How Wood Shakes Are Made And Installed
Wood shakes are not as common a roof material as asphalt shingles or clay tiles. However, they are highly resistant to the elements. They also have a natural look which complements many rustic and cottage-like homes. For these reasons, they remain an excellent option for many homeowners.
Stevens Roofing Corp. has decades of experience installing wood shake roofs. We often receive questions from customers interested in this roofing material. If you’ve ever wondered how wood shakes are made or how we install them, keep reading.
Wood Shakes Vs. Wood Shingles
It’s important to distinguish wood shakes from a similar roof material called wood shingles. Wood shingles are a uniform, engineered roofing material. Each shingle is made to be the same as the others. Wood shakes on the other hand, are far more natural. They are essentially chunks of wood. Every shake is a slightly different size and shape. This variety is what gives wood shake roofing its unique character.
How Wood Shakes Are Made
The way wood shakes are made really sets them apart from wood shingles. While wood shingles are machine-made and cut against the grain, wood shakes are cut by hand. A person takes a sharp chisel and holds it against a slab of wood. They then use a mallet to pound on the end of the chisel, driving it down into the wood. A slab of wood breaks off. This slab is the shake.
Because wood shakes are split in the direction of the wood grain, they have a rough texture. Look closely, and you can see the wood fibers running down the length of the shake.
Some shakes are thicker than others. Some are wide, and some are more narrow. This is not an accident. It is a feature of wood shake roofing which makes it unique.
Woods Used for Shake Roofing
The most common wood used to make roof shakes is cedar. In addition to being relatively affordable, cedar has a lot of qualities which make it a good roof material.
- It has a long, straight grain and is easy to split into shakes.
- It naturally resists rot and moisture damage.
- It repels insects due to its potent cedar oil scent.
- It has good insulating qualities.
- It resists UV damage from sun exposure.
There are a few kinds of cedar used to make roof shakes. In the western U.S., shakes are often made with Western Red Cedar. When fresh, it has a deep, red-brown color, but it fades to gray-brown with age. On the east coast, you often see Eastern Red Cedar. This variety starts off yellow-brown and fades to gray. Another common variety is Alaskan Yellow Cedar, which starts off pale yellow and fades to a silvery gray.
People have made roof shakes from oak, redwood, and other wood species. However, this is not very common because these woods do not split as easily as cedar. They also don’t tend to last as long once on the roof.
How Wood Shake Roofs Are Installed
Properly installing a wood shake roof requires a lot of skill. Your roofer will start by putting down a proper underlayment. This adds an extra layer of protection for your home while also allowing the shakes to breathe. Your installer must allow for enough ventilation so the shingles don’t get too hot and start deteriorating.
Once the underlayment and vents are in place, your roofer can start laying the shakes. They’ll start at the edge of the roof, along the gutters. The installer will put the shakes in place one by one, securing each shake with nails. Since each shake is a different size, the installer will select shakes which match up with one another and properly fill the space.
The roofer will lay one row of shakes at a time, working their way up towards the roof peak. Each row will overlap the row of shakes below it. This ensures your roof remains waterproof and wind-resistant.
Choosing a Wood Shake Roofing Company
Because installing wood shakes is a specialized skill, most roofing companies don’t offer wood shake roofs. If you want a shake roof, take your time in finding a roofer who has experience with this material. When properly installed, wood shake roofs can be very strong, durable, and beautiful. However, mistakes during the installation process can lead to premature deterioration and leaks.
Before hiring a roofer to install your wood shake roof, ask about their past experience with this material. Also ask to see examples of other wood shake roofs they have installed.
Wood shake roofs are a beautiful choice for many homeowners. If you’re considering a wood shake roof for your Norfolk home, contact Stevens Roofing. We’d be happy to give you a quote and answer any additional questions.