The word soffit is from a French word that basically applies to anything that is “fixed underneath”. A ceiling can technically be called a soffit by this definition, but that is not really practical in terms of its common usage.
For the most part in the construction trade and certainly as it is used by gutter system installation companies, the soffit is that part of the exterior of your roof that overhangs the house’s outer wall. When you look up at your roofline, the underside of the roof you can see is the soffit.
From the standpoint of what it means to you as a homeowner, a properly maintained soffit is important. It is through rotting or ill fitting soffit that birds and other pests gain access to the inside of your walls. I have seen soffit that is full of nesting materials from pigeons and squirrels.
I recall on one job where we literally removed two wheel barrels full of nesting materials from the soffit that had accumulated through years of habitation by birds, squirrels and whatever other creatures found their way up there.
Soffit is made of various materials; however it is more common these days to see them made out of plastic, aluminum or vinyl so as to be maintenance free. They are frequently ventilated to provide air flow into the attic and eaves.
Soffit may be installed by roofing contractors and many gutter installation companies provide this service as both of these trades frequently encounter problems with soffit in the everyday routine of their work.
If you deal with a reputable gutter company, inspection of soffit and fascia boards is without question a service you should expect. No reputable gutter contractor will fail to inform you of the need to replace or repair soffit or fascias as these elements can impact the ultimate performance of the gutter system they are installing for you. Additionally, there is no more economical time to perform a repair than while gutters or roofs are removed and crew and equipment are already on the site.
It is important to realize that estimates given over the phone are generally about the gutter system itself and unless you inform your contractor otherwise, their estimate will not include fascia or soffit replacement or repairs. Generally professional gutter companies know to ask about certain details to be certain to have the proper materials on hand in case a problem is discovered.
Make it a point to ask in advance how much they would charge by the foot if repairs are necessary and they can give you a very close estimate, even before a visual inspection. Usually if the conversation indicates that there might be additional problems, the company will send out a representative who is knowledgeable about the entire gutter system and the structure and placement of your soffit to anticipate any needs and costs.
As always, it is important to be comfortable with the reputation of your gutter contractor. Sometimes problems do not become obvious until old gutters are removed. However, this is the exception, not the rule.
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This post was written by darren