Eaves and Fascia Board Repair: How (Not) to Fix Them
Eaves are a vulnerable part of your house, exposed to weather and damage by falling limbs. Luckily, they aren't too hard to repair when the inevitable happens and repair is needed. So, if your eaves are wooden, and you have some damage to your fascia board to deal with--and if not, why are you reading this?--then let's look at the process.
"Fascia?" That's the name for the vertical board or panel on the front of your eaves. Its complement is the "soffitt"--the board that forms the bottom of the structure--and technically, that's the only part that's really supposed to be called the "eave."
The first thing is getting to the eaves, which means using a ladder. That's the dangerous part, especially if the ground where you need to work is uneven or sloping. It's important to find or create an even, level surface for the ladder; the photos below show what I had to do to achieve that goal.
Once you are up there, you need to remove the damaged part of the board. In this case it was easy because the damaged section of board was already short. But if you have damage to a long section of fascia board, you may choose to replace just the damaged portion. That's not easy, because the need to protect the roof decking itself makes it hard to make a complete cut across the fascia board. A reciprocating saw--sometimes referred to as a "Sawzall"--is probably your best option.
Here, all I had to do was to pry the damaged board away. This task is much easier if you have a good pry bar, such as the one shown below. I was duly grateful.
Once the damaged board is removed, you are ready to begin fabricating the replacement pieces. Often that will just mean the main fascia board itself. The common board in use for this purpose in North America is a "1 x 6"--a board whose pre-milling dimensions are one inch thick by six inches wide. (The actual dimensions are smaller.)
In this case, though, there was also a thinner triangular piece capping the end of the eave structure. I refer to this--correctly or not!--as a "fillet." It's made of quarter-inch thick plywood.
If you're replacing a corner piece, the easiest way to measure the angle you need is to use the old board as a template. You can do this even if, as was the case in the repair shown, the old board doesn't have a clean, complete edge due to the damage suffered. Just use a straightedge to create the straight line you need, as shown below.
This raises an interesting question. If you look at the closeup of the original board below you can see that it was cut with a 45-degree angle edge at the corner. That is the norm for professional work. That way, there is no exposed end-grain, and the appearance of the corner is as neat as it can possibly be. However, for an amateur, achieving a good 45-degree join at the corner can be challenging, as it involves cutting angles accurately in two dimensions. If you have the tools and technique, by all means go for it!
But I chose to avoid this challenge by using butt joints at the corners, allowing me to use square (90-degree) cuts. That leaves a board with an exposed edge, of course, but by making a clean cut and finishing it thoroughly, I hope that vulnerability to weathering won't increase too much. This is perhaps an instance of how NOT to do it--but I don't care if a pro twenty years hence snickers at me.
(By the way, you can see the 90-degree edge of the previously-replaced fascia board on the adjoining wall in the picture above. That was actually the point at which I decided to go with butt joints.)
Once the board is cut to fit, paint it. I believe in painting both faces of the board to better protect it from moisture and insects, though contractors will usually just paint the outside. I use a primer/sealer, such as "Kilz," covering the outside face only with a top coat of trim paint.
Here's the fascia board nailed in place, waiting for its finish coat. The scars on the primer coat are minor enough not to be a real problem, and are almost inevitable from the nailing process.
The next step is to replace the fillet. You can use a piece of cardboard to create a template or pattern to fill the space. I actually drew directly on the scrap piece of plywood used for the repair, but that is harder in some ways, as it's easy to confuse the orientation of the piece. I ended up with a couple of minor inaccuracies in fit, but decided they weren't enough to justify a second effort.
Paint the piece, as you did for the fascia board, and then install it. Looking at the structure I had led me to two conclusions about the installation. First, I didn't want to pound nails and possibly damage the soffitt; and second, I wanted to reinforce the structure of the eave so I wouldn't have to do another repair later. Reinforcement would also make installation of the fillet much easier.
That reinforcement takes the form of what I call a "batten block." It's just a piece of 1" x 2", cut to length. It's attached to the soffitt board and the backing board with a couple of screws, and gives a solid piece to which the fillet will be attached in turn. The photos below show the process.
The fillet board is secured in place with a couple of finish screws, as shown below. The inaccuracies in fit are visible in this closeup, but won't be noticeable from the ground when sealed and painted.
Seal joints with a paintable sealant, both for a smooth finish appearance and to keep moisture out. I used a good-quality latex product.
The close-up below shows the joint with the next section of fascia, but of course all joints should be sealed--that with the fillet, with the soffitt and at the corner of the eave too. Once it has dried, you are ready to paint!
The sealed project is finished with a trim paint--in my case, a gloss white latex enamel. You and I know that there were imperfections along the way. But as you can see, the project looks good--and should last a good many years.
Of course, if I don't want to have to do more fascia repair, I need to get cracking on repainting the "good" fascia and soffitt, so that they don't deteriorate, too! And while I'm at it, I'd better remove that disused downpipe you can see, still strapped to the wall at the corner.
Hmm, can that be a Hub, too--?