Sunday, February 21, 2016

Cedar Shingles

Some people like cedar shingles and others don't.  They are not everyone's cup of tea.  I love the look but it is a tedious and slow procedure when it comes to installing them.  We are a lot faster now than when we first started reshingling our home but fast we are not.

But today was ssssllllloooooooooow going.  Why?  Because every shingle in this bundle was cut crooked.  Not one of them was square.  It's important to have the shingles butt up against each other without a gap.  Even if you immediately prime and paint, the shingle will still shrink as it dries out. If you start with a gap and then the shingle shrinks, you will have a Donald Trump size huuuuuuuge gap.

Installing cedar shingles does not require a lot of expensive tools.  You will probably already have these tools somewhere in your tool arsenal.  Chop saw or miter saw, hammer, sand paper, level, square, pencil, lots and lots of shingle nails (not roof nails), ladder, tape measure, maybe even a small hand plane to fine tune the edge of the shingle, scrap length of board to use as a ledge, tweezers for pulling out slivers in your fingers (no lie, I have one right now that is bugging the heck out of me), and lots and lots of patience.

Shingles can be installed with various exposures.  Our house has a shingle exposure of 10 inches and we stayed with that. I've noticed that houses with wider shingles tend to have the larger exposures and those that use just the smaller width shingles have the narrower smaller exposures.  This might just be my personal opinion but wider shingles and larger exposures look more casual than the smaller shingles.  Our house is a Cape Cod style home which is more casual than say a Victorian.

It is important that your rows are level.  We've tried several methods and have found that the easiest method is to nail a ledger board to the house.  We use a thin nail at each end of the board and do not drive the nail completely into the wood.  Drive the nail just enough to secure the board.  After placing your board at the correct location, drive in one nail.  Then place a long level on the board to insure that your ledger board is indeed level and then drive in a nail at the other end.
If you use various width shingles make sure you do not develope a pattern.  You want the shingles to look like they are random without a pattern.  Sometimes it is easy to grab those wide shingles because you can cover more ground with a wide shingle but I have found that a bundle of shingles will have maybe 6 really wide shingles with the vast majority of the shingles being 5 inches wide.  Try to use those wide shingles wisely.  Also keep your edges staggered so that one shingle's edge does not line up exactly with the edge of the shingle below it.  Allow at least an inch overlap and I always try my best to get two inches.

You will also find some damaged shingles in every bundle.  I like to sort my shingles by width when I open a new bundle.  I set aside split or broken shingles for those spots where I need a narrow shingle.  Why cut down a perfectly good shingle when you can use an imperfect shingle to cut down to size.

There is also the paint or not to paint question.  I love a weathered grey look but I have found that I do not have the patience to wait the decades for that even grey weathered look.  In my experience I found that my shingles were streaky brown and black, and not grey.  I also love the look of new cedar but that color doesn't last for very long.  So painting the shingles was a no brainer for us.  We chose a very good primer (1 coat) and use a satin sheen exterior paint which I apply in two coats.  I would stay away from semi or high gloss and use those sheens for the trim and doors.

Cedar shingles have a texture both from the grain and the saw blade used to cut them.  This is part of their charm.  If you want smooth then maybe a clapboard would work better for you.  I like the texture of the shingle up against the smooth trim painted in semi gloss.  I think it makes the trim look even more crisp.
You can see how much the shingles that are already painted have shrunk over the winter.  They are just 8 months old and already have a larger gap than the newly installed shingles.  Also, I do not know why those shingles on the bottom look like they are loose but they are not.  It's just the angle of the sun and the texture of the shingle.

Today was great weather for working outdoors.  We had quite the wind storm last night and it brought down a lot of small limbs and larger broken limbs that have been hanging out in the tops of our trees since the ice storm two years ago.  Tomorrow is forecasted to be about 20 degrees cooler with rain in the forecast for Wednesday.  We want to have at least two rows installed above the windows before the rain comes.  It's not realistic to think that we can finish this entire side of the house in the next three days.  The front of the house has about 1 hour of work left before it is finished.  R actually has already cut the top row of shingles but they are not nailed in place (just tucked under the fascia board) because he couldn't find the drip cap and the drip cap needs to be installed first.  I had placed the drip caps in the living room so that the window guys wouldn't have to step around them.
You may have noticed that we haven't installed the final row under the sill.  This is because we need to wait until the window boxes arrive.  When we get ready to install the window boxes we can determine if we need to add a wedge behind the window box or if a shingle will work.  Since a shingle is thicker at the bottom, depending on where the bottom of the shingle is located on the back of the window box it will either tilt the window box out at the bottom or keep the window box straight up and down.

Tomorrow I'll fill you in on where I buy my window boxes.  They are also made out of cedar. The window boxes that we already have are 10 years old and still in perfect condition.  We have been very happy with them.