Never Underestimate the Use of Eaves

From on December 30, 2008 in Roofing

EavesThe most ridiculous thing about my house is…the blatant lack of eaves or overhang on the north side of the house. Sounds wild, I know, but I am new to the desert. Yes I am currently spending the winter months in a Casita in the Mojave Desert in southern California. Sure the average annual rainfall here is less than six inches, but rain it does.

And last week I had the pleasure of experiencing my first good desert rainfall (I got my first earthquake on my first night in town!). Other than making me a bit homesick, it was striking and beautiful. But it also resulted in water dripping directly onto my bed in the middle of the night thanks to some rather ridiculous design.

Our small winter getaway has an exposed beam ceiling with tongue-and-groove pine on top of that. These beams then cantilever out of the exterior walls about one foot, completely uncovered by any eave or overhang. Many years in the hot desert sun have caused quite a bit of cracking and splitting in the beam ends as all moisture has been sucked out of them. This actually allows rainwater to travel through these cracks where they meet the exterior, into the walls and, as it turns out, behind the paint that covers the beams and down onto our bed through a knot in the wood.

At first I couldn’t very well believe it. It is so sunny here that I hadn’t yet given the funky design much thought. The solution? Well, the outdoors portion of the beams had already been coated with a tar-based paint to seal them. There is flashing along the roof edge but this was cut around the beams (there is no attic or air space above the beams and T&G pine), resulting in an obvious weak spot in the design.

For lack of a better solution, we waited for the rain to subside and the sun to dry out the area and then applied some more tar we had laying around. It did rain again the next night and our solution appears to have worked – no more dripping – but for how long? There is also the problem of rainwater running over the flashing and directly down the exterior walls and onto the windows. Upon examination we can see several possible future leaks and cracks in the stucco facade where water runs down.

For now a catastrophe has been abated and it may last for a long time. This is after all the desert and this house is not new, but at least one-third of all rainfall will come in the next two months…that could be a lot of drips.

The moral of the story: never underestimate the usefulness of eaves and soffits during your remodel.