How to Install Cedar Roof Shingles to
Ensure a Leak Free Review and to Maximize their Lifespan
By: Mark J. Donovan
Cedar roofing shingles and shakes offer a number of advantages over other
roofing materials. Cedar roofing shingles provide a natural elegance and
have excellent insulation properties compared to other shingle products. In
addition, in some cases it may be possible to install cedar roof shingles
over existing roofing material. Cedar roof shingles are insect resistant and
are extremely durable and strong. As a matter of fact, installing cedar roof
shingles actually strengths the structural integrity of the roof. Cedar
shingles can have a lifespan from 20 to 40 years depending upon the local
weather environment, the slope of the roof, and how regularly the shingles
The more arid the climate and the steeper the roof slope the longer the lifespan
of the cedar shingles. Cedar shingle maintenance is minimal. Periodically
cleaning and the application of a protective finish should be applied to them to
maximize their lifespan.
To install cedar roof shingles start by making sure dry weather is in the
forecast. To prepare the roof for the cedar shingles first apply roofing felt
interlay paper over the roof battens. When installing cedar shingles on the roof
make sure the thick side of the shingle is placed towards the bottom. Also
always start at the bottom of the roof, at the roof eaves, when installing cedar
roof shingles, and work upwards to the ridge. Also, at the roof eaves the cedar
shingles should be doubled or tripled.
The first course of shingles should extend approximately 1-1/2”
beyond the fascia board and about 1 inch over the gable or rake end of the roof.
Two non-corrosive nails should be used for each shingle. The nails should be
installed approximately ¾ inch in from the side edges and about 1-1/2” above the
exposure line. When installing a course of cedar shingles, there should be
spacing of approximately ¼ of an inch between adjacent shingles, and no more
than 3/16 inch. The spacing is required for expansion due to moisture. Also,
each course of cedar shingles should have its joints at least a minimum of ½
inch away from adjacent courses above and below it.
This is necessary to ensure a leak free roof. Additionally, use a chalk line
and snap a line for each new course of shingles to ensure straight courses.
When installing lower grade cedar shingles that contain both vertical and flat
grains, make sure joints are not aligned with centerline of heart. Also, any
shingle with knots or similar defects should be used such that the knot or
defect is on the outside edge of the shingle. Also, the course of shingles above
the defective shingle should have joints such that they are at least 1-1/2 inch
away from the defect area. Finally, any flat grain shingle that has a width
greater than 8 inches should be split into two pieces before nailing.
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