Recommended fascia company
This article offers advice on what to look for in finding a trusted fascia company, it shows how to spot and therefore avoid some of the possible pitfalls. The advice here is not solely my own, it comes with the input of a close friend of mine who has worked in the double glazing and fascia industry for over 30 years.
For your convenience this in-page link menu will take you to the section you may be interested in. Please take time to read it as a whole if you can, If however you are only interested in the cost of new fascias you can read that here or at the links at the bottom of the page.
- Finding a good fascia fitter – Why it pays to know what ‘snow blind’ means and the minimum inspection you should expect from a fascia company / installer.
- Six of the best – The six best questions you never thought of asking, and why, closely followed by seven more good questions.
- The three main types of fascia fitter – And how to avoid snags when employing them.
- Fascia vents & support trays – Ventilation options, and support for old membranes and felt undersarkings.
Good fascia and soffit installers
The apparent ease of ripping down old wooden fascias and soffits, then simply nailing up some new shiny UPVC has bred a whole new industry with some of the highest concentration of cowboys and con artists I have ever seen. And that’s coming from a trade professional with 30 years+ in the trade.
For a lot of skilled jobs around the home I would normally advise that you ask friends or family first for recommendations, and whilst this is very often true of decorating, plumbing or worming the cat, it often doesn’t translate into best practise for good fascia installers. Why is that?
Well no disrespect to the general public, but 99% of the time they simply do not know what they are looking at. A bit harsh maybe, but let me explain from a fitter’s perspective. If for instance the fascia is nice and white, the gutters aren’t crooked and the installers clean up afterwards, all appears marvelous. This is what in some circles of the window and fascia fitting trade, they call being “snow blind”.
The phrase ‘snow blind’ in the fascia fitting trade basically refers to the bright white appearance of new fascias that blinds a customer to defects. From a fitter’s perspective, if on the outside all appears well as you pack away your kit, you can expect that last mug of tea, a choccy biscuit, shortly followed by a pat on the back and often the cheque or payment to take away, (Fitters are often encouraged to seek payment after completion if possible with some firms). After a cheery click of the heels, the installers then make their way to the van in a Mary Poppins fashion, often never to be seen again.
So how do you find a good fascia fitter ?
To be honest it doesn’t matter whether you pick a large or small company, I’ve worked for both… what you really need is some basic common sense advice, and some insider installation tips. What I’m going to give you is a few basic questions to ask or look for, in your would be fascia fitters spiel or marketing.
But before we get started, in my personal opinion any salesperson or installer from a good fascia fitting company must climb a set of ladders to inspect for rot, check for asbestos type fibre cement soffits and to measure up. The physical size of fascias in height as well as length not only alters the cost of the raw materials (especially in coloured or wood effect fascias) but sometimes the fixings required to fit the stuff too. If they cannot be bothered to measure up properly, it would make me wonder about the attitude to the work, and the stability of the estimate as you reach the final bill.
6 Questions to ask your fascia fitter and why…
Let’s kick off with my first question. This would be to ask about the condition of my fascias just to test the waters, a simple “Are my fascias rotten?” will do the trick for you here. You can also ask about the presence of asbestos in the soffits too.
On occasion there may be Asbestos in the soffits, and this can affect your quote. Some installers package up the asbestos safely and dispose of it themselves, others may need to bring in a third party asbestos removal firm. If asbestos is mentioned make a note of this so you can ask other potential installers.
What you are looking for from these questions is whether you get an honest response, and then, do they, or will they climb a ladder to look? An installer may also offer to cap or clad your fascias if it is viable. Now this isn’t always the moronic idea it’s painted to be, and you can read about that in this article on capping fascias if you wish.
Time for question two…
This is your next question to ask, “What size fascia fixings do you use?”. The most important part of installing any full replacement fascia is the fixing process.
This is quite often the bit where you win or lose long term. The loss of structural strength by replacing wood with plastic, coupled with extra horizontal movement from expansion and contraction, has to be catered for by good fixings into the roof rafter ends. Sometimes called rafter feet, rafter legs, or truss legs (the ends of the roof timbers to which the fascia is fixed).
Strength – Plastic fascias are not as strong as wooden fascias – period. Anyone who says they are is either lying or a fool. Plastic by nature also expands and contracts a lot more than wood. This isn’t a problem but it has to be allowed for.
Rafter ends – This is an example of removing wooden fascias from nice new rafter legs in great condition, and as straight as you like. Thanks to the low height fascia you could fix directly into these with no problem at all 99% of the time.
Horizontal expansion and contraction of plastic fascias also means there will be a lot of force on the fixings and they will be slowly wiggled over time in a ‘side to side’ direction, potentially elongating the hole they sit in. This is why the fixings are serrated down the shank and called ‘ring shank’. The manufacturers of fascias and pins expect movement, know they can be wiggled out, and thus have incorporated the serrated rings or ridges to counteract this.
Fascia fixings – Often called poly top pins, here are the three sizes I often see used to fix full replacement fascias. 40mm or less should not be used, 50mm is just about OK and 65mm is preferable.
For me this means that the stainless steel fixings used should be a minimum of 50 – 65mm long, no less.
The next question for me is“What do you fix the fascia pins into?”. Unfortunately it has multiple correct answers. But we want to know what the fascia will be fixed into. In other words what that lovely 65mm marine grade stainless pin will be nailed to.
On small height fascia say approximately 150mm (6″) if the rafter legs are in good condition as well as being in a straight line, and nice and square, you can nail directly into the rafter legs without any problems.
On much larger fascias though some form of timber noggin or plastic bracing should ideally be screwed to the rafter legs or ends, especially if they are crooked or damaged. This not only provides a high strength fixing for the fascia but corrects any lack of a straight line or squareness with the rafter leg, and often provides a fixing for the soffit boards later as well. The taller the facia in height or the steeper the angle of the roof, the more leverage the roof tiles can also exert on it too, another reason for timber or plastic bracings.
Timber bracing – Whilst the rafter legs here are in good condition for their age they are not very straight and have been cut in a way that may allow the new fascia to rock or be levered on by the weight of the tiles above. Small wooden bracing noggins have been fitted to provide strength.
UPVC bracing – Here the ends of this trussed roof are not only ‘in and out’ but also ‘up and down’ – see the string line. Another good method is to fit plastic bracings. These are normally off cuts of full replacement fascia but the same thing can be done with large pieces of timber too.
The two favoured methods for these fascia supports are timber – treated or not, and plastic off cuts from a length of full replacement fascia to form a bracket or brace. I tend to favour timber but have not yet found any real world difference between the two. Does the timber bracing have to be treated? Well nearly all roof timbers are totally untreated, so and as long as your roof is waterproof which 99.9% of the time, it really doesn’t matter either way. Some firms make a big deal out of using treated timber this for me is just marketing.
Unfortunately a lot of fascia companies talk a very knowledgeable game but they usually have no real qualified building skills, carpentry skills or insight beyond sales patter or the plastics and windows industry. I am not calling them, or point scoring, just stating a fact.
As we have just learnt fixings are important, so this is something to ask about, or look for in the marketing of a potential fascia fitting firm.
Complications with fascia replacement
The question here is “what impact will the removal of the fascia have on my Ridge tiles / or mortar verges” and “what will you do in this situation”
Next on the list is mortar line, also known as cement line or the cement work. This refers to all the parts of your roof that may be directly, or indirectly supported by the old wooden fascias that are to be removed. This could commonly be verges to gable ends, or the bottom of hip ridge tiles.
Because your old timber fascias are removed in the installation process, it also means that anything they were supporting is naturally affected too. In the case of a roof it will nearly always mean the bottom of any ridge tiles or mortar verges. In a situation where a gable end has a fascia fitted beneath it, it’s potentially not only adding support to the tiles and mortar directly above, but the fibre cement soffit strips may be nailed into the wooden fascias that are being removed.
Fascia removal – Here an old wooden fascia is removed from a gable end, the soffit strips are sometimes nailed into the top edge of the wooden fascia. Modern trussed roofs tend to be more forgiving.
As you can imagine this will have a knock on effect on the lifespan of any mortar if the wooden fascias, complete with nails, are removed as can often be the case. In this situation you will need to know what will be done in these areas to be able to compare one quote with another. Many fascia fitters will simply not mention this to avoid the extra work, or for fear of pricing themselves out of the running.
Mortar line – The removal of wooden fascias will have some impact on the mortar details to verges or gable ends, particularly in older houses where the wooden fascia has been used for structural support. The small inset picture shows the collapse of hip ridges 4 years after the fitting of new fascias.
As we have just learnt there can be complications that can arise from replacing existing wood with plastic near the mortar line.
Box end details
The next question may not be needed by those without gable ends on their house. But “how will you finish the box end” is the question for those who have, and note the response or look for pictures in any literature.
They say the devil is in the detail, and it usually is. Box ends are usually found where the fascia from a gable end or verge meets the bottom of the roof, often where the fascia returns from a slope on the gable end verge and changes to a horizontal run. Sometimes these can be quite large and ugly without the correct parts. That’s why some bright spark in the building plastics industry made “the box end”.
The fascia box end – Unless there is a very good reason, and there usually isn’t – a box end should not be made of of silly little off cuts, have gaps or be joined at strange angles other than 90 degrees.
The ‘box end’ is a large and disproportionately expensive section of dedicated plastic fascia to tackle problem seen in the picture above, and it describes not just the part, but the way of finishing. A lot of fascia fitters will look straight to the box end detail to get an idea of install quality when gauging others work.
Guttering and down pipes
The last question should be “What brand of guttering will you be installing”.
Often when I see poorly installed fascias there is a common link. The Guttering. In an almost unbelievable 90% of the time when I’m called out to fix either the guttering or the fascias on a shoddy fascia install – that no-one is coming back to under guarantee – you can see it in the guttering believe it or not.
More specifically we’re talking guttering brands. I can think of at least two or three brands of guttering that are regularly fitted to the jobs that no one gives a crap about. This is because they are cheap, nasty and often leak early. This is a reflection of the mental attitude of the fascia firm or installer and it normally continues throughout the install the closer you look. Are they coming back to fix that leak they knew was coming? Doubt it.
Poor guttering – The brands that suffer from poor quality, loose joints and early fading thankfully all seem to look the same in one respect. If you see a large ‘sticky uppy’ rounded bar design on the top of brackets and joints (as shown), regardless of gutter shape, it’s almost certainly cheap crap.
I’m not silly enough to name the brands directly and get myself sued as a result. But if the guttering you are offered isn’t a large brand like Poly pipe, FlowPlast, Hunter, Osma, possibly Marley or a continuous aluminium gutter system, alarm bells would sound I’m afraid.
Down pipe details
Although I know I might be being picky here, but I also look at pipe fixings straight away. Is the pipe upright, are the brackets well spaced and are they fixed into the bricks rather than the soft mortar joints?
I haven’t included this last item as a question, it’s just something to think about. But I can guarantee you this, whenever one fascia fitter looks at another’s work, even long after completion, box ends, pipe clips and brand of guttering will be an instant visual indicator to the quality of the job.
Questions to ask your fascia company or fitter
So let’s run through MY list of questions you should ask a potential fascia and soffit installer, in my opinion, as derived from the reasons above. And if nothing else, showing an interest in these points sends the signal that you are not a mug, and sets the tone. Don’t be afraid, these questions are reasonable. I am always happy to answer any question, and elaborate if required, I have nothing to hide.
- What is the condition of my fascias, are they rotten, or do my soffits have asbestos?
- What size fascia fixings do you use?
- What do you fix the fascia & fixings to?
- What impact will the removal of the fascia have on my ridge tiles / or mortar verges”?
- How do you finish the box end?
- What brand of guttering do you fit?
Here’s some of the more generic questions you might find on other websites, but I’ve tweaked them slightly.
- Have you done this sort of work before? Do you have photos? – What you are looking for here is not just a nice looking job, look for ‘box end’ finish and installation pictures that may show bracing on rafter legs as discussed earlier.
- Do you sub out the work? – Some companies, often the larger ones, sub out the work to god knows who. This is explained further down.
- Do I have to pay a deposit or anything up front? – On larger jobs payment for materials and some labour may be reasonable, but always withhold the lion’s share until you are happy with the result. If at any stage you are not happy make your feelings known before the end of the job to allow an amicable resolution. I do not take any money up front, but I confess on some jobs it does leave me vulnerable to rogue customers. So far however I have been lucky.
- What scaffolding will you use? – A lot of fascia fitters use their own temporary work platforms to reduce costs when safe to do so, me included. This question will help you compare quotes and make sure they are like for like. Full scaffold is going to increase costs where the installer deems it necessary.
- Are you insured? – Personally I do not know of anyone these days who do not carry liability insurance, but if in doubt ask.
- Is your quote an estimate or a fixed price quote? – This is important to know. Estimates can be subject to going up, a fixed quote should not. Now is also a good time to check that VAT is included in the price given. A 20% surprise at the end won’t cheer you up.
- What is the guarantee? – This for most companies with marketing skills, this will be all over their literature or website. Buyer beware, don’t be gullible. If I were to recycle all the written guarantees given, even the ones in rosette designs into toilet paper, they would have more actual real world value. See below.
Fascia guarantees & wiggle room
For the sake of argument, let’s say that there has been a genuine manufacturing error in the fascias fitted to your home (very unlikely, I’ve never seen it). Even if the installer can find the receipt after a few years, and the manufacturer is still in business, and then they supply new fascias with their deepest apologies, who’s paying for the removal and refitting?
This time let’s assume it was installer incompetence. Does this sound like they’re the type of person or firm to honour their guarantees?
Ahh, I hear you say “but my guarantee is insurance backed” (insert smug face here). In my not inconsiderable real life experience I have learnt that insurance companies do not like to pay out. They incorporate ‘wiggle room’ into their contracts so someone else is always negligible or a clause has not been satisfied, thus “voiding the guarantee in this instance I’m sorry to say.”
By no means let this put you off guarantees, some are honoured, but open your eyes a little. Far better to find a trusted fascia installer by a little home vetting first, problems are always best avoided.
How to choose the best fascia and soffit company
So you’re keen to employ the best fascia company and you think to yourself do I go for a big nation wide installer, a smaller local fascia fitting firm, or maybe a local handyman. Let’s take a critical eye and look at the options and possible pitfalls.
Large national fascia companies
There’s lots of these about, some good, some not so good. You know the type of companies I’m talking about here, usually they started off as double glazing companies, then they do a line of nice looking conservatories – known as ‘connys’ in the trade – and then they move into the higher end of fascia / guttering fitting too, otherwise known as the roofline.
Good marketing is their business. Professional and slick, and they send round a salesman / saleswoman in a nice suit with lots of brochures and a clipboard, probably arrived in an Audi with an iPad too. Sometimes the experience from these types of firms can be faultless from start to finish, but you will pay a premium for the premium service you are receiving, great if you can afford it.
What can go wrong? Well two things spring to mind. The first is the hard sell.
You may find that, and let me quote this for you, “This price is only available today at this time” or similar such codswallop. Don’t be fooled, it’s not. And if it is, this is not the sort of company you wish to deal with in my opinion.
What the hell is going on? Well firstly the salesperson’s job is to get the highest price they can, so play hardball. Be prepared to gently, and in stages, show them the door and sign up to nothing. If they reduce the price, look interested, discuss it and show them the door again “to think about it”. Rinse and repeat as many times as you like, then wait a least a week before phoning them to accept their lowest price if you are so inclined.
Secondly, and slightly more worryingly, is that some companies sell the job on or sub out to other parties. So after wooing you with slick sales they take a 50% cut of profits (or as close as they can get). The job then goes out to ‘tommy two thumbs’ and his 16 year old apprentice, and trust me you have not seen any of their work in the brochures.
The small to medium sized local fascia installer
In my opinion you will get the most competitive quote in this sector, and the prices supplied should be reasonably similar if it’s a like for like quote. Often the more professional local fascia installers can be found advertising online or in Yellow pages. Services like MyBuilder or Rated people can also be a good way of finding these, but don’t just trust the reviews left by homeowners alone. Usually they will have websites and these may have a gallery that could include photos of installation practices. Often these companies are family run concerns which can mean some pride in their work.
Remember though don’t be ‘snow blind’, look for the correct installation of box ends and rafter leg bracing instead. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions listed above and use your now developed eye for any detail that we have learnt above to assist you.
The builder or handyman
This is a sector I would generally avoid. Facia fitting whilst not rocket science does require a knowledge of the correct trims, components, and when to use them, especially for expansion and contraction reasons. Although I’m sure some installs are excellent, I often find small basic mistakes made by even very good builders and skilled handymen. No one person can know it all I’m afraid.
Other fascia choices…
Fascia ventilation options
Adding ventilation to the fascia is another detail you may be asked about. On a new install there are two common options – over fascia vents and soffit vents.
Over fascia ventilation is my personal favourite where possible. This involves incorporating an unseen continuous ventilation strip onto the top of the new UPVC fascia board, hidden from sight by the later fitting of felt support trays or guttering.
Over fascia vents – Whilst these can be fitted to most fascia installations, they may not be practical on very long & low height fascias in some circumstances.
Soffit vents on the other hand are usually moulded into the soffit board itself, again in a continuous length. Whilst the ventilation they provide is excellent they can attract dirt over time and be hard to clean making them ugly on the eye. They can also on rare occasions if the conditions are right, over ventilate the roof space in the house as described in my roof ventilation page.
Continuous soffit ventilation – This is the difference between a new install and one that is 5 years old. Although it will clean with warm soapy water, it can be a faff.
Felt support trays
Otherwise known as Eaves protectors, Eaves trays or Eaves guards, felt support trays seem to describe them the best. These are often installed when fitting fascias to a house with common interlocking roof tiles to support any felt or undersarking that has been cut during the fascia fitting process.
Felt support trays – Felt support trays help to stop any sagging in the felt or membrane and guide any water that gets onto the undersarking from a leak, over the fascia and into the gutter below. Anti bird comb fillers can also be added or incorporated if required.
Where they are almost always not fitted however is when the house has man made slate, natural slate or small plain tiles. This is because these roof coverings are too labour intensive to remove and will almost certainly cause more damage than the process is worth in an attempt at fitting felt support trays.