Wood shingle roof, Key West Florida (C) Daniel Friedman Wood Shingle & Wood Shake Roof FAQs
Questions & answers on Wood Roofs

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Wood shingle or shake roofing FAQs:

Frequently-asked questions and answers about wood shake roofs or wood shingle roofs: installation, inspection, leaks, repairs, warranties, specifications & standards.

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.

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

Improperly set wood shingle roof (C) Daniel Friedman

Recently posted questions & answers about wood shake and wood shingle roofs

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Photo: wood shingles on a new roof, some already curling and lifting.

On 2017-02-19 12:22:03.077738 by Todd ManWaring - which side of a wood shake or shingle goes "up"

Does it matter which side of a cedar shake is up? I have a client that likes the rough sawn side of the shingle. Does it affect the warranty? Thanks

On 2017-02-19 16:15:15.192896 by (mod)


Just to be clear on terminology, wood shingles are saw-cut on both sides and have smooth flat surfaces, while wood shakes are split (by hand or by machine) to produce a thicker and more irregular product. 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.

Wood shakes, the product named in your question about "which side up" are produced first by splitting a section of cedar or other suitable wood into a double-thickness piece, then a band saw is used to saw the split wood in half.

That's produces a sawn-smooth shake side that goes "down" away from the weather and a rougher split-surface exosure side of the shake that is placed "up" facing the weather.

The Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau is one of the best authorities on wood shingle and shake installation specifications. This example installation summary does not mention which side of a cedar shake is placed facing "up".

I think that's because there is an assumption when intalling split wood shakes that the sawn, flat sawn side of a cedar roofing shake always faces down.

The rough, uneven side of the split cedar shake faces "up" to the weather.

Why? OPINION: take a look at a roofing shake. Which side is more flat? The sawn side.

Now consider how horribly wavy and uneven will be the roof installation if the rough side is placed facing down, and how much more likely shake splits and roof leaks may be in that installation. Simply stepping on such a rough-side-down roofing shake will probably split it immediately.

Really, if your client wants a smooth-faced wood roof she should specify cedar shingles, not cedar shakes.

Now what about installation of a smoother wood shingle roof. Sawn shingles may have a rougher back surface.

I'd put that surface down, away from the weather. The smoother side of the wood shingle will shed water better, absorb less water, and have a longer life.

Here is the Bureau's summary instructions for wood shingles. Again you'll see no mention of rough side up or down.

For a final authoritative opinion contact the Bureau directly at

Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau
P.O. Box 1178
Sumas, WA 98295-1178 USA

or in Canada:

Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau
#2 - 7101 Horne Street
Mission, BC V2V 7A2 Canada

Telephone: (604) 820-7700

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