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A little back story. My house was build in the early 40's. The point at which builders threw away the idea of trying to build something that is architecturally significant and see how far they could push builder grade. As a result, among other things, I have low ceilings. 7.5'. Roughly 50 years later, the previous owner decided to throw money at the place and as best as I can tell cut corners in every way.

Fast forward to now. I've lived here for nearly three years and bought the place with the intention of fixing many of the problems. I have already done quite a lot but now I plan on moving next year so I'm limiting projects that will have a return. We are doing a very small kitchen upgrade. Painting the cabinets (wife's idea, still not convinced) and retailing the back splash.

Here is the question. Not that I am looking to expand the scope but when the kitchen was redone in the 90's they did something architecturally stupid. They put in an 8" soffit above the 30" cabinets resulting in very small cabinets which are also too low. What is even worse is that they were apparently so concerned with saving a few bucks by going with smaller cabinets that they cut off the top 8 inches of the kitchen window. It looks really stupid. I want to rip it out. Maybe not the whole soffit because I'm not in the market to replace all of the cabinets, but the area over the sink where the window is. So I guess my question is, has anyone ever seen this done to cover something up or is there some justifiable reason why what they did was a good idea? I really hate it, but it seems like such a bad idea, that I cant imagine doing it unless I was covering something up.

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    I think the question you're trying to get to is "what could be hidden in the soffit, if anything" and the answer is "you'll have to look inside it somehow" - rip a hole and have a look with your flashlight and eyes, drill a small hole and use an inspection camera, something... – Ecnerwal Dec 27 '17 at 22:31
  • As far as practicality: I hid ducts in a soffit in my basement this summer and have seen plumbing and HVAC hidden in a number of soffits. If it's a one-story home, then it's likely just empty space. If it's a 2-story, then there is more likely to be plumbing or HVAC, but you can't know for sure without looking. – statueuphemism Dec 27 '17 at 23:51
  • I just reread the question: If soffits were added as part of a kitchen remodel, a likely suspect is that they added ducting for a range hood and built a soffit to cover it up. – statueuphemism Dec 27 '17 at 23:57
  • It would have been nice if that was the case, but no, no ducting. – mreff555 Jan 14 '18 at 19:08
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It was popular in the 1980s and 90s to have soffits above the kitchen cabinets. So to directly answer your question Yes there is some justifiable reason to have remodeled to then-current trends, such as if one was trying to maximize resale value at the time, or were just beginning to modernize the entire house. Of course that is based on personal preferences, how the remodel matches the rest of the house, neighborhood, etc. Clearly you do not like the choices the previous owners had made in the 1990's to follow then-current design trends, although one could guess they probably shared your loathing for the original 1940's styles (or lack thereof) and were similarly trying to do something about it on a reasonable budget, and that is a common thing that people do.

Its funny to think that if you do modernize your interior to today's design trends, then thirty years from now the future owner will think the dated look is also stupid!

Oftentimes in practice soffits only cover up empty space above the cabinets, which, at the time they were installed was a design trend in new construction and remodels. The only reason they were installed was to cover up the 'unsightly' void which was considered unpopular at the time. I have removed soffits from an old house that were installed in the 1990s and found nothing behind them, but that doesn't means yours are that way!

Here is a website that talks about this design trend, and with several pictures of how to make them look nicer.

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I have one soffit that is actually open to the attic. Viewing it from the attic I can see some odd looking framing and wiring fishing through the soffit area. I have no idea why that bulkhead has to be so different from others, but I do know it would not be worth it (to me) to remove it - wiring, framing. The other soffits are not open to the attic and are probably just there to match the odd one.

If you have attic space above your kitchen (which isn't clear in your description), I would suggest first go there and see if the soffit is open or closed in the attic. If it is open, you might see why.

If it's not open, then I would grab a 3 inch hole saw and be prepared for repairing that hole. You might be able to do it in the attic, where the repair (if needed) would be easy to do.

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