Most roofing terminology is unlikely to come up in general conversation so if you’re looking to educate yourself on some specific roofing terms you’ve come to the right place. Today we’re going to look at roofing fascia and roofing soffit. What are they, what’s the difference between them and why do you need them on your roof?
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WHAT IS ROOFING FASCIA AND SOFFIT AND WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM?
Soffit and fascia are essential elements of a roofing system. While they serve different purposes, they work together to keep your home healthy and protected from weather damage.
Your deck has a fascia board too, but the fascia we’re discussing here is installed at the edge of the eave of a home – the lower end of the roof slope.
Let’s look at each separately before comparing them against one another when it comes to cost, maintenance and installation.
WHAT IS SOFFIT?
Soffit is the material used to cover the gap between your home’s exterior walls and the roofline of overhanging roof eaves. too.
In other words, if your home is 36 feet wide, the trusses or rafters were likely 37 or 38 feet, leaving a 6-inch to 12-inch overhang on either side. The horizontally installed material is soffit.
If the roof overhangs the house on the sloped or gable sides, those gaps will be covered with soffit too.
Purpose: Yes, soffit covers the gaps to prevent birds, rodents, insects and other pests from invading the attic space.
But when the soffit is vented, as it should be, it has another essential purpose – allowing the attic to breathe.
Heat and moisture naturally build up in an attic. The roof should have ridge vents at the peak and gable vents in the gables allowing heat and humidity to escape.
The soffits allow cooler, drier air to replace the warm, moist air that is leaving through heat convection. This circulation of air is important for a couple reasons: It prevents:
Moisture from causing mold, mildew and wood rot in the roof’s framing
Heat from damaging roofing shingles, causing them to cup, splinter and fail prematurely
Materials: Your options and their material cost without labor are vinyl/PVC ($1.25-$1.75 per linear foot), aluminum ($1.60 – $2.25 per linear foot), fiber cement ($1.80 – $2.50 per linear foot) and plywood or wood composite ($1.90 – $2.35 per linear foot).
Venting: Soffit comes in vented and unvented options. Vented soffit has perforations that allow airflow into and out of the attic. Unvented soffit is solid – no holes. It must be vented at intervals of about 8 to 12 feet with a vent that looks like a hot air vent in your floor or wall.
Vented vs unvented soffit – Which is better? Roofing pros always recommend vented soffit. It allows ventilation along the entire length of the attic rather than just at intervals.
WHAT IS ROOFING FASCIA?
A fascia board is the board that covers the ends of the trusses at the eaves, or the lower edge of the roof slope. Does your home have a gutter system? Each length of gutter attaches to a fascia board, which makes them easy to identify.
Fascias are also used at the edges of the roof slope on a gable roof where it is called rake fascia.
Purpose: Why is roof fascia important? Fascia covers the spaces between trusses on the low end of the roof and acts as a barrier to pests. There and on the rakes, fascia also functions as trim and gives your home a finished look.
Materials: Most fascia board is dimensional lumber, a 1”x6” board is common. Wood fascia can be left bare, and it will need to be painted as needed. Or it can be wrapped in aluminum or vinyl to create a low-maintenance, more durable fascia.
It’s called being “wrapped,” but the thin material usually covers just the face and wraps around the bottom edge of the board. These options are referred to as aluminum and vinyl fascia, and they are covers rather than replacing the wood fascia board.
The cost of wood fascia is $5.80 to $9.00 installed. When the wood is installed and wrapped, cost is $8.25 to $10.50 for vinyl and $8.85 to $11.25 for aluminum.
INSTALLATION AND REPLACEMENT
Both are installed when a home is built, of course.
How often should you replace soffits and fascias?
A good time to replace them is when home’s siding is replaced or when the house is re-roofed.
Wood fascia often needs replacing before soffit due to wood rot. Even wrapped fascia can become stained from algae or mold. And the coating on aluminum fascia becomes chalky and fades after 10-15 years. So even if they are doing their job, you might want to replace them for improved curb appeal for your home.
Soffit lasts longer because it is somewhat protected from the elements on the underside of the roof, while fascia takes the full brunt of weather and sun. Choose vinyl or aluminum material for the greatest longevity.
Soffit and Fascia Maintenance
Wood soffit and bare wood fascia requires the most maintenance. Expect to paint bare wood fascia every 3-7 years depending on your climate. And that’s a hassle, requiring the removal of gutter and drain pipes or downspouts to do it properly. And if wood rot starts, fascia replacement is the best solution – replaced with vinyl or aluminum wrapped fascia.
Today, these materials are rarely used. Homeowners prefer vinyl and aluminum for their much lower maintenance requirements.
What is the difference between soffit and fascia?
They are separate but equally important roofing components, as explained above. You need both for the protection and health of your home’s structure.
Is soffit and fascia necessary?
Taking them one at a time:
Soffit – Some homes do not have overhanging roof rafters, so there is no gap to fill with soffit. However, those homes often suffer from attic air ventilation problems. If you are building a home or addition, using trusses that overhang the house, allowing for soffit ventilation, is highly recommended.
Fascia – Fascia on roof truss ends, called truss tails, is needed to cover the gaps whether the tails overhang or not. So yes, they are essential too.
Do I put on soffit of fascia first?
Fascia is installed first. Then the soffit is held in place by a lip on the back of the fascia board and a strip of wood attached to the home’s siding.
When do soffits need to be vented?
Always. Even if you have a cathedral or vaulted ceiling that uses scissor trusses, so there is no attic space, there will still be space between the ceiling of your home and the roof deck. It should be vented to prevent the issues discussed – mold, mildew, rot and failed roofing materials.