Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.
How Often Should You Paint Soffits and Fascia?
Wood soffits and fascia boards should be painted every three to five years to protect the wood from the elements. Unless they are made of aluminum, the wood will eventually rot and deteriorate if neglected. Paint fades and breaks down over time, exposing bare wood to moisture, insects, and the sun.
Painting soffits and fascia boards requires the use of extension ladders. Most homeowners hire a painting service to paint their exterior trim, but unless you're afraid of heights, you can easily do the work yourself and save money.
Prepping Exterior Trim for Paint
Soffits and fascia, like any other exterior substrate being painted, needs to be clean and in good condition before repainting.
Remove Peeling Paint or Mildew
Peeling paint or mildew must be removed through power washing and scraping. Power washing is the best way to remove peeling paint chips and reduce time spent scraping.
A mix of bleach and water removes black mildew stains, or you can use the product Jomax, which works really well. Apply the cleaning solution with a garden sprayer, allowing the chemicals to penetrate the stains before rinsing with fresh water.
Check for Rot
Check your trim boards for rot and replace wood that's too far gone. Fascia boards beneath gutters are usually the first to rot, especially if the gutters are clogged and overflowing onto the wood. Small spots of rotten wood can usually be repaired with specialized wood restorer products for exterior use.
Fill Holes and Knots
Fill woodpecker holes and open knots with a strong, water-resistant product like 3m Bondo wood filler. This stuff is awesome and paintable. Another good product for exterior patch work is Durham's, an inexpensive water putty. The putty dries hard too, but I use Bondo wood filler because it's waterproof and dries harder.
Most soffits have metal vents for ventilation, and you can paint the vents to match the trim, but be careful not to clog them with paint. Replace clogged vents with new ones. Lightly brushing paint over the top of the vents won't clog the holes inside. Never brush paint inside the vent.
Keep a caulk gun handy to caulk cracks in the wood, or where boards meet. Use a white, paintable caulk that dries fast.
Best Paint for Fascia Boards and Soffits
Don't use cheap paint on the exterior of your home. The paint won't last long and you'll have to repaint your home again sooner than if you would have spent a little more money on better paint.
Consider Availability and Price
The paint you use depends on what's available in your area. In my area, Sherwin Williams stores are everywhere and that's what I primarily use for my painting business. Benjamin Moore paint is very good too. Choose a product that's known for its durability.
I use Duration paint (Sherwin Williams) for exterior painting, including soffits and fascia trim. The paint is thick and covers really well. I feel confident that when I use this paint, it's going to last a long time. I've also used Super Paint a lot in the past too, which is a good alternative to Duration if you're on a budget. Some exterior paints, typically the less expensive options, often require separate primer over bare wood spots to bond well and prevent tannin bleed.
Another consideration to make is the humidity and the time of year you're painting. Some paints, like Sherwin Williams Resilience, are meant for use in humid conditions or when rain is expected on the same day of painting.
The best paint to use on your soffits and fascia is acrylic paint, not oil paint. Oil paint dries too slow and it's more likely to form mildew where the sun doesn't shine.
Priming and Painting Soffits and Fascia Boards
Primer is important if your soffits and fascia boards are in bad condition (bare wood spots, rust stains, tannin bleed). Oil primer is best for priming and sealing over surface stains and bare wood. With oil primer, the stains won't bleed into your top coats of paint.
Use Ladders When Painting Exterior Trim
Let's talk about ladders. Whether you rent one or buy one, use an aluminum extension ladder to paint your exterior trim, not fiber glass. Aluminum extension ladders are a lot lighter and easier to work with.
If you're positioning your extension ladder on sloped ground, you must safely level and stabilize the ladder before climbing up. You can use a ladder with adjustable legs, or you can use the Pivit ladder tool. The Pivit ladder leveler is an awesome multi-tool I use under my extension ladders and when painting on a steep roof. Whenever I'm painting outside, this tool's in my truck.
Best Brushes and Techniques for Painting Exterior Trim
The best paint brush for cutting-in your soffits and fascia boards is one that's stiff and designed for exterior paints. Don't use your interior paint brush outside. The Purdy Pro Extra paint brushes are what I use the most for exterior painting and staining. These brushes hold more paint and last longer than other brushes I've used outside, and cleaning dry paint from the bristles is also easier.
When painting exterior trim, always start from one side of the house and work towards the other side, similar to painting a wall. Working in one direction maintains a wet edge to avoid lap marks. When painting from an extension ladder, use a small plastic pale to hold your paint. Attach the pale to the ladder rung with a bucket hook. Cut-in along the edges of the trim and roll the rest with a 4-inch roller (1/2-inch nap). Apply two coats of paint.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: For new wood, is priming needed if using good paint like Duration paint by Sherwin Williams?
Answer: If the new wood is bare and not pre-primed, I would apply a good quality exterior primer before using Duration. If the wood is factory pre-primed white, you can apply Duration right over it.
Question: Do you recommend flat or semi-gloss on those roof exteriors?
Answer: It's good to use paint with some gloss so the finish will be more resistant to dirt accumulation and easier to maintain. When I paint siding and exterior trim, I use Duration in the satin finish. Flat is too dull.
Question: For painting fascia board, you said, "Oil primer is best for priming and sealing." Which oil primer should I use with Duration paint?
Answer: For bare wood spots on fascia boards and exterior trim, spot priming them with oil primer seals the wood and prevents tannin bleed. The primer also helps the paint bond better with the surface. Sherwin Williams has a product called 'Exterior Oil-Based Wood Primer' that works well for exterior spot priming bare wood.
© 2019 Matt G.
Zolly Tabb on November 19, 2019:
Great info. Saves a lot of money if you do it yourself. Thanks!