Cedar Shingle Siding — Home Restoration

Cedar Shingle Siding - Home Restoration

Residing a house with wooden shingles is not nearly as easy as it was 100 years ago. Not every contractor knows how to apply wooden shingles properly, there are many kinds of wooden shingles to choose from (not necessarily true in the Capital District but in the Northeast it is true) and not every lumber yard carries them. I found this last piece of information out the hard way. My first stop was my very trusty lumber yard, Curtis Lumber.  I like using them, they normally have a good selection, the quality of the lumber is usually good, I get good information and their prices are fair. This time, however, they dropped the ball.  I spoke to the salesperson and told him that I was looking for 24 squares of cedar shingles (a square is made up of 4 bundles and should cover 100 sq. ft. of house).  He took me out to the warehouse where there was a jumble of different kinds of shingles. When I mentioned that they looked like different styles and grades, he told me they are all the same. Well, they’re not. Here’s the full scoop.

The 2 most common types of cedar shingles are red cedar and white cedar. Red cedar lasts longer and doesn’t have to be painted and it weathers over the years to a brownish color. The downside is that there is so much tannin in the red cedar that some of it leeches out through the nail holes and you will see black splotches. It’s also more expensive than the other kind which is white cedar. White cedar also doesn’t have to be painted and it weathers over the years to a gray color. There is less tannin in the white cedar so there is less black splotches. It’s cheaper than red cedar. I couldn’t even find white cedar anywhere in the Albany area.  And I called everywhere! Many places said they could order it special but said it would take at least a month to get them. That was too long for us to wait.

In addition to the red and white cedar, there are different grades of shingle. Some companies call them grades A,B,C,D. Some call them Extra (the best) and Clear (only a few knots above the nail line). And there is something called R&R (rebutted and resided) to be on the lookout for. All this means is that the shingles are trimmed a second time so the their sides and bottom are smooth instead of rough. I think this is a nicer, cleaner look.

Then there is the painting or staining issue. This is where it got very complicated. The cheapest shingle of either red or white of any grade are called Green. That means they were cut fairly recently. And if you’re going to paint or stain shingles you should not choose the Green ones unless you are going to wait a year for the shingles to dry out. So if you’re going to paint of stain you need Kiln Dried shingles (this process costs extra). They also sell primed (already Kiln Dried) and shingles with one or two coats of paint of stain (these are very, very expensive).

Pricing – the prices were all over the map and when I did get prices the vendors were not specific about whether I was getting Green or Kiln Dried shingles. Some vendors didn’t even mention the grade (A,B,C,D). So it was a very rough process getting all this figures out.

So that’s shingling 101.

Cedar Shingle Siding - Home Restoration

Here’s some photos of some sample shingles. I believe our house has red cedar on it now and it looks like the shingles were painted once they were on the house. The dotted line is meant to indicate what you will actually see exposed so anything below the dotted line is exposed on the house. Knots that are above the dotted line won’t be seen and the shingles with knots are cheaper so it’s not the worst idea in the world to use a slightly cheaper grade as long as no knots show.

The next photo shows the R&R shingles. Notice how the bottom of the red cedar shingle has a rough bottom and the white cedar shingle has a smooth bottom. I like the smooth ones better.

Here’s another photo showing another angle. Imagine thousands of these shingles on the house and that smooth textured bottom is going to make a difference in how the house looks.

I’ll tell you where we got our shingles in my next post. I’m still working it out since I wasn’t able to buy locally even though I tried.

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