When you can't remove soffits

tea4allJuly 30, 2014

How do you minimize them? I've been reading everything I can find on this issue because our soffits have HVAC, etc in them. They are big 14 and 1/2 inch deep by 12 inch high in a kitchen with an 8 foot high ceiling.

Is it less expensive to keep and incorporate them in new cabs? Or more expensive to make them look nice with new cabs? We are retired and need to watch our budget for a reno.

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Tea, I have a similar issue. I'd have to have the kitchen re-wired and the plumbing to the bathroom above re-routed to be completely soffit-less. What I've decided to do is to remove the soffit on one wall completely, re-wire another wall, and reduce the soffit on a third wall, and mount floating shelves below.

In my sisters house much of her soffit is covered in trim wood and there are cabinet doors mounted on it, so the appearance is of stacked cabinets, which is a very nice look. I would have copied this if I were using upper cabinets.

The thing is, you're going to have to minimize them in depth. Soffits usually stick out farther than the cabinets mounted to them. If you are buying new cabinets, now is the time to make your soffits smaller (shallower) and disguise them if you wish. It's always cheaper to leave things as they are, but if you're making a change, you can address the issue with minimal expense now.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 12:40PM
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I'm no expert but we had to leave the soffits in our kitchen because of the pitch of the roof - similar to you we had no choice.

I think its definitely cheaper to leave the soffits and work with them as they are. You could spend the money to make them smaller, but they'll still be there. Plus, if you hang standard uppers on 12" soffits, I believe you still have at least 18" between the bottom of the cabinets and the countertop.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 12:44PM
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You could pull standard cabinets slightly forward so that the faces of the cabinets aligned with the faces of the soffits. My cabinets were 13-1/2" deep so it would be a matter of only an inch.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 12:57PM
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EAM--I had been wondering about one soffit (over stove area) that may not have HVAC in it. Will have to open it up to find out. The other 2 sides definitely do have HVAC,etc in them. I just didn't know how to make it look ok. I like the idea of smaller soffits but still that will cost. If money were no object, I would choose to remove and reroute or as your sister did make them look like cupboards with fake doors. Thanks for your input. It is food for thought.

Swentastic-- Thanks for your response. Yes, I do have 18" between upper cabs and countertop even with those soffits. I just am trying to find more storage within my kitchen footprint. Very good point about small soffits are still there and I have had expense to make them smaller. Thanks.

Palimpsest--I'm so glad you responded. Thanks.
That is exactly what I thought of the other day and was so happy to think problem was solved. But it is never that easy. It would improve 2 sides of 3 with soffits. The 3rd side is the problem. Due to construction irregularities (done before we ever lived here), the 3rd wall has only 21"lower cabs with a 21 1/2" counter. It goes into the frame of a doorway to the foyer and cannot be any deeper without moving the entire wall. Do you think if we pulled the upper cabs out to 14 1/2" over 21 1/2" counter it would make working at that counter difficult? I think 14 1/2" uppers over 24" lowers on the sink side would be workable.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:30PM
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I painted my soffits the same color as my cabs, which, of course, only works if you are painting cabs, lol! The matching color gives an illusion of height. I did not tear ours out more because of reducing expense not because we had to. I actually don't think we have to. That is a task we will save for a later, full reno.

Swentastic, your kitchen is AMAZNG!!! Wow! And, frankly, tea, when I see swen's photo there is absolutely nothing in there that makes me think "Hmm, too bad they couldn't pull that soffit."

IMHO, the money spent to remove a soffit can be much better spent elsewhere, in most situations. Exceptions could be made for tiny kitchens that need additional height in their uppers for storage reasons.

If you choose to dress it up there are lots of different ways to do it. Paneling, DIY wainscot-type styling, trim, etc.

But, again, I looove the nice, clean line of swentastic's soffit, and it actually complements her kitchen remarkably. I think that had she gone to the ceiling it could have been an overpowering room rather than the warm, inviting space it is now.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:42PM
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Celineike disguised her soffits with cabinets. Attached is a link to her beautiful kitchen reveal.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to deal with soffits, Celineike's kitchen reveal

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:52PM
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Swentastic--Thanks for posting your kitchen. Greenhaven is exactly right. Your kitchen is lovely and looks spacious. If you don't mind sharing, what is that beautiful floor?

Greenhaven--Thanks for your encouragement. The planning for a kitchen reno is one obstacle at a time.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:55PM
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Romy--Thanks for posting Celineike's kitchen pic and link! I remembered seeing it a long time ago but could not remember whose it was and searching on GW did not turn it up. I have now saved it to my computer. That is a very clever reno!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 2:00PM
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Thanks for the compliments Greenhaven and Tea! The floors are 3" character grade red oak with no stain just poly.

Romy! That is a GREAT idea!! So clever - I wish I would have thought of that when we were doing our kitchen. Tea I hope you can make this happen haha I want to see it in action!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 5:58PM
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Love those red oak floors of yours Swentastic!

Yep, Celineike's soffit treatment is indeed clever. It will cost, but surely not as much as removing and rerouting, right?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:17PM
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My soffits are gigantic feeling & had many of the same issues. I decided to put in small puck lights to make it look like they serve a purpose other than hiding a million pipes and wires.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:49PM
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We have soffits that can't be removed on one side. They are flush with the front of the cabinets so they are not as noticeable.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:16PM
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Hmm, puck lights -- that's something I had not thought about. Thanks Meddam!

Carolmka you are fortunate. I wish our soffits were flush. Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:42AM
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I wish I could have wrapped the soffits with moulding to make it look like an arcitectual feature. No such luck. Here is a pic of what it looks like right now - no cabs yet to get a sense of how the light will fall. I'm just crossing my fingers that it won't look dumb...

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 8:14AM
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Thanks Meddam for the pic! I will keep watch for your progress. It would be wonderful to actually be in the reno stage with planning complete and action happening. Best of luck to you. Please keep us posted.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:01AM
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We had the same issue with our soffits. Here's how we solved it.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:55PM
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Here's how it works inside the cabinet. We had to use antiqued mirror instead of glass which would have shown the soffit was still there.

My neighbors with the same model all thought the soffit was gone until I opened the cabinet.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:59PM
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Sanjuangirl your kitchen is beautiful! I love your trim and glass. You were ingenious! Thanks so much for sharing. The pics are invaluable.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:03PM
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Our soffits went around the corner so we had them on 2walls. Here's what we did.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:32PM
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The soffit sort of died into the pantry which bumped out. I was able to find a crown molding exactly the same width and projection so it dies right into it. This furthers the illusion that it's strictly there for architectural interest and not to hide the soffit.

You could use a more simple crown. (I know my taste is not every bodies and not in vogue now)

Thanks for your kind words and good luck.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:37PM
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I beg to differ, Sanjuan girl, I think your kitchen is amazing! What a creative way to disguise the soffits. I wish I had done something with our soffit, after all was finished I realized I could have removed it and put shorter cabinets in its place, or something similar to yours. Too late now, I am going to live with I, I just couldn't face any more mess and remodeling right now.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 3:48PM
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Sanjuangirl, thanks for more pics! I am printing them all off to show our cabinet gal and GC. You have given me hope. I think your kitchen is elegant.

This morning I pried off the end of the soffit paneling above the stove area. (That is a problem area because the counters are only 21" deep due to a doorway. When they put in the stove in 1978, the builder cut away the sheetrock and the lower part of some wall studs and crammed the stove up next to the DR sheetrock.) The soffit above the stove is empty! :) The other 2 walls with soffits are full of HVAC, etc. so they will need to stay.

Hpny2, You are fortunate to be through a remodel. I wish I were done even before we have started. There are so many obstacles. I can only imagine how it will feel to be in the midst of remodeling demolition, etc.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 5:56PM
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The "anti Soffit thing", right now is just another "Trend" that will pass.

We purposely kept our soffits when I redesigned our kitchen in 2006 as the "Last thing" we need at our ages, (early 70's) is to fall off a ladder to reach the stuff that is "Rediculously out of reach"!!

The Kitchen was designed for "US", Not for the current "Trendies"!


    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 8:32PM
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Gary, thanks so much for your level headed response. It makes me feel better and helps me to concentrate on other more practical storage options--like pull outs for pantry and hopefully a super susan. I really appreciate you sharing your reasoning for your choice. It makes perfect sense to this sixty-three yr old.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:57PM
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Well, anybody that knows me, knows that I make NO Effort
to "Keep up with the "Jones's".
I mean, at our age, it "could", (Literally) cost us an arm and/or a leg, (LOL)!

We spent the money on pull outs for pantry, (Luv Em),
also 2 very large Lazy Susans~~~so handy~~~~sure beats being on your hands and knees and "digging for just the right pot or pan needed~~~Ya know what I mean?

Soffits, (while some were built to hide vents, pipes, electrical~~~or whatever), most were made to make "Things more Accessible"!


    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 7:14AM
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Gary, I sure like your sense of humor. :) Yes I know exactly what you mean about being on hands and knees trying to find the right pan. 30 yrs ago it didn't bother me. Now it is a huge frustration and pain (literally--oh watch the knee). Thanks for pulling me back to rational thinking. This is about the best functionality for us that we can reasonably afford to put in a reno. Sometimes I think too much and end up not seeing the Forrest for the trees so to speak. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:05AM
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Wow, I wish the previous owners of my house had done what celineike did-that looks phenomenal! Sadly, I have beautiful cabinets attached to 27-in soffits, so the soffits are here to stay!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 10:48AM
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Jellyben, yes celineike's kitchen is lovely and creative. I am glad you love your cabinets even with the soffits. That is the position I want to be in too when we finally get to reno the kitchen. Best to you and thanks for responding in this thread.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 1:20PM
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You know, just to be clear, I would never re-do a perfectly nice kitchen just to get rid of a soffit. But as I am re-doing the kitchen anyway, I prefer the - SPACE - even empty space - getting rid of them gives me, and I prefer the look of a soffit-less kitchen, or one with less prominent soffits. Personal preference I suppose. It has nothing to do with the Joneses. I imagine it has more to do with my eight foot ceilings, and the mouse infestation that started this whole debacle. Oh the mice... And yes, there was mouse poop in my soffits.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 1:30PM
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0h EAM44, truthfully, mouse poop was one thing I checked for in the soffit above the stove yesterday. None phew. :) One thing I am learning form GW is that anything might show up in planning, demolish and remodeling phases.

Yes, I understand and agree with you about space and 8 ft ceilings. It will be a delight to follow your reno. Thanks for sharing. Best of luck for as smooth as possible ride to a new kitchen.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 2:48PM
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The soffit that was in my kitchen contained nothing, and clearly was not original to the kitchen, so I suppose it was put in to "finish" the space above the uppers. I am with EAM44, I didn't like the way they looked in my kitchen with 8 ft. ceilings and confined space. (Of course, I didn't like the way any part of my kitchen looked!)

I do have to pull out a step stool to reach the top shelves now but I like the storage and even more the look of the tall cabs.
When I get to the age that a step stool is not a good idea, I will just empty the top shelves!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:31PM
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EAM44 too bad you couldnt make the soffits flush, we too have 8 foot ceilings. We pulled the can lights out of the soffits and up into the ceiling. So the soffits are still there but they don't hold the lights. Our soffits were original and have poor insulation. There was cold air flowing through them.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:55PM
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Raee, thanks for sharing. I had hoped to put a step stool in a toe kick drawer. However, that drawer goes because of cost so...... You are very adaptable. I mean that as a compliment. You foresee that when the time comes to stay off stools and ladders you will empty the upper most cabs. Many times it is difficult for me to see beyond the immediate. That's a disadvantage because decision paralysis sets in and I hit a wall. :)

Raee did you post pics of your kitchen? I'd like to see them.

Carolmka, brrrr. What did you do to your soffits to stop that cold air?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 12:07AM
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