See those horizontal boards under the eaves of the roof that connect the side of your building with the roof overhang? That is a soffit and serves as part of the ventilation system of your attic. Not only do they cover exposed rafter beams, preventing mold buildup but also allow your house to breathe. Vented soffits provide regular air circulation to your attic. That aside, a soffit has an additional, aesthetic purpose as it covers up your rafter trails in the colour and style of your preferences, adding character to the building. Unfortunately, since it is exposed to the elements, a soffit is prone to decay, especially wooden ones. Here is a detailed guide to help fix the problem efficiently and without much effort.
Important Step: Identifying the Root of the Problem
The best way to repair rotted wooden soffits? Remove the old wood and replace it with new. However, before you take it any step further, first try to find out what caused the damage (i.e. overflowing gutters, soffit plywood resting on the shingles of the roof and soaking up rain water, critters nesting inside the eaves, squirrels making a mess, etc.). That way, you can address the root of the problem and fix the damage in one go. So, do an attic inspection to understand the frame construction a bit better and see the extent of the rain water intrusion, if any.
Skills Required: How to use a reciprocating and circular saw.
Level of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Project Cost: $50-$80*
Estimated Duration: Approx. 2 hours.
*provided you have the tools already (i.e. saw and drill).
What You Will Need
Lumber (1 inch in width)
Waxy primer or sealer
Step 1: Remove the Shingle Mold & Rotted Fascia.
Wear safety glasses and use a flat bar to remove the shingle mold from the fascia. It is an easy process and, if it all comes out in one piece (without splitting), you can reuse it. In many homes, all you need to do is simply slide the soffit out of the molding that holds it against the house (the horizontal molding).
Then, identify which section of the fascia is rotted and remove it with caution because we don’t want to damage the surrounding flashing or roof shingles. Now, if your soffit needs replacing, chances are the fascia will need to be replaced as well due to wood rot. If this is your case, replace both the soffit and fascia at the same time.
Step 2: Remove the Damaged Rafter
Once you remove the old soffit (just pull it down, and it will separate quite easily) – don’t be surprised if you find a nest above the soffit – it’s time to use a reciprocating saw to remove the rotted rafter. Chop it out.
Step 4: Cut a Replacement Rafter & Screw the New Rafter
Then, take pressure-treated lumber and cut a replacement piece using a circular saw. The key is to cut a one-inch-wide lumber about 8 inches longer than the replacement rafter. Use the lumber to secure the replacement rafter you have cut on the rafter (hold the lumber behind the rafter). Make sure you extend the ends of the lumber on both sides behind the replacement board. Secure the two boards together with wood clamps and several screws, ensuring you also secure them to the rafters.
Tip: Attach a Cleat to the Chimney – A cleat attached to a chimney, particularly brick ones, will help support the overhang you are building. A 2X4 piece will do just fine, and you can use a powder-actuated nailer to get the job done. You can also screw the new rafter to the chimney cleat too.
Step 5: Cut & Attach the Replacement Soffit
Take thin hardboard to cut the replacement soffit. Measure first and use a circular saw to make the cut. If your old soffit is in good condition (not broken), you can use it as a guide. With a paintbrush, apply a waxy wood primer or sealer and coat the piece of wood (both the top and bottom surfaces). This will help prevent water penetration. Follow manufacturer’s directions regarding drying time and use.
Then, fasten the replacement soffit to the underside of the take (or the eave) before you replace the crown molding beneath the new soffit’s rear edge (along the wall of your house).
Step 6: Cut a New Fascia
You may skip this step if your old fascia is intact. But, if you do need to cut a new one, measure wood of the same thickness as your original fascia and cut it. Again, use your old fascia as pattern if in one piece. Then, apply a coat of primer and let dry per the manufacturer’s directions (apply on all sides).
Step 7: Attach the New Fascia
Fasten the soffit to the molding and slide the new fascia into place. Use 6d (galvanizsed) nails to fasten the soffit to the moldings (the ones that hold the soffit against the house) and the underside of the rafters, and attach the fascia to the house.
Step 8: Inspect & Paint
If your house has a shingle mold, now it’s time to put it back in place. Attach it to the to of the fascia.
Take a good look at the soffit and fascia you have created. If there are any small crevices or seams, these are your pain-points because water might leak behind them. Caulk these areas just like you would do with your bathtub. Use paintable caulking so you can paint it with a colour matching the existing colour of your home’s exterior.
Fill holes and cover nails with wood putty and let dry for half an hour, at least, before you paint the soffits and fascia. Use exterior paint (two coats will be enough, in most cases). Just make sure the first coat has dried completely before you go for the second one.
One of the ideas to achieve a smoother repair process is opting to use perforated or solid vinyl sidings panel, with the perforated ones being the more preferred because they are designed to assist easy ventilation that helps to reduce heat built and effective drainage.
It is obvious that water that is not drained properly can cause, at times, irreparable damage to any home. Therefore, it is essential to install the proper type of materials. Using channels (aka receiving channels) to help fix soffits is a great idea. These channels come in Channel F or Channel J, and provide a necessary strong grip or hold to the soffits with the under edge of the roof and on the house while securing eaves from undue damage, once properly installed.
Interestingly, channels are adaptable. For example, an F channel can be bent to function as J Channel. They are also fixed in cut slots that are further nailed to the wall. It must be noted that they must be nailed every 16 inches from the center, to allow for expansion. For heavier soffits, it’s best to nail them every 8 to 10 inches, for stronger hold.
Moreover, any soffit that is larger in size must be properly secured with extra added support to help it stay in shape. It is critical to know the technique required to fix certain seed soffit as a lot of maintenance of your home vests on its proper functioning. Any slack on this issue can cause your pocket and, of course, your home heavy damage.
The repair itself does not necessarily need to be done by a professional as it is relatively simple to do. But if you are not at ease with the DIY concept then by all means resort to professional assistance for peace of mind.
How to Keep Critters Out of the Attic
The best way to prevent squirrels from turning your attic into their promise land is to block the gap between the fascia and the roof deck. To achieve that, you can install wire mesh under the shingles. Or you could consider installing a roof drip edge (aka eave drip) flashing instead. In this case, though, you will be able to find tools and materials at a roofing supply store, rather than the home improvement store round the corner. Another handy idea is to instal gutter covers. These cover the ends of your gutters and fit under the shingles.
If you need any help or clarifications regarding any step of the procedure, do not hesitate to visit soffit replacement Mississauga or siding replacement Etobicoke to help replace your soffit or siding respectively!
We are always happy to help!