Friday, 24 August 2018

Downpipes: Before, During and After

When I bought Balintore Castle most of the downpipes were missing: long since removed by lead and cast iron bounty hunters. To get the roof draining properly as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible, plastic downpipes were installed everywhere. They certainly did the job, but aesthetics dictated that they were only a temporary solution.

I have been scouring eBay for years for reclaimed cast iron downpipe. The square profile at Balintore is much rarer than the round, and despair set in. However, a few years ago I spotted 12 lengths for sale just outside Reading. I bagged this for £150. The retail price for new is around £200 a length i.e. £2400!

These reclaimed downpipes have been stored in the basement of the castle. During my current holiday at the castle I insisted that these be installed: Gregor and Greg got on the case yesterday. The kitchen wing is getting close to "holiday let" readiness, so it made sense to replace the three lengths on the exterior of this section of the castle first. The photographs show the "before, during and after" of  the replacement of the plastic by cast iron.  All photographs are from today:

remaining reclaimed cast iron downpipes in basement

before: temporary round grey plastic downpipe
during: Greg pointing stonework before replacing downpipe
after: replacement square cast iron downpipe in position - top section still to be painted

original downpipe profile
replacement downpipe profile- what a match!

The original cast iron downpipe was galvanised so has a somewhat matt silver/grey appearance. This looks well, and the zinc coating has certainly done its job over the last 160 years. There is not a hint of rust. To emulate this look I found a cast iron primer which is grey in colour. Protection and no need to paint in a one-er! I initially used this primer on replacement gutters last year, but when we tried it on the downpipe yesterday it seemed rather gloupy and went on in a rather uneven manner, with the paint surface breaking up almost like oil on water. When dried, the effect was OK but in the pursuit of perfection Gregor brought in some paint thinner today to see if this might help.

It is only now putting the original and reclaim downpipe photos together on this blog, that I see how exact a match has been achieved - hurrah!

I got a second job lot of "square" downpipe from a Bristol architectural yard sell-off earlier in the year for £30. Well, it was advertised as square but is actually 3" by 4" instead of the required 4" by 4". As it is the right style, I suspect that the difference will not be noticed by eye, if used in selected locations. After all, I was fooled by the auction photograph below (lot 297). With a 2D image you cannot tell the difference between perspective and dimensional difference. 
Of course, even more is required: one has to pipeline one's downpipes! :-)

second job lot of reclaim downpipe


  1. Hi David, have been watching progress with interest. You may remember that I am a member of the last family to have lived in the castle, when my father factored for Lady Lyall. My sister and I will be up at the weekend and we wondered if we might drop by on Sunday afternoon, to see for ourselves...Regards, Sheana Griffiths

    1. Yes, I will be around on Sunday afternoon. Looking forward to meeting you. :-)

  2. Coming this afternoon instead, if that’s ok, round about three pm.⭐️

  3. I love your focus (obsession?) with doing things right. Just a joy to see!

    1. Thanks! I am doing my best to put things back as they were originally or at least in the same style. Each compromise pains me considerably, but you can't fight the real world where there are constraints of practicality, time and cost!