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  New Homes, Additions, Alterations, Outbuildings, Small Construction Projects, Failure Investigations and Repairs.

Home Construction Failures Rotting Soffit Rats Smell Water blank blank blank blank blank Glossary


MM (Arlington, VA)

A client requested I determine why the wood under the vinyl soffit of her house was rotting such that the nails in the soffit could be pulled out by hand and the frame was too soft to hold a nail anywhere near by a location that had pulled loose after a wind storm (1).

As I removed the soffit the wood underneath got worse as I moved to the corner of the house (2). The plywood soffit panel rot became facia board rot until I was pulling fist fulls of black dirt from above the soffit. A photo taken through the opening in the rot showed the rot to be in the lower portion of the 2x facia back-up boards (3).

At this point it was decided to deconstruct the eave to locate the water intrusion.

The vinyl soffit was removed. Pulling out the bottom edge of the aluminum fascia wet rotten wood could be seen up to behind the gutter. Checking the gutter installation showed it was minimally tilted to the down spout and angled back toward the house. From dirt stains on the aluminum fascia and water testing it showed the gutter overflowed back to the fascia.

Removal of the gutter exposed the failure. The aluminum fascia was 1/2" (+/-) short of the eave flashing leaving exposed wood (4). Water repeatedly overflowing the gutter washed into the gap and spread out behind the aluminum fascia (5).

loose soffit

1) Loose Hanging Soffit

wood rot

2) Rot Exposed

rot in facia board

3) Rot Behind Facia Board

water intrusion

4) Water intrusion at Gap in Aluminum

wood rot behind alumimun

5) Rot Behind Aluminum Facia

rotting truss

6) Rot Eating into Ends of Truss

truss bolts compromised

7) Truss Bolts Compromised by Rot with Two New Bolts Installed for Insurance


no picture

A secondary failure was caused by the soffit substrate plywood being nailed to the bottom of the 2x back-up boards. Water that wicked through the joint between the 2x boards and joint with the plywood was captured in the soffit instead of directed out of the construction. A layer of construction saw dust laying on top of the soffit plywood soaked up the water allowing plenty of time to soak into the bottom of the supporting truss outriggers. The resulting rot threatened the integrity of the bolt connections (6).

Each truss end had additional bolts installed to back-up the original connections (7).

Removal of the 2x fascia exposed the ends of the gable rake board and truss outriggers showing severe rot
(9, 10).

gable end rot

9) Gable End Rot

truss end

10) 2nd Truss Rot Behind Fascia

Each truss end had to be cut back
(11, 12, 13) and solid blocking installed (13, 14, 15, 16) to hold new 2x facia back-up boards (17).

truss outrigger

11) 2nd Truss End with Rot Removed and w/ End Cut Back for Blocking

rot removed

12) 3rd Truss End with Rot Removed and w/ End Cut Back for Blocking


13) Gable Rake Board Reinforcing


14) Blocking at Gable Rake Board


15) Truss End Blocking


16) Truss End Blocking and Splice to Existing Back Board

It was also found that the roof eaves did not have ice dam installed and the drip edge was installed on top of the asphalt building felt instead of under it (18). This allows water that freezes and backs up under shingles to run down under the drip edge instead of over it. This problem was put off until the opposite side eave is examined.

For the lack of $10 of aluminum (19) installed to cover the area between the roof drip edge and aluminum facia cover, ill arranged layering of wood elements, a solid plywood soffit (that held water and blocked ventilation), a back slanted gutter not sloped to the downspout it cost $1,600 labor, $75 of material to repair the soffit (20).


Thomas Buford has fixed everything you can imagine that could go wrong in a small Arlington, VA, house built at the end of World War II. When the basement leaked, he figured out how to install a sump pump and a drain field outside my house so that the inside trench another company suggested as a cure-all, which included cracking my cement floor to put in the drain, did not have to be considered. He repaired my chimney flue during one of the hottest months of the year and saved the roof beams in my sunroom from rot caused by improperly installed gutters that allowed water to accumulate behind them. From large jobs to small ones, Thomas has figured out the most economical approach to solve the problem and not overreach my budget. His analytical skills and knowledge of the building arts ensure that I get the best solution for my money every time.

Mary M.
October 1 2012

new facia backer board

17) New 2x Facia Backer Boards Installed

roof drip flashing installed wrong

18) Improper Lapping of Roof
Drip Edge and Lack of Ice Dam

new flashing to cover gap

19) Repair Showing New Flashing
Under Bottom Edge of Gutter

repaired soffit

20) Loose Soffit Repaired

Please call (703.524.7595) or email ( for more information.
Located in Arlington, Virginia 22207 (by appointment only)