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4 Tips to Choosing Wood Shingles & Wood Shakes for Exterior Siding

Siding your home can be a big investment. Choosing siding that adds value and curb appeal just makes sense. Real wood shingles are an excellent choice.

Shingles are thin, tapered pieces of wood primarily used for covering roofs and walls of buildings. There are several types of shingles, and wood species to choose from. Shingles offer a distinct aesthetic and a range of practical benefits.

History of Wood Shingle Siding

Hand-split wood shingles were used for roofing by the early settlers in our country. In the 1800’s, steam-powered sawmills revolutionized shingle fabrication; hand-splitting was no longer necessary.

Mass production of uniform, smooth, tapered shingles heralded new design ideas using shingles for wall siding, creating Shingle Style architecture, including Queen Anne and Gothic.

Shingle Style Architecture 1900’s

As sawmill technology continued to improve, shingle wall siding was over-shadowed by plank siding popularity in the 20th century. But wood shingles never completely disappeared. They have always been a New England and coastal favorite.

And, as eco-friendly building practices become increasingly more popular wood shingles are picking up steam as a true eco-friendly option.

1 - Differences between wood shingles & wood shakes

Styles of Cedar Shingle Siding and Cedar Shakes Siding

Cedar shingles are available as sawn shingles, the most common type for wall siding. They are thin with a smooth, uniform appearance. 

Cedar Shingle Siding

Split shingles, known as shakes, are usually thicker than shingles and have a rougher, more rustic texture. 

Cedar Shake Siding

Taper sawn shingles are a shingle/shake hybrid, sawn both faces and thicker than a shingle. They have a textured look with a smoother finish than shakes.

Cedar Taper Sawn Shingles

2 – Species: Types of Wood Shingle Siding

The most important consideration for wood shingles is durability and longevity. Some woods, like Western Red Cedar, are naturally durable while others are chemically enhanced to create durability. Picking the right wood species for your investment is important consideration.

Western Red Cedar Shingles

Western Red Cedar shingles are the most popular wood shingles throughout the U.S., and the easiest to find. WRCedar shingles offer a warm, rustic aesthetic but fit easily into any design style. Widely used on gables to contrast plank siding, giving depth and texture, many designers, builders, and homeowners elect to have this rich, textured look as full wall siding.

They’ve been a perennial favorite on coastal homes and buildings, attesting to their rugged nature to withstand extreme weather conditions. WRCedar shingles are rot and insect resistant. They weather well, if left unfinished, to a beautiful silvery-gray patina. To maintain the rich reddish-brown hue, they can be finished with a clear coat or stain.

Yellow Alaskan Cedar and Eastern White Cedar Shingles

Yellow Alaskan Cedar and Eastern White Cedar shingles are available. As the names imply, Alaskan Yellows have a yellow tone, and Eastern Whites have a white hue. Both lean toward being regional favorites. They have very good durability and take paint and stain well.

Redwood, Cypress, and Pine Shingles

Redwood, Cypress, and Pine shingles can be purchased, but, as regional favorites, are not as widely manufactured and you won’t have many options for vendors and price comparisons. 

Redwood Shingle Siding

Redwood shingles are out there…you might have to do a bit more searching to find them. They are more popular in the west and north west where redwood is indigenous.

Redwood shingles should be finished to maintain the rich redwood hues and unless the shingles comes from salvaged, old-growth redwood, they need to be protected against moisture. Redwood shingles can be 5% to 15% more expensive than cedar shingles.

Cypress Shingle Siding

Cypress is a southern U.S. wood grown in wet, swampy areas. As southerners are familiar with cypress, it is most commonly used in the south. Cypress varies from pale yellow to light brown in color, takes stain and paint well, and will need to be maintained to protect wood tones.

Because of their limited availability, they are on the higher-end of the cost spectrum.

Pine Shingle Siding

Southern Yellow Pine shingles are available, but like all pine products for exterior use, durability and longevity are not their best quality, price is. They may be more affordable, but they won’t last as long as any of the other wood species.

To overcome pine’s tendencies to cup, split, and rot it is often impregnated with a water repellant and chromated copper arsenate or ammoniacal copper quaternary preservative to increase the lifespan. These processes can be toxic and not eco-friendly. Southern Yellow Pine shingles seem to have a more regional following, along the southern seaboard.

Red Cedar Shingles, Stained

3 - Wood Shingle Siding Pros & Cons

As noted in the previous paragraphs, wood species is critical to the quality and durability of the shingles if you’re comparing the best wood shingle siding options.


The life span of western red cedar shingles is 40-60 or more years. Only hardwood shingles could possibly give you longer wear life. However, hardwood shingles are difficult to find, very expensive, heavier, and harder to work with.

The normal overlapping of shingles, generally 3 layers installed, provides exceptional weather protection for your home.


Wood shingles, especially cedar, are a good thermal and sound insulator. Less heat escapes from your home in the winter and less cool air escapes during the summer months. And it’s a great barrier to city or traffic noises.

Design Options

Modern milling technology offers custom design and precision cutting allowing for flexible and creative design options, giving homeowners an opportunity for unique and personalized styles.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

The environmental impact of building materials is an important consideration in today’s eco-friendly climate. Homeowners are increasingly interested in using sustainable materials. Real wood shingles are a natural, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable, eco-friendly building material.

You can find wood shingles that are made from recycled wood, salvaged wood shingles from vintage projects, and shingles milled from wood that’s been certified for responsible forestry management (FSC, SFI, PEFC).

4 – Installation Finishing and Maintenance

How to install wood shingle siding

Installing wood shingles is really a job for professionals. It is more labor intensive than installing plank siding. However, if you’re an experienced DIYer you may be able to install shingle wall siding with good step-by-step instructions, available from your vendor or on the internet.

How to finish your wood shingle siding

Wood shingles have the potential to crack, split, cup, or curl as they age. UV and weather affect the aging process of wood. Finishing your shingle siding with a clear coat, stain or paint will protect it from potential issues.

Clear coats and stains can guard against UV and moisture issues and will preserve wood tones. Prime and paint offers the highest level of protection, with the longest life and minimal maintenance. Opt for mill pre-finishing  as it is less expensive than on-site finishing.

How to maintain your wood shingle siding

A good maintenance plan will aid in the longevity of the shingles. It includes a yearly inspection and general cleaning to remove dust, dirt, and debris that can damage your wood or wood finish. Deep cleaning and refinishing, when necessary, will preserve your wood and the wood’s natural beauty.

To achieve a silvery-gray patina, you can allow UV rays to weather the shingles or you can help the weathering process along with a weathering stain. Wood continues to weather throughout the life of the wood.

Natural weathering requires a good inspection and general cleaning each year. If your wood is weathered to a patina you love, at that point you can protect it from additional UV weathering and moisture by applying a protective sealant, which requires periodic re-application.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Wood shingles offer a beautiful and functional option for exterior cladding, especially for those seeking a natural, aesthetic with a touch of rustic charm.

Wood shingles are making a comeback because of their eco-friendly nature, rich visual textures, and custom design options.

Choose wood shingles milled from a durable, long-lasting wood, like Western Red Cedar. They can last 40 to 60 years and beyond, with proper installation and maintenance.

A good maintenance plan, for both weathered shingles and finished shingles, will prolong the wood’s life span.

Wondering where to buy cedar shakes or cedar shingle siding? If you’re considering real wood shingles on your new home or reno project, check with a mill specialist for information and pricing.

Until next time, Wood Lovers.

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