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E3 – Rainwater pipes and gutters

December 6, 2010

Rainwater pipes and guttering are crucial for the efficient and effective discharge of rainwater. Just imagine your house without gutters, the ground around your house would be completely awash!


Gutter leaks = internal dampness

About 95% of the properties I inspect in north London have plastic guttering, however, cast iron and alumimium are still quite common.

Defects to the guttering almost always leads to internal dampness. Indeed whenever, I identify dampness at the base of a wall, the first thing I do is look up to assess the guttering. Common defects to gutters are blockages, followed by loose or leaking gutter joints.

However, for the real gutter enthusiast, the best time to check their condition is during heavy rainfall. Leaking joints and spillage points can be identified very quickly.

During intense bursts of rain, water running off the roof will quickly fill the guttering and spill over the edge. One solution is to install larger gutters in high risk locations.

Grass in often found in gutters

Routine gutter maintenance must include annual removal of debris such as silt and leaves. Failure to clean the gutters will provide a good growing medium for plants to germinate, grass being a common site in poorly maintained gutters. If plants are growing in the gutters it may be due to the gradient being too shallow. Increase the gutter gradient and the gutters start to self clean!

Finally, if you are buying an older house with aged gutters, it may be worth just replacing them shortly after occupation. This small investment will reduce the risk of associated damp problems during autumn and winter.

Plant growing from cracked drain pipe.

Drain Pipes

Fortunately, drain pipes are less problematic, although common defects include leaks and discharge problems at the base.

A property I inspected in Hampstead recently, even had a plant growing out of the wall where the drain pipe was leaking!

A well maintained drain pipe and gulley

The important part of the drain pipe is the bottom section sometimes called the shoe. The shoe needs to be positioned carefully so that the water discharges cleanly into the gulley.

If the water splashes and spills around the gulley the water will create internal dampness, this could end up being mis-diagnosed as “Rising Dampness” at your expense.


Surveyor’s tip

If you’re thinking about selling your house, make sure your guttering and drain pipes are in good shape.

If it has leaked and caused internal dampness, the surveyor will make a note and request the purchaser obtain a damp report.  This will almost always result in “Rising Dampness” being identified. The cost of remedial work is never less than £1,000, this is because the minimum retention allowed by mortgage lenders is……you’ve guest it, £1,000!

Estimating the cost of remedial damp work, along with double glazing, is one of the last great dark arts, a local estate agent told me recently that quotes for remedial damp work on a house he was trying to sell varied by about £5,000! The purchaser will of course try and renegotiate the sale price at your expense!

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