How to Build a Soffit Above Kitchen Cabinets – The Right Way

Have you just installed the kitchen cabinets but feel like something’s missing? Perhaps it is that awkward-looking space between the cabinets’ top and the ceiling. Filling it out doesn’t seem a bad idea, but how? Home designers have a secret – you can build a soffit.

Building a soffit above kitchen cabinets requires some sawing and drilling. You’ll also need wood boards and drywall, as well as some carpentry skills. This project might not suit beginners, but the most versed DIYers will be able to complete it in about four hours.

What You Can Do With Space Above Kitchen Cabinets

Essentially, a soffit, also known as bulkhead, is nothing more but a framed box designed to provide your kitchen with a finished appearance. It sits between suspended cabinets and the ceiling; a space often left unused. Sometimes, this dead spot is used to run unsightly HVAC pipes, plumbing, and electric wires, all beautifully hidden behind the soffit.

Before telling you how to build one, here are a few ideas if a soffit doesn’t quite fit into your space: 

  • Fill the space with trim: If the gap between your upper cabinets and the ceiling is too small for a bulkhead, a thick trim running along the cabinet tops can save the day.
  • Create a furr down: The term may sound strange, but a furr down refers to portions of the ceiling that are lowered, usually to conceal plumbing and pipes. In modern homes, a furr down provides a more streamlined look.
  • Get tall upper cabinets: While upper cabinets usually have a standard size, you can still find taller models to install in your kitchen. Alternatively, you could add half-cabinets on top of your upper cabinets to maximize storage and give your kitchen a flawless appearance.

Soffit Above Kitchen Cabinets: Is it out of style?

Kitchen soffits used to be very popular, but not many people like them nowadays. The main complaint regards their dull appearance. However, as explained above, you can add aesthetic value to your soffit in a number of ways. 

While soffits aren’t exactly in style, you may still want to build one to conceal plumbing and pipes or just because the space between the upper cabinets and the ceiling is too small for an additional row of cabinets yet too large for installing trims.

With this in mind, here’s how to build a soffit above your kitchen cabinets.

Things You Will Need

  • 1” x 4” boards
  • 2” x 2” runners
  • Drywall
  • Corner bead
  • Woodworker’s glue
  • Screws
  • Tape measure 
  • Level
  • Chalk line
  • Drill 

Building a Soffit Above Kitchen Cabinets in 5 Easy Steps

Building a soffit requires some carpentry knowledge, so this project might not be the easiest for beginners. However, if you have at least some home improvement grasp, building a kitchen soffit will be child’s play. Just follow the easy steps below.

Step 1 – Build the soffit frame 

Like all projects that involve wood boards and drywall, it all starts with building a frame. Use the 2” x 2” runners as the upper and lower frame, attach the boards with screws (or nails) at a distance of about 16 inches. You’ll end up with a ladder-like frame that should be flat and straight. If you want to install a soffit in an L or U shape, build one frame to dimension for each wall.

Step 2 – Delimit the soffit’s edge

When installing a soffit, you’ll want it to run parallel to the joists, which means you might have to add nailers. That’s why you should first delimit the soffit’s edges with the chalk line. If you want to install a soffit on adjacent walls, start with running the line on the longer wall, then square the other soffit legs to it for a flawless look.

Step 3 – Attach the frame to the joists 

Get the frames and attach them to the joists once you’ve delimited the area where your soffit will go. You can use tapered shims to level any gaps if necessary – if using tapered shims, try to drive the fasteners through the shims to add structural strength. If you can’t drive the fasteners through the shims, use the woodworker’s glue to secure them to the frame.

Step 4 – Secure the frame with wall studs

After you’ve fixed the frame to the joists, use a level to transfer the position of the bottom runner to wall studs, then screw 1” x 4” horizontal supports to reinforce the structure. 

Step 5 – Cover the soffit with drywall

To complete your work, cover the frame with drywall and fix it with drywall screws or nails. Tape the inside corners of your soffit and add a corner bead on the outside corners. That’s it. You can now paint the soffit in your favorite shade, add recessed lighting or install trims to give your kitchen a more sophisticated appearance.


You now know how to build a soffit above the kitchen cabinets, but you might still have a question or two. Check the answers below.

Bulkhead vs. Soffit: Is there any difference between the two?

Bulkhead and soffit are often used interchangeably, but there is an essential difference between the two. A soffit describes the area between the upper cabinets and the ceiling. Bulkhead is the structure that fills that area. Because most people talk about bulkheads when referring to soffits, this article explains how to build a bulkhead.

That said, you can fill the soffit in any other way you find fit. For instance, you could fill it with mason jars, china, colorful art, mirrors, etc.

Should Soffit Be Painted The Same Color as Walls?

The soffit doesn’t have to be painted the same color as walls, but doing so can make your walls look taller. Using the wall color to paint the soffit is a good idea in most homes or with lower ceilings. However, if you live in a colonial or Victorian house with tall ceilings, painting the soffit in the same color as your ceiling can add more dimension to your space. 

No matter what color you choose, make sure to paint the entire soffit in the same hue to maintain unity between the various areas of your kitchen.


Soffits may be outdated, but this structure still serves a practical purpose. Instead of keeping HVAC pipes and plumbing on display, the bulkhead can help you conceal them and increase your kitchen’s curb appeal.

Building a soffit will take you half a day at most, and the advantages are numerous. So, are you ready to build the soffit above your kitchen cabinets? Tell us your thoughts and share your tips in a comment below.

Recent Posts