Cedar shingles are commonly used for roofing and siding on homes and business properties, and are currently enjoying a comeback thanks to many factors.

Roof shingles are relatively easy to install, once finished they look very attractive and they are particularly durable. You dont need to be an experienced, qualified roofer to install a cedar shingle roof. but it is important to follow certain guidelines to prevent costly errors.

How to Lay Cedar Shingles Preparation is Key

So as not to waste money, its vital to measure the area that you will be attaching the shingles to. Remember to measure the width of your roof and then from the bottom edge right up to the highest peak.

Using these figures, you can then go about calculating the amount of wood shingles that you will need. You can work out the square footage by multiplying these two different measurements together. So as an example, if your roof is 35 feet long and the distances from the eave to highest peak is 20 feet you should multiply 35 X 20 and will need 700 square feet to cover this area.

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The next step is to repeat this calculation for each individual section of your roof and thereby calculate the separate square footage for each area. Once you have written everything down, add an extra 10 percent to allow for wastage which will ensure that you dont run short. You should then divide the final number by 100 to figure out the number of shingles you will need.

How many square feet does a bundle of cedar shingles cover

Note that shingles are sold in squares, a square covers 100 square feet, however, it takes three bundles of shingles to make a square, so one bundle makes about 33.3 square feet. Please also note that the exposure or space between each row of shingles will also determine the number required, please see the table below.

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Things to do Before you Start:

If your roof already has shingles and youre aim is to recover these, then its important to look for any missing nails and replace them where necessary. Remove any loose dirt and debris such as dust or foliage by using a pressure washer on a low setting. Allow the old shingles to dry out completely before beginning the fresh installation. This maintenance must be carried out before adding any new shingles to provide a reliable base for the new wood.


If your existing shingles are in a state of disrepair, it is always wise to completely remove them before beginning the new installation. A crowbar will allow you to remove them with minimal effort. Likewise, if your roof already has a layer of shingles, you should remove them beforehand and apply a covering of new roof felt to act as a good base before shingling.

How to Lay Cedar Shingles

  1. Always begin at the lower edge of the roof. Place the first row of shingles so they overhand the roof by at least 1 ½ inches. This is to ensure rain water runs off into guttering. When you lay the first row, remember to place the thin end facing the top of the roof, or the peak. Fix the shingles to the roof with 2 nails positioned around 1 inch from the sides on the shingle and about 4 inches from the top. As you lay the first row of shingles, space them out with a gap of ¼ inch or 3/8 inch. This allows for natural expansion and contraction.
  2. For the next and all subsequent courses of shingles, you must lay them with the thick end pointing towards the bottom edge of the roof. As you lay these shingles you need to make sure they cover the gap you left on the first row by a minimum of 1 ½ inches.
  3. As you work your way up the roof, you must have a straight line to work from in order to ensure you lay the shingles accurately. Do this by snapping a chalk line across the roof from end to end marking the top edge of the following row of shingles. Leave about 4 or 5 inches of exposure so therell be plenty of overlap over the lower row. As you lay this row and subsequent rows, remember to leave a small gap between each shingle for expansion and overlap the shingle over the lower row by 1 ½ inches so they develop a staggered effect. When you reach the end of a row, trim the shingle to the right width.
  4. Continue using the snapped chalk line to lay each row of shingles, but as you approach the top of the roof you should place roofing felt on the peak before you lay your final course of shingles.
  5. Finally, tidy up the shingle edges with a small hand plane so they match the angle at the peak of the roof.

Depending on where you live, you may need to add galvanized flashing and you should never use ordinary run-of-the-mill nails as they can rust over time and leave unsightly staining on your shingles. Specialized galvanized roofing nails are an investment because they are so durable and wont corrode.

When doing your installation, always wear rubber soled shoes when walking on your roof to avoid slipping, and hire a safety harness and helmet for extra protection. Cedar shingles should always be stored in a dry, well aired place and should be completely covered overnight and stored on a wooden pallet rather than on the ground.

If you install your cedar roof correctly, it will need very little maintenance and can last between 20 and 40 years. If you decide not to treat it, the cedar will take on a lovely silvery grey patina in the years to come.

Prefinished Cedar Shingles

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