Wood shingle roof, Key West Florida (C) Daniel Friedman

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Wood Roof Identification, Inspection, Installation Details, Photo Guide
     

  • WOOD SHAKE & SHINGLE ROOFING - CONTENTS: Wood shingle roof inspection, failures, repair, product defects. History of use of wood roofing in North America. What types of nails or staples are used with wood shakes or wood shingles? What is the proper nailing pattern for wood shingle or wood shake roofs? Roof inspection, leak detection, roof diagnosis, roof repair. Key design details & references for wood shingle roofs. Wood roof inspection checklist.
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Wood shingle or shake roofing summary guide: Beginning here in this wood shingle & shake roof article series, we illustrate and discuss the installation, inspection, diagnosis, & repair of wood shingle & wood shake roofing in historic and contemporary use, we describe proper wood shingle or wood shake roof installation details, and we provide a wood roof inspection checklist.

Our page top photo shows a lichens and moss covered roof located in Key West, Florida, viewed from the Key West lighthouse.

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A Brief History of Wood Roofing in the U.S.

Improperly set wood shingle roof (C) Daniel FriedmanIf you are not sure of the difference between a wood shingle and a wood shake, wood shingles are saw-cut and have smooth flat surfaces, while wood shakes are split (by hand or by machine) to produce a thicker and more irregular product.

[Click to enlarge any image]

As Carson Dunlop point out in their Home Reference Book, most wood shingles are white cyprus (most durable), cedar (western red cedar or white cedar) but in some locales redwood shingles are also used, and white pine shingles, yellow pine,and spruce have been used.

According to the US NPS "Roofing for Historic buildings":

Wood roofing shingles were commonplace in early America not only because of the abundance of timber, but also because of the relative ease with which they could be fabricated and installed. Made from the heartwood of a variety of locally available trees, early shingles were hand split with a mallet and froe and then dressed or smoothed with a draw knife to ensure they would lay flat on the roof.

The introduction of water and, then, steam powered saws in the early 19th century revolutionized the shingle industry by making possible the mass production of uniformly cut and smoothly finished shingles that required no hand dressing. As early as 1802, for example, N. Combes of Lamberton, New Jersey, informed the public that he now had a shingle dressing machine that had been newly invented by 'D[avid] French of Connecticut.

This machine at one stroke shaves the Shingle complete; at the second stroke it joints the same, and this done much more complete than it is possible to have it done by hand, in the usual way (The True American, Trenton, December 6, 1802).

The number of inventions for new types of shingle machines, as well as refinements to existing ones, quickly multiplied as the century advanced; at least nineteen patents were issued in 1857 alone for shingle making machines.

Despite such technological advances, hand split shingles never entirely disappeared. In fact, during most of the 19th century a thriving split shingle industry existed in southern New Jersey. Interestingly, much of the wood used in these shingles came from white cedar logs that had been buried in swamps and then "mined" or raised by shinglers who probed the area for suitable logs.

Reportedly a good shingler could tell merely by smell whether a log had been blown down or broken off, the former being the more desirable since it was less likely to be decayed. Once loosened from the peat, the log floated in the water, where it was sawn into blocks and then split into shingles. An expert worker could mine and shave up to 1,000 shingles a week. Besides supplying local markets, South Jersey's mined shingles were shipped to cities and towns up and down the Delaware River, including Philadelphia.

Although wood shingles received strong competition from other roofing materials in the 19th century, they enjoyed renewed popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the introduction of the various revival styles of architecture. Wooden shingles were steamed and bent to resemble thatched roofs on Tudor Revival homes, laid in evenly spaced overlapping horizontal rows on Colonial Revival houses, and used with abandon on the roofs and sides of Shingle Style buildings.

Today, although wood shingles represent a relatively small percentage of the roofing market, they remain a fashionable material for custom houses as well as restoration projects.

Wood Roofing Shingle Quality & Types

As we introduced at ROOFING INSPECTION & REPAIR,

Wood roofing shingles and shakes material cost $150-200 per square, with an installed cost of $130 - $160 / square. Wood shingle roofs have a typical life expectancy of 10-40 years, and weigh 300-400 pounds per square. The life of a wood shingle roof can vary widely depending on the wood species of shingles used and the treatment of wood roof shingles with preservative.

Wood shingles are sawn in 16", 18" and 24" lengths and are installed overlapped to produce three layers of shingle material covering the roof. Wood shakes (a split rather than sawn product) are thicker than sawn wood shingles (but can still have splitting or installation defects).

Five wood species are cut or split into shingles or shakes: cypress wood shingles (rot resistant but need preservative treatment, red cedar wood shingles, (naturally durable on roofs), redwood roof shingles (rot resistant but need preservative treatment), SYP or southern yellow pine shingles (not usually used on roofs), and white cedar shingles (should not be used on roofs because of its short life in that application.

Wood shingle quality (C) Carson Dunlop Associates Wood shingle quality (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

Carson Dunlop's sketch (left) illustrates a source of variation in the quality of wood shingles that depends on how the shingles are cut from the log. The Carson Dunlop sketch at right illustrates the different qualities of wood shingles and wood shakes used on roofs.

Details about wood shingle and wood roof shake quality, types, warranties, & treatments are found
at
WOOD ROOF SHINGLE PROPERTIES.

Preservatives & Fire Retardants Used on Wood Shingle or Shake Roofs

Wood roof preservatives can make a significant difference in the life expectancy (and in some cases fire resistance) of wood shingle or wood shake roofs, depending on the wood species of the shingles or shakes (see above) and the preservative used.

Traditionally wood shingle and shakes were treated with copper or copper arsenate compounds to resist insects and rot; some shingle and shake treatments include chemicals that help the roof resist oxidation from sun exposure as well.

Traditional CCA wood treatments turned the roof shingles or shakes green, a color that bleached out to a more natural color after a few months. Contemporary wood roof treatments may not turn the roof green, but they may include pigments that assist in resistance to sunlight and oxidation.

Other wood roof preservatives used tin compounds instead of copper, a less long-lasting treatment, and current treatments may use borate salts. Common current wood shingle and shake preservative treatments use products that combine a water repellant, pigment, and a preservative chemical. Pre-treated wood shingles and shakes are provided by some wood roof manufacturers: these products should not require additional coatings.

Watch out: we do not recommend using paints (such as alkyd or latex paint) on wood shingles, especially on wood roofs. Painting one side of wood roof shingles or shakes may accelerate their wear (shorten the roof life) by interfering with shingle or shake drying when the roof becomes wet. Painted roof shingles may split prematurely.

Chemical treatments for wood roofs are required (if wood shingle or shake roofs are permitted at all) in certain dry areas or areas prone to wildfires such as California. If you live in a high fire-risk zone and want the appearance of a wood shingle or shake roof, investigate roof shingles made of recycled materials and sold in products that look like wood shakes or slate.

Details about wood roof coatins and wood roof fire ratings are found at WOOD ROOF COATINGS & FIRE RATINGS

Side-lap Wood Shingle Roofs

See "Fabricating and Installing Side-Lap Roof Shingles in Eastern Pennsylvania", James Houston & John N. Fugelso.
Quoting from that article:

In order to restore some of Pennsylvania’s historic buildings, the authors are recovering a lost trade practice.
Over the past decade of working on side-lap-shingle roofs, the authors have observed many earlier attempts by others to make the process of replicating these roofs faster and less expensive.

These attempts have included substituting materials, sawing and planing shingles rather than riving them to speed the manufacturing process, and adding other materials between courses to reinforce the roofing system. All of these attempts have saved money and time in the short term but have failed to perform long enough to realize the savings.

 

Continue reading at WOOD ROOF INSTALLATION SPECS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Also see WOOD ROOF SHAKES INSTALLATION.

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WOOD SHAKE & SHINGLE ROOFING at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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