How to Replace Guttering

Lindab Steel Half Round Guttering


There are many factors for building owners to consider before deciding when and how to replace guttering. For the most part, homeowners or businesses will only replace guttering once it has fallen into a state of disrepair and is leaking. This may be due to corrosion of the pipes or the failure of seals at joints in the guttering.

The guttering system plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the building and any broken or leaking sections can lead to water making an ingress into the property. This can cause serious damage which requires significant expenditure to rectify.

Do you need Professional Help?

Once the decision has been made to install a new water drainage system, the next choice is whether to bring in an experienced professional roofer or guttering specialist or to tackle it as a DIY task.

The beauty of appointing a professional is that the home or building owner only needs to set the specification and the professional will take care of removing the old system and installing the new one in a safe manner. However, having that peace of mind comes at a handsome price and many DIY enthusiasts will fancy taking on the task themselves and can achieve the same result but on a much lower budget.

Safe Removal of Plastic Guttering

The primary initial consideration when deciding how to replace guttering is the safe removal of the old guttering. The level of difficulty involved in removing the old system depends on the height of it, ease of access to the roof soffits and the materials from which the old one was constructed.

Lindab Steel Guttering Round 85dg Pipe Bend


If the old guttering is plastic, then the actual removal is a relatively simple task since plastic is comparatively light and can be easily handled. It will usually only need unscrewing from the existing fixtures. The weathering effects, particularly of sunlight, will have made it brittle and liable to cracking. This can be an advantage when it is difficult to remove the existing screws due to corrosion or the screwheads being damaged at installation.

Safe Removal of Cast Iron Guttering

Knowing how to replace guttering when it is plastic is one thing but removing cast iron guttering is a significantly more difficult task due to its much greater weight. From a purely health and safety perspective, having heavy lengths of a cast iron system falling to the ground would prove a danger to all.

It is important to not underestimate the difficulty of safely manhandling heavy lengths of cast iron guttering down ladders or off scaffolding platforms. Where possible, it is usual to hammer large nails into the wooden soffit below a run of cast iron guttering to support the weight of the gutter before attempting to dismantle the joints or junctions. This is because it is impossible to support the weight one-handed while working on the junction or joint with the other hand.

Once the joints have been removed, two people can share the task of bringing the cast iron pipe or gutter to the ground. Removing guttering of alternative materials such as copper, aluminium and coated lightweight steel is more difficult than removing plastic but is a simpler task than removing a cast iron system.

As people are becoming more environmentally aware, one of the issues that owners of buildings need to consider is the environmental responsibility in the disposal of the old system. Cast iron, aluminium and copper are ideal candidates for responsible recycling and even some plastic systems can be recycled by specialist recycling companies. It is desirable to have a recycling plan in place before beginning the removal of the old system.

Cost and Aesthetic Appearance

Lindab Half Round 90dg Outer Gutter Angle


Understandably, the first two areas that home and business owners concentrate on when deciding how to replace guttering are cost and the aesthetic appearance of the guttering on the building. The look of a modern plastic system installed on an Edwardian or Victorian house could be visually jarring but look perfectly fine on a house built in the 1980s or on a modern office block.

Equally, the cost of installing cast iron or copper guttering may be beyond the home or business owner’s budget forcing the consideration of alternative materials. There are many alternatives available such as coated lightweight steel which comes in a variety of colours and styles, including styles from different eras.

Whilst thought must be given to the proper disposal of the old system, similar considerations need to be taken account of when choosing a new system. Choosing an affordable system that looks good and is friendly to the environment is challenging, with many variables that need to be considered.

Here are some examples of different materials and their advantages and disadvantages:

  • Plastic is probably the least environmentally friendly choice and the least attractive option visually but it is easy to install and the most competitively priced option.
  • Aluminium and copper are more visually attractive but more complicated to install
  • Lightweight steel systems are simple to install and can be coloured and styled to match the look of the existing building.
  • Cast iron is a comparatively expensive choice but looks a million dollars when installing on the right buildings. Whilst its production is not especially friendly to the environment, it is wholly recyclable at the end of its service life and can be used again and again.

If trying to decide how to replace guttering from a purely environmentally friendly point of view, it is probably best to look at the carbon footprint of each material as measured over the whole lifetime of the product. This ensures the carbon footprint of a material which might only last ten years can be fairly compared with one having a life expectancy of one hundred years.