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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fixing a leaking gutter

In the UK  most houses appear to use some form of modular plastic guttering. It comes in different colours and cross sections. Pieces are held up using brackets. Where sections join together a connecting pice is used which clamps beneath the two sections  coupling them together, and an outer clip piece binds both pieces together with a rubber seal as the filling in this sandwich.  The rubber seal consist of a length of rubber strip which sits in a groove in the juntion piece. In the picture above you can see a corner section, below you see a mid section join between two longer lengths.

I routinely find persistent drips from these junction points. This is not great as where the water lands you get splashing, which over time can soak the walls close to the splash point. It can also start to damage wooden paint work. if your in a room  nearby a persistent drip-drip-drip is also annoying. So dripping gutters are a bad thing.

I have repaired gutters in 3 houses and a Scout Hut I helped maintain, and have repaired this dripping quite a few times so this blog is my approach.

First of all if you have a gutter that drips from the seal , 2 things are wrong with your gutter:

  1. The rubber seal is not working and water is seeping out through a gap.
  2. More fundamentally  your guttering may not be installed correctly. This is because water should not accumulate in the gutters. On wet or snowy days when the gutters carry water, yes, but on dry days there should be no standing water in a gutter. Either a blockage exists which can be removed OR more likely the gutters have not been installed with a slope. Its remarkable how many builders appear to believe that water can run up hill !. Gutters should slope gently down toward their downpipes. if sections are collecting standing water there either is no slop, insufficient slope or worse the slope goes the wrong way. Sometimes a long section might sag, and additional supports are needed.

    Basically gutters should be completely dry in dry weather. That's in a perfect world and our gutters may be inaccessible or high up and fixing point 2). Might be something to keep in mind or get done by competent professionals (ones with a spirit level and some concept of gravity).

    Now lets deal with 1)  the symptom, not the cause.

    You need to remove the joint section that is leaking. WARNING: This will probably involve working up a ladder, possibly on an upper storey so take great care, and if in doubt , get a professional to do the job. I have sometimes found window cleaners who are comfortable working on ladders at height , to be willing to help to retrieve and replace sections like this.

    In the case of 1) the rubber outside C clip which binds the pieces together may not be in place or its lip might have snapped off. This is really a case of getting up a ladder and taking a look. Not easy especially if the gutters are high up. Sometimes a squeeze on the outside edge and clip will produce the SNAP sound that the clip is in place.
    Assuming the clip is in place then the problem I have found is because the rubber seal has been compromised, usually by grit. Grit washes off certain roofing tiles and collects in the gutters. Its basically like sand and its too heavy to be washed away and accumulates in the bottom. Perhaps slate roofs don't have this problem.
When the gutters are dry, on warm or sunny days the black plastic sections expand, sometimes you can hear them creaking. The join sections are designed such that the gutters can expand and slide over the rubber seals  during the expansion. Similarly when the sun goes in they contract. It is my belief that the expansion and contraction works the grit into the rubber seal and over time the rubber cannot make a good contact with the gutter plastic surface. The seals have a slit down the middle and this on inspection often seems to have grit in it.

The fix is to remove the section and seals , and clean them , then get some sponginess back in the rubber which may be deformed from long term compression.

In the picture above you can see and end capping piece which I have removed from the gutter end . You can see the removed rubber seal and the trench where the seal is seated in the plastic. Its important to remove and dismantle the joint section and wash all the parts to get any grit and dirt out.

here you can see the slot along the middle of the rubber seal. I run a point along this but something not sharp, maybe the end of a pencil, to clear out any grit . Rinse the rubber sections thoroughly from the end, the cross tube section allows you to run water through it.

 Once the rubber seals are clean and dry you can restore some springiness into the seals with an hour or so in a plastic bag with a few squirts of Platanclene printer roller restorer. Its available from larger office suppliers and on amazon. Costs about £3 for a small aerosol.
 Once you've squirted the plantanclene in the bag - only needs a few squirts, seal the bag and work the liquid into the rubber so it all gets a bit of a coating. I leave for an hour, then remove and wipe with a cloth. The rubber should be spongier and perhaps darker.

The rest is simply reversing the process i.e put the now clean joint section back together with the restored seal in place. Clip back into the section between gutter sections and ensure that the outer C clip makes a good  joint on both sides, typically its a bit hard to snap into place, but does so with a click. if you don't get the click, double check

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