Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Repairing a leaking gutter - requiring scaffolding, angle grinder and a brazing torch

When were over at our Brittany self catering holiday cottage in August last year I couldn't of course manage to relax for three whole weeks and so we organised in the middle week for Alan to come over and do some building work for me. Alan's a plasterer by trade but unlike many of the French tradesmen that tend to specialise on just one type of work, he doesn't mind doing other jobs.

One of the first things I asked Alan to take a look at was a leak in the zinc guttering over the patio at the front of the cottage. I'd tried on a couple of occasions to fix the leak using black guttering sealant but on both times the sealant hadn't worked and the water was again dripping down the wall. I knew that rainwater and walls don't mix well and so was keen to get the problem sorted.

In our part of France traditional guttering and downpipes are made of zinc, braised together with a generous dose of solder, so I expected that it'd be a straight forward job to just re-solder the joint together ... but I was quite wrong in my expectations.

The first thing Alan did was to put up a scaffolding tower from the patio to the roof level so that he could more easily work on the problem. I'd been expecting him to shimmy up a ladder which is the sort of thing I'd have done, so I was wrong on that thought as well!

Alan explained that the way that the zinc guttering should be installed is to overlap any joints with a generous 4 inches or so of guttering, and then this gives a good strong metal-to-metal area that can be braized together.

Leaking gutter in our French Gite
When we got up the scaffolding we could see that for some reason whoever had installed the guttering had either made a mistake or had run out of guttering length because whereas most of the joints had been overlaid and jointed properly there was one section where two guttering pieces had been simply butted together and then solder applied across the top. And of course with the heat and cold expansion that you get throughout the year the joint had failed and it was obvious that no amount of guttering mastic was going to provide a properly sealed and permanent joint.

So Alan had to get the angle grinder out to cut out the broken section of zinc guttering and it was off to the builders merchant to buy a new piece of guttering to cut and braze into position. Of course zinc guttering only comes in 3 metre lengths so I ended up with far more guttering than I needed for the repair (and of course I just had to save the excess "just in case" it ever became useful!).

Fitting new zinc gutter to our Brittany Holiday Home
Repairing the broken section was quite time consuming as the new section needs to overlap the existing guttering so Alan had quite a bit of filing, cleaning and bending to get the new section into position, then out with the blowlamp to melt solder all over the two joints, then test for leaks.

Job done.

As you can see on the picture the gutters are attached to the roof with big brackets and when finished the guttering is really really strong. If you ever need to climb up the roof you simply put a ladder in the guttering, rest it against the roof, and climb up!

'Jack on high' at the top of the scaffolding
And of course when it was finished our boys wanted to climb up the scaffolding and "admire the view". Here's Jack "on high"

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  • Nice work on the gutters. Looks really robust with all those brackets there. I will be buying gutters soon, what can you say about Easy Flow PVC gutters? Would it be better than the zinc gutter?

    By Anonymous James, at March 25, 2010  

  • I would think PVC gutters would be a darn sight quicker and easier to install than Zinc gutters, but of course they're not going to be all that strong.

    The roof of many French houses (mine included) is very steep so if you ever need to climb up the roof then you can simply rest the bottom of your ladder in the Zinc guttering and it's rock solid. I wouldn't fancy doing this with PVC guttering!

    By Blogger Geoffrey, at March 25, 2010  

  • Repairing the broken section was quite time consuming as the new section needs to overlap the existing guttering Liquid Roof Repair is the solution which can work better and soon.

    By Blogger RV Roof Repair, at June 08, 2017  

  • This type of gutter would solve a problem I have in England. There is no room to fix to the side of the roof but could be installed above, as this is. Do you know if it is available anywhere in France as mail order? Also do you know what the exact name of it is, as then I could google it. Perhaps ebay.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 19, 2017  

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    I think this article will fully complement your article.

    By Blogger Unknown, at November 23, 2018  

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