Why you should spend next week in the gutter, looking at the gutter

PUBLISHED: 19:01 17 November 2014 | UPDATED: 19:09 17 November 2014

Clear gutters and drains of leaves and debris. November is a particularly good time to do this

Clear gutters and drains of leaves and debris. November is a particularly good time to do this


We may all be in the gutter, but even those of us who are usually looking at the stars should pay attention closer to the ground for National Maintenance Week, which starts on Friday.

10 easy home maintenance steps

1. Check gutters, drains and gullies for leaves and debris 
These should be fairly easy to clean yourself if necessary

2. Look for blocked downpipes 
This is best done during heavy rain to see water coming from any leaky joints. “If they are blocked, the brickwork behind is likely to be a bit darker and there may be plants growing behind it,” says Mears. “If left untreated, there’s a danger of plaster getting damp and, more importantly, any timber inside suffering from wet or, even worse, dry rot. Rot only occurs when a building’s damp so if you can, dry it out.”

3. Wash down paintwork on wood windows 
This will give a good opportunity to check for decay, and will help the finish last longer

4. Take photos 
If you’ve got a record of how things look this year, next year you can see if things have changed

5. Use a hand mirror to look behind rainwater pipes 
Splits and cracks in old cast iron and aluminium often occur here and are not easily noticed

6.If you own a share in the freehold of your building, team up with the other freeholders to carry out a check on the whole building 
“If you are sharing the freehold you have an immediate responsibility jointly with your fellow owners. You could get together and have a look. The person on the top flat can give everyone access to the roof, and then you can go down the building together, all the way to the basement.”

7. Monitor vegetation growing near a house, particularly behind downpipes 
Cut back or remove the plant altogether, especially trees bushes and ivy, as these items growing on a wall can also cause dampness and structural damage.

8. Make sure areas at ground level are clear 
“Keep drain water away from the building and make sure gullies aren’t overflowing so you don’t get water collecting near the building and causing rising damp.”

9. Gutters can overflow if not properly fixed 
“Modern plastic gutters can sag meaning that water will overflow, not come down the drainpipe.” Have gutters refixed if they are sloping the wrong way or discharging water onto the wall. If sections are beyond repair, make sure that replacements are made of the same material as the originals (on older houses, this is sometimes lead, but more usually cast iron)

10. Paint cast iron regularly 
This is essential for preventing rust

How often do you check your guttering? If the answer is less than twice a year then you’re not doing it often enough. If you don’t even do it each autumn then you may be storing up serious problems for your home.

It may not be the sexiest way to spend a wet weekend but the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) is promoting a few basic maintenance steps homeowners can take, which could save them serious money and hassle.

If you don’t want to spend all week peering down drains, then at least put the enticingly named National Gutters Day in your diary as a festive opportunity to make sure everything is looking ship shape before winter attacks with full force.

Roger Mears, an Islington-based architect and SPAB committee member, has several tips for owners of period homes typically found in north London.

He says: “The crucial thing is that this is the time of year when leaves can blow around and block gutters and drainpipes so it’s good for people to get out on their roofs if they can.

“Because so many London terraced houses have butterfly roofs with central valley gutters it’s not always possible, but if access is available, get out on the roof and do a visual inspection to see if there are any loose slates and see if the gutters themselves are loose.

“Look for things that you think might cause problems in future.”

While SPAB founder William Morris’ advice to do a little home maintenance every day may go the way of all good intentions, Mears says that inspecting your property twice a year should be plenty, and if all else fails, to make sure to do so in autumn to stave off potential issues before winter.

He also notes that it shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a boring chore.

“Enjoy looking at your building,” says Mears. “It’s fun seeing the brickwork and how everything works. It’s part of being a building owner.

“We are guardians for the future generations, we have a responsibility to them to look after these lovely Georgian and Victorian houses.”

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