A gutter is a trough placed at the bottom edge of a roof to collect rainwater and channel it into drains by means of downpipes.
Gutters should prevent rainwater running of the roof and down the side of a building, causing damage to the walls and foundations.
The majority of domestic buildings now have gutters formed of uPVC or other plastic material, or aluminium.
Older properties may have gutters made from cast iron or galvanised steel.
Such guttering is factory-made, and attached to the building by means of brackets fixed to the fascia board.
Gutters are supplied in a variety of cross-sections. Half-round is very common, but other cross-sections include ogee, square, and other moulded shapes.
On some buildings, especially those which have a parapet rising above eaves level, gutters may be constructed as trough integral with the building.
This is a feature of many period properties. Lead was traditionally used for this purpose, but more recently glass fibre, aluminium and other materials have replaced lead.
Gutters should be fixed so that they slope slightly down towards each downpipe, to ensure that rainwater runs off and does not remain in the gutter when it is not raining.
To function properly gutters should be kept free of obstructions. Common causes of obstruction include dead leaves and other vegetation, birds’ nests, dead birds and balls, as well as general debris washed off the roof.
Care should also be taken to stop climbing plants such as ivy or wisteria from growing into the guttering. If dirt builds up in a gutter then grass and other plants frequently take root and should be cleared.
Guttering must be of sufficient size to cope with rainwater runoff. It should also be securely fixed, and not leak.
A building survey will include a visual inspection of the gutters, and comment on any apparent faults, together with any required repairs.
However some defects may only be apparent when it is raining, and cannot therefore be determined by an inspection during dry weather.
Care will have to be taken if gutters on a period building, especially if a Listed building or in a conservation area, need renewing.
It is likely that they will have to be replaced with new gutters to match the style of the original.
Fortunately several manufacturers now offer guttering in a variety of period styles, and in a range of materials, complete with suitable downpipes, hopper heads and other period-style features.