Gutter Apron Vs Drip Edge: 5 Differences You Need to Know

You already know that roof installation and the elements you choose for this aspect of your home structure are one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make about your new home.

There are many factors to consider in this decision-making process, including quality, durability, and maintenance.

When it comes to protecting your home from water damage, both the gutter apron and drip edge are excellent choices with a few key differences.

The main differences between a gutter apron and a drip edge are the shape and the actual installation process.

What is a gutter apron?

A gutter apron is essentially a long metal construction that protects the house from water splashing behind the gutter.

It is typically 10 feet long and 2-4 inches thick, providing a high level of protection against serious water damage.

Nevertheless, it is possible to adjust and tailor the gutter apron to your roof, depending on the size of the gutter, as well as the expected water amount, depending on how much rain you get in a season.

A gutter apron also comes in a variety of colors to match your house exterior, including bronze, white, black, and brown. It is commonly L-shaped, and it includes a metal strip construction with aluminum and steel sheets.

It is safe to say that a gutter apron is a very important factor when it comes to the security and structural stability of your roof, and therefore, your home in general.

However, even though it is not included in the standard roof installation process, it is still recommended to include it. Keep in mind that, even though it is possible, installing the gutter apron after you’ve completed the roof deck building stage is extremely challenging.

The main role of a gutter apron is basically to ensure that the water isn’t hitting the sensitive areas of the house. With a properly installed gutter apron, the water flow will be directed to the roof edges, and then straight into the gutters.

In addition to protecting the house from serious water damage, a gutter apron is also installed to protect the roofing members.

It is also important to mention that the gutter apron not only protects the house from water damage but also prevents wood rotting due to water penetration.

Another important role of the gutter apron is that it acts as protection against small animals, pests, and insects that could enter the house through the gaps in the attic design.

Investing in roof protection also means saving on roof and house maintenance, as it protects your fascia (roofline), gaps, and the actual roof deck.

Just imagine how much damage water could do to your attic and the overall construction of the house, and how much time and money you’d have to spend to deal with the consequences after every heavy rainfall.

What is a drip edge?

Similar to the gutter apron, a drip edge is an excellent option for filtering the water from the roof system safely into the gutter system.

As opposed to the L-shaped gutter apron, the drip edge construction is T-shaped and includes non-corroding metals and polymers, while also being mostly galvanized.

Just like gutter apron systems, drip edges also come in a variety of colors and shades, so you can easily implement them into your house exterior design.

Drip edges, also known as D-metal, can be made of different materials, depending on the brand and the type. The most common material choices for a drip edge include aluminum, house wrap, plastic, and vinyl flashing, copper drip edge, fiberglass drip edge, and galvanized steel.

The protection a drip edge system offers is particularly important when it comes to shielding your fascia from decay, roof leakage, and discoloration.

Most water damage happens in the shingle roof, especially if it is curled and has no external protection since it is pointing downwards.

The drip edge installed over the shingle roof will prevent the wood from getting saturated by directing the water flow towards the gutter system.

Another important fact about the drip edge system is that it protects the roof even in extreme weather conditions, as the rainfall will just fall against the drip edge instead of hitting the roof structure.

Another potential concern with your roof system is little gaps that could be a doorway for an insect infestation. Aside from infesting your home, these insects could also enter the wooden structure, jeopardizing its quality and the overall safety of your roof.

With a roof covering, you don’t have to worry about any insects or small animals entering your home through the roof gaps.

It is also important to mention that roof protection will also protect your basement, as the rainfall won’t be directed to the ground below the fascia, but rather straight into the rain gutter.

In addition to the basement, the attic could also be one of the main areas affected by heavy rainfall, ice dams, and overall moisture. 

With a drip edge roof covering, you won’t experience any water leaks in your attic, as it will cover all the potential cracks and keep the rainfall away from the attic. 

The main disadvantage of choosing a drip edge system, on the other hand, is that there are certain code specifications associated with it. More specifically, there are regulations concerning the dimensions and the positioning of the metal drip edge, as well as the joined portions. 

While it is necessary to consult with a professional to ensure that you’re complying with these regulations, having these universal standards could also be viewed as an advantage since you don’t have to do your own research and calculations. 

What are the differences between a gutter apron and a drip edge?

There are many similarities between these two options, especially since they essentially have an identical role in roof covering.

However, there are a few crucial differences between a gutter apron and a drip edge that will help you make the right choice for your roofing. 

1. Roof covering installation on an existing roof

 As we’ve mentioned, installing the gutter apron once the roof deck has already been built is possible but extremely difficult.

That being said, if you plan on installing a roof covering system on an existing roof, we’d recommend going with a drip edge system. This kind of installation process doesn’t require the shingles to be lifted, which is generally a much faster, easier way of protecting your roof.

In case you’re still in the process of building the roof, any of these two options will do, depending on your personal preference, as well as the other factors we’ll discuss in this guide. 

2. Durability

Both of these roof covering solutions are considered to be extremely durable and long-lasting. They are specifically designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, including rain, snow, and wind, protecting your house from water leaks, insects, small animals, and pests.

What’s more, both options are an ideal choice for directing the rainfall toward the rain gutter, as well as protecting the roof structure and other important areas, such as the attic and basement. 

However, in case the gutter apron system fails, it can be a bit challenging to reinstall it. The drip edge system, on the other hand, can easily be reinstalled, which is an advantage in the long run.

As far as the durability of the materials, there is little to no difference between the two systems, as they both offer heavy-duty, maximum protection against water damage for many years. 

Also, you’ll notice that similar or even identical materials are used for both gutter apron and drip edge roof covering systems. 

3. Installation process

As you can already tell, the biggest difference between these two options is actually the installation process.

As we’ve explained, a drip edge is much easier to install on existing roof construction, while this can be a challenge with the gutter apron.

Another factor to take into consideration is the design of your attic. If your attic plan includes much curving of the edges, a gutter apron is more appropriate, as it is far more aesthetically pleasing.

Furthermore, the gutter apron system is the best choice in case there isn’t much distance between the shingles and the edge of the gutter.

4. Code specifications

As we’ve mentioned, there are very detailed code specifications concerning the positioning of the drip edge.

For instance, there must be an overlap of 51mm minimum between the joined portions. The gutter apron installation process, on the other hand, doesn’t depend upon these strict regulations. 

Gutter apron vs drip edge: Are they the same?

While they essentially have the same role and offer the same level of protection against water damage, insects, small animals, and similar issues, these two roof covering systems cannot be considered the same.

The cost of these systems, as well as the installation, are also quite similar, but they do differ when it comes to the actual installation process.

There are certain code specifications you will need to learn about if you choose the drip edge system.

A gutter apron, on the other hand, is more suitable for an attic with many curved edges and sides, as well as for structures where the distance between the shingles and the gutter isn’t big enough. 

Finally, if you’re installing a roof covering system on an existing roof construction, it is better to choose drip edges, as the installation of a gutter apron, in this case, would be extremely time-consuming and complicated.

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