What is the difference between a wooden shake and a wooden shingle? Although both materials can be made from the same log, shakes and shingles are not the same thing. For example, shakes are generally installed as a siding facade, while shingles are usually installed on a roof. However, the installation is not the only difference between wood shakes and shingles. Today we will discuss what shakes and shingles are, how they differ, and what each is often used for.

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What is a Wood Shake?

Wood shakes are tapered slabs of wood, normally made from naturally rot resistant logs such as cedar or poplar, used to protect the exterior of a structure from water and damage. In most cases, the shakes are used as siding, with each shake overlapping the one below it to form a barrier against weather and impacts. Wood shakes should always be installed with corrosion resistant fasteners and finished with some type of sealer. Shakes can be formed either by a machine or by hand, and are often modified to fit a particular location, such as notching around an obstacle. Wood shakes will often have a natural texture on one side and a smooth texture on the other.

What is a Wood Shingle?

Wood shingles are also slabs of wood, usually made from naturally rot resistant logs. Wood shingles, however, are usually thinner than wood shakes and are generally smooth on both sides. Wood shingles are milled from a log, and tapered to direct rain and snow downward, away from the roof decking. Wood shingles are always installed with corrosion resistant fasteners, such as hot dipped galvanized nails or stainless steel staples.

Are Wood Shakes and Wood Shingles Interchangeable?

In most applications, wood shakes should not be used in place of wood shingles and vice versa. Because the two products are usually different thicknesses and shapes, one should not be used to repair the other either. As an example, wood shingles are often sawn on both sides because the shingle should lay as flat as possible on a roof, yet look uniform from the street. In contrast, wood shakes are considerably thicker than shingles, often split from the log (as opposed to sawn) and are usually rough on one side. If a shingle were to be replaced with a shake, the resulting difference in thickness would likely allow water to get under the adjacent shingles and cause water penetration.

Can I Use Wood Shakes On My Roof?

As a rule, no. One main reason why wood shakes should not be used on a roof is due to their texture. In a typical shake installation, the smooth side faces the structure and the rough side faces out. If shakes were used as shingles, the flat side of one shake would always face the rough side of the shake it is overlapping, resulting in gaps that could allow water infiltration. 

On the other hand, shingles need to lay as flat as possible, as this helps the shingles shed water and reduce or eliminate water penetration. Because one course of shingles needs to overlap the course below it, the shingles must taper from their full thickness to almost nothing. Because shingles must lay as flat as possible, they are milled on both sides (as opposed to being split), creating two flat surfaces. One side is then attached to the roof deck and the other faces out. Just as with other shingles, one end covers the fasteners of the course below it and the other end is covered by the course above. 

Can I Use Wood Shingles as Siding? 

Technically yes, but some professionals advise against it. One common reason why shingles should not be used as siding is the thickness. As described earlier, shakes are considerably thicker than shingles, providing significant resistance to inclement weather and impacts. Because shingles do not have the strength and durability of a shake, they tend to have a shorter life when used as siding. However, in some regions the practice is quite popular.

In the northeastern United States for example, where wood shingles are commonly used as siding, many siding installation companies will actually install two layers of shingles, overlapping adjacent joints. Obviously, this significantly increases both the materials and labor costs, but it solves the durability concern. Using this technique, the resulting siding will usually be closer to 1” in thickness, making it likely thicker and more durable than a shake installed in the same location. 

Can I Install Wood Shakes or Wood Shakes Myself?

Those do-it-yourselfers with a few tools and experience can install both wood shakes and wood shingles easily. In most installations, a few simple hand tools like a hammer, utility knife, and straightedge are all that is required. Especially in small repair projects, DIYers can replace damaged shingles or shakes by using a claw hammer or pry bar to gently remove the nails. Then, using the old shake or shingle as a pattern, a new piece can be trimmed and installed as a replacement.

Editorial Contributors
Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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