First things first. Timber shakes or shingles? Lots of people use those terms interchangeably, but while they are both used in roofing, wooden shingles and shakes are different. The key lies in their manufacturing.
Roof Shingles are sawn on both sides and have a tapered butt to ease installation. Shingles can be made of any building material, from slate to plastic.
Roof Shakes are hand-split on one or both sides, and therefore thicker. They are always made of wood.
The manufacturing of shakes and shingles means they have a different look as well. Being sawn, wood shingles are thinner and more discrete, with a cross-grain texture. Split shakes, however, have a more rustic feel and follow the grain more closely. For that reason, some clients like to experiment with the look and feel for architectural projects in order to achieve the unique mood and style they are after.
Benefits of timber shingles and shakes
Put simply: roofing and cladding. Timber shingles and shakes as building elements have been around for centuries, if not millennia. Historically, they have always served an insulation purpose; today, Roof shingles and shakes add a lot to the aesthetic of a project as well.
Wood Shakes especially add a rugged, uneven charm to roofing projects. This emphasises natural beauty, ideal for restoration projects where the goal is to preserve the rustic look of the building. The gaps between shakes make them a very ‘breathable’ roofing option, as the air circulation means water vapour can escape. Just make sure there are layers beneath to prevent wind and rain from getting in!
Shingles, by contrast, always look smooth and uniform; being thinner, more ergonomic and easier to install makes them perfect for modern projects. Stacking shingles also adds thermal protection.
Western Red Cedar, Larch, and Oak shingles and shakes are green as well. Well, they’re reddish brown, but also Green, because as a natural and renewable resource they are some of the most environmentally friendly roofing materials available. We source all our timber responsibly and in a forest-friendly way.
So, shingles and shakes are:
- Environmentally friendly
- Renewable resource: one of only two renewable roofing products, the other being thatch.
- Durable – life expectancy of up to 50 years dependant on species
- Low Carbon footprint
- Good insulating properties
- European product (for larch and oak)
- Low maintenance
Which woods are best for timber shingles and shakes:
We offer a variety of woods for shakes and shingles, including western red cedar, oak, larch, and robinia (the latter available on special request only).
Larch: durable, fragrance-free, golden and a softwood like cedar, larch needs no treatment. Exposed to the elements, it will eventually fade to a silver colour.
Oak: traditional; insulating; durable; weather-resistant. Particularly good in ecclesiastical cladding projects for weather resistance and high exposure.
Robinia: extremely hard and durable, it resists to rot and weather like no other.
Western red cedar: lightweight; insulating; environmentally friendly. Sometimes also known as ‘shinglewood’, though not because it’s been dumped.
For best and most long-lasting results, we recommend investing in products that are not ‘off-the-shelf’. All timber shakes will also help to keep out the worst of the summer heat. Originally a red-brown colour, untreated shakes and shingles will eventually reach a cool, silvery grey that will help to blend in with forested or green areas.
For projects such as the restoration of church spires, our Bavarian business partner Harald Rapold (for whom we are the sole UK distributors of their shake products) favours a wood he christened Peter Harknett Oak Shake, after the renowned steeplejack.
The best wood grain to cut shakes and shingles from is edge grain (cut perpendicular to the tree’s rings). Extremely stable, durable, and strong.
How WLWest can help with roof shingles and shakes:
Today’s technology allows for a wide variety of sizes, finishes and styles. Properly cared for, roof shingles and shakes can last half a century. We therefore recommend being very precise with the materials you choose. We remain happy to offer suggestions and expert advice in response to any queries. Please do contact us here if we can assist with your project.