Preserve With Prevention: Installing Guttering In A Historic Building

29 March 2019

Preserve With Prevention: Installing Guttering In A Historic Building

A good rainwater system is critical to the preservation of a building’s foundation, no matter how old that building is. However, in historical and listed properties, it can often be a struggle to find gutters and downspouts that fit in with the original aesthetic.

When Were Gutters Invented?

Gutters have existed, in one form or another, for thousands of years. Rather than simply being a grotesquely carved piece of architecture, gargoyles originally provided a way to convey water away from a roof, with spouts that typically exited from an open mouth.

The first instance of the guttering that we know today dates as far back as 1240, when a rainwater pipe was fitted into the Tower of London to protect its whitewashed walls. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the use of gutters and downpipes became commonplace, with lead making way for cast iron mass production. However, medieval styles of architecture such as churches relied on cast iron for downpipes and ornate hoppers. For this reason, many old buildings still have cast iron rainwater systems.

How To Preserve An Original Rainwater System

Preserving an original rainwater system requires a great deal of maintenance but contributes a great deal to the original character of the building. Decorative features and ornate castings can add to a property’s unique architecture and cast iron hoppers can provide an indication of the building’s age – an important element for those considering it’s architectural value. In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, hoppers tended to display a date, initials or even coat of arms. This is something that many people these days wish to replicate.

Regardless of its material, failing to maintain a rainwater system can lead to serious structural issues. Understandably, this is particularly true in older buildings. Ignoring issues such as cracks, leaks or a build up of debris can cause outbreaks of rot, mould and excess water build up that will eventually compromise the building’s foundations and lead to problems that are more time-consuming (and costly) to address.

Choosing A Rainwater System For A Period Property

In instances where adequate maintenance has not taken place and your rainwater system needs replacing, how do you go about making sure that you choose the right one?

The aesthetics of a rainwater system should not be compromised by weather but, at the same time, you require something that will withstand heavy weather to take the water away from your roof.

New cast iron guttering is just as durable as aluminium but is acceptable for use on heritage and listed buildings. These can usually last approximately 40 years, or even longer if the correct maintenance is followed. Traditional gutter profiles, decorative ear bands and rainwater hoppers can further ensure that the traditional style of the building is reflected.

Similarly, the chameleon-like properties of copper, zinc and stainless steel can add depth and colour to a new rainwater system. The change in patina over time can be a great choice for properties or structures that are timber clad or oak framed, as their exteriors change as their wood ages.

Choosing a rainwater system doesn’t have to be difficult, regardless of the property you’re refurbishing. At Yeoman Rainguard, we always take an informed approach and are happy to talk you through your project’s requirements.