Eave vs Soffit: What Are They, & A Comparison

Soffits and eaves are both architectural features that play an important role in protecting your home from water damage. Both have similar features, so they are often confused by homeowners. Eaves and soffits are parts of a roofing system and help protect it from elements like rain, snow, and wind, but they do so in different ways and serve different purposes. 

Eaves are the lower portion of the roof that is overhanging beyond walls, while soffits are the paneling located on the underside of the eaves. Eaves protect water damage to the building while soffits provide ventilation to the roof and attic.

A picture marking both eaves and soffits
Eaves and soffits marked on a roof

So, when looking to make repairs or improvements to your home, it’s essential to understand the difference between these two components. Let’s take a look at the definitions of each one and what makes them different from one another.

Comparison between eaves and soffits

Eaves and soffits are both parts of a building’s roof. While they are located very closely, both serve different purposes. Soffits are a part of eaves, but they are not present in all eaves types. Here are some key comparison features of eaves and soffits:


Eaves Soffits
Location The lower end of the roof that extends beyond the walls The underside of the extended eaves
Types Exposed, Soffitted, Boxed-in, Abbreviated Vented, Non-vented
Made from Wood, Vinyl, Aluminum & Fiber cement Wood, Vinyl, Aluminum & Fiber cement
Comprises of Soffits (usually), fascia, gutter system, rafters Sidings &  vents
Function Throws water away from the foundation. Cools the interior by providing shade to walls. Visually pleasing Protects rafters, pest control. Ventilation. Enhances aesthetics
Drawbacks Can’t withstand strong winds and attracts insects, pests, and birds for nesting Damaged soffits provide hiding places for pests and birds

What are eaves?

Eaves are the overhanging parts of a roof that extend beyond a wall or other vertical plane. Essentially, an eave is the roof’s lower edge that extends from a wall while providing shade. 

Eaves are a part of classic architecture that has cosmetic and functional benefits. Flat roofs usually don’t have eaves, which increases water damage chances. Depending upon the roof’s inclination, you can have wide or narrow eaves on your house. You might have noticed that the eaves of every home look very different. It’s because there are many different types of eaves. 

Eaves on a building
Eaves on a building

The four main categories are: 

Exposed eaves – An open type of eaves where you can see the roof’s underside and exposed supporting rafters from below

Soffited eaves – It includes soffits that connect the bottom edge of the roof eaves with the building

Boxed in eaves– They are similar to soffit eaves, but they are attached at all sides, rather than only at one side.

Abbreviated eaves – It is a mini-eave that does not overlap or project too far beyond your roofline.

The Purpose of Eaves

Eaves are a visually appealing feature of a home’s architecture that protects the house wall from rainwater and keeps the interior cool by providing shade to the walls. Moreover, wide eaves offer better protection from rain as they drop water and snow farther away from the house walls and foundation.

In hot climates, eaves protect from sunlight by providing shade to the walls, which helps keep the interior of a house cooler. In many situations, eaves offer a discrete location for attaching security cameras to the soffits and help them hide from the sight. 

Drawbacks of eaves

Although buildings and houses look good with eaves, they can get damaged by high winds more easily than buildings without them. Also, exposed eves have nooks and corners where wasps, hornets, spiders, bats, etc., can hide and disturb your peace. Eaves also provide a lucrative hiding place for larger pests such as raccoons and squirrels. 

Exposed eaves are not very common these days, but eaves can still attract insects, birds, and other pests. The best practice to keep these nuisances away is checking your property now and then, replacing damaged soffits, and cleaning the eaves periodically.

What are soffits?

Soffit is a term used to describe the underside of the roof edge that protrudes from your home’s roof. If you look at it from another angle, soffit can refer to the underside of any roof. When talking about homes specifically, soffit can refer to those parts of walls directly beneath either eaves or gutters.

While there is no formal definition for soffit—they are often referred to as the underside of something. Regarding your home’s exterior, your soffit will typically be constructed out of aluminum or vinyl. However, they can be wood, steel, or fiber cement.

Soffits on a building
Soffits on a building

Two types of soffits can be installed according to your requirements: vented soffits and non-vented soffits. Vented soffits are a suitable option for wider eaves with box vents or ridge vents. Non-vented soffits go well with narrow eaves. Most buildings with narrow eaves have other better options for ventilation, so having non-vented soffits doesn’t compromise ventilation needs.

The Purpose of Soffits

Soffits are a specific part of a roof used to ventilate and catch runoff from a building. Soffits protect roof rafters from outside elements by keeping the moisture away, thus reducing the chances of mold. As a result, they also preserve the materials and prolong their life.  

Soffit vents are placed in these eaves to pull hot air out of the attic space. Without proper ventilation of attics and roofing systems through soffits, mold and mildew can form due to condensation and cause structural damage to the home. 

In addition, the soffit enhances the aesthetics of the house exterior by providing a neat finish. Without a soffit, the home’s roof rafters will be exposed and will not offer a very pleasing sight.

Drawbacks of soffits

Advantages and disadvantages derived from soffits depend on which type of soffits is installed and which material is used for making. Aluminum soffits don’t look very pleasing, and they also have the potential to bend high, being a bit costly. On the other hand, wooden soffits have an aesthetic appeal and are eco-friendly, but they are easily damaged by water and moisture. So, wooden soffits will need regular maintenance. Also, damaged soffits can be the perfect nesting places for pests, so they need to be checked for damage regularly.

Conclusion

Eaves are found on either side of a roof, while soffits sit horizontally at the underside of extended roof edge or eaves. Both are part of the roofing system, but that’s about where their similarities end. Eaves protect against water damage, whereas soffits protect against wind damage. They both serve different functions when it comes to attic ventilation, too.

Charles John

A novice DIYer who learns about home ventilation. I am a mechanical engineer and have a basic knowledge of HVAC systems but I learn continuously to make myself the best blogger in that space.

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