Animal, vegetable, or mineral? Soffit, along with fascia and gable, are simple parts of the construction of your house. They sound odd, but they are easy to recognize. Each plays a role in keeping your house looking well-made and well cared-for.
Most, but not all, houses will have soffit and fascia. Depending on the pitch of your roof, you likely have a gable, too.
This is an odd word. It comes from Latin and it means “fastened below”.
This makes a lot of sense because a soffit on a house is the flat “enclosure” under the eaves. It usually extends from the edge of the roof back to the wall of the house – the bottom leg of a right triangle if it is on the “eaves” side of the roof. In this picture, the soffit is the surface to which the spotlights are attached. You can see that it is a horizontal surface under the eaves.
There might also be soffit on the gable side of a roof if the rafters hang out beyond the exterior wall. In such a case, though, the soffit is more likely to be parallel to the roof forming a sandwich with the rafters rather than a triangular enclosure.
The soffit provides a finished decorative surface. It also discourages birds, insects, and animals from nesting under the eaves. It is often made of the same material (and color) as the fascia. The color may be chosen to harmonize with or to accent the primary or trim exterior colors of the house.
Fascia is the flat band of trim that covers the ends of the roof rafters. It is usually installed along the edge of the roof on the sides that do not form eaves. Typically, this means that the fascia is a decorative “band” along the top edges of the gable on the “end” walls of the house where the two pitched roof sections meet at the ridge pole. In such a case, fascia form the top two legs of an equilateral triangle.
Depending on your roof style, you may also have fascia along the outside edge of your soffit. Fascia will be a flat band of material parallel to the house walls. Soffit is an enclosing sheet of material perpendicular to the house walls. In this picture, the fascia is the dark band with horizontal lines in it that covers the transition between the roof edge and the smooth soffit area.
This is the end wall of the house where the two pitched roof sections join. The gable is the top of that triangular section of wall. In this diagram, the gable areas are highlighted in yellow.
Sometimes the gable has its own decorative embellishments. Often it includes some venting for the attic or crawl space that is typically behind it. That vent may itself be decorative.
Speaking of venting, soffit and gable both are likely to include some way to let air circulate in the attic or crawl space under the roof. This ventilation is very important for structural integrity (no mold).
Why Should You Care?
Normally, you will encounter these words when you have the house painted or sided. Often the colors and materials for the soffit and fascia will be called out separately. You might deal with soffit and fascia after a wind or hail storm, since these parts are often loosened or damaged by storms.
It is rare to have to do any home maintenance tasks on your soffit, fascia, and gable beyond painting, siding, or storm repair. Knowing what they are, though, makes talking about them more comfortable.
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Images: soffit- By Noles1984 – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2548156, fascia – CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10146153, gable – By KDS444 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22064079
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