Dealing With Rotted Soffits And Fascia

Soffits and fascia are designed for both form and function. Not only do they give your roofline a more streamlined appearance, but they also create a barrier of sorts between the underlying roof structure and the elements. Unfortunately, the soffit and fascia are usually the first components of your roof to succumb to rot.

Things That Can Turn Your Soffits and Fascia Rotten

A dry home relies on its roof to properly channel water away from vulnerable areas. However, problems ranging from ice dams and damaged shingles to bad flashing and poorly installed and/or maintained gutters can cause water to seep into the soffits and fascia. Once that happens, the waterlogged wood quickly deteriorates under the onslaught of mold and water damage.

Nesting animals can also cause problems. Once birds, squirrels and other small creatures make their nest inside the eaves, they can cause damage by chewing and pecking through the structure. Leaves and other nesting material can also trigger mold growth and contribute to the structure's overall damage.

When faced with these problems, it's only a matter of time before the soffit and fascia must be removed and replaced, either in part or completely.

Removal and Replacement

Unlike the majority of roof repairs, soffit and fascia replacements are usually done without having to climb on the roof. This fact alone makes it less intimidating for do-it-yourselfers who don't enjoy heights – or the remote likelihood of falling through their own roof. Nevertheless, a roofing contractor will be more than glad to professionally replace your soffit and fascia if you don't feel comfortable with the task.

If you feel like taking on this project yourself, here are the general steps for removing and replacing your soffit and fascia:

  • Start by prying the shingle mold away from the fascia. Don't worry if it splits – you can always have a new one installed once the job is nearly complete. Afterwards, carefully remove the rotted portion of fascia away from the roof without disturbing nearby shingles or flashing.
  • Carefully pull down and remove the soffit from the rafter, taking care to remove any nesting material you happen to find in that area. You may have to move some crown molding out of the way in order to free the soffit.
  • Any rotted wood found should be cut out, removed and replaced with fresh, treated lumber.
  • Prep the new soffit by priming the top and bottom surfaces with water-resistant paint and coating the edges with a wax sealant.
  • Carefully attach the new soffit to the rafter and install the new fascia. It's a good idea to fasten both the soffit and fascia in place using galvanized nails to prevent corrosion and warping. Don't forget to reattach the shingle molding to the top of the fascia.

Preventative Steps

To prevent having to redo all of your hard work, here are a few preventative tips you can use:

  • When rebuilding soffits and fascia, make sure you're using wood that offers natural resistance to rot. Hardwoods like Ipe and Cumaru and softwoods like Western Red Cedar and Cypress are ideal building material for paneling that sees regular exposure to moisture.
  • Consider re-engineering portions of your roof to channel water away from the soffits and other vulnerable areas. For instance, carpenter's gaps between the roof deck and fascia board can be partially covered with the use of drip edge flashing.  Meanwhile, the gap itself should be blocked with wire mesh to prevent small animals from gaining entry.
  • Instead of replacing your wooden soffits with the same material, consider switching to aluminum soffits. Made from prefinished aluminum paneling, these soffits require next to no maintenance and last for years on end. Combined with aluminum fascia, these metal soffits provide a maintenance-free solution for an all-too-common problem.

With these tips, you can rest knowing that your new soffits and fascia will last for years or even decades to come.