Gutter maintenance is often seen by homeowners and landlords as a thankless chore, and something they would rather not have to think about.
Nevertheless, a little effort put into ensuring gutters are in proper working order can prevent the need for much more expensive repairs further down the line.
Blocked gutters can lead to a multitude of problems, so it really is worthwhile undertaking regular checks.
Badly maintained gutters can develop leaks, causing damp to spread to other parts of the building.
In fact, internal damp can often be traced to poor gutter maintenance, sometimes not in the property itself but a neighbouring building.
We have recently been involved in a protracted dispute between two neighbours. The issue was that one neighbour had replaced their guttering, but the connection into the neighbour’s gutter failed, causing significant damage.
Gutter maintenance made the headlines last year when two wealthy home owners living on the same London street as Paul McCartney fell out over a blockage.
The former Beatle’s neighbours ended up spending an estimated half a million pounds on the dispute, despite the fact that the problem could have been remedied early on for no more than £7,000. The problem was simple.
One of the neighbours had built a glass-roofed extension to his £20 million mansion nearly 20 years earlier, which had inadequate guttering.
This meant it became easily blocked unless checked and cleared frequently, which the owner did not do. The result was that it retained water, and the damp spread to the kitchen and garage of the neighbouring home, a listed building.
Over the years this caused considerable damage, requiring expensive repairs.
The neighbours could not agree about the source of the problem, with the owner of the extension blaming his neighbour’s own wisteria for causing the blockage.
Because the issue was not clarified and resolved early on by a technical expert, the legal costs for both parties ended up far outstripping the actual costs of repair. This meant a final bill of nearly £500,000 for the neighbour adjudged to have been at fault.
It is a salutary tale, which shows both how apparently minor issues can have serious consequences, and the importance of taking professional advice, rather than allowing issues to fester.
Zoë Walheim is a chartered building surveyor at Earl Kendrick Associates