The cuticle forms an apical extracellular-matrix (ECM) that covers exposed organs, such as epidermis, trachea and gut, for organizing morphogenesis and protection of insects. Recently, we reported that cuticle proteins and chitin are involved in ECM formation. However, molecular mechanisms that control assembly, maturation and replacement of the ECM and its components are not well known. Here we investigated the poorly described glyco-18-domain hydrolase family in Drosophila and identified the Chitinases (Chts) and imaginal-disc-growth-factors (Idgfs) that are essential for larval and adult molting. We demonstrate that Cht and idgf depletion results in deformed cuticles, larval and adult molting defects, and insufficient protection against wounding and bacterial infection, which altogether leads to early lethality. We show that Cht2/Cht5/Cht7/Cht9/Cht12 and idgf1/idgf3/idgf4/idgf5/idgf6 are needed for organizing proteins and chitin-matrix at the apical cell surface. Our data indicate that normal ECM formation requires Chts, which potentially hydrolyze chitin-polymers. We further suggest that the non-enzymatic idgfs act as structural proteins to maintain the ECM scaffold against chitinolytic degradation. Conservation of Chts and Idgfs proposes analogous roles in ECM dynamics across the insect taxa, indicating that Chts/Idgfs are new targets for species specific pest control.