Longer, thicker, heavier. Shakes provide an attractive alternative to traditional shingles.
Yellow Cedar is far less widely known and used than Western Red Cedar, yet it offers very similar performance characteristics. In fact in many areas Yellow Cedar is superior to Western Red Cedar.
Yellow Cedar grows along the Pacific coast of North America, from Oregon in the south up into Canada and as far north as Alaska. It shares a similar growing region to Western Red Cedar; however Yellow Cedar usually grows at higher elevations which can make access for logging difficult. This probably accounts for the fact that despite its abundance it does not have the widespread commercial availability of Western Red Cedar.
When most people think of cedar roofing they think of shingles, however there is another type of cedar roofing that has been around a lot longer called shakes. Shingles and shakes are similar in that they are both tapered pieces of wood primarily used as a roofing or cladding material for buildings, however there are differences between the two types which can have a subtle effect on the character of the building.
Historically cedar shakes were produced by splitting straight grained knot free sections of logs (called bolts) by hand with a mallet and froe or an axe to produce thin tapered sections with a rough irregular surface. It was necessary to hand dress each shake to smooth out the back surface to enable it to fit evenly on the roof. In the early 19th century production was revolutionised with steam powered saw mills which made possible the mass production of uniform shingles produced by sawing rather than splitting. These shingles had (and still have) smooth surfaces and an even taper.
What is the difference between Tapersawn and Handsplit?
With a thicker butt and longer length than shingles, cedar shakes are produced by cutting blocks from the log to the desired length. Shakes are then taper sawn to size on both sides in the same way a shingle in manufactured. They differ from shingles in two ways; at 450/610mm they are longer and at 15-19mm the butts are much thicker.
A shake roof has the same smooth textured look as a shingle roof but as shakes are thicker and heavier more defined shadow line is created.
With a thicker butt and longer length than cedar shingles, cedar shakes offer a rustic, rough look full of character due to being Hand split when manufactured.
Hand split shakes are produced by splitting cedar blocks with a hyrdaulically powered knife into straight boards, or blanks. The blanks are then sawn from corner to corner, producing two tapered shakes, each with a natural split face and a sawn back.
In the past the main difference between shingles and shakes was that shakes were thicker at the butt end and had a rough irregular texture giving a more rustic appearance. Nowadays a tapersawn shake is available which is produced in exactly the same way as a shingle – by sawing from blocks (or bolts) rather than splitting. The only difference is that the tapersawn shake has a thicker butt than a shingle, and they are longer (than most shingles).
Handsplit shakes are still available, though nowadays they are split with a hydraulic axe and sawn on the back to ensure an even fit. They still have the same unique rustic irregular texture as those produced by hand over 200 years ago.
Traditionally the more uniform cedar shingles were used as cladding and roofing on grand colonial style homes on the East Coast of the United States whereas shakes tended to be used on smaller cottages, cabins and more rustic styled buildings.
The shingle gives a flatter more tailored appearance whereas the shake gives a chunkier more characterful appearance. The shadow lines on each course are more defined on shake clad roof or wall and the overall appearance is thicker and heavier. The tapersawn shake has a flat uniform surface whereas the hand split shake has a rough irregular texture suitable for more rustic applications such as cabins.
Being thicker, shakes will last a bit longer and provide slightly better insulation than shingles.