Gutter bliss

Paul Jackson of Polypipe explains why developers need to ensure they are selecting the right guttering and downpipe system on each project, which might mean that plastic turns out to be the best option.

When the Government announced that 217,350 new homes were added to the market in 2017, this was the first time an official house- building target had been met since before the financial downturn of 2008. In a bid to tackle the current housing crisis, this level of housebuilding needs to be met and exceeded in 2018. In order to ensure new homes preserve both their appearance and structural integrity, developers must select rainwater systems that offer the best protection to the structure.

Simple faults create complex problems

It can be overlooked, but rainwater guttering installed or left in a poor condition can be at the root of wider house damage developed over a long period of time. Failed guttering could cost the UK homeowner around £600-£1,000 to repair, depending on the damage, but there could be deeper issues.

The primary function of guttering is to protect house foundations by channelling excess rainwater from the roof and eventually away from the building. Causing roof leaks or contributing to foundation failure over a long period of time, water seepage across a building caused by poorly maintained guttering and downpipes can lead to expensive repairs and major problems for the house. In very extreme cases, when guttering is left unfixed the foundations of the house could become compromised.

It’s a given that gutters tend to fill up with leaves and debris. Over time this can cause blockages, resulting in rainwater not channelling correctly and pooling on the roof, applying unnecessary pressure to the foundations.

If left untreated, rainwater can cause extensive damage to all surrounding materials. Wooden fascia boards are often used to support guttering. When exposed to large amounts of water, these boards can begin to deteriorate and rot, causing cracks.

In a worst-case scenario, this excess water will cause extensive damage and will begin pouring off the side of the home, causing unsightly stains and mould formation. Water can then soak through and cause damp patches within the house. Damp patches are very harmful to residents and usually result in temporary rehoming while the damage is repaired.

Choosing the best fit

When selecting a guttering solution, developers should consider installation time, system longevity and the amount of future rainfall the system could be susceptible to. Traditionally, guttering solutions came in cast iron and aluminium. Modern day solutions however are more likely to be plastic, a material which offers developers numerous benefits during installation and throughout the lifespan of the system.

Manufactured from sturdy PVCu, plastic guttering solutions hold the same innate strength as the cast iron equivalent. Furthermore, the lightweight nature of plastic guttering solutions makes installation onsite quicker, while providing numerous health and safety benefits for workers. The plastic-based rainwater systems can be simply lifted into place and fitted. Also, as they are manufactured in longer pipe runs, plastic solutions can be installed with less jointing. Minimal joint- ing helps to reduce the margin for leaks.

Should the guttering fail or fall from its position, the impact of cast iron solutions can cause extensive damage
and pose life threatening risk to residents. In comparison, plastic systems cause a lot less damage and pose far less risk.

Another key benefit of plastic systems is the profile range. From square systems to half round, plastic guttering comes in a variety of shapes to suit the project and the pitch of the roof. Deep flow profiles are the most widely selected as they manage higher volumes of water effectively and minimise the risk of leaks and blockages in the future.

Finish off in style

Plastic-based rainwater solutions also provide both the installer and homeowner with aesthetic flexibility. Cast iron solutions traditionally only come in black and must be repainted every three years due to weathering. Plastic rainwater systems are widely available in a range of different colours, and don’t have to be painted to maintain the quality of finish. For develop- ers, colourful guttering can add extra kerb appeal and character to any development. Whether it’s a coastal home with a pale blue exterior, or a classic town house with a brightly coloured red door, there is a shade to match.

Although it can be overlooked, specify- ing the right rainwater system and installing it correctly can protect a build- ing from a multitude of long term damaging issues caused by water leakage. Developers can work with manufacturers to identify a robust solution that meets the criteria of the building, and can manage expected rainfall levels over the course of many years. With such a wide range of rainwater products fit for every eventuality on the market, developers shouldn’t ‘make do’ with the first solution they come across.

Paul Jackson is above ground drainage product manager at Polypipe