Roof eaves serve both decorative and practical functions for a home. Eaves are characteristic of classic architecture. Contemporary homes may have narrow roof eaves or no eaves at all for a minimal, streamlined look. Buildings with flat roofs usually do not have eaves, but some can have eaves that stick straight out to protect the exterior walls. A home with shallow or no eaves leaves the home vulnerable to water damage and leaks.
What Is an Eave?
An eave is the edge of the roof that overhangs the exterior siding. Parts of an eave include the soffit, which is the underside of your roof's eaves, and the fascia, the vertical facing board.
Types of Eaves
Roof eaves are designed in length and style to enhance a home's design and to fit the roof's aesthetics. For example, a Craftsman-style bungalow might have a low-pitched roof with a wide eave overhang that's open to expose the roof rafters. Dutch colonial homes have gambrel roofs with distinctly flared eaves. Victorian-style homes are known for their wide overhanging eaves. Many house styles have eaves that are finished with decorative brackets or corbels to make homes appear more stately or to add an architectural element of interest.
There are three basic types of eave styles that home builders and architects typically use:
- Closed eave: An overhang with a soffit that closes and finishes the underside of the eaves
- Open eave: An overhang with an exposed underside and visible rafters
- Box eave: An overhang enclosed with a soffit and a build-up of ornamental molding so the rafters are no longer visible
What Do Eaves Do?
Eaves define the style of a home, but they also have a major function. Eaves can protect the siding and foundation of a structure. A roof's eaves protruding beyond the sides allow snow and rain to fall from the roof away from the siding and to the ground. The further that the "weather" gets thrown away from the house, the more likely you'll have a dry basement, too.
In hot climates and depending on the roof's pitch, long or wide eaves on a properly positioned home can provide a sunshade for interior spaces. Eaves also provide an unobtrusive location for security cameras and lights when they are attached to the soffits.
Centuries ago, the word "eavesdrop" defined the perimeter around the house under the eaves where water fell from during a rainstorm. It was said that any person standing on the eavesdrop line of a home could hear conversations inside the home. A person who stood on the eavesdrop perimeter line was eventually called an eavesdropper.
Potential Downsides of Roof Eaves
Pests are drawn to making their homes in open-style eaves. The longer the roof overhang, the more protected space it offers to wasps, yellowjackets, hornets, birds, and sometimes larger creatures like raccoons and squirrels. Without a soffit, birds especially can build their nests tucked in beside your warm house. Even ventilation holes in the eave's soffits are entry points for the furry or feathered friend, including bats.
So what do you do? For your home, keep the eaves clean and plug holes during your annual maintenance routine. There are some products, such as Bird B Gone, that offer homeowners solutions such as gels, spikes, and repellents to protect your eaves. Here are a few more tips to keep your eaves free and clear from pests:
- Deter mud wasps from making nests under your eaves by spraying mint essential oil around the area.
- Hang decoy nests under your eaves to repel wasps.
- Hose off any spider webs under the eaves.
- Replace soffit vents immediately if they are broken or compromised.
- Repair rotting fascia boards or the holes will attract pests.