Cedar Shakes and Shingles

Wood has been one of the earlies material’s to build shelters with. Not only can it be used to construct a building or home. Wood shingles and shakes have been used for centuries as roofing materials. The cedar shakes and shingles of the past were installed over spaced sheeting. 1 x 6 with 4inch gaps allowed the roof to breathe and gave the home the much-needed airflow. Sealants and treatment were applied on a regular basis; these treatments extended the life of the shake and shingles. In addition, the older cedar wood products would swell with rain and moisture. Closing all gaps and sealing the gaps for a leak-proof roof.

Modern codes changed this standard. Today the shingles are all installed over a solid deck, no airflow causes moisture build-up, and shingles decompose, crack and rot away. Cedar sealants and maintenance are a thing of the past so the life of the cedar roofing is cut in half. Many homeowners complain about silverfish and bugs due to the decomposing roofing materials.

Wood shingles and shakes are made from cedar trees. Western Red -cedar, Alaska yellow-cedar (also called yellow cedar), and Redwood are the wood species most commonly used. Other species have historically been used for shakes/shingles: northern white-cedar, also known as Eastern white cedar, White oak, and Southern Pine.

Wood code requirements for shakes/shingles must meet wood quality standards, which are verified through third-party inspections. It is best to check your local building codes to meet requirements.

Grades of shakes and shingles. (Copied from: http://www.cedarbureau.org/literature-education/building-codes)

Premium Handsplit, taper-sawn, taper-split, or straight-split shakes from 100% clear vertical-grained heartwood. Taper-split shakes have a natural taper that is similar to the taper of a shingle. Straight-split shakes are of the same thickness throughout the length of the shake.

No. 1 Handsplit and taper-sawn shakes of clear heartwood with no more than 20% flat-grained pieces in each bundle. This is the top grade of shingles. This grade of shingle can be used for sidewalls and roofs. This grade of shingle must be 100% clear, 100% heartwood, and 100% vertical grain and are available in three lengths.

No. 2 grade can be used in various applications. This grade of shingle must have at least 10 in. of clear wood (butt end) on a 16-in. shingle, 11 in. on an 18-in. shingle, and 16 in. on a 24-in. shingle. This grade allows no limitation on flat grain. Limited sapwood is also allowed in this grade.

No. 3 grade is a utility-grade intended to be used on economy applications as well as on secondary buildings. This grade must have at least 6 in. of clear wood (butt end) on 16-in. and 18-in. shingles and 10 in. on a 24-in. shingle.

No. 4 grade is to be used for the under course of double-coursed sidewalls only. This shingle is never to be used for roof application or as a starter course.

There are many types of cedar materials; Blue Label, Red Label, Black Label, and Under-coursing, fire, and algae resistant rated product on the market today. Many shakes and shingles are treated with fire resistance chemicals, to improve the fire safety of the wood. Algae and moss preventatives may also be applied. These products may need to be re-applied during the life of the shakes or shingles.

What is the difference between shakes and shingles? Cedar shakes are hand-split produced and tapered cut, thinker and larger than shingles. Shingles are sawn off produced, made by machines; even smooth sides on both sides with no tapering. Both come in sizes 16, 18, and 24-inch lengths. Lastly, shakes are thicker than shingles, Durability – Generally speaking, cedar shakes are more durable and last longer than shingles because they are thicker and made from premium-grade wood.

Installation of shake and shingles is best left to a professional. It is best to hire a contractor with training to install your roof.

Cost of shake and shingle roof. These wood products are quite pricy when compared to Asphalt or other roofing products. Expect to pay 2-3 times the price when installing this product. Current pricing is $500 – $800 per square. It is best to install shakes or shingles over a batten system; wooden battens are applied over solid sheathing, to the roof either horizontally or in both directions in a grid pattern, known as a counter-batten system. The battens then provide the fixing point for roofing materials and to add airflow under the product and prevent moisture and dentation to the wood. Expect to pay an additional 300-400 per square extra to install the batten system. The average new roof cost on a 30 square home is $32,000 -$38,000.

To extend the life of the wood, sealants must be applied to the roof every 2-3 years. Failure to protect the wood roofing materials will greatly shorten the life expectancy. With proper treatment, your roof can last 20-30 years. Without proper installation and treatments, these wood products will not make it to the estimated lifetime. Many insurance companies charge a higher rate on the coverage for cedar shakes or shingles. Liability for fire is higher too. Expect to pay the premium rates for this product coverage.

Many homeowners choose cedar shakes for their roof to achieve a unique character for their house. Evaluation of the cost and labor may prevent homeowners from installing the wood roofs. Today, due to cost and maintenance, A Better Way Construction and Roofing installs fewer cedar shake and shingle products than in the past.