What is the Difference Between a Drip Edge & Gutter Apron? We Help You Figure Out

The terms drip edge and gutter apron is no stranger to most roofers in the country. But, it can be confusing to some homeowners.

Drip edges and gutter aprons are essential components in a roof system installation. They channel all the water from the attic right into the gutter, maintaining the roof's stability and effectively preventing roof leaks. The only difference is in their different shapes and placements. If any of these aren't installed correctly, this may only pose future problems to your home's entire gutter system.

Now, let's delve into the difference between the two so you can quickly tell them apart the next time.

What is a Drip Edge?

Generally, a drip edge is a T-shaped metal flashing installed on the outer perimeter of your roof to create a watertight seal. It is designed to protect your roof from potential damage such as rotting, preventing moisture from getting in, and directing water away from the internal areas. Remember that a drip edge is not always installed during your home's initial construction. Forty-nine states require a drip edge installation per the International Residential Code (IRC).

Drip edges are available in various colors, the most common being black, brown, and white. You can always opt to match the drip edge color with your roof shingles and gutters if you want a more consistent aesthetic for your home.

Common material types of drip edges:

  • Aluminum
  • Copper drip edge
  • Fiberglass drip edge
  • Galvanized Steel Material
  • House wrap
  • Plastic and Vinyl flashing

Advantages of a Drip Edge

Let's look at the benefits of having a drip edge, primarily in keeping your home in good shape and preventing costly unforeseen repairs.

  • Protection from strong winds and rain ─ Under extreme weather conditions, water is often forced into the corners and cracks on your roof. As the water drops on your metal flashing, there's no way they can directly be reverted into the gutter– unless you have a pump. In contrast, having a drip edge will help you direct the rainfall straight into the gutter instead.
  • Avoids insect infestation ─ A drip edge will also protect your home from possible insect infestation as it covers a gap between the deck and the fascia board. Commonly, this gap is called the void. Various pests can enter your home through the large opening. If they manage to penetrate the wood cavity, it may lead to roof damage.
  • Basement protection ─ Beneath your rooftop, the ground may be prone to water leaks. Installing a drip edge will prevent leakage problems by directing the water straight into the gutter. If water enters the ground and you do not have a drip edge flashing, it may soon find its way into your basement and cause extensive (and costly) damage.
  • Attic stabilization ─ Your roof may become unstable due to heavy rains, ice dams, excessive moisture, and strong winds. But if you have a drip edge, this limits the formation of the ice dam and water movement on your roof's surface. It prevents water from leaking into any cracks otherwise.

Disadvantages of a Drip Edge

The most notable drawback of a drip edge is its strict code specifications. Sometimes, you cannot install it on an old roof edge. It is best to talk to a professional to ensure you follow local drip edge requirements in your area.

What is a Gutter Apron?

Like drip edges, gutter aprons are designed to direct water down the roof edges and into the gutters. What separates them from each other is the shape and material used.

A gutter apron takes on an L-shape rather than a drip edge's T-shape, making it easy to distinguish. This comes in metal strips featuring aluminum and steel sheets, and it is widely available in different colors to fit your home's aesthetic. Popular color trends include bronze, black, and white.

Advantages of a Gutter Apron

Here are some of the benefits to expect in a gutter apron:

  • Exceptional defense ─ A gutter apron keeps the attic from deteriorating before you know it. During harsh storms, your home is in safe hands as it directs the rainwater into the gutter channels. It also protects the roof deck and the fascia as it doesn't allow water from creeping in. For your reference, standard gutter aprons are made from galvanized metal to allow free-flowing water into the gutter.
  • A cost-efficient investment ─ Installing a gutter apron on your roof will also allow you to save up to a few hundred bucks in the long run. Without gutter aprons, your roof will be frequently exposed to various environmental conditions (moisture and water damage), which may only shorten its lifespan. Or, if it leads to cracks and other related issues, you may need to shell out additional cash for a residential re-roofing project. Investing in gutter aprons is a great way to protect yourself from these expenses.
  • Less maintenance ─ The presence of a gutter apron on the roof will mean fewer maintenance requirements on your end. You can count on it to capture the rainwater and re-direct it to the gutters– instead of allowing it to penetrate the inside of your home. Suppose you do not have a gutter apron (or a drip edge) at home. In that case, you will need to manually collect the rainwater from your attic and clean it afterward. This can be rather time-consuming and exhausting.

Disadvantages of a Gutter Apron

Similar to a drip edge, a gutter apron follows strict code requirements based on your roof's borders and styles. Also, you cannot put it atop an existing, old roof. If your gutter is located far from the edge of the shingles, a gutter apron won't be necessary for such a situation.

Gutter Apron vs. Drip Edge: The Difference

In summary, let’s compare the main distinctions between a gutter apron and a drip edge to make it easier for you to distinguish one from the other.

Installation

A gutter apron is built on the corners of the roof decking. It is installed under an attic's shingles to direct water into the gutter.

Meanwhile, a drip edge is connected to the trim and typically hangs straight past the gutter. A gutter apron is used when the distance between the shingles and the gutter edge is insufficient. It is recommended that you get professional advice before choosing. They may be used for various functions depending on your ideas' design and roof.

A gutter apron is a better option than a drip edge if your attic is designed with several sides and curved edges. A drip edge's curved edge sides may be noticeable. When installing a drip edge, ensure it is positioned to guide water into the gutter alongside the roof edges. It can be firmly secured with nails. In an ideal situation, nails should be spaced every 12 inches. It shouldn't be any longer than 16 inches. (Related: Ultimate Roof Repair and Upgrade in Aloha)

Durability

Drip edges and gutter aprons must be durable to UV rays and humidity. You'll need to consider alternative roofing options if your gutter apron isn't installed correctly. Meanwhile, the drip edge cannot be reinstalled on the roof and is available in various forms. They are highly durable and made of the same materials, such as steel and aluminum.

Installation on Existing Roof

Any kind of flashing should always be installed before building a roof structure. However, preserving your newly built roof from water is not difficult. When installing an existing roof, use a drip edge. Lifting the shingles will be unnecessary and adding a drip edge is simple.

Cost Difference

The cost difference between the two isn't that great. They are relatively affordable and achieve the same result. The price varies according to the material type and length selected, with each linear foot of installation estimated to cost between $5 and $7.

Ideally, you should always pick a professional with the right expertise and experience in installing a drip edge and gutter apron at home.