Soffit Facts

Whether you're in the process of building a brand new home or you are planning to repair weather-related damage to the roof of your residence, the following soffit facts are sure to come in handy at some point along the way.

What is a soffit?

Soffit is the underside of any architectural feature, such as a beam, arch, vault, ceiling or stairs, although the word is most commonly used to refer to the bottom of a home's exterior eaves along the roofline. Soffit-which gets its name from the Latin word "suffigere," meaning "to fasten beneath or below"-is the flat surface that extends from the edge the house outward to the edge of the eave, completely closing in the space below the eave. The soffit is screwed or nailed to the underside of the home's lookout rafters and is often ventilated to help cool attic space.

Issues associated with soffits

Because the soffit is one of the most exposed aspects of your home, it is subjected to an assortment of elements all year long which range from wind and rain to snow and sleet. These natural elements can cause rotting of the soffit material itself as well as the wooden rafters that the soffit is typically attached to. Loose shingles and damaged or improperly-functioning gutters can prompt these problems as they allow rainwater or melting snow to infiltrate the soffits and rafters, and the rotting process is often exacerbated by the dark and damp conditons inside the soffit which create an ideal environment for rotting wood.

Animal such as squirrels can also pose serious problems for the soffit under your home's eaves as they tend to seek out the space behind the soffit for shelter if they can locate a way to get in. Although they do not cause physical damage to the soffit material, hornets and wasps can contribute to problems associated with soffit by presenting dangers to the homeowners, as this area is often seen as a prime spot for building nests. Contact a professional exterminator immediately if you suspect wasps or hornets have made a home in your soffit, even if you can only see the bees and not the nest since the nest can be located in the space behind the soffit.

Repairing damaged soffit

If you have a spot in your soffit that needs to be repaired or your entire soffit needs to be replaced, rest assured that the project is a relatively easy and inexpensive one. First, remove the fascia board-a type of roof trim that forms a protective layer between the top of the exterior walls and the home's interior-as well as the shingle molding. Then, remove the damaged soffit and inspect the wooden rafters. If they are rotted from water damage, the rafters must be replaced as well. Purchase soffit from your local hardware supply store and treat it with a protective sealer to prevent water from damaging it in the future. Finally, replace the fascia board and the soffit before painting any of the exterior surfaces to give the underside of your eaves a more aesthetically-pleasing appearance.

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