In this in-depth guide for homeowner’s, My Gutter Doctor explains everything there is to know about Fascia Board and Fascia Board Rot. We’ll take a close look at how gutter damages potentially lead to wood damages, such as fascia board rot, if not taken care of promptly.
Since we are a gutter company, our basic explanation of fascia boards is that they are a trim board that gutters are mounted to. Fascia Boards are installed horizontally across the roofing eaves of homes by mounting to the roof rafters. Without fascia the edge of the roof line would be exposed to the elements and wildlife. Not to mention air would freely flow into your roof/attic making it more expensive to maintain temperatures in the home.
In the photo below is a new section of fascia board that we recently installed to a home. The white board is the fascia board. If you follow the white board along you will notice it ends halfway across the roof edge. The other half is open which leaves the roof exposed. Every two feet along the open roof eave you see vertical boards which are called roof rafters.
The most commonly used wood used for fascia boards is pine. Primed pine finger joint board to be precise. However other woods such as cedar, spruce, fir, or even red wood are common in different regions of the country they are local to. In addition to real wood there are also vinyl or composite options available that are more costly but last longer.
The standard size Fascia Board that is found on most homes is 1″ x 6″. However 1″ x 8″ and 1″ x 10″ are also common sizes. In addition there are also fascia that are slightly thicker at one and a quarter inches thick. We call those boards “five quarter” or 5/4″ to keep it simpler. In the same fashion as 1″ x 6″ fascia, 5/4″ is also available in 5/4″ x 8″ and 5/4″ by 10″ sizes.
To demonstrate the size difference we included this photo of a 1×6″ fascia board (left) beside a 5/4″ fascia board (right).
Exposure to water and moisture causes fascia boards to deteriorate at a much faster pace than if protected. This process is called Fascia Board Rot.
First the waterproof paint will wear away which leaves the wood open and exposed.
Once the paint is gone the deterioration process speeds up until the boards start to fall apart. Eventually the boards will start splinter into shards and the gutters will fall as the boards are no longer able to support the gutter system.
In addition to fascia board rot from exposure to water the roof rafters can also take on water damage if water is getting behind the the fascia boards. Furthermore rot can even spread from board to board through contact.
As we’ve mentioned roof rafters make up the frame of the roof. Therefore another way to think of rafters is that they make up the skeleton of the roof. In the photo below from a recent roofing repair you can clearly see left roof rafter is black from water damage. This is the first stage of wood rot. Unfortunately replacing roof rafters is a very complicated and expensive process. Therefore making sure fascia board rot doesn’t get out of hand to the point it spreads to the rafters is absolutely vital. If the rafters go then your looking at frame work and possibly roof replacement.
When gutters are loose from the home to the point there is a gap behind the gutter, then water is able to come in contact with the fascia board. Direct contact with water is the worse thing possible for fascia boards. Therefore it is important to keep an eye out for gutters coming loose and have them fixed sooner rather than later.
In the photo below you can see a gutter that is loose from the fascia board. Upon closer inspection you may notice that the white paint has all but completely worn off from water exposure. This is the beginning stage of fascia board rot.
Neglecting your gutters by allowing them to stay full of leaves and other debris for extended periods of time will lead to costly home repairs. Clogged gutters and downspouts cause damages to fascia boards in different ways. When the water is not able to drain it fills up the gutters until they eventually overflow. Often times the water overflows behind the gutters where it wears away at the fascia boards. Not only does the direct water contact cause damage, but the additional weight of the water also causes much strain on the fascia. It is common for gutters full of water to pull the fascia right off of the wall if it wasn’t secured properly.
In addition wet piles of debris that are overflow the gutter end up making contact with the fascia boards and roofing eave. Therefore the debris is able to transfer moisture to the surrounding wood which keeps the wood soggy and damp. Especially since the debris pile also shades out the sun from drying the wood.
One of the most important components of the roofing eave is called the drip edge. Drip edge is a flashing used to bridge the gap between the roof and the gutter system. It is tucked under the shingles so that it reaches from the roof deck to the inner gutter. Therefore water is diverted to the inner portion of the gutter. Without drip edge water is able to go behind the gutter and cause damages. In the below photo the drip edge is the white strip at the top of the gutter.
The photo below is a classic example of drip edge that is too short. The drip edge here is the white 90 degree angle installed to the top of the gutter. The drip edge is supposed to reach to the roof decking but in this case the roof decking was cut too short. In this situation the water is able to go behind the gutter and damage the fascia boards and interior walls.
Most homes with severe fascia board rot problems end up not having drip edge. Drip edge is a component that is typically installed by roofers and is included in the roof price. In our opinion drip edge should be required on all homes.
Sometimes fascia boards could use a little bit of repair or upkeep to keep make sure they will last a few more years. The tell tale way to know if fascia boards are able still usable is if they are still solid. Knocking on the board is the easiest way to go about this. A solid board will provide a crisp and sharp knock while a soft or damp board will be make more of a thud sound.
Water weight from clogged gutters is the most common cause of fascia boards to become loose. Another common cause of loose fascia is when the boards were installed using nails or screws that were too short. The photo below is an example of fascia boards that have pulled loose from the rafters.
The good news is that loose fascia boards can be typically be re-secured with new screws. To do this properly the gutters need to be removed to ensure that the screws bite into each rafter. Once the fascia is properly secured the gutter is able to be re-installed.
CLICK HERE for more information on Re-Securing Loose Fascia Board and other wood repairs.
Once the paint wears off of fascia there is no more waterproof seal. Therefore the board is now basically a sponge that will soak up water and excess moisture. If you are able to catch the board in time before dry rotting has begun, then there’s a good chance the boards are salvageable.
To re-paint fascia boards properly the boards will need to be sanded bare using sand paper. All existing paint will need to removed. Once the boards have been sanded clean layers of paint are able to be applied. Since fascia boards are outdoors, exterior paint will be needed. Most exterior paints include a primer which is basically a bottom coat. However for paints that do not have primer pre-mixed, a coat of primer will need to be applied separately.
Lastly once the paint has dried the gutters are able to be re-installed.
Small holes are sometimes able to be patched over using wood fillers like putty. If caught early enough small areas of rot can even be sanded out and re-patched using wood filler. Once the putty has dried it can be painted over to look like new wood.
To replace fascia boards the gutters will need to be completely removed from home to be able to access the fascia. Pry bars, hammers, and drills (with proper attachments) are the tools that will mostly be needed to remove the fascia board from the home.
Once the fascia is removed and the rafters cleaned of all nails it is time to install the new fascia. Fascia boards are mounted to the roof rafters using long threaded screws. My Gutter Doctor recommends using coated deck screws that are at least 2″ – 2.5″ long to be able to bite into the rafters properly. Two screws per rafter is the standard for fascia board installation whether it is a brand new home build or a replacement.
There are a couple long term solutions to ensure your fascia boards last as long as possible.
As previously mentioned we use semi-gloss (or hi-gloss) exterior paint for fascia board installations. Since pine fascia comes pre-primed you don’t need to purchase a paint that includes primer. We typically apply 2-3 additional coats of paint to all fascia board installation. However for areas that are prone to rot or pests you can apply as many coats as you want for additional protection. In fact, we’ve put as many as ten coats of paint on fascia boards to prevent bees from returning.
Otherwise known as Aluminum Trim Wrap or Fascia Capping, aluminum fascia wrap is a layer of aluminum installed over fascia boards to prevent water contact. Trim wrap is measured and custom bent and cut to fit over the existing fascia boards, then installed using trim nails. For standard 1″ x 6″ fascia board, you would measure your fascia wrap to be In the above you can see how the fascia wrap is bent into an “L” shape. The 1 inch section is the bottom and the 6 inch is the face.
In addition to real wood fascia there are also vinyl or composite options available that are more costly but last longer. Vinyl fascia boards are fascia boards made from PVC plastic. Very similar to how there are vinyl options for porches, decks, and hand rails, vinyl fascia are becoming popular due to longevity.
Composite fascia boards are composed of recycled wood chips and saw dust mixed with epoxy resins to solidify the combination. Composite fascia is also rated to last longer than natural wood fascia boards and are also more expensive than real wood.
It should be noted that vinyl and composite fascia boards are not a perfect solution and do have a couple downsides. Paint does not stick well to vinyl or composite materials therefore they are typically not painted. Therefore you have to go with the stock color options available which is typical white only. In addition the material can yellow or discolor overtime.
When it comes to wildlife there are a few pests that like to chew through, burrow, or nest in or around fascia boards.
Rodents such as squirrels, mice, and chipmunks have been known to chew through fascia boards to get into (or out of) the home.
The most common enemy of fascia boards, in North America at least, are squirrels. Squirrels will chew through fascia boards to gain access to the roof or attic. In fact, Squirrels have even been known to chew through the back of gutters to get to the wood. The softer the wood the better for squirrels as it is easier for them to chew through.
Homes that have tree limbs directly overhanging the home are more likely to have issues with squirrels or other rodents.
In addition to rodents insects like carpenter bees love to nest in soft fascia boards. Since fascia boards are tucked safely behind the gutter and under the roof, it provides the perfect home for bees to thrive in. Carpenter bees in particular love soft fascia boards because they are able to easily burrow in them. In the photo above you can see multiple carpenter bee tunnels through a section of fascia board.
Check out this short video that shows the bee holes in the fascia boards, and also a board that still had live carpenter bees inside!
In addition to carpenter bees, wasps, hornets, and pretty much all other types of bees love to build nests behind the fascia boards. In the photo below you can see wasps nest that was behind a fascia board that also had carpenter bee tunnels. CLICK HERE to read more about Carpenter Bees in Fascia Boards.
Just as with any other boards on the home, fascia boards are targets for termites. Especially rotten fascia boards as they are very soft and break down easily.
Most birds do not chew through fascia boards, but if there is a hole or a gap they birds will nest inside of there. Bees and other insects like termites attract birds to fascia boards as well. Woodpeckers are a common prey of these insects, so if you ever hear a wood pecker knocking on your home, there is likely some type of insect hiding in the wood.
Since gutters and fascia boards work so closely together, it is important to maintain proper gutter maintenance to ensure your fascia boards last as long as possible. Most damages to the gutter system are the result of neglecting the gutters by not cleaning them for multiple seasons or years. If these damages are not taken care of the final result is usually fascia board damage then ultimately gutters falling off of the home.
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93 Monocacy Blvd. A-6
Frederick, MD 21701