Often the most effective solution is to replace the entire system. Even this can be a challenge on terraces and semi-detached houses where new guttering has to be connected with the neighbours old stuff, so it is important that the correct adaptor is used. Any defective lengths of guttering should be replaced. If it’s only one section, it should be possible to obtain a matching replacement, but it is important to carefully check the shape and diameter.

Adding A Downpipe:

If an otherwise well-maintained guttering system overflows, the problem may be one of design. In some older properties the number of downpipes is minimal, which could cause overflow in severe weather.As a rule of thumb, one downpipe should serve no more than three smallish terraced houses (preferably two). Any new downpipe will need to discharge at their base by connection to a surface water drainage gully leading to a soak-away, or perhaps via a smaller subsidiary roof. Finally, fitting higher-capacity deep-flow gutter is another way to accommodate a greater volume of rainwater without overflow. Also ensure you check that roofing underfelt is projecting down into the guttering by about 50mm, as this helps to minimise the risk of rainwater running down the wall.

Leaking Gutters:

Identification:

Symptoms include:

  • Puddles to the ground below.
  • Wet, stained or slimy external walls.
  • Rising damp or damp patches in rooms.
  • White tide marks on internal plasterwork.
  • Blown plaster and mould on walls, not to mention damp smells.

Implications:

  • There are a number of reasons why a downpipe will leak.
  • They sometimes become blocked and start overflowing at a joint.
  • They may have split, cracked, or become dislodged.
  • A uPVC downpipe can be vulnerable to impact damage.
  • Cast Iron pipes may have rusted through, discharging water straight on to the wall.
  • If water in a blocked Cast Iron downpipe freezes, it is likely to expand and split the pipe, saturating the wall to which it is fixed.

Remedial Work:

A blocked downpipe can be cleared using a long pole or stiff wire pushed down the pipe to dislodge the blockage. The gully (the ground-level drain) below the downpipe should first be covered to stop any debris entering the drainage system. Where a downpipe is connected at their base directly to underground drains – rather than discharging over gully gratings – access for clearing blockages can be restricted (unless it is connected via a gully with an integral rodding eye). You may need to temporarily disconnect and remove the pipe (or the lower section) in this event. Cracked and broken pipes should be replaced. This tends to be a fairly straightforward job with uPVC pipes, simply requiring the brackets to be unscrewed so that the pipe can be taken out and replaced. (Brackets are required at every joint, and should be no more than 1.8m apart.) Old Cast Iron pipes, however, are held by metal brackets (or integral metal earlobes) attached to the wall with big metal spikes driven into the Brickwork, sometimes into fixing holes with metal or wooden plugs. They can be hard to remove without damaging the Brickwork. Although, sometimes brackets are fitted with spacers to prevent the pipe contacting the wall — leaving sufficient space for periodic painting to inhibit corrosion.

  • Cleaning
  • Replacing
  • Repairing

Identification:

Signs include:

  • Damp walls
  • Blown plaster
  • Damp musty smells
  • Rotten timbers

Implications:

In most cases this will be down to leaks and overflowing gutters or downpipes splashing. But damp problems at ground level can also develop where downpipes discharge directly on to the ground next to the house, or where a gully has become blocked. Over time this can cause the ground to become marshy and unstable, even affecting the support to walls from foundations — at worst, causing localised subsidence. Damp in walls at low level is commonly misdiagnosed as rising damp, with expensive and unnecessary injection damp treatments carried out at the behest of mortgage lenders, rather than solving the true cause of the problem.

Remedial Work:

Where downpipes discharge on to the ground, they should be diverted away from the house and connected to an underground surface water drainage system or to a soakaway to prevent flooding from causing damp to the main walls. If the water from a downpipe is overshooting the gully and subsequently splashing the wall, the pipe can be extended at its base by fitting a shoe, which will enable it to discharge accurately. Ponding of water around a gully indicates that the water is not running away properly, often due to a build-up of grease and/or solid matter in the trap, or a blockage caused by debris. A simple blockage may be solved by removing leaves from the gully grating. Alternatively, the blockage can be cleared with a solution of caustic soda or by flushing through with a high-pressure hose. Modern gullies have a fitted back inlet to allow for rod access. Fitting a protective cover over a gully is always a good idea to restrict ingress of leaves.

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