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Wood Shake Roof

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Repairs and Replacement if allowed by local codes

A shake is a basic wooden shingle made from split log "bolts." Shakes have traditionally been used for roofing and siding applications around the world. Higher-grade shakes (tighter grain) are typically used for roofing purposes, while the lower grades are used for siding. In either situation, properly installed shakes provide weather protection and a rustic appearance, though they require more maintenance than some other more modern weatherproofing systems.

The term shake is sometimes used as a colloquialism for all wood shingles, though shingles are sawn rather than split. In traditional usage, "shake" refers to the board to which the shingle is nailed, not the shingle. Split wooden shingles are referred to as shag shingles.

Modern wooden shingles, both sawn and split, continue to be made, but they differ from the historic ones. Modern commercially available shakes are generally thicker than the historic hand split counterpart and are usually left "undressed" with a rough, unfinished grain surface. The rough-surface shake is often considered to be more "rustic" and "historic", but in fact this is a modern architectural evolution.

Some modern shingles are produced in pre-cut decorative patterns, sometimes called fancy-cut shingles, and are available pre-primed for later painting. The sides of rectangular shingles may be re-squared and re-butted, which means they have been reworked so the sides are parallel and the butt is square to the sides. These are more uniform and are installed more neatly as a result.

Shingles are less durable than shakes, particularly in wet climates; shakes are finished with a drawknife or similar tool which leaves a smooth surface that resists water penetration, and this in turn slows the softening of wood by microorganisms. Also, the method of splitting shakes rather than sawing ensures only straight-grained pieces (which are much stronger and less likely to warp) are used.

In North America shakes are typically made from Western Red Cedar, which is becoming increasingly hard to source; nowadays a good portion of the cedar shakes on the market are imported from Canada and Alaska. California redwood and white cedars were historically used due to the rot resistant properties of the wood, but the trees are now rare and the wood is no longer available.

The main differentiating feature between shakes and other types of wood shingles is that shakes are split while most shingles are sawn on all sides. In North America shakes are usually made in 24-inch Likewise wooden shingles are manufactured in differing lengths in North America: 16-inch, 18-inch and 24 inches.

Many jurisdictions along the Colorado Front Range, in the mountains, and even out on the edge of the prairie (Black Forest, Elbert County) have curtailed the use of real wood shakes and shingles due to the fire danger inherent to roofing a house with kindling wood. Some areas, like Douglas County and Boulder County, for example, prohibit even the repair of wood roofs, instead requiring complete replacement if any portion of the roof fails.

In addition, many insurance companies are cancelling homeowner policies that involve wood roofs, not only due to increased fire risk, but because to replace a wood roof from hail or other damage requires "like kind and quality"; a triple laminate/extra thick shingle is the accepted replacement and can easily cost double a regular shingle roof replacement.

As the product becomes increasingly rare and obsolete, so do the skill sets that can replace or repair wood roofs (these are also the same skills that are required to install modern composite faux wood shakes) where it is allowed by local codes. Our primary roofer has been repairing and replacing wood shake and wood shingle roofs in Colorado for over 25 years. Another of our staff comes from Oregon and actually split cedar shakes for a summer job as a kid, and has adjusted and settled many wood roof claims both as a contractor and insurance claims rep.

Hail damage to wood roofs is difficult to determine and is largely subjective; call us on 303.495.4828 first before filing a insurance claim on a wood roof, to make sure it is worth the effort and the risk of potential for cancellation.

Be sure to call or email the Wood Roof Experts before you talk to anyone else regarding the repair or replacement of your cedar shake roof.