How to Paint Soffit Boards Like a Pro

Last week I was asked by a friend to “make good” and tidy up the roofline on one of his rental properties in the south of the UK.

This seemed like a great opportunity to discuss soffit boards, what they are, where they’re located and how to maintain them.

Soffits are located on the underside of the roof overhang near the eaves, this area is also known as the roofline.

This part of the roof also supports the roof gutters and the fascia boards.

If you’re unsure of what a soffit looks like and where it’s located, see the photo below:

If your timber soffits are looking a little tired, you have a few options:

  • Paint them.
  • Replace them with plastic or ply.
  • Cap over them with plastic or ply.

When replacing soffits, most DIYers and tradespeople will also replace the fascias too, although this is optional.

We’ve already discussed prices for replacing roofline boards.

If you’re on a tight budget or your existing soffits are in good condition, then you could paint rather than replace them.

Step 1 – Check Soffits For Asbestos

Unless you work in one of the trades, chances are you’re unaware of how popular asbestos-containing products once were in the UK.

Unfortunately, soffit boards were often manufactured from a mixture of cement and asbestos. These boards were very popular due to their durability – they are fireproof, rot proof, easy to paint, cheap and last for decades.

Historical Advert For Asbestos Boards

From 1960 to 1999 it was estimated that up to 40% of homes in the UK were built with asbestos soffit boards.

Before you proceed with any work to your roofline, we suggest you double-check the soffit boards aren’t made from asbestos.

Here are a few photos to help you make a visual check:

It’s usually quite easy to spot asbestos boards, they are greyish in colour, thin, brittle and the material is sometimes confused with cement or plasterboard.

(Discover the 8 most common places to find asbestos in the home)

If you’re in doubt about whether your boards contain asbestos or not, you can take a sample for analysis. It currently costs £30 to send off one sample for analysis and you will get the results within 48 hours.

If your soffits do contain asbestos, you have a few options:

  • Get a qualified professional to remove it, see how much asbestos removal costs here.
  • Get someone who has received “asbestos awareness” training to seal it with special paint.
  • Get someone who has received “asbestos awareness” training to encapsulate it with plastic.

We don’t recommend painting, sealing or capping these boards yourself as there’s a risk of the dangerous fibres being released, this is very likely to happen if you need to prepare the surface prior to painting.

Step 2 – Clean and Prepare the Soffits

Assuming the boards aren’t made from asbestos or plastic (which can be cleaned easily with a cloth), you can paint soffits by following these steps:

  1. Remove any pollution and dirt from the soffit boards with a damp cloth and detergent.
  2. Allow to dry and then rub down gently with coarse sandpaper.
  3. Fill any gaps with a two-part quick-drying performance wood filler.
  4. Rub down again but this time with fine sandpaper.
  5. Brush off any loose dust with a brush.

The soffits are now ready for painting.

Step 3 – Painting

Any bare wood should be primed with a quick-drying wood primer.

Once the primer has dried, which should be around 3 hours in the summer and up to 9 hours in the autumn or springtime, you can apply one layer of undercoat by brush.

The undercoat will take anywhere from 2 – 36 hours to fully dry, it depends on the time of year and the type of paint you use.

Once dry, a final gloss coat should be applied.


Here’s a couple of photos I took last week, the fascia boards and guttering are made from plastic, so they just needed a clean with detergent.

The soffit boards were made from plywood and a couple of coats of paint made a huge difference:


Soffit painting


Painted soffit boards

Tools and Materials Needed

Pro Tips

Winter is not an ideal time to paint roofline soffits and fascias as there’s very little sunlight, it’s cold and there’s more moisture in the air. The best time is usually from April to October.

Quick-drying paints are more practical for this type of project although they’re more expensive.

I prefer to use quick-drying Dulux Weathershield, the drying time is between 2-4 hours in the summer.

Dulux Weathershield exterior paint - white

If you or your tradesperson want to paint asbestos soffit boards, you should use masonry paint and not regular undercoat or gloss, which won’t adhere to cement-based boards.  You should also avoid sanding down these boards as dangerous fibres will be released.

If your boards are plastic, there’s no need to paint them, a good clean with detergent and a cloth should be sufficient.

Other Options For Your Soffits

If you don’t want to paint the soffits, you can either cap over them or remove and replace them with something that requires less maintenance, such as Upvc plastic.

See how much it costs to replace roofline boards here.

Get a Quote

Don’t want to do this work yourself?

We don’t blame you, that’s why we’ve teamed up with our partner who can provide you with a very competitive quotation online:

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Soffits form part of a roof overhang, or eaves. They are the horizontal section that sits directly underneath the fascia boards.
Between 1960 and 1999 over 40% of homes in the UK had asbestos soffits. They look very similar to ply soffits once painted.
For timber soffits use external wood primer, undercoat and gloss. For cement based asbestos soffit boards, either leave them unpainted or instruct a suitably trained person to paint them with masonry paint. Asbestos boards should not be sanded prior to painting.

This guide was written by and was last updated in April 2022.

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Author - Danny Woodley
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