Cedar Shakes

Cedar Shakes

Cedar Shakes

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A roof of shakes is an investment in good looks, good taste and longevity. Shakes and a proud architectural tradition. They complement any building style, beautifully and naturally. Whether you prefer classic wood roofing, more intricate weaved roofing or rolled eves, cedar shakes and shingles add distinctive elegance to any structure. A roof of shakes resists high winds, heavy rains, ice, snow and sun. Over the years, cedar weathers to an attractive silver-grey color while helping to keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter. Cedar roofing is unmatched in beauty, durability, and value. It insulates homes five times better than competitive products, adds structural integrity, defends against high winds and hailstorms.

Western Red Cedar (Thuya plicata) is one of the four major species which flourish in the coastal forests of British Columbia and because of its exceptional durability has become known as arbour-vitae ‘The Tree of Life’. For centuries it played an integral part in the lives of the indigenous native population. Its straight grain, workability and resistance to decay were significant assets in the wet and variable climate of the Pacific North West. Their totem poles and lodges, now part of the protected heritage of the original native culture, still stand in numerous national and provincial parks of British Columbia as evidence of the important part that Western Red Cedar has played in its cultural history.

Western Red Cedar shakes and shingles are renowned for their insulation qualities, dimensional stability and natural resistance to the elements. The species Western Red Cedar contains a natural preservative which makes the wood uncommonly durable in its natural state. It will however readily accept pressure preservative or fire retardant treatments where required for enhanced durability or fire safety. Treatments for durability or fire safety are available direct from industry sources. Western Red Cedars unique cellular composition makes a roof or wall of shakes or shingles a natural barrier to heat and cold, providing a high degree of thermal insulation. Proper application of shakes or shingles gives outstanding rigidity and resilience against high winds and pounding hail.

Recent concerns about the environmental impact of the production and use of building materials have focused the attention of architects and builders on the need to specify products which minimize atmospheric pollution and are produced from renewable resources. Western Red Cedar and other species in British Columbia’s forests are harvested under a sustained yield policy which guarantees forest regeneration and biological diversity. Shake and Shingle production, which is virtually pollution free, is a secondary operation utilizing waste residuals from British Columbia’s main logging and sawmilling industry. Clearly Western Red Cedar Shakes and Shingles are the optimum environmental choice of cladding materials.

There are basically three different types of products: hand-split shakes, taper-sawn shakes and wood shingles. Shakes are typically made of cedar, spruce or treated pine. Hand-split shakes have a rough, textured look on the front and often smooth on the back. Wood shingles are machine sawn smooth on both sides. Like shingles, shakes are roofing material is taken from cedar. The difference is that shakes are split and sawn again or split by hand. A resawn shake has one side that is left with a natural irregular grain look and one side that is cut thinner to give the tapered shape. Hand split shakes are tapered as well but typically have more natural, textured look. Shakes are separated by thickness, which are classified as either heavy or medium and are sold in lengths of 18 inch or 24 inch. Generally, cedar is the highest performing wood for making shakes. But, treated pine shakes also perform well. Shakes are brown or reddish in color when new, but usually fade in the first year to a gray color.

Cedar Shakes and Cedar Shingles have quality variances that make choosing Cedar like Russian Roulette. The age of the raw cedar wood and the tightness of the edge grain (if any) varies depending on the log boom arriving at the mill that day. And normally Old Growth Wood is not used as often, as the forestry companies are getting banned from Old Growth Forests, and the age of the wood being harvested today is getting younger and less dense. At the best of times and log choices, Tapersawn shakes get the low pick of the log pile as the grain of the wood is not as important in this fully machine-made product. Hand-Split Shakes tend to get the better logs as the tightness of the grain is far more important in the splitting the cedar processes. Hand-Split shakes also breathe better on the roof due to their rough nature, and therefore have greater life expectancies.

Hand-split shakes have two grades: Premium (all edge grain) and Grade 1 (up to 20 percent of the shakes can be flat grain, which is more susceptible to curling).

Taper-sawn shakes are as thick as hand-split shakes and are sawn smooth on both sides. They come in three grades: Premium and Grades 1 and 2.

Average dry weight per square: 160 to 320 lbs.

Average wet weight per square: 320 to 560 lbs.

American shakes are made from western redcedar, either handsplit or handsplit and then resawn. They are longer and thicker than shingles, so the exposure (the part that shows) of a shake is greater than that of a shingle. Thickness ranges from 3/8 inch to 1ј inches. Widths may be random. Standard lengths are 18 inches and 24 inches, with a special 15-inch length for starter-finish courses and a very large 32-inch shake.

There are three styles of shake. Shake making begins by cutting a blank the length the shakes will be. Pieces are split off this blank using a mallet and a kind of wedge called a froe; it is the splitting that gives shakes their attractive texture. If the blank is turned end for end after a shake has been split off, the resulting shakes will be tapered. They are called Taper-split. If all the splitting is done from the same end of the blank, the shakes have no taper and are Straight-split. The taper of Hand-split and Resawn shakes comes from sawing straight-split shakes in half diagonally. There is only a single grade of shake: #1. They must be 100% clear. Hand-split and Resawn shakes are graded from the split face; hand-split shakes are graded from the best face.

Like shingles, shakes are sold by the square, enough for 100 square feet of finished roof, but while a square of shingles consists of 4 bundles, a square of shakes may contain 5 and even, for the 32 length, 6 bundles. It’s easy to see why; such a square weighs 450 pounds.


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