When a homeowner first contemplates the type of roofing materials they would like to shingle a roof which they often think of composite asphalt shingles and the more and more common metal roofing option. While these two are extremely viable options, there are many other options available to the homeowner. One of the best roofing options that adds a rugged, rustic and vintage charm to any home is wooden shake roofing. This type of roofing material, usually made from split cedar logs, has many positive features and is one of the more environmentally friendly roofing options.
Wooden roofing has been in practice for hundreds of years as wood was essentially the only house building choice in many areas. Today wooden shingles are often commonly found in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, areas that carry on the tradition after a long history of use. In Europe the wood of choice is often Pine while in the United States the choice is usually Western Red Cedar. In the United States, shakes are often 18 or 24 inches long while Scandinavian and Eastern European shakes are often 13 to 16 inches long. In America shakes are very often used in house siding as well.
While often called shingles, wooden shakes differ from wooden shingles. Shakes are handmade, often split from a log, and their appearance is thicker and rougher than wooden shingles which are sawn making them thinner and smoother in appearance. Both wooden roofing types are sawn, cut, or split from the unused parts of other logging projects or from dead but viable and high quality trees. Shakes and shingles are often the best quality when they come from the heartwood, or central wood, of large aged trees. Shakes are often used for making a home take on a rugged ambiance while shingles are used to give a home a more ginger-bread house feel. Shakes have a life-span of 50 years while shingles only have a life span of no more than 15 years.
Because of the general nature of wood, shakes are not flame retardant unless pressure treated with a commercial grade flame retardant. Unfortunately, there are no government fire ratings or testing standards and therefore care must be taken to ensure the fireproofing of the shakes. Actually in some areas prone to fires, wooden shakes are banned from use, so it is wise for a homeowner to check city and state ordinances for laws against the use of shakes before arranging installation. However, some home owners favor the flammability shakes have as house fires will quickly burn through the roof allowing for a quicker and safer evacuation without the threat of a large roof collapse versus a flame resistant roof that will trap the fire and poisonous gases inside a quickly deteriorating house with a heavy fully intact roof sitting on it.
Also because of the general nature of wood, shakes do attract fungus and mold, especially in humid climates. Fortunately, the width and texture of shakes make it easy for air circulation between each piece thus allowing for free movement of air. The air circulation prevents decay-causing moisture buildup under the shakes (the passage of air also allows the house itself to breathe, thus allowing for easier cooling). Though this is a fortunate ability of shakes, a home owner should still look into having the shakes treated with fungicide a year after having them installed.
The installation of shakes is often rather expensive, making wooden shake roofing a high-end home-improvement venture. A trained and seasoned professional is essentially the only considerable option for the installation process; shake roofing is not a do-it-yourself project. Maintenance of the shakes is essential to keep the shakes safe and viable for as long as possible. Prone to insects, cracking, and decay the maintenance of shakes tends to be expensive over the lifetime of the shakes. Though more expensive than other roofing options, shake roofing is one of the most beautiful and unique options available. No two shakes are alike, adding to the uniqueness of the roof. Few other roofing choices offer an earthy, rustic beauty and absolutely no other roofing choices offer the kind of rugged ancient Scandinavian and Eastern European mystique that wooden shakes offer.