The drip rail, or edge, is an important component of the roof that keeps water flowing into the gutters. It prevents the water from curling around the edge of the overhang and damaging the soffits, rafters and siding, or dripping onto the ground and undermining the foundation. It is a type of galvanised steel flashing that you fasten to the plywood sheathing of the roof. It can wear out, and when it does, you can replace it.
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The cross-sectional shape of galvanised steel drip edge plashing resembles an inverted "L," and the corner of the "L" sometimes extrudes slightly so that water will drip off instead of rolling down the vertical face of the flashing. Drip edge usually comes in 10-foot lengths and is readily cut with a pair of tin snips or a hacksaw. It fits tightly around the edge of roofing plywood, and you can lay it directly on top of the eaves' fascia. It hangs out over the gutters, attached to the fascia.
Reasons to Replace Drip Edge
As with any other building material, drip edge eventually wears out, even though the galvanised metal from which it is made is corrosion-resistant. When holes or gaps develop, water seeps into them rather than over the edge of the flashing and rots the edge of the roofing plywood. This further weakens the adhesion of the flashing to the roof, and deterioration accelerates. The flashing doesn't have to corrode for water damage to occur to the roof. If loose fasteners cause it to buckle or lift off, water can seep underneath and begin the cycle of deterioration.
Removing Old Drip Edge
Drip edge isn't difficult to remove. It is normally held to the roof by roofing nails or screws, and may also be glued to the undersides of the shingles with roofing tar or adhesive. Working a paint scraper between the flashing and shingles is usually enough to loosen the glue bond, and the paint scraper, an old chisel or a slot screwdriver will usually serve to pry the flashing off the roof if it is held by nails. To remove screws, you often have to bend the shingles back so you can access the screws. Do it carefully so the shingles don't break.
Installing New Drip Edge
Once you have removed the old flashing, evaluate the condition of the plywood edge of the roof. If it is wet or rotted, let it dry out, and make necessary repairs before you apply the new flashing. Apply a thin layer of roofing tar to the top face of the drip edge, slide it between the shingles and the plywood and secure it to the plywood with screws or roofing nails. When it is secure, push the shingles down into the tar. After one sunny day, they should settle in place and bond to the flashing.
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