How to Install a Soffit Above Your Kitchen Cabinets

DIY your way to a sleeker kitchen

Dina Cheney
Written by Dina Cheney
Updated June 27, 2022
A spacious white kitchen with a soffit built above the cabinets
Photo: starush / Adobe Stock
Difficulty

Intermediate

Perfect for handy homeowners.

Time to complete

8 hours

4 to 8 hours

Cost

$100–$500

Doing the labor yourself goes a long way.

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Nail gun
  • Miter saw
  • Utility knife
  • Taping or mudding knife
  • Sandpaper

SUPPLIES

  • Ceiling and wall plates
  • Studs
  • Drywall
  • Drywall screws
  • Corner bead
  • Drywall spackle
  • Paint
  • Framing nails
  • Two by four lumber for the frame

Building a soffit above your cabinets can help you hide unsightly HVAC pipes, wiring, or plumbing exposed in the space between your upper kitchen cabinets and the ceiling. It’s also a genius solution to fill that awkward space too big for trim but too small for more cabinetry. Give your kitchen a finished look by installing a soffit (a framed-in box or bulkhead). Read on for a step-by-step project breakdown.

  1. Measure the Soffit

    Determine your desired soffit length, width, and height. To figure out the width (depth), measure forward from the wall behind the cabinets. If you’d like to leave room for recessed lighting or trim, extend the soffit another few inches. Measure from the top of the cabinet to the ceiling to calculate the height.

  2. Build the Soffit Frame

    Attach ceiling and wall plates into the studs using a nail gun. Cut 2” by 4” lumber into four boards with a miter saw, creating a box frame. Make cross-sections every foot or so to install the drywall correctly (more on this in step four). Arrange these plates together, lining up their ends, and nail them together with studs.

  3. Install the Frame

    With a nail gun, install the frame onto the ceiling and wall plates (you’ll need someone to hold the frame steady as you attach it to these anchors).

  4. Cover the Frame With Drywall

    Gray kitchen cabinets with built-in soffit
    Photo: Ursula Page / Adobe Stock

    Cut out drywall according to your specs to cover the frame with a utility knife. With two-inch drywall screws, install the drywall pieces onto the frame. 

    Using a careful hand and a knife, apply mud thoroughly along the seams. Then tape the inside corners of your soffit, pressing out excess mud using your taping or mudding knife. Leave overnight to dry, and then sand.

  5. Add Corner Bead

    Measure and cut metal (paper-faced) inside corner bead, which will help protect the corners and give the soffit extra support. To install a corner bead, apply a joint compound mixture and water to the wall edges. Adhere the corner bead along the, well, corners, pressing down with your fingers. Scrape your mudding knife down to remove excess compound.

  6. Paint or Finish Soffit as Needed

    Once your spackle dries, it’s time to sand and paint your soffit. Consider painting the soffit the same color to make your walls look taller. If you’d rather add more dimension to the ceiling, paint the soffit the same color as the ceiling.

When to Hire a Pro to Install a Soffit Above Your Kitchen Cabinets

Incorrect soffits can compromise your cabinets’ alignment and structural integrity. A soffit that isn’t level will, in turn, keep your cabinets from being level. For this reason, it’s best to hire a kitchen remodeling contractor for this project unless you have some carpentry experience.

A carpenter near you will charge between $35 and $100 per hour or between $250 and $850 per project. The material needed to install a kitchen soffit will run about $100 to $200. Always get an estimate from two or three pros to ensure you get the best price and contractor for the job.

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