Do You Have Rotting Soffits or Fascia?
One of the most common home repair calls we get in the Cincinnati area are for soffit and fascia damage. Soffits and fascia are parts of the home that are particularly susceptible to water, storm and animal damage. Unfortunately, however, soffit and fascia construction defects abound in Cincinnati-area homes and therefore you need to be on guard to spot trouble before expensive soffit rot drains your bank account.
Watch Video on Soffit and Fascia Rot Explanation
How to Stop Damage to Soffits and Fascia
In this article and accompanying video, I will share with you how your soffits and fascia become rotted and ruined and what you can do to mitigate costly repairs resulting from their demise. Specifically, I will illustrate (using my high-tech white board!) how the roof, gutter, soffit and fascia work together to shed water from the house. Then I’ll indicate how a defect or breakdown in this system allows water to enter the fascia and soffit area to cause a rash of water damage and wood rot. Finally, I’ll share a few simple steps you can take to reduce your chances of experiencing costly fascia and soffit repair on your home.
How are Soffits and Fascia Damaged?
Soffit Rot in Cincinnati
First, a quick story. When I entered the home repair industry, I would look up toward the roof line of a home and notice that the soffits (sometimes called “eves” in other parts of the country) would appear damaged or worn. The paint would appear worn, bubbling or peeling and the wood would sometime be rotting. Ironically, the surrounding wood and paint on the fascia, trim and siding appeared fine. The soffit, being on the underside of the roofline, is generally sheltered from direct rain, ice and wind… so I thought, “Why would this area be damaged when surrounding areas are not?” My experience seems rather counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?
It wasn’t until I learned a little more about how the roof, gutter, soffit and fascia are supposed to work together that I uncovered the answer to my question. In the video associated with this article, I diagram how water gets in behind the soffit and damages the wood from the backside. The vertical surface of the soffit then traps moisture, allowing water to pool. Hence, wood rot and paint damage happen much faster as a result of the moist environment.
Fascia and Soffits Don’t Like Water
You really need to watch the video, as I’m much better at explaining things in person than in writing. But the overall concept of how water gets behind your fascia and soffit is fairly simple. Water flows down the shingles, reaches the end of the roof and needs somewhere to go. Ideally, the water falls off the shingle into a properly sloped gutter, into a downspout, out a drain and away from the house. However, some water will adhere to the underside of the shingle and drip down onto the fascia board.
Don Kennedy explains fascia and soffit rot
This is why a part called “drip edge” is critical to the process of protecting the fascia and soffit from water. Drip edge, does just what its name implies. It is a piece, usually made of aluminum, that runs parallel to the gutter and edge of the shingles to direct water away from the fascia and soffit and into the gutter. Think of drip edge as you would a crossing guard in front of a school. The children, then represent the wayward drops of water, wanting to run all over the place. The crossing guard makes sure that the kids stay in the crosswalk and protected from oncoming traffic. Drip edge, then, serves as the “crossing guard,” making sure water drops into the gutters and not allowed to soak the fascia or get into the soffit area.
Water Damage to Fascia and Soffits
Soffit Rotted Away
If the drip edge is broken or missing, damage to fascia and soffits can occur. Water coming off the roof will travel back up the shingle and soak the fascia board. Over time, the fascia board becomes rotted, undermining and of the fasteners that are sunk into that piece of wood. Given that the gutter is usually attached to the fascia board, during a heavy rain, the weight of the water in that gutter will cause either the gutter itself, or the entire gutter and fascia assembly to pull away from the home. In this case, homeowners might conclude that simply reattaching the gutter is all that is needed, when a much more comprehensive repair is required.
Once the fascia board rots or pulls away from the home, it opens up a perfect pathway for water to travel into the soffit area. As water pools inside the soffit, it completely rots and ruins that wood. Unfortunately however, unless a homeowner spot the water dripping out of a soffit vent, they won’t see any symptom until serious damage has occurred—that symptom being peeling paint or rotted wood. In such cases, no simple repair will do. Rather, the wood must be torn out and replaced.
Fascia and Gutter Pulling Away
Water entering the soffit region of the roof can also cause additional damage. If the leak is substantial enough, water can travel past the soffit into the exterior wall of the home and damage drywall, insulation, sheathing and framing. Moisture inside the wall not only causes expensive damage, but invites termites and carpenter ants to feed on the moist wood—perpetuating the problem. Repairing water damage from this scenario is invasive and expensive—yet often preventable.
Fascia and Soffit Warning Signs
Although your home may contain defects in how shingles, drip edge and gutters are installed, it may not be cost effective for you to inspect, remove and re-install these components correctly. Consequently, I’d recommend you keep an eye out for two things to alert you early on to a problem with your fascia.
- Look for abnormality between the gutter and fascia: Discoloration peeling paint, dampness or deterioration in the fascia board can be resolved and repaired before damage to the soffit or wood rot occurs. (See accompanying picture)
- Look for stains or black streaks coming down the face of the gutter: This might be an indication of your gutters overflowing. Resolving this early before water backs up and flows into the fascia and soffits can save costly repairs in the future. (See accompanying picture)
Keep and eye out for fascia problems
Preventative Maintenance to Avoid Fascia and Soffit Repairs
- Keep those gutters clean! Often overlooked during a gutter cleaning are the qualities that keep the gutters flowing. Check the slope of all gutters along with cleaning the downspouts and drains. Gutter guards aren’t a fail-safe! Periodic inspection and cleaning is still needed if you have gutter guards installed.
- Keep wood fascia and soffits caulked and painted. If any water does come in contact with the wood, it will be protected from wood rot if the gaps are caulked and the paint is in good condition.
- Keep the animals & insects away! Birds, wasps, raccoons, squirrels and other critters seem to love this region of your home to make it theirs. Unfortunately, their presence is usually destructive to fascia and soffits so remove them as soon as they move in.
Gutters Are Key to Preventing Soffit and Fascia Damage
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