Around the home, a soffit is a term for any kind of boxed-in structure that hides areas that you do not wish to see or which will collect debris or permit the intrusion of vermin or insects if not covered.
Soffits are most often found outside the house, under the eaves. Often, they cover structural elements like load-bearing beams. HVAC ductwork, electrical wires, and plumbing pipes are often covered with soffits.
These light-weight elements have no structural purpose. Except for incidental small items (like recessed lights), they are not designed to carry significant loads.
Common Uses Around Home
- Under the Eaves: On the exteriors of homes, soffits cover up the projecting parts of the eaves. This open triangular area serves no purpose and is prone to collecting spider webs and debris. More importantly, it is one avenue for vermin to access attics. Soffits cover up eaves.
- Atop Kitchen Cabinets: This is one of the few examples where soffits cover nothing other than dead space. Dust and other debris tend to collect above kitchen cabinets, and soffits close up this space.
- Home Theaters: Soffits are a common item in home movie theaters. Trays projecting several inches out and downward are built to contain rope lighting or recessed lights, or as a chase for audio or video wiring.
Because they often contain critical services, rather than merely dead space, great care should be taken whenever you consider drilling or cutting into them.
Soffits are sometimes called bump outs, bulkheads, or drop-downs.