Fascia boards are an integral part of your roof. Follow these tips on how to make them last.
Fascia is the portion of your home's exterior trim to which gutters are usually attached. We ask much of fascia boards. Though their location makes them inherently vulnerable, they need to look good and last. And they will, if you choose good boards from a species of wood that's naturally decay resistant. As carpenters and builders, roofers use the best practices to install them.
Over the years, I've gotten calls from people saying, "I just had a new roof put on, and now I see that I have some rotten wood around the eaves. Can you come out and take a look at it for me and tell me what it's gonna cost?" Roofing eaves are made up of the fascia and its associated partner, the soffit, or the portion of your overhang to which flood lights are usually installed.
I sigh to myself, wishing they had called me before the roofing contractor came out. It's easier — and costs less — to replace the rotten wood before the roofers install a new drip edge. A drip edge is the shiny metal that flashes the joint between the edge of the roof and the top of the fascia board. Not only is it easier and less expensive, but also from an aesthetic standpoint, without the new drip edge in my way, I can sometimes do a little nicer looking job as well.
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Handpick each wood fascia board and make sure it's from a species of wood that's naturally decay resistant. Here in South Florida, that means selecting boards that come from the heartwood of cedar or cypress. It also means picking boards with grain structures that aren’t likely to split, twist, warp or bow as it endures being alternately rained on and baked by the sun.
If at all possible, never nail a fascia board near the edge of the end grain. You see this all the time where two boards have been joined on the end of a 1 ½-inch rafter or truss. If perfectly centered, each of the two adjoining board ends gets at most a ¾-inch bearing on the end of the roof truss or rafter. The carpenter angles his nail from about a ½-inch away from the edge of the fascia board into the end of the rafter or truss and expects, hopes or prays the board will not split. If he's lucky, it won't — not that day, anyway, but rest assured, the forces that will soon split that fascia board have been set in motion.
Why should you care about split board ends? One, they don't look good. Two, splits allow for more water to get into your fascia board causing them to eventually rot and cost you money for roof repairs. If you begin to notice things like this as you walk around checking your and your neighbors' homes, it’s usually at the joints in fascia boards where the rot begins.
We always nail to the end of trusses or rafter tail. That way, we can back our nails away from the edge of the board when we nail the fascia to the ends of the rafters or roof trusses. And if there is any doubt about it, we pre-drill holes for the nails. This may sound like a lot of effort, but if it makes the difference between you not having to ever call a roofer again to repair the work we did. It's time and money well spent.
Speaking of nailing, make sure your contractor uses either stainless steel or old fashioned, hot-dipped galvanized nails. The labor is the same and the additional cost is negligible, but the difference in how long your fascia lasts is substantial.
4. Paint the ends of your fascia boards
There is one more step we take to protect the edges of fascia boards. These edges are the end grain of the wood. If you look at the end grain under a microscope, it looks like you are looking at the end of a tight grouping of straws, and actually, you are. Wood wicks water into its edge grain the same way paper straws in a glass of water will eventually be wet much higher than the level of the water in the glass.
We like to dip the end of each piece of fascia board wood we put up into the best grade of primer paint we can buy. We leave the board in the primer for a few minutes so that it can wick up as much paint as it wants. This goes a long way toward protecting the most vulnerable portion of the whole board.