A Guide To Shake Siding
In the mid-20th century, When home building in St. Paul was a less complicated business, the difference between ordinary shingles and cedar shakes was much clearer. It was a matter of production techniques: Shingles were cut with a saw while shakes were hand-split using a mallet and a fro.
Today’s cedar shingles are dimensionally consistent and virtually identical. Shakes still provide some variation, lending a home a classic appearance. In the past, shingle siding was an integral part of the Victorian ‘shingle style’ of home and the Arts and Crafts design movement. Gustav Stickley, the celebrated designer of Craftsman bungalows, is a prime example of a firm proponent of cedar shingles. Stickley homes often employed shingles for both siding and roofing use.
When installed properly, cedar shakes give a home a rustic, charming look. While the effect is raw and unsophisticated — well-suited to cottage-type homes — shakes can provide excellent protection to a home.
Modern cedar shakes are machine made and feature at least one saw-cut surface. Some manufacturers cut grooves into their shakes to make them look more like the hand-cut originals. These mass-produced shakes still exhibit the range of size variations common to their manually-created predecessors.
When it comes to practical results, the principle difference between shingles and shakes comes down to their size. Cedar shingles which all share common dimensions can be installed flat with minimal gaps between them. Due to their irregularity, shakes virtually always have a few gaps. These are vulnerable to penetration by driving rain. A felt underlayment is necessary to ensure that shake siding remains watertight.
Sadly, the very irregularity that makes cedar shakes popular sometimes leads to poor installations. Shake siding installers will sometimes skimp on the arrangement of shakes and allow the vertical joints in one course to line up the joints above or below it. This is prohibited by code; there is supposed to be at least a 1-1/2′ offest between the joints of adjacent courses. Where joints are allowed to overlap, a vulnerability is created and precipitation can penetrate directly to the felt under the shakes. This underlayment is not designed to serve as a primary weather barrier, and deeper moisture penetration is all too likely.
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St. Paul Shake Siding Installer