By Mark de Rozarieux, managing director of HD Sharman
Provisional Met Office figures released at the beginning of January showed that 2014 was the UK’s fourth wettest year since records began in 1910. Furthermore, five of the UK’s six wettest years have occurred since 2000.
Gutters are hostile environments, not only managing rainfall of increasing volume and intensity, but also accumulating silt, leaves and other materials, and they can quickly become blocked. Structural movement can cause them to corrode and leak. The joints, ends and outlets are areas of particular risk of failure.
Poor maintenance of the gutter can result in water ingress, a major cause of structural damage that is not only costly to repair, but which can also result in considerable disruption to the operation of a business.
Despite this, gutters remain an often-overlooked area of building maintenance. Yet there are things facilities managers can and should do to ensure that the guttering of the buildings that they’re responsible for continue to perform to the highest standards:
1. Inspect regularly
Regular gutter inspection should be a standard part of every property maintenance regime, so that potential problems can be prevented and damage avoided. Inspections should be carried out at least twice a year, more if the building is situated close to trees. If the building features industrial gutters, the Metal Gutter Manufacturer Association (MGMA) recommends that gutters and rainwater systems should be inspected at least four times in their first year to help inform the preparation of the most appropriate future inspection and maintenance plan.
2. Look out for …
- Blocked downpipes – These areas accumulate leaves and general detritus, and need to be kept clear to enable gutters to operate efficiently. Leafguards can be employed to help prevent blockages.
- Weak joints – The joints between gutter sections and around the downpipes are particularly prone to failure. The application of silicone-based liquid plastic over joints can help to extend the life of a gutter in the short term.
- Corrosion – Remove rust and grime to check what lies beneath. Rust can result in the creation of tiny pits in a gutter, which grow overtime into larger holes.
- Insufficient outlet capacity – Older gutter systems were built to handle rainfall of lower volume and intensity than we are now experiencing. Consequently, increasingly outlets fail to efficiently drain rainfall from the gutter. More outlets or increasing the size of existing ones can reduce this problem.
3. What solution should I specify?
When faced with a leaking gutter, choosing the right solution can prove to be daunting as there are a myriad of leak repair solutions available on the market. However, facilities managers can save time and money by educating themselves about the solutions available and specifying one that will prove effective in the long-term, not just a short-term ‘quick fix’.
‘Traditional’ methods of repairing leaking gutters involving mastics (resins), are not appropriate for larger projects, as they offer only short-term solutions, resulting in further leaks in future which themselves will require repair.
So, which solutions are the best?
One of the most popular methods of stopping leaks on gutters of various size and shape has been to reline the gutter with a waterproof membrane. Gutter lining presents itself as a lower cost solution than repairing the gutter itself, and gutter liners can often perform better than the original installation. A proven choice for contractors and facilities managers alike, gutter liners are easy to install and offer minimal disruption to the occupiers of the building.
4. Install appropriate gutter lining
Choosing which type of gutter liner to use depends on various factors including the condition of the exiting gutter, the weather and the severity of the joint problems to be addressed. The most reliable way to ensure long-term prevention of leaks is the installation of a free floating membrane gutter liner, a waterproof membrane fitted to the original gutter without structural work, so even if the gutter itself cracks, the lining remains intact, preventing leakage.
5. Selecting the right lining
In the UK, warm, dry weather can rarely be confidently predicted. This means that in order to guarantee installation at the specific time required a weather independent, solvent-free, gutter lining solution should be selected, rather than one that requires the application of adhesives which require warm, dry weather in which to set.
As for all construction specifications, look for a product that has acquired the approval of a recognised industry body, such as the British Board of Agrement (BBA). The BBA is a government-backed organisation, offering approval and certification for construction products and services that fall outside the parameters of British Standards kite marks.
Choosing the right gutter lining specification is vital, with the end result being the professional installation of a sustainable product that will ensure that your gutters are permanently watertight, and so help protect your entire property from water ingress into the long-term, helping to preserve the original structure.