Wood shakes and shingles, especially cedar, have been around for more than 200 years. Their natural beauty and architectural versatility have made this material a favorite among architects, builders and homeowners.
Shingles are relatively smooth and cut to a uniform thickness, although they vary in width. Wood shakes are thicker and rougher, being split rather than sawn from the logs. Wood roofs are meant to breathe and should be laid over a substrate that allows air to circulate behind them: skip sheathing – wood strips or battens nailed directly to the roof rafters – is the traditional method of installing a wood shingle roof.
For all their great looks, shingles and shakes are more expensive to install and do require some periodic maintenance, typically in the form of washing to remove any mildew or moss, and then re-oiling with a clear wood finishing product.
A properly installed and maintained wood roof should last at least 30 to 50 years. In fact, we have seen roofs on which the shingles were still good after 25 years or so, but the galvanized nails were finally rusting, so be sure to use a high-quality stainless-steel nail!