Gutter and downpipe problems on older buildings

Recognising some common gutter and downpipe problems that affect older buildings can help you take appropriate action early. The most common method of rainwater disposal on older buildings is cast iron gutters and downpipes.  Cast iron was introduced in the 19th century.  Many earlier buildings did not have gutters, and in Georgian buildings it was common to hide downpipes internally and use a parapet gutter lined in lead.

Common gutter and downpipe problems on older buildings

Blocked gutters

Check for a build-up of leaves, silt and slate debris, as these can often lead to vegetation growth and block up guttering.

Blocked downpipes

Look for water backing up into the gutter, the gutter overflowing or water forced out of downpipe joints in heavy rain.  Water trapped in blocked downpipes can freeze causing the cast iron to split open.

Blocked gulleys

Ensure any open gulley traps at ground level are free from debris, plant growth and gravel.  Check there are no blockages in the underground drainage system.

Gutter brackets

Check to see if there are any broken or loose gutter brackets, possibly putting the gutter out of alignment.

Downpipe brackets

Check for broken, loose or missing brackets possibly causing downpipes to disconnect at the joints. Look for water staining and algae growth on the wall behind joints and down the pipe.

Condition of cast iron

Look for chipped, spilt, flaking paint finishes or rust on cast iron. Problem areas to look out for are the back of gutters where they are tight against the wall or tucked under slates and behind downpipes and at the joints. Check for small holes, tears and thinning of the surface in lead gutters.

What you can do

Keep all items clear of blockages allowing water to run freely and quickly from the roof by cleaning the gutters of blockages – especially in winter.  Keep the cast iron in good condition by painting it regularly. Make sure you have lead gutters checked by a skilled lead contractor.

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Learn more

Learn more about traditional cast iron
rainwater goods on the Engine Shed website.