Bulkhead Vs. Soffit: What's the Difference?

An image of bulkhead vs soffit.

Have you heard the words bulkhead and soffit used interchangeably? Here's what you need to know about bulkhead vs soffit.

3 min read

Bulkhead vs. soffit. Which one is best for your home design aesthetic? The truth is, maybe neither or both. They're nearly the same thing and you'll often see both design elements together. While they're referred to interchangeably, there are some very slight differences to know. Let's take a deeper dive into the defining characteristics of soffits and bulkheads.

What Is a Soffit?

Even if you're not an interior design or architecture pro, you're probably already familiar with what a soffit is.

The most common place to see this structure is in the kitchen. What is a soffit in the kitchen?

Have you ever noticed space between the top of cabinets and the ceiling? That's a cabinet soffit.

Soffit cabinets typically feature about 12 inches of open space, but that's not a rule. You may find that they take up more or less space depending on the design.

Bulkhead Vs. Soffit: Is There a Difference?

In short, yes. Soffits describe the area between the top of cabinets and the ceiling. Bulkheads describe the structure that fills in that area.

But because they go hand in hand, you'll often hear this area referred to as a soffit.

You've probably also seen bulkheads in kitchens. Instead of empty space above cabinets, bulkheads are solid and box-like structures that fill in that wall soffit.

Bulkheads are often used to enclose some important and unsightly elements such as:

  • Wiring
  • Heat ducts
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Vents
  • Pipes

While bulkheads are commonly made of plaster or drywall, you may encounter other materials like stainless steel.

Pros and Cons of Soffits and Bulkheads

Soffits and bulkheads are ubiquitous in home design. And there are both aesthetic and functional reasons for that.

Kitchen cabinets are only so tall. Unless you order custom-fit cabinets that reach the ceiling, cabinet soffits are inevitable.

This can be a win for some people who want to place lighting fixture in the ceiling and highlight decorative pieces above their cabinets.

On the other hand, if you don't want that empty space, bulkheads provide an option to close up that area.

You could conceal structural items like ducts and wiring that need to be placed in the soffit. Plus, you could create an interesting design touch with extra flourishes like tiling or different materials over the bulkhead.

Soffits in Other Areas of the Home

You may notice soffits in other interior rooms of your home beyond your kitchen. Step outside your home, and you'll see soffits there too.

Soffits play an important role in your home's roof structure. Just look up to your roof and you'll see them in action.

In relation to the exterior of your home, the soffit is the area that connects the roof to the side of the building. It's often made of materials like aluminum or vinyl.

Just like they function inside the home, the soffit part of roofs provides both design and utilitarian purpose. They help provide air circulation and ventilation.

Proper air ventilation is crucial to your home's health and your and your loved one's health too.

Learn More About Soffits and Bulkheads

Building a soffit and bulkhead is not necessarily a beginner DIY project. But it's not impossible to learn more about bulkhead vs. soffit pros and cons and what will work for you.

Keep reading our blog for the latest on soffit benefits and installation tips.

An image of what are soffit and fascia.

What are Soffit and Fascia and Are They Different?

What are soffit and fascia and do you need both? This guide will break down what each is and how the two work hand and hand to compliment each other.
An image of replace soffits.

When Is the Right Time to Replace Soffits?

Deciding when to replace soffits or simply follow up with some maintenance is essential to keeping the home looking spick and span.
An image of how many soffit vents do i need.

How Many Soffit Vents Do I Need?

How many soffit vents do I need and what is considered a waste of money? This is your guide to determining how many soffit vents you should have.