Understanding Roof Eaves

By Amanda Lutz Updated February 19, 2024

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Roof eaves are parts of a roof that extend beyond the exterior wall and serve aesthetic and functional purposes. These systems protect your home from moisture, keep animals away, and provide shade. Read more about the functions, types, and benefits of roof eaves below.

What Are Roof Eaves?

Roof eaves are designed to protect buildings from rain and snow, and also keep water from dripping directly down the walls and foundation of a house. Roof eaves run along the lower edges of roofs and extend horizontally from exterior walls.

Eaves are simple structures, but each variety includes different components:

Eaves aren’t a necessary part of a roof’s structure, but they can help preserve a building’s integrity.

History and Purpose of Eaves

Eaves have been a staple of roofs for thousands of years across different cultures. Eaves protected homeowners from the sun in ancient Greece and Egypt and kept water away from buildings as part of classic Chinese architecture. The earliest eaves were made of clay tiles, reeds, and palm leaves.  

Early iterations of eaves served exclusively functional purposes, but they quickly became used for aesthetic appeal, too. Architects added ornamental elements such as carved woodwork and decorative brackets to eaves to create distinctive appearances. Eaves also added depth to rooflines.  Contemporary roof eaves still serve primarily as protection from water, but they also make homes more energy-efficient by providing shade and reducing excessive heat levels. 

Types of Eaves

There are many types of eaves from which you can choose if you’re planning to roof a house. Consider climate, budget, and your personal style preferences when deciding which type of roof eave is best for your project.

Read more about the most common options below.

Abbreviated Eaves

Featuring a shorter overhang compared to other types, abbreviated eaves are common in modern or minimalist architectural styles. They offer a sleek and contemporary appearance but limited protection from rain and sun.

Boxed Eaves

Also called boxed-in eaves or closed eaves, boxed eaves have a soffit and fascia that extend from the walls to the undersides of roof overhangs. This system creates a box-like structure around the eave and hides the rafters.

Boxed eaves offer a clean and finished appearance, protection from weather elements, and a barrier against pests. However, they require additional ventilation measures to prevent moisture buildup and present maintenance challenges.

Curved Eaves

Curved eaves feature a gentle upward curve or downward curve along overhangs. This slight curve adds a touch of elegance to a building’s design with a distinctive appearance. Curved eaves cost more than other eave types.

Open Eaves

Also called exposed eaves, open eaves don’t have soffit or fascia. They boast traditional and rustic looks that architects can leave unfinished or complete with decorative brackets.

Open eaves offer easy access for maintenance and are less expensive than other eave types. However, they provide less protection from the elements than other eave types and are vulnerable to pest intrusion. 

Soffited Eaves

Soffited eaves include a flat soffit underneath overhanging roof elements. The soffit connects the bottom edge of the roof to the building’s wall and protects the roof rafters. This eave system consists of panels or boards.Soffited eaves offer aesthetic appeal, customization options, and protection from weather elements. However, their closed design makes maintenance more challenging.

Eaves vs. Fascia and Soffit

Eaves, fascia, and soffit share similar qualities but are three distinctive elements of roofing systems and serve different purposes. Read more about the differences between them below.

Eave vs. Fascia

Fascia is a horizontal board or panel that’s attached to the ends of rafters and serves as a finishing edge for the eave. Fascia boards provide a surface for attaching the gutters and allow for proper rainwater drainage. Fascia helps to protect the exposed edges of a roof from moisture and pests.

Eave vs. Soffit

The soffit is the underside of the eave and covers the space between the exterior wall and the eave. It includes vents that allow for air circulation, which prevents the buildup of moisture and reduces mold growth. The soffit helps to maintain a balanced temperature in the attic, which prevents rot.Eaves, fascia, and soffit work together harmoniously. Eaves protect buildings from inclement weather, fascia acts as a support system for the gutters, and the soffit offers ventilation and keeps pests from entering your home.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Eaves

Eaves aren’t critical for every roofing system, and some owners avoid eaves to save on the cost of a new roof. Read more about the benefits and drawbacks of eaves below to help you decide whether eaves are right for you. 

Benefits of Roof Eaves

The main benefits of adding eaves to your roof include the following:

Drawbacks of Roof Eaves

Roof eaves benefit many homes, but they come with some drawbacks, too. Read more below. 

Maintenance of Roof Eaves

Eaves require regular maintenance. Below are the tasks you should perform regularly. 

Our Recommendation

Roof eaves protect your home from moisture, improve its aesthetic appeal, and can contribute to energy efficiency, home value, and comfort, but they aren’t right for all homeowners. Research the different types of roof eaves before you commit to a model, ensure you have the budget necessary to make the investment, and consult a variety of professional roofers to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

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Roof Eave FAQ

What is the primary function of a roof eave?

The primary function of a roof eave is to divert rainwater and snow from a building’s walls and foundation.

How do different types of eaves impact the aesthetic of a building?

Different types of eaves can impact the aesthetic of a building by extending the depth of a roofline or ornamenting a home with special touches, such as carved woodwork.

What are the maintenance requirements for roof eaves?

The maintenance requirements for roof eaves include regular inspections, cleaning, and timely repairs whenever damage occurs.

What are the cost implications of different eave types?

The cost implications of different eave types depend on the materials, size, and local labor costs. Curved eaves are more expensive than other types, for example, while open eaves are less expensive than other types.

How do eaves contribute to weather protection?

Eaves contribute to weather protection by keeping water away from a building’s walls and foundation. Eaves also create extra shade to keep spaces cool during hot summer months.