History of the Shingle Style

The shingle style began as an homage to the New England colonial style, overlaid on the popular Queen Anne movement, with nods to Japanese, Moorish and Art Nouveau motifs, making an exact shingle style hard to define.

Wood shakes or shingles are among some of the earliest types of wood siding. Shakes or shingles were first manufactured by felling trees on the property where the house stood. (Examples of hand-split shingles can still be found on historic buildings in New England). Over time, shingles were sawn, which allowed architects to design houses with shingles cut in various patterns, made famous by the Victorian era shingle style houses that were built in the 1880s to 1900s. If your house is a classic Cape Cod or Saltbox, then it probably has a simpler style of shingle work. If your house is Victorian or later, the shingling on your home is probably more elaborate. Read more:

Here are some articles that offer colorful looks into the shingled home's past.
Shingle Style Victorian Architecture and History of Shingle Style Homes  Patricia Poore

History of the Shingle Housing Style Jackie Craven

Buffalo as an Architectural Museum


Here are some links that can be helpful to you in planning your shingling project.

To find information about a prospective contractor:

The how-to's of installation

See our Top 10 List of Things You Need to Know About Sidewall Shingling.


Butt - The thick end of a shake or shingle.

Caulk - To fill a joint with a compound to prevent leaks.

Chalk line - A line made on the wall by snapping a taut string or cord dusted with chalk. Used for alignment purposes.

Class "B" - Fire-resistance rating that indicates materials are able to withstand moderate exposure to fire originating from sources outside the building.

Class "C" - Fire-resistance rating that indicates materials are able to withstand light exposure to fire originating from sources outside the building.

Course - The horizontal layer or row of shakes or shingles on the wall.

Course Line - The line created by next row of shingles or shakes.

Coverage - The area covered by a bundle of shingles or shakes at a given exposure.

Cross Grain - The grain runs from the front of the shingle to the back within 3" (75mm) of the length of the shingle in the area 6" (150mm) up from the butt.

Diagonal Grain - The grain does not run parallel to the edge of the shingles. It is a defect if it is slants more than 2" (50mm) sideways in 12" (300mm) of length.

Dry Rot - Deterioration of wood fibers caused by moisture intrusion for a long period of time.

Edge Grain - The wood is split or sawn at right angles to the annual growth rings. Also called vertical grain.

Exposure - The portion of the shake or shingle exposed to the weather.

Fasteners - Nails or staples used to secure shingles to the wall.

Felt - Fibrous material saturated with asphalt and used as an underlayment. This is sometimes called "tar paper" and is a moisture barrier to protect the walls.

Flashing - Materials used to waterproof a wall around any projections or critical leak areas.

Flat Grain - Splitting or sawing the wood along the annual growth rings.

Heartwood - The inner part of a tree not involved in the active life cycle, as opposed to the living sapwood.

R&R - Re-butted and Re-jointed means that the butts are trimmed smooth and square to the edges, which are trimmed straight and parallel, for a tailored and consistent look.

Sapwood - The outermost layer of a tree, under the bark, where the sap and nutrients flow in the living tree. Lighter in color and more susceptible to rot and decay than heartwood.

Sheathing - A layer of boards or of other wood or fiber materials applied to the outer studs, joists, and rafters of a building to strengthen the structure and serve as a base for an exterior weatherproof cladding.

Shingle - A thin piece of wood, usually oblong, laid in overlapping rows to cover the roofs and walls of buildings.

Sidewall - A wall that serves as the side of a structure.

Square: A unit of roof measure covering 100 square feet.

Tear-Off - Removal of existing siding materials down to the wall sheathing.

Tip - The thin end of a shingle.

Underlayment - A layer of asphalt saturated building paper which is installed on a bare wall before shingles are installed to provide additional protection for the wall.

Wood grain - The direction, texture, or pattern of fibers found in wood.


Answers to shingling questions we get most often...
Are shingles fire-safe? Can I have them if I live in a wooded area?

While it's necessary to check for the exact regulations in your county, cedar shingles are fire-safe and legal even in wooded areas. Here's a project that we did where the homeowner faced just that question.

What's the difference between shingles and shakes?

Shingles are thinner than shakes. They are cut tapered and sawn smooth on both sides giving them a more tailored appearance.

Shakes are thicker than shingles and come in two main types. Handsplit and resawn shakes have the split face exposed and are sawn on the back, giving a more rustic appearance. Tapersawn shakes are sawn on both sides for a semi-textured look, with a stronger shadowline than a shingle. Your sidewall shingler can show you examples of each.

Should I paint my shingles or leave them natural?

Part of the beauty of covering your home in red cedar shingles is the wood's natural color and weathering. That said, you may choose to paint or stain your shingles to blend into or enhance an existing color scheme — many people do. Once you stain them, they will need re-staining every three to five years. Painted finishes will last ten to twenty years.

I had shingles put on my roof, and it only took a few days. Why is shingling my home going to take so much longer?

In roofing, shakes or shingles can basically be laid out and nailed down. Skilled roofers can do 8 to 10 squares (1 square = 10'x10' day.) In sidewall shingling, each shingle is measured and cut to fit. The average for a top-notch sidewall shingler is half a square to two squares per day.

How long will it be before I have to replace my shingles?

Have your shingles hung by a licensed sidewall shingler, and they should last for the life of your home. If you've heard stories about shingles warping, leaking, or falling off, it was because they were not properly installed.

I received three significantly different proposals from contractors. How should I decide which contractor to select?

First, make sure you're comparing apples to apples. Have each contractor clearly detail:

  • The scope of work to be performed.
  • The quality and type of shingles.
  • What steps/materials will be used to prep the home.
  • What additional work needs to be done.
  • Approximate starting and completion dates.
  • Warranty and coverages.

Make sure the contractor is licensed to install sidewall shingling. (California law requires a special license to do this work.)

Find out how long they have been doing sidewall shingling. Ask to see their work/ speak to past clients.

Remember -- having your home shingled should be a once-in-a-lifetime event. It's worth your time, energy and money to do it right!

What's the worst that can happen from choosing the wrong sidewall shingler? Read this!

Do Western Red Cedar shingles make sense ecologically?

Yes, they do! Find out all the reasons why by reading the Green Benefits brochure from the Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau.

Want to know more about the shingling process?

Read our article featured on the cover in the Journal of Light Construction

JCL Magazine cover