The downfall of gutters and downpipes?

A prolonged spell of snow, which then turns to ice, which then re-freezes, slightly thaws, re-freezes, has fresh snowfall ontop, freezes is not the ideal environment for gutters and downpipes, be they old cast iron or plastic ones. The worst cold snap for 30 years between Christmas 2009 and mid-January 2010 has severely tested and damaged much of the UK’s guttering and downpipe stock.

One knew “there may be trouble ahead” when tens of thousands of icicles starting forming beneath guttering joints, in some cases creating giant “stalactites” looking like the ones often seen in limestone caves. As snow and ice makes it way via gravity from the roof to the gutter, the gutters can act like a dam, putting enormously pressure on both your guttering, guttering joints and guttering brackets.

Likewise, frozen snow and ice stuck inside downpipes can cause them to expand and crack, and whilst modern plastic downpipes and guttering does have some give, old fashioned rusting cast iron downpipes do not, and although they were originally “stronger”, they do weaken (like most metals) over the years, so will need replacing if they do crack.

When the thaw finally came in the UK by mid-January 2010, many guttering joints and brackets were found to have been snapped, broken or loosened by the constant expansion and contraction of the ice, as one snowfall was followed by other in freezing temperatures. The rainfall that signalled the real start of the thaw exposed thousands of joints that had been broken, with the precipitation gushing from these new leaking points where the “seals” had been broken. Thousands of properties discovered twisted and warped guttering, caused by the severe weather conditions.

UK guttering and downpipe suppliers and installers are clearly going to have their work cut out to keep up with the demand for repairs and replacement low maintenance gutters and downpipes. Even some of the modern UPVC guttering and brackets did not cope with the sheer weight and volume of snow that fell on the UK within a three week period, which then rapidly turned to more compact and heavier ice, which expanded and created such havoc on Britain’s roads and transport network.

Going forward, property owners may have to consider clearing gutters of snow before it turns to ice to protect properties, in the same way we clear our paths, driveways and roads at home and at work to be able to get about on foot and by road. Manufacturers of UPVC gutters and downpipes may have to consider further strengthening their product range to offer property owners an even stronger and more durable low maintenance solution, as surely we can not let snow and ice cause the downfall of gutters and downpipes?


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