Wood Shingles

All About Wood Shingles

There are two types of wood roofing: shingles and shakes. Often referred to interchangeably, there is a difference. Shingles are machine-cut and tapered for a trim, crisp appearance. Shakes are hand-split, giving them a more rustic appeal. If you have a traditional or historical style-home, a wooden roof will increase its aesthetic appeal, creating a more natural look that weathers to a beautiful silver-gray. Due to fire risks, wood roofing has declined in popularity, but new shingles and shakes are now treated with fire retardant, making them a safer option. Wood roofs are also a great option for high wind areas and for roofs with a steep pitch.

The lifespan of your wood roof is highly variable depending on your local climate, the type of wood used, and the thickness of the cut. Generally, the thicker the wood roof shingle, the longer lasting. Commonly made of cedar, wood shingles and shakes can be made of any rot resistant wood. Wood roof shingles come in a variety of grades, largely based on where the wood is cut from. If you are considering a wood roof, you’ll want to to pay a premium for quality wood. Here are the three different grades:

  • Blue Label Wood Roof Shingles: Blue Label or Premium Grade refers to wood roof shingles or shakes cut from heartwood, or the center of a tree. This is the strongest part of a tree. It must be 100% clear, meaning no knots or imperfections, and have 100% edge grain, meaning it is cut across the grain, radiating out from the center of the tree
  • Red Label Wood Roof Shingles: Red Label refers to wood roof shingles or shakes that contain some sapwood (found on the outer parts of a tree), and some flat grain (shingles cut with the grain, parallel to the center of the tree.) Red Label is inferior to Blue Label, but can be used in conjunction with the premium product.
  • Black Label Wood Roof Shingles: Black Label refers to utility grade wood roof shingles or shakes, and should not be used on residential homes. It has an unlimited amount of sapwood and flat grain allowance.

One of the primary benefits of a wood roof is its relatively low weight compared to other roofing materials. Compared to clay tiles or slate, wooden shingles weigh very little, yet still offer adequate strength and moisture protection. This light weight allows the shingles to be installed on standard roof framing, with no need to add extra strength and support to the structure.

Cost of Wood Shingles

Installation for a typical wood shingle roof is approximately $4 to $7 a square foot, while wood shakes, which are hand cut, are slightly more expensive at $6 to $9 a square foot. It’s important to note though that this estimate doesn’t include the cost of demolishing and removing an existing roof.

wood shingles

Eco-Friendly and Energy Efficient

Wood roofing is made from natural, renewable materials that are biodegradable. Wood offers some energy benefits, too. It helps to insulate the attic, and it allows the house to breathe, circulating air through the small openings under the felt rows on which wooden shingles are laid.

Maintenance of Wood Shingles

Wood shingles and shakes require periodic treatments with preservatives and fungicides in order to keep from drying out, warping, cracking and being attacked by mildew, insects, and fungus. Additionally, spray-on fire retardants don’t last more than a few years, so anticipate regularly recoating your roof to prevent your risk of fire.

Common Concerns with Wood Shingles

While the traditional look of wood is very popular, wood roofs do require regular maintenance, can be vulnerable to fire, and even with proper maintenance only last about 20 years. If you’re worried about the lifecycle of a wooden roof, you may want to explore synthetic shingles that resemble wood but require less maintenance, and are more weather-resistant, longer-lasting and fire resistant.If you live in California, Colorado, or Texas wood roofing may be banned in your municipality due to fire concerns. There may be exceptions if they are made out of pressure treated lumber which is more fire resistant. Check with your local town or state agency.

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