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Learn about Wood Roof Shakes or Shingles

Wood Roof Shakes or Shingles

Wood shingles are a thin, tapered piece of wood that are used to cover sloped roofs. This type of roofing is known for its unique, natural look!

Note the difference between shingles and shakes. Modern shingles are precisely milled which makes them easier to install. Shakes are the predecessor to shingles and were made by splitting logs or a block of wood. Modern shakes are typically split on one side and sawn on the other. The smooth, split side of a shake makes it more resistant to water penetration, but their irregular shapes make them more difficult to install so that wind-blown water may penetrate the gaps.

When sourcing your shingles or shakes, look for locally harvested, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood.

The installation is just as important as the material used! There are many techniques for flashing wood shingle or shake roofs so that water doesn't enter around the roof apex, valleys, skylights or chimneys. As well, be aware of the other materials used; for example, nails or staples for fastening the shakes should be stainless steel. Shingles or shakes may also be installed with roofing felt paper laid in-between each layer to prevent water from entering through any gaps that might be created as the shingles weather.

Wood shakes and shingles come in various grades (letters or numbers). They may be Grade A, B, C, or D, or Number 1, 2, 3 or 4, with Grade A and Number 1 being the most 'clear' or knot-free. High-grade shingles are also called 'clear shingles' and are the best choice for roofing. They may also be pre-stained or coated to prevent moss and mildew growth and if so, be sure to check what type of finish was used. Low-grade (Grade D) shingles have many knots and are meant to be used for other purposes, like construction shims or indoor finishing.

Wood shakes and shingles are typically made from cedar or redwood and can be sourced locally and depending on the finish used (stain or paint) they can also be fully biodegradable.

In the early 19th century, wood shingle production was revolutionized by the steam powered saw mills, which allowed for mass production of uniformly sized shingles.