Home Making

Gutters and Drains

IT is not generally known, perhaps, that a gutter is fixed so as to provide a gradual slope towards the rainwater pipe into which the water discharges. This necessity is provided for when a house is built, but defects that arise later may cause the gutter to sag, thus forming a pocket into which water collects until it overflows over the top of the gutter itself. In the same way, blockage of a gutter by leaves, a bird’s nest or other obstruction may cause an overflow. Gutters may leak at the joints between lengths, where the end of one piece fits into a shouldered recess formed in the end of the adjoining length. Putty is laid between the joint faces, and around the screws that secure the two ends, so as to render the joint watertight.

Rotting of the woodwork to which the gutters are fixed, or rusting of the screws that attach the gutter brackets, will cause the gutter to loosen or sag. The cast iron gutter may rust and develop holes or other defects. Regular care in the way of clearing out obstructions, and the painting of these parts when the outside of the house receives its periodical overhaul, will prevent most of the trouble likely to occur. At the time of overhaul, the gutters should be inspected for loose joints and any other defects. The brackets should be carefully inspected, and any that are loose should be made secure. At least once every year all gutters should be cleared with a garden trowel or similar tool. Do not rest a ladder against the gutter. This is often done with bad results to the gutter. Hang a bucket to the ladder by a simple hook, and put into it all debris removed from the gutter.

A balloon grating of thick wire mesh can be bought to slip into the gutter outlet, and so prevent blockage by birds’ nests. If, however, this grating is not kept clear of leaves, etc. no useful purpose will be served. In any case, if a nest is observed, it will naturally be removed at the first opportunity. In a severe rainstorm almost any gutter will overflow for a short time, owing to the excessive delivery of water from the roofs, but the clearing of gutters every spring will prevent any possibility of the gutters being stopped up.

Lead Gutters

So far we have dealt only with eaves gutters, attached to the feet of the rafters or to other woodwork at the face of the wall. The gutters to flat roofs, and other gutters formed in the roof itself, are usually of lead laid on suitably shaped woodwork. The same care in clearing away debris is necessary, and in ensuring that the outlets are unobstructed. There is one important precaution which the householder should take; never walk about on a lead gutter, or on any other roof leadwork, in nailed shoes. Put on a pair of rubber-soled shoes, or slippers, or the lead may be damaged. Better still if any work has to be done over lead, lay down some boards, and tread on these.

Rainwater Pipes

These should be inspected and repainted periodically. If any defects are noticed (such as the appearance of clamp walls adjacent to the pipes) in between these periods they should receive prompt attention. A new length of rainwater pipe of suitable size can be bought and fixed. The defective section should be freed by prising out the nails that go through lugs at the top end, and the pipe lifted out. If the length is an intermediate one, the pipe above or below will have to be loosened before the defective length can be removed. If a pipe of standard length will not do, it can be cut with a little care. Lay the pipe down on two wooden blocks, or on some bricks, so that it is properly supported; tie a piece of tape round the pipe so as to provide a guide for cutting.

Saw the pipe with a hacksaw. Do not try to cut right through at any one part of the circle, but aim at making a groove right around the pipe first. Saw a little way, and then rotate the pipe towards you, so that an uncut portion is presented to the cutting edges of the teeth of the saw. A practised hand, after cutting a groove all round, will give the pipe a smart tap at one or two points with a hammer, and the pipe will break neatly at the groove. But the beginner will do well to persevere with the sawing until the pipe separates. It must be well supported, and the weight must not be allowed to come on the half-severed part, or the pipe will, very probably, crack.

Bath and Lavatory Wastes

These empty into a cast iron ‘head’ outside the house. See that the outlet from the head is free; leaves and even birds’ nests may choke it. It may be desirable to cut a flanged lid, to the shape of the head, from sheet lead or zinc.


As far as traps and gullies are concerned, this matter is dealt with under WASTE PIPES. There is little that the amateur can do for drain blockages and other defects. He may, in fact, cause more damage in seeking to do work that needs much experience.

Occasionally a w.c. Pan may become blocked. Procure a pliable cane, and gently try to poke the obstruction down. The pan is fragile, and may easily be damaged by rough treatment. If the blockage is stubborn, the amateur may take up the manhole serving the system, and observe if the blockage extends there also. Couple up the garden hose, and direct a strong stream of water at the exit from the inspection chamber. Try with a long stick to poke the obstructing substance through this exit, taking very great care to avoid damage to the earthenware pipes. A combination of this treatment with hosing may get the drain flowing again. If the pipe entering the chamber is blocked, turn the hose here and try to ease out the blockage with a stick.

A stubborn obstruction such as this would most likely have given warning some time earlier, by the sluggish action’ of the pan, but cases have been known where it was not suspected until a complete stoppage occurred. If the treatment just outlined does not cure the trouble, call in a builder. Although special rods for clearing drains, etc. are well advertised in the general press, and are also recommended as being useful for other jobs, the amateur will be well advised to refrain from interfering with drains other than by the simple methods previously described. It is true that the rods would serve to free an obstruction which showed at the inspection chamber, but the various hook and screw devices sold with drain-clearing appliances are likely to do much damage in inexpert hands.

Rainwater Gullies.-—See that gratings are not blocked by leaves or other matter. Take up the gratings periodically and clear out any soil washed into the trap. Flush the gullies in very dry weather, especially if an offensive smell of sewer gas is noticed. The water seal in the bend of the trap may have become ineffective by evaporation, and a pail of water and carbolic fluid may be added if desired to restore the seal and block off any unpleasant odour.

A word about deodorant fluids and powders; if the drains smell, they should be inspected. Exclude the simple case just mentioned, where the defect is merely dried-up water seal. Little is gained by substituting a tolerable or even pleasant odour for an unpleasant one; the cause of the latter should be sought, and steps taken to remove the cause. The use of a deodorant is a health precaution, not a cure for defects in drainage when it ceases to be of much use.

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