When it comes to the trim on your home, you might think it is all the same. However, whether it surrounds a window, falls below the roofline, or holds up the gutters makes a difference. They all have specific names and distinct purposes.
What is fascia?
The fascia is the forward-facing 1×6 or 1×8 boards mounted below the shingles and behind the gutters. Fascia is often confused with rake boards. The difference lies in their location. Rake or bargeboards are trim pieces that run at an angle beneath the home’s gables. Fascia runs horizontally along the roofline, binding together the roof eaves.
Fascia boards can be pine, spruce, fir, cedar, or redwood. Although more expensive than other pressure-treated options, redwood and cedar boards are more durable. Their natural resistance to rot and insects helps them last longer outdoors.
Why is fascia important?
At first glance, the fascia appears decorative mainly. One of the last elements added to a new home, it blends in with the other trim pieces and contributes to the polished appearance of your home. However, it serves three distinct purposes.
- Roof Support – In many cases, the fascia helps support the last row of shingles or tiles on the roof.
- Water Protection – Fascia seals off the junction between the gables of the roof overhangs, preventing water from penetrating the exterior walls and causing water damage.
- Holds Gutters – Fascia boards are the point of attachment for gutters that channel water off the roof and away from the home.
If the fascia starts to rot, it loses structural integrity, leading to drooping gutters, a leaking roof, or water damage in the walls. Regularly inspecting and maintaining your fascia can help avoid all of these problems.
What are the leading causes of damage to fascia?
The principal cause of damaged and rotting fascia boards is water. While you should expect these boards to get wet when it rains or snows, they should not become waterlogged. Excessive moisture within the boards can cause them to rot or allow mold and mildew to grow.
Controlling the water flow from the roof off and away from the fascia is vital to preserving its longevity. If your roof is not installed correctly or falling apart, the water may not be able to flow directly to the gutters as it should. This water may find another way to the ground, seeping under or around the gutters and soaking the fascia.
Even if the water makes it to the gutters, it may not flow to the ground properly if the gutters are clogged. Gutters are designed with the side away from the house shorter than the side next to the house. The idea behind this design is that if the gutters overflow, the water will run off on the side away from the house. However, in a torrential downpour, the water may spill over both sides, drenching the fascia boards to which the gutters are attached.
Likewise, leaking seams in the gutters can allow water to drip out rather than running off through the gutter system. Sealing such leaks or installing a seamless gutter system can fix this problem.
How can I tell when fascia needs replacing?
To avoid costly water damage repairs, we recommend inspecting your fascia at least once a year when you clean out your gutters. If you hire someone else to clean your gutters, ask them to look for some of the following problem indicators while they are up close to the fascia boards.
Peeling Paint – Outdoor paint does not last forever, and peeling paint may indicate that it is time to touch it up. However, if the paint is fresh, you may have a water problem. When the fascia boards get wet and swell, the paint does not adhere well to the wet surface. Once the paint starts cracking, it allows more moisture in as well. You should always address cracking paint to protect the fascia boards.
Staining – Is your white trim looking a little yellow this year? The discoloration is an early sign that water may be getting behind the paint and causing it to change color. Likely, the wood beneath is not rotten yet but has been wet. Look for signs of moisture to figure out where the water is coming from and where it is going.
Sagging Gutters – If your fascia is in good condition, it should hold your gutters securely against the house. When they start sagging, you can be sure that either the fascia is failing or the hardware holding up the gutters needs replacing. Nails may wiggle themselves loose over time. Long zinc plated screws are a better choice for attaching gutters. However, if you have rotten fascia boards, you will need to replace them first so that the screws have good wood to anchor the gutters.
If you see signs that your fascia fails to keep out water, hold up your gutters, or support your roof, it is time to replace the rotting portions. The good news is that fascia boards are relatively inexpensive, and replacing them is a task that many homeowners can do independently. However, it is always good to call in an expert to complete the project for you if you are uncomfortable with the task.