What Are Soffits?

A soffit is the underside of any construction element of a building. Homeowners are most familiar with the kitchen soffit, that boxed-in space above cabinets used to hide plumbing and/or electrical work, and exterior soffits, or eaves, which join the roof to the house. Exterior soffits may be the same color and material as the house, or they may be painted or clad to contrast the house, playing up the structure's architectural lines.

Soffits are susceptible to rot if they are continually exposed to moisture. Homeowners should check regularly for torn shingles, damaged gutters, and rusted flashing, any of which could allow wetness to collect. Ice dams, caused when water accumulates behind blocks of ice, can also cause problems. Some homes may have a soffit vent, which is an opening covered by a grille that allows airflow through the attic (or the space under the roof) and helps moisture to evaporate.

Birds and squirrels love to make their homes behind soffits if they can find a way in. Stinging insects such as hornets, wasps, and bees may also nest behind soffits and, while they won’t cause damage the way birds and squirrels can, their nests can be tricky, and even dangerous, to remove.