Roof overhangs, also known as eaves, can be finished in a number of materials—including PVC, wood, or aluminum. They can add a unique touch to a home exterior and are often a critical part of effective roof venting.
Structure matters. When building in a hurricane zone, you will want to focus on the substructure, not just the finish. Dr. Tim Reinhold and builder Richard Reynolds discuss the importance of soffit installation in "Securing Soffits." The two authors pitted manufacturer installation instructions against real-world techniques, and tested which ones held up best. The experiments found that the overhangs and soffits were vital to keeping water out of attics.
To paint or not to paint. In "Three Ways to Vent a Soffit," author and contractor David Hanson discusses the ways that roof overhang soffits can be vented. Whether the eaves will be painted is key to deciding what type of material he plans to use: Aluminum vents don't hold paint very well. When trim will be painted, fiber-cement usually works best.
Efficient return. Wood is a traditional choice for exterior trim, especially on classic homes. Builder Matt St. Martin shares how he made custom eaves that included vents for the 130-year-old home he was working on in "Cornice Returns, Production Style." St. Martin used trim materials to build mockups and capped the overhangs with sheathing. He and his crew pre-assembled as many of the trim parts as possible on the ground, which cut down on installation time and reduced trips up and down the ladder. (Note: St. Martin was matching the "poor man's return" on the existing house.)
Venting solution. Whether they are wood or composite or aluminum, soffits often contain vents that provide airflow to eliminate moisture from attics and cool roofing materials. However, those vents don't always fit with a traditional look-and-feel. Mattituck, N.Y.-based builder John Seifertis writes about how to build a subtle vent that can be hidden behind molding in "Backfill: Subtle Soffit Vent" from JLC's July 2004 issue. Seifertis installs the vent behind a 3 1/2-inch to 5 1/2-inch-wide crown molding, which he says is "a nice looking detail that provides plenty of roof ventilation without calling attention to itself."
Protect the insulation. As a note of good practice, whenever installing soffit vents, be sure to install insulation baffles, such as those from AccuVent to keep airflow from short-circuiting the insulation and degrading R-value.
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