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Fascia Soffit Repair

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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.

One area where my work is arguably superior: I paint both surfaces of the replacement board, not just the exposed face. Here the paint dries, supported on a stepladder.
One area where my work is arguably superior: I paint both surfaces of the replacement board, not just the exposed face. Here the paint dries, supported on a stepladder.
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.

Batten block checked for fit.Securing batten block with a screw.Block secured; the screw head is visible against the soffit board. A second screw, unseen in this perspective, secures the right end as well.

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.

Fascia repair isn't a job for the faint-hearted. The fascia are the boards that trim the bottom edge of the roof, and they usually hold the gutters. Their position under the roof and behind the gutters subjects them to moisture, and they rot more quickly than most other house trim. Most repairs involve removal of at least part of the fascia, and that means removing the gutters, all while standing on a ladder or scaffolding.

Setting up an extension ladder for fascia repair can be challenging, because its top end can't rest on the section you are replacing. Instead of an extension ladder, it's preferable to use a tall stepladder or set up scaffolding. You'll need a power saw to cut off any sections of fascia that need to be replaced, but a circular saw is dangerous, even in skilled hands. It's better to use a reciprocating saw. Building L-brackets for the fascia from 1/2-inch plywood and affixing them before removing the old boards, makes it easy to keep the new boards in place while you're fastening them.

Assessing the Damage
You seldom get a full idea of the amount of rot and damage the fascia have sustained until you climb up and probe with a screwdriver. The points of connection to the roof rafters are especially vulnerable and repair is especially necessary in these places, because the rot can spread into the rafters. The lower edge of the fascia is also vulnerable to rot, but if that's the only rot you find, you should be able to fix it with epoxy filler. Other likely places to check for rot are those behind gutter leaks.

Removing Fascia
In most cases, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting off the old fascia. You must first disassemble the gutter downspouts, unscrew the gutter brackets and remove the gutters from the section you're replacing. It's best to remove whole boards, but you may have to make a cut if you're replacing just a small section. The cut should be as straight as possible. Fascia are usually nailed into the rafters and come off with the help of a crowbar, but if they are screwed, back off out the screws with a drill and a No. 2 Phillips bit.

Filling and Replacing
Epoxy wood filler can repair the ends of any rafters that have rotted, as well as the bottoms of rotted fascia, after first clearing out the rot with a chisel. This is a repair for a dry day. Most fascia boards are 1-by-6-inch exterior-grade lumber, and after cutting yours to size, it's a good idea to prime it and give it one coat of paint before reattaching it with screws, which are more reliable than nails. One more coat of paint may be necessary before you reattach the gutters and remove the braces.