Cedar Shingle Roofs - A Little History

November 29, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

Wood shingles have been used for over a hundred years to protect the homes across America.

The plentiful supply of forest in our country has made wood roofs very popular as a roofing covering. Over the years our American history is full of old mills that would make shingles and shakes out of red and white cedar, sugar pine, fir, oak, cypress and other types of wood. One of these shingle mills was called The North Pacific Consolidated Shingle Co. from Tacoma Wash. They distributed small handbills in the late 1800′s with details and testimonials about the Western Red Cedar Shingle. I own a couple of these handbills and they are very interesting to read about the product back in the 1800′s. It looks like for an sq. of 16 inch extra clear shingles would cost $3.55 FOB. Today's cost would be well into the $200.00 per sq. range. WOW have things changed.

One of the extracts from the brochure said, “Mr. H. L. Yesler was reported to say in an 1889 testimonial. I never saw these shingles wear out. They are on a homestead house, which is standing today near Front and James Street in Seattle that was put on in 1857.” That’s 32 years.

Now I have been a shingler my whole adult life and have rarely seen any wood-shingled roof that lasted that long. After doing some research and personal experience with cedar shingles and shakes, if the right conditions are present these roofs could last a very long time. I for years would buy cedar shakes and know the difference between heartwood, old and new growth, tight growth rings, edge trimmed, sapwood, cedar bolts, and logwood. Combining the installation on steep slopes of 8:12 or greater, 24 inches triple layered, with a width of not less than 3 inches and not more than 6 – 7 inches, with the use of copper flashings, 22-inch interlayment and courses with a 7-inch exposure. I think claims of a 50-year shake roof may be possible with the right climate and copper strips used to control moss and algae.

These little brochures have a ton of information in them but too much stuff to mention on this webpage without putting you to sleep. Below is an interesting drawing in one of the brochures showing a nineteen-foot diameter cedar stump with 18 men and 3 children on it. Hope you enjoy it.


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