What is a soffit? (with photo)

Wooden board and moldings cover a soffit.

Technically, a soffit is the underside of any element of a building. The word originates from the Latin suffigere, which means “to fix underneath”. So there are ceiling soffits, stairs and even cornices. The most common type, however, is found in the area under the eaves outside the house. The soffit extends from the side of the house to the edge of the eaves and closes the space below the eaves.

The dimensions of an eaves soffit depend on the roof structure. A roof with a wide overhang will have a correspondingly wide soffit, sometimes up to 3 feet (0.9 m) wide. A roof with very little overhang will have a narrow bottom, sometimes as little as three inches.

The soffit is more vulnerable to weather damage than any other part of the house. Wet material will rot, and the underside can be repeatedly soaked through with water from torn shingles, damaged or rusted chips, ice dams, or malfunctioning gutters. Squirrels and birds can also damage a soffit, as they like to nest in the space behind it if they can find an entry point. Bees, wasps and wasps don’t really do damage, but when they build a nest in this area, they pose a problem for the owners.

Fortunately, repairing a damaged soffit is very easy. The homeowner must first remove the tile frame and front panel. Then he must remove the damaged or rotten soffit. If a beam is rotted or otherwise damaged, that section will also need to be removed and replaced. Damaged material must be replaced, making sure all surfaces of the new soffit have been treated with a sealant to protect the material from water damage. The front panel and frame can then be replaced and all surfaces painted or sealed.

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An unventilated and overheated attic can be improved with ridge and soffit openings. As heat increases, warmer air is exhausted through the crest vents and cooler air is drawn in through the soffit vents. If air circulation is poor, an attic fan can be used to increase air movement.

Improved ventilation with these vents keeps the attic drier because condensation will not form inside the roof. This reduces damage to the beams and roof. A cooler attic also means less use of air conditioning in the rest of the house.

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