Before the 19th century, wooden shingles was split by the hand and they were almost always planed or knifed smooth to become very thin and very narrow. When the steam-powered sawmills came in, in the 19th century, shingle fabrication was revolutionized.
Prior to the arrival of asphalt, wood roofs were the most common shedding roof system used. Wood shingles are still one of the most common roofing materials used in North America where several types of wood get used.
Here is how to choose the type of wood shingle that best suit you:
When it comes to choosing roof shingles for a new home or new shingles for replacing an old roof it can become a challenge as there are so many different types of shingles to choose from. The roof of a house is meant to last a very long time and once it is on top of the house there is no turning back. The roof of a house should give protection and add character.
For roof shingles, there are various materials to choose from such as wood, flagstone, slate, fiber cement, plastic, metal, and composite material such as asphalt shingles. Many people like the traditional look that wood gives to their house and over time as the wood ages, the color will change slightly and some people feel that this adds, even more, character to their home. Another good reason for using wood is because it can help you regulate the temperature in your house. Some wood types offer better insulation power over others while still allowing the attic good ventilation.
For a roof structure made from wood, you can choose between wood shingles or wood shakes. Wood shingles are thinner, sawn smooth on both sides and narrowed out, giving them a more tailored appearance that is used for both roofing and sidewalls. However, shingles are less durable than shakes. Shingles come in a uniform size, but the color, thickness, cut and pattern of the wood can differ, giving you the opportunity to be unique. Wood shingles are also easy to make and get rid of when you need a roof replacement because wood is a natural resource, renewable and biodegradable. Wood shakes, however, used for centuries, have a rough look, as they are split from logs and often left split for the effect. The method of splitting the shakes and not sawing ensures straight-grained pieces only, making them stronger and less likely to warp. Shakes resist water penetration better than shingles.
Just like shingles comes in various materials, wood shingles can be formed from various wood materials. Some roof shingles can even be recycled, depending on the material you choose. Wood like, Redwood, Western Red cedar, Cypress, Spuce and Pine are all used to manufacture wood shakes or shingles. The most popular wood for shakes is southern yellow pine and Cedar. Cedar wood shingles are cut commonly and sawn uniformly while Cedar shakes are sometimes hand-split giving it a rough appearance, these shingles or shakes are very durable and can last for up to 30 years. These shingles can be more expensive even though they are moderate in weight.
If you are worried about fires, not to worry, as wood shingles and shakes can be pressure treated to be fire resistant. Comparing to other roofing materials, wood shingles need a fair amount more maintenance due to the natural properties of wood. Therefore they are more work, but they are attractive to look at and do add uniqueness to your home. When choosing wood shingles there are many advantages and disadvantages for each type of wood.
Keep in mind that different quality and species of wood determines how the shingles gets cut and installed. If fire safety and long lasting wood are important to you, make sure that the shingles you favor are treated to be fire resistant before or after installation, as many may not be treated at manufacturing. If you are going for simplicity then rectangle wood shingles of 16 inches long are the way to go. They sometimes have irregular sides.
Today, there are materials that can mimic the look of wood, but to the wood lovers, this is not the real deal. These “mimics” are made commercially from contemporary wood, they are precisely cut or broken and are thicker than the traditional hand split counterpart. These modern shakes look very homey and vintage but are in fact commercially made. Other modern shingles are pre-cut in decorative patterns allowing for a more uniformed and neat result when installing a roof. Other modern “wood” shingles are made from rubber into recycled shakes or shingles. These shingles do not decay, break, bend, take in water and their color will stay the same even though they look like traditional wooden shingles.
Consulting with a professional is, of course, the best way to go, as they can advise you what is the better option for the climate you live in and help you choose the wood shingles that will fit your style and budget. You should keep in mind factors like maintenance, warranty, style and budget when looking at your roof options. Choosing the right wood shingles for your home is a personal decision therefore you and your neighbors home should not be roofed the same way.
Matt is a home and construction writer and editor working for Choice Solutions Roofing and Exteriors. He promotes sustainable living, green houses and solar energy use.