According to the Housing Engineering Design & Research Association (HEDRA), it is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the garden, paving, drainage systems and foundations. The homeowner should also become familiar with the plumbing in the property and where guttering adjoins with downpipes. Debris in guttering is a fire risk, and can cause gutters to overflow in downpour. If your gutters frequently fill with leaf matter they should be cleaned out regularly, and it is likely the offending tree should be trimmed back.


Influence of Water on Footings

When it comes to home maintenance issues, water is at the top of the list. Probably the costliest water related issue is dwelling movement caused by saturation and reactivity of soils. This can lead to effects like windows and doors sticking. Repairs get costly when cracking of masonry, plaster, and strip footings are involved. The presence of water can also lead to the rotting of timber stumps and other elements. The repairs from footing damage often involve costly restumping or underpinning operations.

In any case, it is important to fix any leak around your property as soon as possible. Even small leaks can saturate the soil to the point where it taken a considerable amount of time to dry out and may lead to damaging subsidence.


What to Expect?

Gutters are designed to accept water from the roof (tiles/sheet) and direct it to the stormwater main which is typically located at the front (road) of the property. Over time, guttering can fill with leaves, sag, or leak because of rust. Luckily, gutter repairs are simple and can be undertaken by anyone with just some simple tools. For second-storey guttering repairs, we recommend you use appropriate scaffolding or consult a plumbing specialist.


Leaking Gutters

Leaks are usually caused by joins between sections. In this case, a caulking gun can be used to seal up the seams with silicone sealant. Standing water can also accelerate rust, which may cause water to leak from the bottom of the gutter. If this is a small hole, it can be patched with roofing cement and a flat spatula. For larger holes, a sheet of metal can be used along with roofing cement. Ensure that the same material is used for the patch as your gutter to avoid galvanic corrosion. If a section longer than 5 cm is rusted through, the gutter section should be replaced. Ensure there is a fall on the gutter to avoid water pooling.

Overflowing Gutters

Under heavy rain conditions, it is normal for some guttering to overflow. This is particularly true of lengths of guttering that are fed by a large tributary area. In these areas, not only does more water collect, but there is a greater change of debris being collected and clogging up the plumbing. Gutters should be observed under moderate rain conditions (2.5 – 7.5 mm per hour) for any overflow. Locations where overflow occurs should be monitored for footing movement as soil moisture conditions change.

Overflow can be caused by gutters/downpipes becoming blocked with debris, stopping the flow of water and giving the water no choice but to back up into the gutters. Common places for blockages to occur is where guttering negotiates corners, and at the outlet to the downpipe. If the gutter is accessible, the area should be cleaned out to the best of your ability, and the downpipe can usually be cleared using a pole (on a string so you don’t lose it!) or a garden hose on the jet setting. Commercial products also exist for clearing guttering from a safe ground level.


Sagging Gutters

Sagging gutters can cause water and debris to pool in the gutter. This often results in rusting or overflowing of gutters. Sagging can be caused by backed up water, changes in temperature, and wind. According to the Victorian Building Authority, guttering is defective if it retains 10 mm or more of water. Sagging gutter can be fixed with the installation of new gutter hangers. In some cases the old gutter hangers will need to be completely removed and new ones installed. Concealed hangers are a simple addition suitable for most existing guttering systems. In most cases, hangers spaced every 0.5 m in the sagged region will ensure appropriate falls are maintained. When installing, be sure to check there is a fall towards the downpipe. This can be checked by pouring a bucket of water into the gutter and ensuring water is flowing in the correct direction.

Other Problems

If water still backs up and you’ve ruled out blockages and sagging, it may be that the guttering system was inadequately designed and cannot cope with the volume of water collected by the area of roof. Other times, a modification such as an extension may have been performed on a house and the stormwater system not upgraded accordingly. In these cases, the guttering and/or the downpipe size needs to be increased and reinstalled.

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