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What is a soffit?

What is a soffit?

When you’re building or remodeling a home, every detail counts. You probably have a good idea of what you want for basics like roof shingles and siding, but take a closer look, and you’ll notice that there’s a lot more that goes into finishing the exterior of your home than you may have realized.

One important design detail is the soffit. If your home has roof eaves that overhang the walls, even by just a few inches, you probably have soffits. The soffit is the material beneath the eave that connects the far edge of your roof to the exterior wall of your house. They are often vented. Besides being underneath your eaves, soffits can also be on the underside of a porch roof.

Do You Need Soffits?

If your roof is designed with eaves that overhang the walls — and most homes these days have several interesting roof lines that do just that — the answer is yes. Without soffits, you would have open eaves with exposed rafters, which can attract insects and pests. Also, if the rafters are directly exposed to rain or snow, they will require more maintenance to prevent rot or other damage from moisture, which could affect their structural integrity.

Vented Soffits


Soffits come in two basic varieties: vented and solid. Vented soffits may be perforated, or they could be created by adding vents to solid soffits every few feet.

Ventilation is crucial for the health and longevity of your attic. When your attic is an unconditioned space, proper air flow will keep your house cool in the summer by allowing excess heat to escape. Believe it or not, allowing cold air to flow into the attic at the eaves is also important in the winter. If your eaves are too warm, it encourages snow on the roof to melt during the day and refreeze at night — a cycle that can cause damaging ice dams. When cool air can flow through soffit vents, it reduces ice dams and helps extend the life of your roof.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure that attic insulation does not block the flow of air through soffit vents, which could result in trapping excess moisture and problems with ice dams. It can also actually tax your heating and cooling systems more, so be sure to keep soffit vents clear.

Not every home needs vented soffits, however. If your attic has other vents on the gable ends of your roof, these may provide sufficient ventilation. In this case, a solid soffit is appropriate.

Soffit Options


Fortunately, soffits are easy for builders to install, and they add beauty to your home’s exterior. Soffits are available in a range of materials, and it’s a good idea to choose something that will stand up to the weather without rotting or needing to be repainted often. Composite boards are available in several finished designed to be smooth or provide a rough-sawn look.

When designing your home, don’t forget that the soffits are an important design detail that can elevate your home’s look. This means that getting the color just right is important, and you can choose from a wide range of hues to get just the right look. You don’t have to pick white unless you love it!

THE BOTTOM LINE: Soffits are more than just a nice piece of trim for your home. They perform the important job of protecting your home’s structure from water damage and help keep your attic well ventilated. Choosing the right soffit for your house will take into account these needs as well as the overall aesthetics of your home’s design.