Wood Shingle Installation

Roof SHingle InstallationA wood shingle is a relatively thin, narrow and short length of tapered wood that, being cut from the heart of a log, is highly resistant to weathering. Traditionally the use of wood shingles dates back to the early days of colonization in America. Being so abundant, wood was used in all aspects of a buildings construction.

However, for the roof only the heartwood of the log would have been used as it is less likely to weather rapidly compared to the outer section of the log - the sapwood. Today people often use a wood shingle installation for either roofing or as a cladding material.

Sizes and Types of Shingles

A traditional wood shingle would be; 3/8” to 3/4” thick, being 3” to 8” wide it would be quite narrow and have a length of anything from 14” to 36”. Significantly, because of the cutting technique used, a traditional shingle would have been smoothed by a plane or some other tool, to ensure they all fitted together well.

Today, there is a trend towards leaving the shingles rough or ‘undressed’. For aesthetic purposes this does give a rustic appearance to the building. However, it is incorrect to think that it adds any sense of history to it.

Wood Shingle Roofs

If you’re replacing an existing wood shingle roof it’s essential to remove the old one before starting work. Having either installed or renovated the roofing under-felt, the laths you use to nail the shingles to should be 1” x 3” and be spaced ½ the length of a shingle apart and run across, not down, the roof.

Making sure you’re starting off ‘square’ to the edge of the roof nail the shingles ¾” from their edges centrally onto the laths and 1” to 1½” above where it won’t be exposed. For subsequent rows make sure that the centrally located nails you’ve just fixed are covered by the next shingle and that shingle joints do not overlap.

Also, you should leave at least a 1½” gap between the joint (overlap) of successive courses, the actual amount of gap required is determined by the slope of your roof. To make sure water drains off the roof to the eaves properly, the first course of shingles should overlap the first roof board by about 1½”.

The first and last rows of shingles should be two shingles thick and the ridge can be made by fixing shingles to alternate sides of the roof and from one row to another. If any of the shingles have knots or imperfections in them they must be treated and the affected part of the shingle covered by a subsequent layer.

Local building regulations may apply so check on what might be required. Some things are just good common sense like ensuring you’ve a good insulation layer under the roof or in humid areas that gaps for expansion have been allowed for.

Wood Shingle Cladding

The procedure for installing wood shingle cladding is essentially the same as that for a roof. However, as the degree of exposure on a wall is less than that on a roof the spacing between the rows of shingle can be more generous.

Again the shingles will be nailed onto 1” x 3” laths fixed to the wall, the wall may also have an insulating felt fixed to it. The distance between the laths needs to be equal to the exposure of the shingles. The first, or bottom, row of shingles should be 1” above ground level to protect against water rising into the structure.

Making sure you’re working ‘square’ to the wall the first row should also be a double layer of shingles. Thereafter, the shingles are fixed to the wall structure the same as if you were constructing a roof.

photo by General Wesc / CreativeCommons