The Homeowner’s Guide to Eaves and Overhangs
Roof repairs may sound intimidating and costly, but there are small steps you can take to keep your roof safe from stormy weather and curious wildlife. The next time you clean the gutters, look at the soffits, eaves, and overhangs. Staying on top of minor repairs in these areas helps you improve the roof’s lifespan, avoid large home repairs, and save money.
Minor repairs start out around $150, while major roof repairs can cost as much as $7,000 in the United States. Regular roof maintenance, attention to detail, and the help of a professional roofer or contractor can save your home from serious damage – and keep your money in your pocket.
What are eaves, overhangs, and soffits?
You may wonder, “How are eaves different from gutters?” Technically, eaves include the gutters and metal flashing at the bottom edge of a sloped roof. Functional and aesthetically pleasing, eaves create a smooth visual transition between the roof and exterior walls by connecting the roof to the fascia. Eaves direct rainwater away from the walls and foundation, preventing water damage to your home’s foundation.
As their name suggests, overhangs are parts of the roof that hang over or extend past the exterior walls. Placed for design and practical purposes, jutting overhangs help improve curb appeal and protect the exterior walls from rainfall. Typically, overhangs are placed above windows to provide some amount of shade to help regulate the temperature inside your home.
If your roof happens to have open overhangs, you will see exposed trusses and rafters. Leaving the underside of an eave or overhang exposed invites various problems, which is why most overhangs feature soffits. Vented soffits can be used on sloped or flat roof overhangs. The soffits seal the area beneath the overhang to prevent pests, water, and even fire sparks from reaching your roof’s interior.
Soffits are made from various materials, including fiber cement, metal, vinyl, or wood. Some of these materials are outdated and can be hazardous, especially in areas prone to wildfires. New construction homes use soffits with a minimum 1-hour fire-resistance rating. If you have an older home with plywood soffits, consider installing a fire-resistant gypsum board to protect your home further. This is less time-consuming than installing all-new soffits and will still improve the safety of your roof.
Soffits cover the empty space beneath the overhang for a smooth transition to the fascia or upper part of a wall. Older homes may have wooden fascia boards, while newer builds use metal sheets to cover the joint between the top of a wall and the eaves.
Knowing the different parts of your roof and what materials you are working with will help you determine exactly how much roof maintenance you may want to do for your property.
Common signs of damage may seem larger than they appear
Regular checks underneath eaves and overhangs will give you a clear picture of the condition of your roof and enable you to notice new, smaller issues – like peeling paint on the fascia board. While peeling or chipped exterior paint may seem like a simple aesthetic issue, damaged paint around your roofline should be taken seriously.
If you notice peeling paint around the fascia, you may have poor ventilation in the attic or failing gutters. Either way, water is trapped somewhere in your house where it doesn’t belong – which is never good.
Cracks in the fascia board, soffits, or shingles may indicate that the materials are nearing the end of their lifespans. Updating any worn-out or outdated roofing materials improves the safety of your home. If you live in an older home, consider updating the soffit materials to protect your home from wildfires.
Keep your home safe from wildlife by replacing damaged soffits. If there is a large enough crack in the soffit, you may find yourself hosting an unwelcome bird’s nest in the overhang directly above your bedroom window or child’s room.
Stains and leaks
Finally, pay attention to the interior of your home. Stains or discoloration on your walls or ceiling often means that somewhere in your home, there is a leak. Leaks can lead to huge problems like wood rot, mold, and structural issues. Water inside your walls can even damage other major systems in your house, such as the electrical or HVAC.
What do soffits, fascia, and eaves do?
Each roof design feature serves one primary purpose: to protect your home from damage. While the eaves and overhangs protect your home from rainfall, the soffits help prevent water damage by improving the air circulation in the attic and beneath the roof.
Proper circulation prevents water from sitting beneath the shingles and damaging the area between the sheathing and the rafters with mold and wood rot. Likewise, the fascia protects the walls of your home from wind, rain, and pests.
Minor external damages could mean larger internal issues
A damaged soffit or fascia can quickly become a larger problem. Small cracks in your soffits can invite unwanted water and wildlife, leading to soggy, moldy roof rafters or invading pests. Birds may build nests underneath an exposed overhang with a damaged soffit, or a wintering squirrel may use the opening in a rotted fascia board to enter the walls of your home and settle in until spring.
Even if you notice only slight wear and tear on the eaves or fascia, there may be other issues you can’t see, like mold, wood rot, or major structural damage.
Why it’s important to repair damage quickly
The sooner you address a minor repair, the less likely it will develop into a bigger problem that requires some costly home renovation project. A professional roofer or local contractor can determine what is going on beneath the surface so you can get to the heart of the issue and keep your home safe, dry, and pest-free.
How do eaves and overhangs affect temperature and energy efficiency?
Not only do eaves and overhangs protect your home from damage, but they can also help you save on your electricity bill. The position and length of eaves and overhangs help keep your home cool and comfortable, even when the late afternoon sun is bearing down through your window.
While newer builds pay special attention to eaves and overhangs to make homes more environmentally conscious and energy efficient, designers and architects have used eaves and overhangs to moderate energy transfer since the invention of water heaters.
The length of the eaves and overhangs helps determine how much sun will make it into your home. Suppose you live in a scenic area and have a large window to look out over a mountain or lake. In that case, that window is likely positioned under a large overhang placed specifically to help regulate your home’s interior temperature.
If your eaves and overhangs are not measured and positioned properly, you may face extreme temperature swings as the sun moves through the sky each day.
Mountain homes built in more exposed areas tend to be naturally closer to the sun due to high elevation. Large, natural wood or log overhangs provide much-needed shade while giving even the most luxurious mountain property the traditional rustic cabin feel.
How to prevent roof problems
Whether you live in a new construction home or own an older property, adding routine roof maintenance to your home projects will help your roof stay in tip-top shape to protect the rest of your home.
Check your shingles
One of the simplest things to do is check the shingles. You can get on a ladder or stay safely on the ground with a pair of binoculars. You’ll want to look for:
- Missing shingles
- Curling shingles
- Cracked shingles
- Peeling shingles
- Missing granules
Each of these issues presents an opportunity for moisture to get underneath your roof and cause more damage to the interior structure and major systems in your home. Whether you need to replace a few damaged shingles or the entire roof depends on how much damage you see, but you can always call a professional for additional advice.
Get a professional roof inspection
Investing in a professional roof inspection will give you a more in-depth assessment of the state of your roof. If you bought your house without a home inspection or as-is through a short sale, the roof inspection would help you make a list of repairs and budget for larger projects.
Even if you bought your home a while ago, investing in a yearly inspection may be an incredibly useful step to add to your roof maintenance checklist. A professional roofer or home inspector with years of experience is more likely to notice smaller issues before they snowball into bigger problems.
Check for leaks in your attic and ceiling
Day to day, make sure you pay attention to any leaks in the attic or ceilings — an attic inspector can help make sure the top of your home is in good shape. Remember, if you notice water in a strange spot in your home, you may have more severe problems that you cannot see, like mold, wood rot, or failing gutters. Leaks may not be easy to see, so be mindful of musty smells or buckling in the walls.
Wash your roof
Finally, take preventative measures, like washing the roof. Relying on rain alone won’t get the job done. If you notice long, dark streaks from the roof’s peak to the eaves, algae are growing on your house. If you leave the algae too long, your shingles will start to rot. Use a 1:1 mix of water and bleach to kill the algae.
Clean your gutters
Clean your gutters regularly, or at least as part of your fall home maintenance checklist. Clogged gutters let water seep underneath your roof, damaging the eaves and rafters. As you know, leaving water to sit underneath the roof can cause expensive and dangerous structural damage to your home.
Trim overhang branches
If you find too much gunk in the gutters, you should consider trimming overhanging branches. Trees drop leaves, seeds, acorns, and twigs into your gutters, causing blockages. Plus, you don’t want to risk a large overhanging branch falling on your roof during a storm.
Removing a tree or tree limb is often less costly than replacing your roof. If the tree is on a neighboring property, check local ordinances before sawing off any problematic branches.
Roof maintenance doesn’t have to mean expensive, huge projects. Instead, understanding what your eaves, overhangs, and soffits do and what they should look like will help extend the life of your roof and protect your home from pests and water damage. Active maintenance like cleaning the gutters, scheduling professional yearly inspections, and investigating minor issues with the help of a roofer or contractor are easy steps to keep your home dry, comfortable, and secure.