1st May 2024 -

When guttering is not functioning correctly, it leads to a host of issues. These issues are costly and detrimental to the structural integrity of your building. From foundation cracks to mould growth, the consequences of poor guttering can prove to be severe.

Here, we look at the common problems with faulty guttering systems. We explore the importance of regular maintenance, the signs of a failing gutter system and important preventative measures.

What is a properly functioning guttering system?

An effective guttering system collects rainwater and moisture from the roof. It channels the water away from a building’s exterior walls and foundation. A gutter relies on several integrated components functioning together seamlessly.

Gutters with adequate width and depth capture and direct water flow toward the downpipe. They have a slope to encourage drainage and include gutter guards to filter out debris while allowing water entry. Properly installed fascia boards provide a secure mounting surface for gutter attachment and help shed water into the trough.

Downpipes then expel water a safe distance away through extensions, splash blocks or drain lines on a graded slope leading away from the foundation. They are strategically located to divide drainage into manageable sections. Soffits play a role by allowing hanging space for downpipes away from walls.

To prevent clogs, systems utilise cover and guard gutter accessories and regular cleaning or flushing. This is to clear any trapped debris before drainage paths become obstructed. Heating cables in cold climates prevent ice dams from blocking downpipes.

For buildings with basements, the gutter drainage should integrate with the foundation drain system. Downpipes tie into sloped drain lines that carry water underneath the footings to coded discharge points upslope from the home.

Overall, soffits, downpipes, fascias and guttering work together in a comprehensive system. They capture roof runoff, control water drainage away from foundations and walls, as well as utilise preventative measures against obstructions.

6 common problems with poor guttering

Instead of protecting against water damage, poor gutters essentially concentrate water in undesirable areas. This can lead to a range of issues, from relatively minor problems to major threats to structural integrity. Some of the most prevalent problems caused by failing gutters include the following.

1. Clogged gutters

A frequent issue is clogged gutters from accumulated debris like leaves, twigs, dirt and granules from asphalt shingles. When gutters become obstructed, water cannot flow freely, resulting in the following.

  • Overflows damage fascia boards, soffits and roof shingles by allowing water intrusion behind them.
  • Foundation cracks and basement leaks as water pours over the gutter edges instead of draining properly.
  • Soil erosion around the building's perimeter from water flowing over the gutters rather than exiting through downpipes.
  • Added weight from sodden debris can cause gutters to sag, pull loose from hangers or collapse.

2. Improper sloping

Gutters rely on a slight slope or pitch to direct water towards downpipes. If installed improperly without sufficient slope, water will pool instead of draining.

  • Overflows during heavy rainfall will cause water to not evacuate fast enough down the level sections.
  • Leak and water damage to roof and exterior walls near low areas where water ponds and eventually bypasses the gutter.
  • Premature rusting or corrosion of gutter sections that hold standing water for extended periods.
  • Potential ice dams in winter from frozen standing water, allowing snowmelt to infiltrate.

3. Poor downpipe placement

Downpipes should be located at strategic points to carry water an adequate distance from the foundation. Too few downpipes or poorly placed ones result in the following.

  • Pooling water around the foundation because of concentrated gutter discharge in one area instead of being dispersed.
  • Increased soil erosion and landscape damage from water pouring off in concentrated streams.
  • Foundation settling, cracks and basement leaks from excess moisture near the building’s base.
  • Potential flooding issues for basements during extreme rainfall if the water cannot escape quickly enough.

4. Gutter separation or damage

Over years of use and exposure to elements, guttering can become loose. They develop cracks, separate from fascia boards or get struck by falling branches and debris.

  • Water flows behind gutters, moving into roof decks/exterior walls to cause damage and potential mould issues.
  • Uncontrolled gutter discharge and overflows from cracks or separations, mimicking problems of clogged gutters.
  • Accelerated deterioration requires complete gutter replacement sooner than expected lifespan.

5. Incorrect sizing

If gutters and downpipes are undersized compared to the roof area, they lack adequate capacity even when clean.

  • Frequent overflows during heavy rainfall as water overwhelms the gutter volume.
  • Waterfalls over gutter edges accelerate erosion and foundation issues. 
  • Ice/debris dams build up more easily in smaller gutters further restricting water flow.

6. Bonding gutter problems

In seamless aluminium and galvanised steel gutter systems that are meant to be continuous runs, issues with the bonding process lead to leaks and separations.

  • Improper bonding between gutter sections, allowing moisture entry at joints.
  • Dry joints from inconsistent sealant application during installation.
  • Bonding failure from metal fatigue over time because of expansion or contraction.
  • Insufficient bonding surface area provides a weak junction point.

Can you spot the signs of guttering problems?

Catching gutter system failures early is key to preventing escalating water damage and costly repairs. By knowing what to look for, you can address small issues before they worsen. Below are the telltale signs that gutters may be starting to fail. 

Water stains and discolouration

Look for discoloured streaks or water stains appearing on exterior walls near the gutters. This can indicate gutter seams or joints are allowing leaks during rains. It may also signal that gutters are overflowing because of clogs or insufficient capacity, or that gutters are separating from the fascia boards and spilling water behind.

Erosion areas

Observe the ground below downpipe exits and note any areas of soil erosion forming. Concentrated water flow from clogged or damaged downpipes will erode soil over time. Signs of erosion indicate underground drainage pipes could be clogged or disconnected. Foundation erosion nearby indicates gutters are not dispersing water far enough away.

Basement leaks and moisture

After heavy rains, check basements or crawl spaces for signs of dampness, leaks or moisture intrusion. This can signify gutter drainage is not directed far enough from the foundation. It may also indicate problematic grading is routing water towards the basement walls. However, the moisture issue could also be originating from other sources.

Peeling paint

Whether you have black gutters or brown guttering, inspect exterior trim and siding near the gutter lines. Identify sections which are peeling, bubbling or have deteriorated exterior paint finishes. Also, look for wood rot or warped areas on trim, siding or soffits because of prolonged moisture exposure. A sagging appearance to the fascia boards where gutters are attached is another warning sign.

Debris in gutters

From the ground, use a mirror or camera to look inside gutter channels. You should look for leaves, pine needles, grit and other debris limiting water flow. Also check for bird's nests, wasp nests or other pest activity obstructing drainage pathways. This includes mud or granules from deteriorating asphalt shingles building up over time.

Ice and moisture buildup

In winter, inspect gutters and downpipes for signs of ice dams or moisture buildup. Icicles forming along gutters indicate potential ice damming behind because of poor insulation. Water dripping from gutter seams despite no recent precipitation can signal ice blockages. Pay attention to areas where ice frequently accumulates, even with heating cables installed.

How to avoid gutter problems

Proper installation and maintenance prevent issues with any guttering system. Following best practices to ensure gutters function optimally and provide long-lasting protection. Here are some techniques to help you avoid common guttering problems. 

1. Sizing gutters correctly

A critical step is selecting the appropriate gutter size based on the roof's square footage and the typical rainfall intensity. For ogee, roundline and square guttering, opt for wider 150mm (6 inch) profiles on larger roofs. 

Size box gutters with adequate depth as well as width to handle drainage load. Match downpipe sizing to the gutter's capacity. Zinc, cast iron and other rigid materials come in standard dimensions.

2. Ensuring proper slope

To prevent standing water, gutters must be installed with the correct pitch towards downpipes. Use a chalk line or laser level to lay out precise slopes before securing hangers. For long gutter runs, create a slight "bowling" effect with a flat area sloping down at both ends. Half round guttering allows pitch adjustment with specialised hangers or support gutter brackets.

3. Optimising downpipe placement

Strategic downpipe locations help divert runoff effectively away from foundations. Best practices include placing downpipe at all significant low points in the gutter run to divide drainage areas. Use downpipe extensions, splash blocks or drain piping to direct water at least 150mm (6 inches) from the foundation. Installing rain barrel/dry well systems at downpipes to capture overflow. Also, add extra downpipes if existing ones are undersized or overwhelmed during heavy rains.

4. Preventing debris clogs

No gutter is immune to debris accumulation. However, steps can be taken to minimise maintenance. Install gutter guards or covers to filter out leaves and twigs while allowing water entry. Ensure the gutter apron extends under the roof edge to prevent shingle granules from entering. Proper seal and flashing techniques at dormers or roof valleys to keep debris out.

5. Material choices

Different materials have varying benefits. For example, seamless aluminium and plastic guttering resist leaks and are light, economical choices. Zinc and copper gutters offer higher durability and can last 50+ years with low maintenance. Cast iron guttering is extremely sturdy but requires precise sloping to shed water weight.

6. Regular Inspections

Educate your clients on the need for routine gutter inspections and cleaning. Clear any debris buildups before they cause drainage issues. Check for separations, rust or physical damage needing repair or replacement. Also, ensure downpipe drainage points remain unobstructed.

7. Preventing bonding failures

For seamless aluminium, galvanised steel and metal guttering relying on bonded joints, use sufficient bonding surface area between gutter sections. Apply a bonding sealant consistently and in the correct amounts to avoid dry gutter joint areas. 

Ensure gutter expansion or contraction can be accommodated to prevent bond breakage over time. Inspect bonded areas routinely and re-seal any cracks or separations when they occur. Be prepared to replace entire gutter sections if bonding failures become widespread.

How much do guttering repairs cost?

The cost of gutter repairs varies based on the extent of the damage, the type of guttering material and labour rates in a specific UK area. Here are the average guttering repair costs to think about.

Gutter materialMaterial cost (per metre)Labour costTotal estimated cost
Plastic (PVC or vinyl)£3 - £8£20 - £35/hrShort sections: £80 - £300
Partial replacement (3-5m): £150 - £500 Full replacement: £500 - £1,500
Aluminium/ galvanised steel£5 - £12£20 - £35/hrShort sections: £80 - £300
Partial replacement (3-5m): £150 - £500 Full replacement: £500 - £1,500
Cast iron£15 - £30£20 - £35/hrShort sections: £150 - £600
Partial replacement (3-5m): £500 - £1,500
Full replacement: £1,000 - £3,000
Zinc£20 - £40£20 - £50/hrShort sections: £200 - £800
Partial replacement (3-5m): £600 - £2,000
Full replacement: £1,500 - £4,000
Copper£25 - £50+£35 - £50/hrShort sections: £300 - £1,000 Partial replacement (3-5m): £1,000 - £3,000
Full replacement: £2,000 - £5,000+

Additional costs

  • Gutter downpipe: £10 - £25 per section.
  • Gutter fittings (corners, outlets): £2 - £15 each.
  • Gutter cleaning service: £50 - £150 for basic cleaning; £100 - £300 with drain pipe flushing.

Top guttering solutions from Building Materials Nationwide

We supply a diverse selection of options from ogee guttering to squareline guttering and roundline guttering. Our selection includes PVC and aluminium gutters in various styles. Plus, we also offer all the necessary components and fittings such as downpipes, brackets, gutter guards and sealants.

Trade customers can easily open a trade account with Building Materials Nationwide to access trade pricing and streamlined ordering. Trade account users experience a personalised service and a convenient ordering process. We are committed to exceeding expectations with quality guttering materials and superb customer support. Spend 2 minutes signing up online or call us to learn more.

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