Our forefathers knew of the need to move the rainwater away from the building and our historic buildings, medieval churches and cathedrals stand as a testament to this with detailing that are admired for and the use of decorative cast iron and lead hoppers and ornamental water spouts, being simple yet effective ways of deflecting water away from the building.
Building decay caused through poor or damaged guttering
Water is the main agent of decay in buildings. Where a blocked gulley, cracked, or badly designed cast iron rainwater system can allow water into the fabric of the building. In the winter months, water that has soaked into the surface of masonry can freeze and cause brick and stonework to crumble, particularly where the brickwork is older, softer, and more porous, and where the mortar is ‘weak’ because it is of the incorrect mix or is old.
The water collected by cast iron guttering is directed to an area where it can do no damage, either to a soak-away or storm drain. In older buildings, it is allowed to enter the ‘foul sewer’, but this is no longer permitted in new dwellings. Cast iron guttering and cast iron downpipes are therefore important elements of a property. However, not all properties need guttering, and some buildings, notably thatched cottages, are designed to function without guttering.
How should I maintain cast iron guttering
Blocked, cracked, or corroded cast iron gutters and cast iron downpipes may cause water to overflow onto the façade of the building, creating dampness within the structure of the building – this can be easily avoided by the routine of regular inspection and clearing your cast iron rainwater system.
Cast iron gutters and pipes on listed buildings
Most listed buildings and buildings of architectural importance will have gutters and rainwater pipes that are made either from cast iron or lead. Cast iron is a very resilient material, and in most cases when properly maintained will give many hundreds of years’ service. It is also an environmentally friendly material, because of its longevity and ability to be fully recycled.
Cast iron gutter parts and replacements
To retain the building’s historic integrity it is normally necessary to repair or replace the cast iron rainwater system with something close to or the same in size and style, as that which is installed needs to be replaced, it is essential that cast iron, is used to retain the buildings original architectural integrity.
Plastic gutters and downpipes and most modern lightweight metal alternatives, as well as being out of place historically, will not last and can be prone to damage by things such as wind and ladders.
It is also important that when replacing gutters, care should be taken not to alter the eaves detail, for instance by introducing a wooden fascia where there was not one before.
You would not normally need planning permission to repair or change the guttering on your property. However, listed buildings and conservation areas have restrictions in place on guttering. These affect both the material and style of the guttering that you can use. Guttering located very close to the boundary of the property can also be a problem. Read on to find out more about planning permission and how it affects guttering.
What are the consequences of poor rainwater disposal?
Frequently, the issues first noticed are internal. Concentrated and prolonged wetting is likely to cause damp patches and plaster mold on walls and ceilings, and the decay of timber skirting boards, paneling, etc. An investigation will often reveal rot in concealed timbers, such as roof truss bearings beneath parapet gutters. Externally, masonry can suffer from algae growth and eroded mortar joints. Render may fail locally, particularly inappropriate cement-based coverings that draw in mortar through hairline cracks. External joinery can be attacked by wet rot where there are leaks above doors and windows. Blocked gullies may lead to a build-up of water and damage to foundations.
Why might the cast iron rainwater fittings be causing problems?
Commonly because of poor maintenance. Cast iron gutters, cast iron pipes, and gullies can become blocked if leaves, moss, and debris (for example, broken tiles) are allowed to accumulate. In addition, components may corrode through a lack of decoration. Cast iron gutters can fracture where bolt fixings rust, and unless regularly maintained, cast iron downpipes can frequently leak at joints where blockages hasten corrosion.
Poor detailing is a further factor. Over-sized and over-fixed lead linings may suffer fatigue, for instance. Eaves gutters supported by too few brackets can sag. Where maintenance is neglected, bad detailing – such as excessive swan-neck arrangements – may accelerate deterioration.
Cast Iron rainwater fittings can be broken or distorted by mechanical damage. Lead downpipes are also vulnerable to knocks from passers-by at low levels and ladders higher up.
What maintenance should I be undertaking to my cast iron rainwater gutters and pipes?
Good maintenance involves regularly clearing out cast iron rainwater fittings, particularly after the autumn leaf fall, and checking the system for defects. Periodic redecoration of ironwork is required to inhibit corrosion.
It can be advantageous to fit leaf guards to gutters or wire balloons above cast iron downpipes. Leaf guards still admit pine needles and are sometimes easily dislodged, and material left to gather around wire balloons may cause blockages. Where visually acceptable, overflow pipes can be introduced above cast iron hopper heads.
Snow should be cleared from parapet and valley gutters with wooden or plastic shovels to prevent moisture from seeping through joints. Alternatively, duckboards or electric heating tapes can be provided to keep gutters clear of snow.
Fittings are best checked for leaks in heavy rain. Proprietary adhesive tape is available for temporary repairs. Where poor access hinders maintenance, additional hatches or fixed ladders might be considered.
Should I repair or replace damaged or worn cast iron guttering?
When possible, retain the maximum historic fabric. Lead, wrought iron, and sometimes cast iron can be repaired with various welding techniques. Soldered dots or patches may be used for copper. It is important to remember fire safety, though, when undertaking work of this kind.
Replacement, where unavoidable, should normally be on a like-for-like basis. Inappropriate substituted materials can erode the character of a building (for example, using PVCu instead of cast iron).
Should I install cast iron gutters and downpipes, where none exist?
Depending upon the circumstances. Where maintenance is likely to be neglected, existing rainwater disposal arrangements are satisfactory or new gutters and downpipes would be hard to install unobtrusively, it may be better not to provide a new system.
Where a rainwater system is added, it should be uncomplicated. Cast iron downpipes should be sited away from wall paintings. This may require Listed Building Consent, and we would advise talking with your local authority conservation officer.
Why cast iron? The benefits of cast iron gutters and pipes
Cast iron is widely recognised as a superior material for drainage systems, proven by centuries of continuous use. There are many benefits to cast iron including;
- Strong & Durable
- Long Lasting
In operation over the life of a building, it will outperform and outlast most other materials. Also cast iron is 100% recyclable, losing none of its original properties in the process. This makes cast iron a more sustainable material than others, particularly when used for rainwater drainage. Cast iron products will last the life of your building. There is no need for iron to go to landfill or be shipped around the world to be recycled, and it will not degrade into micro-particles like plastics and enter our waterways and oceans.
Special patterns and bespoke cast iron guttering
Cast iron guttering is available in a wide choice of sizes and designs, and pipes can be round, square, or rectangular, with eight standard cast iron gutter profiles and five standard cast iron hopper heads in different sizes. We also have a castings catalogue containing a further 50 different styles of ornamental cast iron hopper heads and 28 special cast iron gutter profiles.
Through our bespoke castings division, we are also able to supply bespoke gutter patterns, cast iron radius gutters, bespoke cast iron rainwater pipes, and cast iron hopper heads to your specification.
Cast iron rainwater systems will enhance the appearance of your building, providing a cost-effective sustainable, and long-term solution.