Wood shingles are a very old style of shingle, which were used primarily in North American colonies and throughout Europe. Nowadays, modern wooden shingles continue to be made. Before further discussing wooden shingles, a distinction needs to be made between wood shingles and wood shakes.
Shingles versus shakes
Shingles are much thinner than shakes and the more refined of the two. They are smooth on both sides (sanded-like appearance). These can be used on roofs as well as sidewalls. They come in different grades which alter their appearance. On the other hand, shakes are much thicker. The face of the shake has a rustic, irregular, more natural look to them while the back is smooth. They are recommended for steeper roofs. Shingles are easier to install because they lie precisely flat on the roof.
You would assume that the refined look of wooden shingles is the more modern style of the two due to its polished smooth look. That is now the case as wooden shakes are now has a reputation as a modern design and is being used more and more on custom homes. You can purchased them in pre-cut decorative designs which you can prime later.
The most common wood for wooden shingles is cedar because cedar trees are a very durable species of trees. Others types of wood can be used but must first be treated. It is extremely important to find a reputable manufacturer that produces quality-made shingles.
The large shingle manufacturers (such as Timberline, Owens Corning, Tamko) do not specialize in wood shingles. These manufacturers specialize in the traditional asphalt shingles. If you are looking for wood shingles or shakes, it is best to purchase them from a local manufacturer. There are hundreds of local manufacturers across the United States and Canada that specialize in high quality, weather resistant wood shingles. These manufacturers are primarily located on the West Coast (British Columbia, California, Washington), where cedar is prevalent.
It is necessary to find a roof contractor that has experience installing these type of shakes. The majority of contractors deal exclusively with asphalt shingles and will tend to recommend these as they are easier to install. If you are adamant on installing wooden shakes, it is important to find a roof installer that has experience (hopefully years of experience) installing them or else you may suffer from a botched installation. A roof contractor with experience will know where to purchase the highest quality ones.