The exterior of your house takes a constant battering from the elements - especially wind and rain. This can take its toll on the masonry and guttering systems, and can sometimes overwhelm them.
Tools & materials required
If your guttering isn't working properly, water will overflow and saturate the wall below. Try and fix any problems with your gutters as soon as possible.
Top tip - Ladder stabilisers
You should only position a ladder on level, firm ground. If you do have to put one up an uneven surface, bolt stabilisers to the bottom on both sides to stop it rocking.
Top tip - Scoop it out
A plastic milk bottle with the base cut off makes a perfect scoop for clearing old leaves and debris from your gutters.
Safety first - Working at heights
Take time to make sure your ladder is secure before you start work. Never rest it against guttering - use a ladder stand-off instead, and ladder stabilisers on uneven ground. A scaffold tower isn't as easy to manoeuvre as a ladder, but it does give you a safe working platform and plenty of room to put your tools. Assemble the components (carefully following the manufacturer's instructions), check your platform boards are secure and construct a guard rail around the platform. On soft or uneven ground, stand the feet of your tower on level scaffold boards.
Rusted cast-iron gutter
You can smooth off patches of rust with an emery cloth, but take care not to rub so hard that you make a hole. If there are large areas of rust, brush them off with a wire hand brush or use a round wire cup brush fitted in an electric drill. After that, paint the affected area with a rust-inhibiting metal primer, and then with black bitumen or gloss paint. If there are any small holes in your gutter, fill them first with roof-and-gutter sealant. You can fill a bigger hole with glass-fibre filler, but if the guttering is in poor condition with a lot of holes you should really replace it altogether.
Overflowing hopper head
Water overflowing from a hopper head shows that there are leaves or some other debris in the hopper head itself, or maybe a blockage in the downpipe below it. Start by scooping out any leaves in the hopper head. If the downpipe is blocked, try unblocking it from ground level. Cover the drain, turn on the water in a garden hose and push it up the pipe to dislodge the debris. If that doesn't work, use drain rods to unblock it from the top.
Leaking gutter joints
For a metal gutter, scrape any dirt out of the joint and dry it. Then inject roof and gutter sealant into the joint with an applicator gun. If you have plastic guttering joined with a union piece, one of the gaskets (seals) may be damaged. Squeeze the gutter to release the union piece, peel the gasket away and replace it with a new one. It may be that a loose or wrongly positioned bracket has caused the guttering to sag, so that the water forms a pool rather than flows away. If the screw had worked loose, you should be able simply to insert a wall plug and re-screw the bracket. If the bracket was wrongly positioned, fill the hole and refix it. And if your guttering still sags after all this, fit extra brackets to support it.
Block the bottom of the downpipe with a rag to stop any debris getting into the drain, then scoop out the leaves and silt from the gutter with a small trowel. Remove the rag, and rinse out the gutter and downpipe with water. To stop the problem recurring, fit a LeafGuard cover over the outlet, and a gutter guard over the guttering (just cut it to size and clip it in place).
Leaking from the end of a length of guttering
Water will run off the end of a length of guttering if the stop-end has come away, or one was never fitted. Check the dimensions and profile of your guttering, and buy one to fit.
If a plastic downpipe is loose, check to see if one of the clips has lost a connecting bolt. Then replace it with a galvanised bolt of the same size. Another reason could be that the wall plugs have worked loose. If this is the case, replace them and refix the screws, or fit new 6.5mm gauge galvanised screws. If a cast iron downpipe is loose, take out the fixing nails or screws and insert wall plugs. Then drive the nails back in or fit galvanised screws. If wooden plugs are loose, just remove and replace them.
Wall drainage problems
Masonry in good condition is waterproof. But if it deteriorates, the render, stone and bricks can let water through to the inside of the wall, and should be repaired.
Porous bricks or stones soaking up water
If the affected area is small, just cut out the damaged bricks or stones and replace them. This isn't practical if it's a large area, in which case you should repoint the joints and coat the bricks or stones with silicone water-repellent fluid. This stops water getting into the bricks while still allowing them to breathe, so any moisture that's already penetrated can evaporate.
Water seeping into cracks in the render
Fill any cracks with exterior filler. If there's extensive damage, hack off the render in the damaged area and patch it with new render, then paint the wall with exterior paint.
Crumbling mortar joints
Rake out the mortar with a raking-out (or a cold chisel or plugging chisel and club hammer) to a depth of 13mm. Clean out any dust, and brush water into the joints before repointing them. Mix some mortar, pick up a small amount on the back of a trowel and push it into the joints. Leave it until it's about half-dry, then shape the joints to match your existing brickwork.
Water penetrating window or door frames
Wooden door and window frames tend to shrink, and sometimes the mortar around the edges falls out, which lets rainwater into the gaps. Repair the frames if necessary, then seal any cracks up to 10mm with frame sealant. If you have cracks that are more than 10mm wide, fill these with mortar instead.
How to repair a leak in your guttering with tape
You can use joint repair tape to fix minor leaks or cracks in your cast-iron guttering or downpipes.
Top tip - Leaking downpipes
If a downpipe leaks during heavy rain, it may be a sign that the section of pipe below the leak is blocked by leaves or some other obstruction. You might be able to dislodge it with a garden hose, though. Just cover the drain, turn on the water and direct it up the downpipe. If that doesn't work and the blockage is near the top of the pipe, use a length of wire to clear it. If it's near the bottom, you might need to use a drain rod or take a section of the pipe apart.
Start by cleaning around the area you need to repair with a wire brush - this will remove any loose paint or rust. Then cut off a length of repair tape a few centimetres longer than the width of the downpipe, removing the paper backing.
Wrap the repair tape around the joint and overlap the ends.
Press the tape firmly with your hand to mould it around the shape of the joint.
How to repair a leak in your guttering with sealant
You can use roof and gutter sealant to repair bigger leaks in metal guttering, or a damaged union piece in plastic guttering. Always protect your hands by wearing heavy-duty gloves, especially when you're applying the sealant.
Clean around the area you want to repair with a wire brush to remove loose paint or rust.
Use an old screwdriver to dig out any old jointing material.
Put the nozzle of the sealant gun into the joint, and run a bead of roof and gutter sealant around the pipe. Make sure you've filled the cavity.
Smooth the sealant with your finger to leave a neat finish.
How to repair a leak in cast-iron guttering
Lengths of old cast-iron guttering are often joined together with bolts.
Try to undo any old securing bolts with a spanner. If you can't do this, use a hacksaw to cut through the bolt. Then tap its shank upwards through the gutter with a nail punch and hammer.
It's a good idea to wear heavy-duty gloves to separate the gutter joint - you'll probably need to tap it to loosen the old putty or mastic. You can then clean the joint with a wire brush.
Run a bead of sealant into the joint.
Press the guttering into the sealant and fit a new galvanised gutter bolt. Then, with your gloves on, smooth the excess sealant with your finger.
How to unblock a drain
You'll need special drain-cleaning rods to clear a blocked drain, as well as some disinfectant to clean them when you've finished.
Start by lifting the inspection cover off the blocked drain. You can do this by fitting a rubber plunger to the end of two drain rods and inserting them into the bottom of the inspection chamber. Then slide the rods into the drain outlet pipe - if the inspection chamber is full, you'll have to probe with the plunger to find it. Push the rods down into the drain, adding more rods as you need them. Try to use a 'push and pull' action, as this'll help to dislodge the blockage. You can also turn them in a clockwise direction - but not anti-clockwise, as they might unscrew in the drain and add to the blockage.
Take the rods out of the drain and have a look to see if the waste water is draining away. If it isn't, go through the process again and use more rods. When the drain is clear, take the rods apart and stand them in the inspection chamber. Use a hose-pipe to wash the rods and flush the drain through with clean water. Then drench the rods and your gloves in diluted disinfectant - you can use a watering can to pour it on.
How to clear a valley gutter
Valley gutters can be difficult to reach, but a long-handled garden hoe will help you clear any trapped debris.
Use your garden hoe to pull the debris towards you until you can reach it with your hand.
Hold a bucket beneath the end of the gutter and slide the debris into it.