The board along your roof line is called the fascia, and I find moisture damage in many when performing my home inspections.
I have been taking on several different home maintenance projects this week.As a home inspector, I try to examine my own home every so often. My son and I crawled through the attic to install more insulation and a radiant barrier. I am prepping the house for a paint job. I am organizing the garage. Replacing door handles. Besides some home and roof inspections, a couple of people I know hired me to do a bit of work around their home. Not my typical line, but earning a little money helps. I posted about a window repair steps on the forum earlier this week, since that was one task that I was asked to do. Part of preparing for the paint job is fixing damaged trim or other parts of the wall before painting.
The fascia on many homes is susceptible to water damage (moisture penetration). If you take an awl or a screwdriver to the wood trim or the fascia, you can check for areas in need of repair by pushing into the wood. If you have little resistance, the wood has a problem. I have seen where wood that should have been replaced was just painted over to cover it up on my inspections. Another favorite tactic is to cover these pieces with a thin board. The issue with this method is that the damage portions are left behind this covering. Repairing an existing fascia makes more sense, and it is not out of the capabilities of most homeowners. Here are the steps:
Step 1- Find the extent of the damage with the awl method mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Step 2- Remove all damaged wood from the home. I take a hammer to knock out most of the wood. I then cut out the wood to a section that is solid, so no damaged portion is left. Here is a trick: check to see where your rafter
end is located. This is the nailing surface for the fascia. Rafters are spaced anywhere from sixteen to twenty four inches apart. Cutting the fascia in such a way to allow you to nail into rafter creates the most secure attachment for the wood. Another tip: the fascia is covered by a drip edge for the roof. This is a metal strip that wraps around the sheathing of the roof to the face of the fascia. You can lift this piece up to cut out the wood for the fascia underneath it. Do not harm this edging, because it will cause future moisture penetration.
Step 3- Finding your nailing surfaces. As mentioned in step 2, rafters are the norm; however, you may not have this option. There are two solutions to making nailing surfaces for small patches. First, you
could attach a 2 by 4 to the soffit (the part that is perpendicular to your exterior wall, under the eave). It is easier to screw these nailing blocks in. You can also extend this block from the rafter, so it could be nailed into the rafter. Depending on how far it extends, you may need to attach this piece to the soffit too. Another method is to screw a block into the end of the last good fascia portion. You should then screw the new fascia into the block. Hammering will not work in this situation. Tip: mark the rafter/nailer positions with a pencil on the drip edge. Once your new fascia board goes up, you will not see where those nailers are; this gives you a reference point.
Step 4- Prepare the new fascia, before securing it to the home. There are many new products on the market which are great replacements for your home. Hardie plank is a cement board product that is a favorite among home inspectors for exteriors. There are also wood/plastic boards, like Trex, and PVC boards. These are great, but you may not want to use them if you are making a patch. I bought a standard 8 foot board (1X 8 ) for $7. I primed both the front and back of the board with Kilz. This is a primer product that helps prevent moisture damage- there are other brands, I have been using Kilz for twenty years, so I am loyal to it. When picking a board, carefully check it out. Knots are alright as long as there are not too many, too large, or already looking as if they are coming out. It is hard to find many boards in this class without knots entirely. Look for cracks. Why are all the cracked strips on top? Maybe everyone else is throwing them back too. Look down the edge of the board to check if it is warped. Yes, you will be nailing it in, but the warp will fight against the nails.
Step 5- measure the opening once, then measure it again. Once you have cut the board, that is it. I will go over filling in possible open spaces later, but trying to obtain a tight fit is the best.
Step 6- Placing your new fascia board in place. Third hands can be a help for longer boards. Slip the new piece under that drip edge for the roof. Try not to bend it too much; we want a tight fit to keep the water out. I keep the nails in an easy to reach pocket. I lay the hammer on
top of the ladder, before going up with the board. You may need a screwdriver for lifting the drip edge. I have found that I never have needed the screwdriver, but there may always be a first time. Once the piece is fitted, I have those pencil marks for locating where to nail. Tip: remember that the fascia extends beyond the soffit, so you will want to nail towards the roof line, rather than down towards the bottom of the fascia. Nails: exterior grade nails are a must. For a cleaner look, go with a finishing nail (these have small heads that can be hammered into the wood with a punch). You could use a nail with a head. This is a bit more secure, but you may want to hammer it in further than the surface, then cover this with a dab of caulk or wood epoxy. Remember to paint the primer over these nail heads.
Step 7- Correcting the flaws of the installation. I have seen enough professionals make mistakes that I know that I will not have everything perfect when I do the job. Joints do not perfectly butt up to one another, or there may be an added dent in the wood’s surface from an errant hammer blow. Maybe the board slightly cracked because of too much force when positioning it into place. Wood epoxy is one solution for filling in these areas. I use a wood patch more often. A wood patch meant for exterior or interior applications can work wonders. The material has a play dough consistency (it is made from glue and wood dust in its most basic form), so I knead it in my hands, and I push it into cracks or dents. (Wood patch may irritate the skin, so you could wear gloves, or wash your hands directly after handling it). If the crack is more a space, cut a small piece of wood to fit into that gap. It may be hard to nail this. You could use some fast acting glue to hold it. Put the wood patch into the joint area. Again, prime areas where the wood patch or wood epoxy was used.
Step 8- Going the extra mile. Alright, this is an overkill procedure, but before I paint, I want this board to last. If the drip edge is not flush, and I cannot bend it to be flush, I run a bead of exterior grade silicone caulk along the edge. I have also found that most damage from moisture on a fascia occurs where two pieces of drip edging overlap. I caulk this overlap. I also prune any tree limbs or bushes coming along the fascia or roof.
Step 9- Paint the board to match the rest of the house. You are done. I have never heard of anyone doing this, but I was thinking of experimenting with a protective seal coat just on the fascia. This may be to expensive when painting the entire house, but a sealer over the paint may help prevent further water damage. I might try it out to see how it looks one one section of fascia.
I prime my boards a day in advance before making my patch. I use only hand tools. The sawing may go faster with a powered saw, but I feel that it is easy to go to far with the cut. Making the patch took me an hour on a one story house. For a two story house, it should not take much longer, but you do need a little more time for set up. Do you have any tips to share?