How to Install Aluminum Soffits That are Maintenance-Free
You'll never have to paint the roof overhangs again!
Wrap the soffits and fascias on your home with prefinished aluminum and you'll never have to scrape, prime or paint those roof edges again. New aluminum soffits (the underside of eaves) and fascias (the vertical trim at the roof edge) won’t peel or rot, so they'll last for decades with no maintenance.
Project overview and materials
Aluminum is a good solution for wood soffits and fascias in awful shape. It'll take less time to bury them behind aluminum trim than to repair, scrape and repaint the old wood. This article will tell you everything you need to know to do it yourself, including how to make an inexpensive soffit-cutting table that works every bit as well as the pricey units the pros use.
Do it yourself and save big bucks. If you're not afraid of heights and you have basic hand tool know-how, you're perfectly capable of cladding the fascias and soffits on your home. As you'll see, the thin, light aluminum trim is easy to bend and cut with inexpensive tools. Other special pre-bent parts make installation a snap. Working alone, you can clad the soffits and fascias on a 1,200-sq.-ft. house in about five days. Get a volunteer to cut and hand you up materials and you'll really move along. The materials are expensive, but you'll save a lot more than that by doing it yourself rather than hiring a pro.
Fix the roof first. If you hide problems, they'll only get worse! Chances are, if your soffits or roof framing is water damaged, you have serious roof problems that you must solve before starting this project. Even though water won't damage the new aluminum, you may actually accelerate underlying wood decay by burying evidence of leaks. Common problems are ice dams, shingle edges that are broken off or that don't project far enough, and even sagging shingles that form a trough just behind the fascia. You may even need a new roof. If you’re not sure, have a pro make the call before you start.
Just figuring out what everything is called is half the battle! Soffit panels are available in 12-ft. lengths, 12- or 16-in. widths and vented or unvented. Vented soffit (Photo 3) has thousands of perforations that allow air to flow through but keep insects out. Solid (unvented) soffit has no perforations. Most installers use only vented material, even in areas that don't need venting, such as gable ends (the peaks at the ends of roofs). Make your life easy—stick with 16-in. wide ventilated panels to simplify ordering and to cover large areas faster.
To calculate quantity, multiply width by length (in feet) of each soffit surface, add them all up to get total square footage and divide by 16 (the square footage of one 16-in. panel). Add 5 percent extra for waste and overlaps.
Aluminum fascia goes directly over the wood fascia and has a lip at the bottom that laps over the outer edge of the installed aluminum soffit (Photos 10 and 12). It comes in two standard widths: 6 and 8 in. Measure the width of your wood fascia to determine which width to buy. Measure the entire length of existing fascia in linear feet, and divide by 12 to establish the quantity of 12-ft. fascia and J-channel sections needed. Then add 5 percent.
J-channel is a (surprise!) J-shaped length of aluminum (Photo 2) that the soffit fits into against the house. Use it to anchor any edges of soffit not covered by aluminum fascia.
Metal drip edge may already be on your home. It projects from under the shingles and directs water away from the surface of the fascia. You can reuse existing drip edge if it's in good shape and you're happy with the color.
To calculate the number of pieces of drip edge, divide the total linear footage of the outer perimeter of the roof edge by 10. Then add 5 percent.
Easy does it. Don't bother climbing around on ladders to measure your soffits and fascia (you'll get enough of that later). Measure the walls and “guesstimate” overhang lengths to get an approximate total. On gable ends, hold a tape measure at the approximate roof angle, at the halfway point of the wall (directly under the peak), to get lengths for gable trim.