How to Remove a Soffit – Kitchen Renovation Update

How are y’all doing this week? Getting ready for the holidays? Instead of decorating, we did some demolition in the kitchen this past weekend. And it involved buying myself an early Christmas present:

DEWALT 10--Amp Keyless Variable Speed Corded Reciprocating Saw DW304PK 1V

I snatched up this DEWALT 10–Amp Keyless Variable Speed Corded Reciprocating Saw that was on sale at Lowe’s. I actually held each and every reciprocating saw in the tool department. Those saws are not lightweight by any means. And since I had to hold this over my head and make repeated cuts, I wanted to make sure I bought the lightest one I could find. However, I had one other factor to contend with. Battery life! The lightest weight saw was a Ni-Cad battery saw and I didn’t want to deal with losing power in the middle of the job and waiting for the battery to charge up again. So, I chose this mid-weight fighter because it has a cord and it won’t run out of power…ever…well unless your power goes out. I’m thrilled with its performance, this prize winning middle weight really knows how to throw a knock down punch to soffits.

AND, in a pinch, it works great as a turkey carver (LOL!)

I also took advantage of those fabulous Black Friday sales at Lowe’s and bought two of these
Werner Aluminum Work Platforms
:

Werner Aluminum Work Platform AP-20-MP6

At less than $11 each (normally $17), they were invaluable because we didn’t have to climb ladders or use the saw over our heads (not a good idea.) And now we are using one of those platforms as a stand in bench where I want to build a window seat. ;-)

Here’s how we tackled those ceiling hugger – space waster – height crowding – good for nuthin’ – you get the picture soffits:

Materials:

  • Reciprocating saw
  • Platform stand
  • Hand saw
  • Hammer
  • Flashlight
  • Skinny pry bar
  • Larger pry bar
  • Dust mask
  • Ear muffs
  • Eye goggles
  • Utility knife
  • Voltage tester
  • Sledge hammer
  • Work gloves
  • Trash can with heavy duty black plastic bags


Instructions:

The number one priority is to turn off the power to any and all circuits that are live in the kitchen.

And, double check them with a voltage detector.

Greenlee Non-Contact Volt Detector GT-12
The Greenlee Non-Contact Volt Detector I bought tests current even through the coating on the wire. Thank goodness I used this because we actually found one wire that was still live after all the kitchen circuits were turned off.

Knock a head sized hole in the end of your soffit. Shine a flashlight inside to see what you have to work with. Our soffit has a few wires, an angled plumbing stack and a recessed light fixture.

In the next soffit, we knew there was an exhaust pipe inside.

We carefully marked the locations of anything to avoid before proceeding, to minimize damage to them (and us.)

 

Removing the crown molding:

To preserve the crown molding for future use, score the top and bottom of the molding to cut through the caulk.

Use a skinny flat pry bar and gently hammer it under the base of the crown molding (the molding will usually only be nailed to the soffit not the ceiling.) Continue working from one side to the other prying up the molding.

 

Demolition of the Soffits:

Remove any cabinets that are touching the soffit. Usually cabinets are nailed or screwed to studs through the back. Inspect your cabinets to determine how they are fastened.

(Yup, that is all one cabinet…14 feet long! When we donated it to our local Habitat ReStore they told us that’s the longest single cabinet they’d ever seen.) 

Remove any light fixtures, cap off the wires and gently tuck the wires out of harm’s way.

Put on your safety gear (ear muffs, dust mask, and eye goggles) because things are about to get messy! Use a hammer to break up the drywall (sometimes referred to as sheetrock.) Continually check for more wires or plumbing pipes. Check all wires as you uncover them to make sure they aren’t live.

Then you could let the kids go to town with hammers. (Our boys did most of the drywall removal for us. It was a perfect task for them to do with a lot of supervision.)

We wheeled the trashcan right into the kitchen and filled up 3 bags of sheetrock (drywall)!

By removing the drywall, we could see the skeleton of the soffit and any obstacles that needed to be avoided when using the reciprocating saw. Plus, the weight of the soffit is drastically reduced without that extra weight.

Our plan of attack involved cutting through the vertical 2×4 studs. Then make one cut about 4-5 feet along the soffit.

First Handsome Guy cut through the vertical members.

Then he cut down through the horizontal board to section the soffit into a manageable chunk.

At this point I was getting jealous that he was spending too much time with my new power tool. My turn!

Cutting was pretty easy. Just be sure to have a wide stance when the stud finally gives way to the saw.

There was one spot that required a handsaw because I didn’t want to risk cutting the electrical wire.

Then we yanked and pulled with all our might. We used a pry bar and hammer to loosen the soffit further from the wall. Eventually the soffit gives up and let’s go of its grip on the wall. It’s a good idea to have your helper nearby to catch the soffit (or you! Careful you don’t fall off the platform.)

Once the exhaust pipe was exposed, I pulled it out easily (it wasn’t screwed to anything and slipped off like an old man’s stretched out sock.)

The center soffit was removed by Pretty Handsome Guy with the help of a sledgehammer and a cheering crowd of young boys watching:

Our boys think Dad is a rock star now! “Go Daddy Go! Hit it again, Dad!”

The center soffit came down remarkably easily, teasing us into thinking the rest would be a cinch.

The other two soffits were supported by the wall behind it. We used the hammer and pry bar to pry the top and back boards off the wall and ceiling. Keeping the pry bar in line with studs and floor joists gave us the leverage needed to pull it off.

And now for the drastic before and after shots:

Before

 

After

It’s a beautiful piece of work isn’t it? Having the soffits removed is a great feeling. I love that the ceilings feel taller already. Nevermind that our walls and ceiling look like swiss cheese.

In the immortal words of Bing Crosby: “You gotta ACK-cent-tchuate the positive. E-lim-inate the Negative…Latch on to the affirmative and don’t mess with Mr. InBetween!”

We’ll be doing a lot of not messing with Mr. InBetween while we wait for the next phase to begin. Adios!

You can read more about our kitchen disaster and renovation in these updates:

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links for your convenience. I do receive a very small percentage if you chose to purchase any of the DIY tools that I link to.

Comments

  1. An excellent tutorial! I removed the soffits in our kitchen, and was so relieved to find they’d been installed AFTER the walls and ceiling were finished. I even found a tool up there, left behind about fifty years ago!

  2. Very helpful! I am planning a similar adventure over Christmas break.

  3. Thanks Brittany for this tutorial. You threatening the Turkey with the saw cracked me up.

    Good tip on scoring the molding and checking the electric for live wires. Voltage detectors are a must have tool for any homeowner. In fact, I need to buy a new one :) so your link is helpful!!

  4. Great tutorial!

  5. Great tutorial! We removed our soffits too and it was a huge improvement when the renovation was finished.

  6. Lori Edwards says:

    SOOOO AWESOME!!! Glad you did this before we did, so now we know what we’re in for!!! hopefully our center one will come down in the next year, but the remaining soffit on the sink and stove wall will have to stay a few more years :(.

  7. It’s looking so good Brittany! (Only I would say that mid-demo. lol) I have that saw and freaking love it. It’s come in handy more times than I can count this year.

    • Ha, yup, only you would say that. I do like the saw and used it for my log pillar candles. BUT, I was wishing I had the cordless version when I found the fallen tree in the woods. Oh well. I need to put my big girl pants on and try out the chain saw next.

  8. Caitlin says:

    Hi! I’m planning a similar project when we move into our new house. How long did the soffit removal take you? Thanks!

  9. Thank you so much for the tutorial. We just got out contract on our very first home and are so excited. Our first renovation will be our kitchen which has the soffits and I want to remove them. But what did you do with all of the wires, and pipes that the soffits were covering? And do you have a tutorial for how you fixed the drywall and ceiling? Thank you so much.

    • Alisha, you are so welcome. Most of the wires were long enough that we could tuck them into the wall and re-use them for lighting, etc. There was one that my electrician had to re-run a longer wire. And the one pipe was turned into a 90 degree angle and routed through the top plate of the wall (and then protected with nail plates.) A friend who was a plumber helped me with that one ;-) Here is the tutorial for finishing drywall: http://www.prettyhandygirl.com/2013/04/how-to-finish-drywall-spackling-or-mudding-sheetrock-joints.html And you can see the link for installing drywall in that post. We did the walls ourself, but I hired a professional to do the ceiling because it would have killed my neck AND I know he would do a much better job.

  10. Oh my gosh this is a great post! I’ve been looking for detailed information on removing a soffit. Everyone glosses over the demolition in projects and that is what I actually find very intimidating so I love how you spelled it out and showed pictures. I have a much better idea of what is hiding in my soffits now and what it will be like when I try to take them down.

  11. Thank you for taking your time to make this post. It was very helpful!

  12. All well and good , what did you do to relocate the vent? You don’t bother to mention that nor illustrate, and no one is smart enough to ask . You are also dealing with Romex and not thin wall conduit which makes for more difficult relocation.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This means that we are losing 1.5″ of space in our kitchen. Not a big deal, but I did have to move the pendant light junction box over the sink and make a few alterations to the location of the exhaust vent. But, that wasn’t a big deal because I had to move the exhaust up 12 inches to put it into the ceiling (it was previously routed through the soffit.) [...]

  2. [...] Coming up: How to Remove Soffits Tutorial [...]

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