Your roof is pretty high up. You probably don't look at your roof often but at least once a year you should be checking it visually to see if it's in need of repairs.
At the same time, while you're up on a ladder or taking photos, you need to check the wood trim directly under the roof line. Why? Like your roof, this trim (the fascia and soffit boards) are so high up you're not going to see the condition of the paint, and once water penetrates the wood, wood rot will start developing. Painting wood trim is much cheaper than replacing it.
Most homeowners don't have 32 ft ladders like we have on my handyman vans, so the next best tool (don't laugh) is a pair of binoculars. In just 30 minutes, you can walk round your home and visually inspect your roof, the wood trim below it and the windows/trim on the top floor(s) of your home.
Maintaining Your Home's Exterior
Most homeowners paint their home's exterior on a regular basis, but wait until the entire house shows signs of needing to be painted. Unfortunately one or 2 sides of a house (usually the south side, and those that can't dry easily due to shrubs or trees) suffer more weather related damage. For many houses, painting should be done on a rotating schedule:
- Every year – vulnerable trim like window sills and kick plates under doors should be scraped and painted.
- Midway through your painting cycle – the most vulnerable side of a home should be painted, i.e. every 3 years, where the rest of the house gets painted every 6 years. This is also a good time to review all trim and paint as needed, i.e. corner boards and trim under the roof.
- Whole house painting should be done when more than a few cracks start to show, typically every 4 to 8 years depending on the age of the house and local weather conditions (and these are changing dramatically so keep an eye on your home's exterior).
Any time you see cracks or other surface problems, this means your home is vulnerable to water damage beneath the paint surface which may not be visible. It is a challenge telling homeowners that paint isn't about being pretty, paint is meant to protect your home's exterior wood from the elements.
Water Damage Under Your Roof
In a way these photos are meant to scare you. They show examples of people's roofs when damage to the wood trim immediately below the roof isn't protected from the weather by paint and/or aluminum wrap. This series of articles is meant to alert homeowners to why you want to inspect, find and correct problems every year to minimize damage and repair costs.
So let's look at some of the most common problems just below the roof line, and if you want to learn some roof terminology, here's a good web site to visit diagram illustrating roof terminology. Of course I have a few terms I use all the time, so let me also share the tricks I use to remember which word means what (I never did well with languages or subjects where you need to memorize things like biology):
- Fascia – when standing “facing” the roof line, the vertical boards I'm looking at are the fascia.
- Soffit – right behind the fascia, lying horizontally is the soffit so I think of “sleeping” on the soffit.
First let me suggest that there are very few homeowners who should attempt these repairs, i.e. that's why there are professional handyman businesses today. Unless you grew up learning from family, how to do many different home maintenance and repair jobs, this work isn't something you want to learn on the job.
- Remember my recommendation to use the binoculars, or a digital camera works well too,and visually inspect your roof and the trim below it, every year. You can see by the black marks, that this roof … or really the soffit (and likely the fascia too as moisture travels) is in bad condition.
- Now you can see that lots of paint is peeling, so it's not surprising when we get up there with a ladder, we also find lots of wood rot. The discussion with this home owner was interesting as he was looking for a low cost solution. We first gave a standard estimates to scrape and paint (ore replace) the wood work … but this has ongoing maintenance costs. We always recommend using a composite like Azek when replacing wood, as they don't need to be painted and won't rot as there's no wood content. Further discussion about the cost of composite trim led us to also explore wrapping the fascia with aluminum, and replacing wood soffits with vinyl soffits.
- Photos 1 to 3 are the same house, and photo #3 shows detail on the damage, illustrating how once there's a problem on 1 side of the wood trim, you will often find damage on surrounding pieces of wood. Here both the fascia boards (photo #2) and the underlying soffits are in need of repair/replacement.
- This house needed repairs to this one corner, most likely due to the vegetation that didn't allow wood to dry out adequately after each downpour. This home owner did replace the damaged wood with Azek to avoid a reoccurence of the problem.
- Here we are reinstalling aluminum wrap which is almost always placed over wood trim on houses with vinyl siding. The aluminum prevents wear and tear on the hidden wood, to place the vinyl siding and trim on a similar maintenance schedule which is more about period cleaning versus scraping and painting any exposed wood. Homeowners often confuse the aluminum pieces with vinyl siding, an important distinction as special equipment called a brake, is needed to bend new pieces of aluminum.
Read the rest of our series on water damage and wood rot repairs …