A roof overhang typically extends the roof approximately two feet out and away from exterior walls. This is to ensure that the gutters attached to the fascia can catch the water as it drains off the roofing shingles without running down the siding. The panels that enclose the overhang and protect your home from the elements are called soffits. When standing underneath the gutters and looking up, you will be looking at the soffit boards. While the soffit is more protected from stormy weather than the fascia or the roof, soffits are still vulnerable to damage.
Water doesn’t drain properly.
When roof leaks become noticeable, many homeowners immediately think the cause will be the roof tiles. However, soffit rot can be the source of a leaking roof when soffits no longer keep water from seeping in or weather conditions out. Reasons water doesn’t drain properly and ends up damaging the soffit boards include:
- The drip edge might not have been installed properly or is missing entirely, allowing water to escape from the back of the gutters
- Standing water forms inside the gutter channel when there is insufficient gutter slope or pitch to allow rainwater to flow through the downspouts
- Clogged gutters cause the water to overflow from the front of the gutter section
Downpipes are blocked.
When they clean the gutters, homeowners often forget to also clean the downpipes. Debris such as twigs, leaves, pods, and other organic materials can quickly build up. Blocked downpipes can be responsible for water backing up into the gutters and then causing them to overflow. While the gutters aren’t directly responsible, water splashing up into soffit panels can compromise protective finishes, get into tiny cracks and form mold, or “flood” the soffit with so much moisture it causes wood to rot.
Pests and insects can move in.
Pests such as wasps, bees, birds, rats, and squirrels love to build nests in the soffits. They can squeeze through gaps not readily visible to a homeowner. As mentioned above, since soffit panels are protected from active weather, animals and insects find the underside of the eaves a safe place to raise a family. When they travel back and forth in their search for food, damage to soffits can become worse.
Ways to prevent Soffit damage.
Clean gutters regularly so that rainwater exits the system properly.
Clean and inspect the downspouts regularly.
If your gutter system has gutter guards, don’t abandon the gutters. While not as often, gutters with some kind of leaf protector still require cleaning. Debris that breaks down into small enough particles can sometimes enter the gutter channel and then build up over time.
Periodically inspect the soffit and fascia for peeling paint, cracks, small holes, and streaks. Maintain wood fascia boards and soffits by caulking and painting them as needed.