The fascia and the soffit both provide functional and aesthetic value to the home, but they are also prone to a number of issues that could require professional repair
A roof is actually pretty complex, with a variety of parts and components that work together to increase ventilation, provide protection, and improve the overall aesthetics of your home.
Two often misunderstand roofing components are the soffit and the fascia. And while both are vital parts of your home, they can contribute to some common roofing problems which may need professional repair.
What Is the Soffit and How Does It Work?
The word soffit derives from the French word for "formed as a ceiling" and the Latin term for "to fix underneath." The soffit can refer to the horizontal underside of an archway, a staircase, or a ceiling, but it typically refers to an exposed surface beneath the hanging section of a roof eave.
Part of the soffit’s function is to help ventilate the attic. The soffit typically features a plain design with small holes that provide air circulation. The air from the soffit cycles to the vents to draw heat and moisture away from the house. This is a highly important function because moisture in the attic can cause rot in the sheathing and rafters.
Vinyl is the most popular material for soffits, as it minimizes degradation that comes from heat and moisture exposure. This is especially important considering that the soffit can be easily exposed to moisture due to unkempt gutters and wet weather conditions.
If you’re looking to buy a new home, choose a soffit with vinyl as its primary material. Vinyl is both water-resistant and cost-effective and can save you energy because it is highly efficient when it comes to regulating a home’s temperature.
Common Soffit Issues
As important as it is, the soffit can fall victim to a number of issues. Tackle them by hiring a soffit repair professional or by putting on your DIY hat.
Soffits can be tricky to install, and an improper installation could lead to a host of serious problems. If the soffits have been incorrectly placed, they could be vulnerable to wind damage and related weather conditions. If the soffits are too close together, they may not properly ventilate your home.
A reputable roof inspector will give the soffits a good look to see if they have been properly installed.
Animal and Insect Intrusions
Birds, small rodents, bees, wasps, and a variety of other unwelcome guests can make their home in the spaces between the eaves. These same pests can use the soffits to gain access to the attic.
Conduct a spot check in your attic for tell-tale signs of an infestation and look at the soffits themselves. Are they spaced properly? Are there small holes or cracks that insects could make a home in? Seal up any holes or cracks with caulk or mesh and contact a professional exterminator near you if needed.
Soffits can experience moisture damage, as they are typically located next to the gutters. Wooden soffits are especially vulnerable, which is one of the primary reasons modern consumers tend to go with vinyl soffits.
You can prevent water damage by making it a point to clean the soffits when you clean the gutters. If you notice some telltale signs of moisture damage, such as blisters and cracks, repaint them as soon as possible. If the water damage has compromised the structural integrity of the soffits, you may need to contact a qualified pro.
Contrary to popular belief, dry rot is not actually caused by an abundance of moisture damage, but by certain types of fungus that thrive on wood fiber. Dry rot typically starts on wood siding but can easily spread to the soffit.
Check for dry rot by grabbing a large screwdriver or similar tool and tapping the soffit gently but firmly. If pieces immediately fall out, you likely have dry rot and should contact a professional to replace the soffit.
What is the Fascia
The fascia is a vertical finishing edge connected to the area where the gutter attaches to the roof, though it can also be found connected to the rafters or trusses. The fascia’s primary role is to act as a layer between the roof’s edge and the outdoors, and it’s meant to protect the wooden board from water damage.
Aside from its functional role, the fascia also plays a very important aesthetic role, creating a smoother, more even appearance for the roof’s edge. In addition to protecting the wooden board from water damage, the fascia protects the entire roof and the house’s interior from weather damage by blocking water from the home. Most homes feature a fascia board, but some older home styles lack this component.
Common Fascia Board Issues
Just like its soffit cousin, the fascia board can experience a wide range of issues that may need repair.
Most fascia boards are wood, and this wood can decay over time. Protect your wooden boards from decay by regularly painting them with a high-grade primer and covering up any obvious cracks and holes. You can also consider a fascia cap, otherwise known as fascia trim, which is a durable covering placed around the fascia board made from aluminum and other hearty materials.
Fascia Board Replacement
If a fascia board experiences significant decay, you may have to replace it. Fortunately, this is a fairly straightforward process and considered part of normal roof maintenance. Replacement typically entails removing the old board and putting in a new one that has been cut to length. After you have installed the replacement fascia board, seal the joints and paint it.
But there are a number of considerations when choosing the right fascia board for your home. Make sure you pick the best wood for your climate. When in doubt, cedar heartwood and cypress are good options for most environments. You should also opt for fascia boards with grain structures that are resistant to splitting, twisting, warping, and bowing.
The type of nails you use will also impact the longevity of a fascia board. Your best bet will be either stainless steel or old-fashioned, hot-dipped galvanized nails, as each nail type is incredibly durable.