Repairing guttering and fascias seems to be going out of fashion as replacements are so cheap these days, or at least plastic ones are. Unplasticised polyvinyl chloride, or PVCu (or uPVC) as it’s more commonly known, has almost completely swept the board in the new guttering and fascia market.
Fascias, also known as soffits, are boards fixed to the top of the exterior walls of a building, just under the roof, which then projects over the fascia. This used to be commonly made from wood, but nowadays PVCu replacements are very popular as they are light, easy to fix, long lasting and cheaper. Wooden boards need frequent painting and replacement and PVCu in contrast is very resilient, only fading and cracking after several decades.
The guttering is fitted to the fascia and collects the rain from the roof, diverting it into down pipes which take the water down into the public drainage system, or away from the house to a soakaway, where it can disperse without damage. Larger diameter downpipes take effluent from the toilets down into the sewers. If the guttering or downpipe is blocked or cracked, then water can leak over the brickwork and penetrate into the house, causing damp problems.
Gutters have been made from all sorts of materials, including concrete, wood, aluminium, galvanised steel and other metals, but before plastic became popular, they were mostly painted steel. This needs frequent cleaning and re-painting and if it’s not done, rust can set in and cause leaks. This means replacing sections, which is expensive and difficult because of the weight of the steel. PVCu scores highly over steel on both those counts.
Regardless of what materials are used, it’s a good idea to inspect guttering and eaves for blockages and damage at least once a year. Clear out any dead leaves and other rubbish and check that the soffits are in good condition and still properly attached.
Check mounting bolts for the gutters and drainpipes, particularly if they are still heavy metal ones. With PVCu guttering, check that where the gutter mounting brackets attach to the fascia, the gutter hasn’t twisted and deformed. PVCu’s lightness can count against it here. If a gutter is blocked and dams up with water, the weight can distort the gutter and it can pop out of the supporting bracket.
It goes without saying that in order to do this work safely, it is essential to have ladders or scaffolding that is in good condition and that you know how to use them; safety is paramount.
uPVC facias and soffits will need little more than a regular clean and inspection but traditional woodwork will need regular re-painting since the type of softwood used is often not the best in terms of durability.
In order for any new paint system to be be effective it is essential that proper cleaning and preparation is carried out first. If you are engaging someone else to do this work for you then you should be aware that is the part of the job which is often skimped since it is not so easily inspected. Making it clear that you will be inspecting works at each stage is one way of ensuring it is done properly.
Either oil-based or water-based paints can be used and, contrary to popular belief, the water-based options tend to last longer on exterior surface due to their ability to remain flexible over the long term; whereas oil-based paints will become brittle and prone to losing adhesion, especially on facias and barge-boards which are prone to extreme expansion and contraction through the seasons.
If you need to replace sections of guttering of fascia, there are plenty of firms who will do it for you, although getting one that a friend has recommended is always a good idea. If you have old steel uttering, make sure your house or area isn’t covered by any preservation orders, as PVCu replacement guttering may not be allowed in some areas.
One thing to be aware of is that telephone and electricity services coming from overhead cables are often attached to fascia boards. If this is the case then you must liase with the relevant service provider before you start replacing the soffits. In newer estates where the services are underground you won’t need to worry about this.