Outraged by a sky-high quote for new guttering, a DIYER goes it alone
Idon’t believe it! €3,000 – they must be joking!” Yes, I know this sounds like a cross between Scrooge and Victor Meldrew but it really was a genuine shock when we received the estimate for replacing our old barn guttering.
As is usual in these (surprisingly frequent) cases, my outrage soon turned to pragmatism and I started the ‘practical’ conversation with my wife Rosie, which ran something like this.
“How difficult can it be taking a few tiles off and replacing the old brackets? I can do that. I just need a bit of help and a ladder.”
“Come on dear, you’re approaching 70, with a bad back and have no idea what you are doing.”
My competitive, 30-year-old spirit re-ignites and I leap to the challenge. The computer is started and off I go on a Google search of ‘How to replace galvanised guttering, at 70’.
Galvanised into action
The barn guttering is the old galvanised zinc type but it had deteriorated to a state where it was becoming a danger. The downpipe had been repaired by tape, gunk and anything else that might keep it going for a few more years. It had to be done.
DIY forums on the internet, about the traditional type of French galvanised guttering, contained horror stories and dire warnings against using solder while at a height... or overheating the solder and burning through the guttering… or setting fire to the original timbers of the roof. Was I mad?
There had to be a simpler solution. I trawled UK roofing sites to see if I could find an alternative. Two friends suggested using plastic. On an old French barn? I don’t think so!
Eventually I found a company called Lindab which sells galvanised steel guttering and has outlets in the UK, but was it available in France? I emailed Thomas at Lindab in Sweden and within hours received a positive response that a new outlet for their products was about to open in Lyon. I emailed Jean-christophe Achard in Lyon, who came straight back saying they could supply the guttering and deliver to Burgundy. Result!
I sent Jean-christophe my requirements, having costed the project in the UK. He sent me an estimate for the items within a day. The costs were almost the same as in the UK, excluding packaging and delivery, but the thought of four five-metre lengths of guttering flapping about on the top of my car on the French autoroute made this cost worth its weight in gold. The delivery date was set for the week my son was available to help me with the project.
Both Thomas at Lindab and Jean-christophe from Achards in Lyon provided first-class help, even adapting my list of requirements as I had inadvertently doubled up on brackets. I had calculated that, for half the cost of the original estimate, I could buy the guttering and a scaffolding tower. I considered hiring échafaudage (the very word seemed beyond me at this point) but the cost was quite high and I had no idea how long it would take. I could also use the tower for future work. I found and bought a suitable scaffold online and arranged a delivery date.
Scaling the heights
On the agreed day, the scaffolding tower arrived. IKEA flat-packs had nothing on this beast. With instructions in Slovakian and diagrams that made my three-year-old granddaughter’s drawings look like architectural designs, we set about the task; weird metal objects, bolts and tools were strewn across the lawn. After five hours, we had something that looked like the drawing even though there were several bolts and screws missing (another story).
My son arrived on the same day as the guttering and we unpacked the carefully wrapped items. How could I have imagined bringing these from the UK on top of the car!
We scaled the tower and worked out how to remove the slate tiles. A twist of the metal clips and they slid out easily. It took most of the day in 30-degree heat to remove two rows and the old battens. This was necessary as the new guttering brackets were to fit on the roof beams. Brackets to fit on the side of the beams would, in retrospect, have been better but that was our miscalculation.
Once the tiles were removed we were ready for the first bracket. We had bought a ‘bracket bending’ tool, quite costly but essential, to be
able to bend the steel brackets to the correct angle. Lindab provide an excellent video online or on Youtube which makes the process perfectly clear. Over an 18m span, it is essential to get the correct drop to the outlet so a line from one end to the other is very helpful. We used a spirit level attached by duct tape to a length of straight wood to balance between each bracket. It did the trick.
Moment of truth
The beauty of the connection system of each length of guttering is that they interlock along the edges, and are then locked again by the joints which clip tight with a rubber seal. A cut is made in the last length of guttering to accommodate the rain hopper which links over the gutter. This, in turn, connects to the downpipes. No solder, no heat, no burns, barn still standing! It needed two people but once we had the hang of it the process was quick and easy.
We completed the job at 9pm in the twilight of the evening before our return home to the UK. The downpipes connect to the joints and are then screwed to the wall. You just have to get them the right way up. The moment of truth came as we pointed the hosepipe onto the roof; 30 seconds later we had water draining out of the spout – our cheers and yells of delight must have sounded to our farmer neighbours as if we had struck oil!
A few minor cuts from tiles, sore fingers from bending clips and an aching back were the only real after-effects. Oh, and be very aware that wasps love nesting under roof tiles. A wasp sting five metres up a scaffold tower is a novel experience; do you jump to get quick relief from the acute pain or climb down sensibly and suffer the agony for a few extra seconds?
Never mind the pain; we had done it in three days, saved €1,500 and now have a scaffold tower of our very own. Bring on the rain! Now, I think the barn really needs a wooden staircase... how difficult can that be?
The thought of fivemetre-long gutters flapping about on the top of my car on the autoroute made the delivery cost worth its weight in gold
The gutters are made from galvanised zinc
Putting together the flatpack scaffold tower took a lot of brain power!
Russell’s property is an old farmhouse and barn in Burgundy
Each length of guttering interlocks along the edges, and is then locked again by joints with a rubber seal
As well as the guttering, Russell bought a scaffold tower and still saved money!