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Since you’re reading this, you clearly have an interest in replacing or repairing your fascias, soffits, bargeboards or guttering. Perhaps you’ve just bought a property, and the roofline needs immediate attention. Maybe you’ve been settled for a few years, and are just getting round to the roofline, having addressed other areas. Or you might be one of the many people who vaguely know they should be doing something about their roofline, but somehow never get round to it!
Whatever your situation, this guide will give you all the information you need to decide what’s best for your property. The information it contains is drawn from my own experience, and that of my fitters, over two decades of roofline work. We’ve worked on literally thousands of rooflines and every imaginable type of property. I honestly believe that you won’t find a more detailed guide anywhere – certainly not for free.
Of course, there’s another reason why we created this guide. I’m a businessman, and I’m hoping you’ll choose Anglia Roofline for your roofline replacement. It would be silly of me to pretend otherwise. But even if you don’t choose to work with us, I’ll be pleased if you can make a decision based on a full understanding of the issues involved. Just bear in mind that not every roofline contractor out there can draw on the knowledge behind this guide.
What Is The Roofline?
This section presents the essential facts about your roofline – what it is, what it’s made from and why it’s so important for your property.
‘Roofline’ is a generic term that refers to the area between the first tile on a pitched (sloping) roof and the back of a building’s wall cavity. Sometimes, people also use ‘roofline’ to describe the edge of flat roofs, although the construction of these is very different from tiled roofs. Rooflines on pitched roofs have four key elements:
These elements, in different shapes and using different materials, have been a part of building design for over 100 years, going back as far as Georgian times. The following sections look at each one in turn.
The fascia is the outward-facing board that runs along under the bottom of the tiles, to which the gutter is fixed. The word ‘fascia’ comes direct from Latin, where it means ‘band’ or ‘doorframe’. In classical architecture, the fascia is the plain, wide band directly above the columns.
Bargeboards are the boards fastened to the projecting gables of a roof, running up to the apex of the gable. Bargeboards add strength to the roof.
They also hide and protect the ends of the horizontal timbers of the roof, which would otherwise be exposed. Some houses are now built with brick pairs in place of bargeboards, meaning there is no decoration on the gable end of the house. The word ‘bargeboard’ is probably from the Medieval Latin bargus or barcus, meaning a scaffold.
Soffits bridge the gap between the wall and the projecting edge of the roofline, often known as the eaves. Soffits vary in width depending on the style of construction. Where the roof-space has been converted into an attic room, they may incorporate ventilation. Read more on soffit installation.
Gutters catch rainwater running off the pitched roof and convey it, by means of downpipes, to underground cavities called soakaways, where it disperses. The word ‘gutter’ comes from the Old French gotier, and ultimately from the Latin ‘gutta’, meaning ‘drop’.
Why Is The Roofline Important?
The function of the roofline is to ensure that the area between the wall and the roof is protected from the elements. This area is exposed to the full force of wind, rain and snow, and needs to be kept securely sealed. By keeping this area sealed, the roofline protects the roof space, timbers and interior from water damage, helping to prevent dry rot and wet rot.
These problems can be extremely serious if left untreated, threatening the structural integrity of the roof timbers. Damp in the lower part of the roof often manifests itself in the form of plaster damage to upstairs ceilings, which is unsightly and has to be addressed.
By conveying water away from the roof and walls, gutters help to keep damp away from the walls and foundations of a building. Finally, the roofline performs a cosmetic function which, while not essential, still affects the desirability and therefore the value of a property. A smart, well-maintained roofline gives a good impression and finishes off the look of a house nicely.
Sometimes, the way a property has been constructed causes problems with the roofline. This is nothing to do with the homeowner, but simply a problem they ‘inherit’ from the building approaches used many years ago. Ventilation problems are very common. In other cases, the pitch (tilt) of the last tile on the roof is so great that the water misses the gutter completely, falling straight on to the ground near the foundations.
What Is The Roofline Made From?
Many people, including ourselves, believe that the best possible material for fascias and bargeboards is hardwood. It’s a supremely durable, beautiful material that’s fantastic to work and looks wonderful once finished. It’s also highly sympathetic to the ‘feel’ of older properties.
However, it’s extremely expensive to source, putting it out of the reach of most homeowners. It also needs maintenance, albeit not as much as softwood. Most properties’ fascias and bargeboards are made from softwood. Softwood is used because it is easy to work with and cheap to obtain. In many cases, unseasoned wood is used. However, in order to be weatherproof it needs to be primed and painted, and this protective paint layer needs to be regularly renewed.
In the years after the Second World War, a material called Asbestolux was used very widely to make soffit boards, before the health risks of asbestos were fully understood. It was strong, affordable and easy to cut into the long lengths required. Asbestolux does not pose a health hazard if left undisturbed at your property, but it does require a licensed asbestos handler if you wish to have it removed and replaced.
Asbestos can take two forms: cement-based and insulation board. Cement-based asbestos is completely safe for anyone to remove (unlicensed removal). Asbestos insulation board, however, is fibrous, which poses a potential danger to those who work with it, so it can only be removed by licensed companies.
If you think that asbestos may be present at your property, our surveyor will take a sample and a photograph and send these to an approved laboratory for analysis. If the material is indeed asbestos, we can employ a specialist contractor on your behalf to remove it safely. Asbestos soffits were made illegal in 1984.
However, because there were so many asbestos warehouses that still held stock, it was 1999 before asbestos was banned completely.
Gutters and downpipes were traditionally made from iron. Iron downpipes used to feature the characteristic ‘buckets’ into which drainage pipes would empty – these can still be seen on older properties. Steel and Asbestolux were also used.
Around 1960, however, PVC appeared, and has grown in popularity to become almost universally used for gutters and downpipes. Later, PVC was superseded by uPVC (see next section).
The roofline materials in your property depend on its age. The table below shows some likely materials for different ages of property in the UK. However, please bear in mind that every property is different.
|Date of construction||Fascias and bargeboards||Soffits||Gutters|
|Pre 1960||Softwood originally, but due to age will have been replaced at least once||Plywood or Asbestolux||May be iron, steel or asbestos, if original – but probably replaced with plastic in most cases|
|1960-2000||Softwood – possibly original, although will be in poor condition by now||?||PVC, which became widespread during this period|
|2000 and later||Softwood or uPVC||?||PVC or uPVC|
PVC and uPVC
In the early days of plastic use in rooflines, PVC was widely used. (Some companies still use it today.) PVC is a recycled material that is prone to discolouration, cracking and warping over time. If you’ve ever bought a PVC bucket or flowerpot, you may already be familiar with these problems!
uPVC, sometimes called PVCu, is a superior form of PVC. The ‘u’ indicates that the material is unplasticised, so it’s an all-new, non-recycled material. uPVC is far superior to softwood in terms of its usability, its durability and its maintenance. While softwood needs regular rubbing down, priming and repainting in order to prevent warping, damp and rot (see next chapter), uPVC needs no physical maintenance whatsoever beyond a simple annual clean. This is why uPVC cladding replacement became the norm for those with PVC in their homes.
Like all gutters, uPVC gutters need to be cleaned out to ensure that water runs freely. Gutter-guards help to prevent debris from blocking the gutter. In recent years, many houses have been built with uPVC fascias and bargeboards in place from the outset, indicating that the building trade recognise the value of this material.
The quality of a uPVC component is determined by the die (mould) used to extrude it. High-quality dies give a very smooth, almost glassy finish that is excellent at repelling and conveying water. Lower-quality dies give a more matte surface that tends to get pitted and grainy much more quickly, so they get dirty much more easily. The best uPVC products have a gloss finish and are made from solid plastic resin.
Repair Or Replace?
This section discusses the regular maintenance required to care for a traditional softwood roofline, the advantages of replacing it with uPVC and the shortcuts that people sometimes take to try and avoid outright replacement.
A Neglected Area
Many people neglect their rooflines. With this area of a building, it’s very much a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Problems in similar areas such as windows are much more obvious, since they affect living spaces very directly.
Often, homeowners address nearly every other area of their properties before they consider the roofline – it’s regarded as the ‘last piece of the jigsaw’ in terms of home improvement.
For other people, it’s simply a case of ‘ignorance is bliss’. Problems in the roofspace can remain undetected for years if you don’t actually make the effort to go and look, and if there is no evidence of problems in upstairs ceilings. Roofspaces are often hard to access, which discourages homeowners from checking on their roof timbers.
Outside the property, the roofline is obviously a long way from the ground, and difficult to inspect closely without a ladder. Problems in the roofspace are invisible from outside.
Other people feel that superficial cosmetic problems such as tatty paintwork, while not ideal, can be left for a while with no ill effects. However, it’s important to remember that insidious, progressive problems could still be present, in addition to the minor inconvenience of paint flaking off.
The eventual cost of not addressing roofline problems can be far greater than the cost of taking action. For example, if dry rot takes hold in roof timbers, the eventual expense and inconvenience will be far greater than if the roofline had been sorted out promptly.
Maintaining Softwood Rooflines
If your property has fascia boards, bargeboards or soffits made from softwood, they need to be regularly maintained in order to prevent problems such as rotting and woodworm – as well as the obvious cosmetic issue of flaking or cracking paintwork.
Maintaining wooden fascia boards entails removing the gutter, thoroughly sanding down and priming the boards, and finally repainting them with two coats of exterior paint. Other boards need to be protected in the same way.
Some modern-day properties are built very close together, which makes access to the gable end of the property very difficult. This adds time and inconvenience to the process of repainting fascia boards.
There are other factors as well as the condition of the wood. Just above the fascia is a mineral roofing felt, designed to channel water into the gutter and away from the wall. After several years, however, old felts begin to sag, with the result that water simply splashes on to the top of the wooden fascia board, in time resulting in the wood becoming rotten.
The Four Year Maintenance Cycle
Most professionals agree that the maintenance cycle for softwood boards is around four years. In other words, your wooden fascias, soffits and bargeboards need to be properly repainted every four years if they are to remain in good condition.
If you miss out a maintenance cycle for any reason, or just delay it for a couple of years, there will be much more work to do the next time – some carpentry, for example, to replace rotten wood, or replacement gutters. If you have bargeboards that have been left unpainted, water tends to build up at the base of the ‘gable ladder’, eventually leading to woodrot. Basically, the longer you leave your maintenance, the more time and cost will be required just to get back to an adequate state of repair
The True Cost Of Repair vs Replacement
Let’s say you keep on top of your four-year cycle, regularly repainting your softwood to keep it in tip-top condition. Surely that’s cheaper than replacing the entire roofline with uPVC?
Well, the figures may surprise you. If your roofline was well constructed in the first place, you might be lucky enough to get as much as 40 years’ use out of it. However, a more realistic estimate is probably a lifetime of around 20 years – which is also the projected lifetime of uPVC roofline elements.
In the table below, we’ve compared the project costs of maintaining a softwood roofline with the cost of replacing it in its entirety. We’ve assumed that you pay a contractor to maintain your roofline, rather than doing it yourself. We’ve also assumed that the cost of maintenance rises by around 15% every four years, taking into account factors such as:
- inflation, currently running at around 4% (December 2010)
- increased materials cost (bearing in mind that our own materials have increased in cost by around 16% every year for the last three years, mainly due to rising oil prices)
- increased regulatory and insurance burden – contractors will probably have to comply with more health and safety legislation in future, increasing the time and labour of every job.
When you take all these into account, it’s clear that our estimated increase of 15% over four years is actually pretty conservative!
For an average-sized three-bedroom house, the cost to replace the whole roofline with uPVC is likely to be around £3800. The cost for repairing and repainting an existing softwood roofline on the same property would be around £600. So let’s put those figures into a table and see how the money works out over the whole lifetime of roofline – what it would cost to maintain a softwood roofline as opposed to its uPVC counterpart, taking future price increases into account.
|Now||In 4 years||In 8 years||In 12 years||In 16 years||Total|
And remember: that’s assuming that your maintenance is carried out every four years, and that no unexpected problems with your wooden roofline appear. It also disregards the sheer inconvenience of having to sort out your maintenance on a regular basis. Finally, we haven’t taken into account the potential cost of replacing the gutters on your softwood roofline.
This isn’t just empty words. The fascia boards and bargeboards fitted by Anglia Roofline are guaranteed for 20 years. Our gutters and downpipes are guaranteed for 10 years. When we talk about paying once now and not paying again, we mean it.
Read more about why fascia replacement might just be cheaper than decorating.
Alternatives To Replacement – And Their Consequences
Replacing the entire roofline with uPVC can seem like a significant investment. This leads people to investigate cheaper alternatives, which they hope will give the same level of protection without the expense.
Unfortunately, as in so many other areas of life, you get what you pay for. These alternatives, while they may provide temporary respite, don’t address the underlying issues. In some cases, they may actually make them worse. And because they don’t fix the problem, they end up costing far more, because replacement is still necessary later on.
There are two main methods of ‘making do’ with the roofline: repainting fascia boards in place, and clipping on uPVC cover boards.
Repainting Fascia Boards In Place
Many people decide to repaint their fascia boards without removing them, or the gutter that is fixed to them. Repainting is very cheap and can reduce the time required for maintenance by as much as half. It also buys some time in terms of postponing total replacement. If your house is easy to access, you can even do it yourself – or at least part of it. However, repainting fascias has many drawbacks.
Painting fascia boards in place only allows for around 75% of the surface area to be painted. The area on the top, where the gutter meets the fascia – and where water often splashes if roofing felts have become worn – is inaccessible. So although this area is likely to be in dire need of repriming and repainting, it’s left in the same condition as before. Although the visible surface of the fascia board may look cleaner, the hidden surfaces of the wood are still wet and rotten. In other words, this is purely a cosmetic solution that doesn’t really address any of the underlying problems.
Gutter brackets often become brittle when they are handled, which is why many people decide not to remove them. However, this means the wood behind the gutter brackets is also inaccessible, which leaves another key area unprotected.
Clipping on uPVC Panels
Another widely used approach is to clip uPVC cover boards to the top of the old wood, leaving it in place, and replace the gutters.
This method involves no preparation or remedial work, so like painting it’s very quick, saving on labour costs. However, the material costs are comparable, so the overall cost is likely to be around 50% of replacing the roofline in its entirety.
This is also a useful second-best option for fitters who don’t have an asbestos removers’ licence, and therefore aren’t allowed to remove and dispose of traditional roofline materials like Asbestolux.
Because the final result is superficially similar to that obtained from complete replacement, many homeowners decide that the two options must be effectively the same. However, beneath the cover boards, the story is very different.
While clip-on cover boards protect the wood from exterior moisture, they don’t address any of the problems that are already present. And because timber is an organic, breathing material, being encased in plastic can actually accelerate the problems. The wood continues to ‘sweat’ inside its plastic covering and moisture is trapped inside, leading to an even worse problem with damp and rot than before.
Often, these clipped-on PVC cover boards fall off, bringing the old wood with them. The homeowner is then faced with the expense of addressing their roofline all over again, having essentially wasted money on an ineffective stopgap solution.
Old Gutter Brackets – Not Worth Keeping?
As we explained in the previous section, gutter brackets become brittle when they are handled, prompting many homeowners to leave them up when attempting to repaint fascia boards in place. But if they are removed, is it worth attempting to refit them?
If left unhandled, PVC and uPVC guttering can last for up to 20 years. Even after that time, it will probably still fulfil its function of getting most rainwater away from the house.
However, guttering expands in heat, leading to the characteristic cracking sound when it is heated by the sun – particularly if it’s brown or black. Expansion strips are fitted to counteract this, but even so, plastic guttering can become warped or distended over time.
On top of that, your existing gutter brackets may be difficult to replace like-for-like – for example, if they are made in Imperial measurements rather than metric. Once you have them, you need to replace them in the wood with great care, ensuring that the ‘fall’ on the gutter is once again perfect, so that all water running down the roof is caught in the gutter. It’s a lengthy task that will probably take around two days to do properly.
Finally, gutters themselves are relatively inexpensive, usually accounting for less than 10% of the cost of a typical roofline replacement. So for what they cost, and taking into account the time and trouble involved, it really makes more sense to replace old gutters and their brackets when replacing any part of the fascia. While we all want to get the most value from something we’ve paid for, trying to re-use old gutters and brackets is quite simply false economy.
Fit And Forget
Replacing the roofline in its entirety – fitting new gutters, fascia board replacement and soffits made from durable, high-quality uPVC – does away with the need for running repairs completely.
Modern uPVC fascia boards and soffits need no maintenance whatsoever, and can last for two decades or more. And choosing an expert, professional roofline provider gives you the reassurance that you’re getting the best product, fitted in the best way – with new underfelt, birdstop materials and proper ventilation installed. Everything will be stripped out, renewed and made good from scratch.
In other words, you really can ‘fit it and forget it’ – invest in a new roofline now, and reap the benefits in savings, peace of mind and an attractive, well-maintained property for years to come.
Choosing An Installer
Replacing your roofline is one of the most important maintenance tasks you can carry out at your home. But how should you choose the right installer?
Many firms in related areas (such as sealed-unit double glazing) offer replacement rooflines as an add-on to their other services. But there’s a world of difference in terms of the service you’ll receive.
While a window company might offer guttering purely as a way to increase revenue, a specialist roofline installer has built their entire business (and its reputation) on roofline services. Instead of carrying out guttering replacement once or twice a month, they’re working with rooflines day in, day out. That means they’ll offer deeper knowledge, more focused expertise and a genuine commitment to making sure you get the products and service you really need.
Check out local rooflines replacements that your prospective installer has done. If they’re genuine and reputable, they won’t object to giving you details of some properties where they’ve worked.
On the same theme, ask to see some testimonials from customers who have had their rooflines replaced. Look for confirmation of the service aspects you’re particularly interested in – prompt attendance, on-time completion, helpful suggestions, considerate working practices and, of course, the quality of the roofline replacement itself.
Your installer should be happy to come to your home in order to survey your home, ascertain your needs and talk you through the product options. They should also provide a full, detailed proposal without obligation.
You’ll probably want your installer to have all the relevant warranties in place, as well as a few years’ trading under their belt. You might also like to confirm that their fitters are experienced, and have worked for the installer for a reasonable period. Many roofline firms now feature this type of information on their websites.
Finally, you’ll appreciate the reassurance of a guarantee (say, for 10 years) and a commitment to offering after-sales service, with a promise to respond to calls within a certain timeframe.
Questions And Answers
In this section, we’ve tried to answer most of the questions that homeowners often have about roofline replacement from Anglia Roofline.
If you have a question that isn’t covered here, just get in touch with us on 01603 872049 or email [email protected] We’ll be happy to answer your question and you will never be bothered by any salespeople or spam email.
What Area Do You Cover?
We work on properties in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
What Will It Cost?
Every property is different, and we always ask to visit your home before we provide you with a firm price. However, we also understand that people like to have a sense of what a new roofline will cost so they can decide whether they are likely to be able to go ahead.
Replacing the roofline on a smaller two-bedroom property usually costs around £3200. For a three-bedroom home, the cost is usually around £3800. For larger properties, the cost may be higher.
These prices include everything: removing and disposing of old fascias, bargeboards, soffits and gutters, preparing the roofline and fitting uPVC replacements in your chosen colours. All materials and labour are included.
Is The Cost Fixed? How Do I Know It’s Competitive?
Many people believe that double-glazing companies vary their prices in order to maximise profits, offer eye-catching discounts and win business. As a result, two neighbours may pay very different prices for what is essentially the same work on the same house.
We guarantee that in no circumstances will you pay more than a neighbour has paid for the same service.
We offer a single, competitive price that is calculated using a fixed formula that takes into account the nature of your property and the length of the roofline to be replaced.
We don’t discount to win business, and we don’t submit inflated prices so that we can then offer a ‘reduction’ to win your business. The price we quote is the price you’ll pay; our first price is our best price.
We’re happy for our prices to be compared with any other provider out there. We are confident that we charge a fair price for the service we provide, and the quality of materials that we use. If you have concerns, just ask your neighbour – or someone with a similar property – to get a quote from us.
What Are Your Lead Times?
We can normally start your project within eight to ten weeks of getting your approval to proceed.
Can You Work Any Time Of Year?
Yes. We can work all year round, provided the weather is not prohibitively harsh. We work in five-metre sections, and if it rains or snows, we will seal up the current section to protect your loft space from the elements.
How Long Will It Take?
Most roofline replacements are completed within three to five days. When we prepare your quotation, we’ll provide accurate information on how long it will take.
Will It Be Disruptive?
The short answer is ‘no’! In many cases, we can work from easi-deck platform systems, although for longer runs we may have to erect a scaffold. Although you can pay the scaffolder separately if you prefer, we will arrange to have the scaffold put up and taken down.
We can almost always complete our work with exterior access only – that is, without having a key or entering your house. We can work while you are out at work, or even when you’re on holiday.
What If Something Goes Wrong?
We have professional liability insurance of £20 million, which means you are fully covered in the event of any damage or other problems resulting from our work.
What If You Discover Problems In My Roof?
In nearly every case, we’ll be able to take care of any problems we find without making any extra charge. Even if there are problems you don’t currently know about, we’ll address them and you won’t be asked to pay any more.
Often, we identify problems at the quote stage, so the price we estimate already includes the cost of addressing them.
What Guarantees Will I Receive?
All our white fascia boards and bargeboards are guaranteed for 20 years. Fascia boards and bargeboards in laminated colours are guaranteed for 10 years.
Our gutters and downpipes are guaranteed for 10 years.
That means that when you choose us to replace your roofline, you’re buying decades of absolutely guaranteed peace of mind. Once the work is completed, you won’t be spending a penny on your roofline for at least ten years.
Take The First Step
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our guide, and now understand your roofline a little better.
As I said in my introduction, I very much hope you’ll choose Anglia Roofline for your replacement roofline. We really do offer an unrivalled level of knowledge and expertise about rooflines – believe it or not, this guide has only scratched the surface! We just didn’t want to bore you…
If you’d like to discuss your roofline without obligation, please do call me on 07861 379594.
I’ll be delighted to visit your property for a brief, no-nonsense 30-minute assessment of your needs. I’ll outline the product options available to you and explain any issues specific to your property, such as access requirements. I’ll also be happy to discuss any questions you have about your roofline, or our service.
You’ll then receive a free proposal putting my suggestions in writing, along with a no-obligation quotation that remains valid for nine months. If and when you decide to proceed, we’ll arrange the start and end dates of your project. (Most roofline replacements take less than a week.)
I don’t employ salespeople and I don’t use pushy sales tactics myself. If you decide not to go ahead, I will fully respect your decision. But I hope you’ll decide that a new roofline from Anglia is by far the best option for an attractive, easy-to-maintain home, now and in the future.
I look forward to talking to you and helping you improve your home.
With warm regards,
Simon Steward ,
Owner and Director,