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JulieMor 06-21-2012 07:32 PM

Cedar shake questions
I'm about to start a cedar shake roof on my gazebo. I just placed a few courses down to see how they would look when I realized I had a few issues I hadn't thought of.

- It seems there are a lot of skinny shakes in the first bundle I opened. I want to have as little waste as possible and all these skinny pieces could make for a lot of waste. Could I use them on the starter course? Would it make any difference as opposed to wide pieces?

- I also noticed some of the pieces had severely out of square bottom ends (the part at the lower end of the shake when installed). The ends are rough cut and if I took any of my saws to them to square them up, they would have a much finer cut and I don't know how that would look.

Do you just leave the shake as it or square up the ends?

- Another thing that hit me is the shake splitting when nailed. I have 1-3/4" aluminum nails that are labeled "cedar shake nails". The shakes are fairly dry and I'm wondering if this might increase the chance of splitting.

And if they do split, then what? Another nail?

- I've read something about the heart of the wood lining up with the joint of the shakes on the lower course and there being at least 1-1/2" from the edge of the upper shake to the joint of the shakes below. Is that right? Do you have to line up the heart of the shake with the joint below?

Thanks in advance for your help/ :)

OldNBroken 06-22-2012 08:49 AM

Very informative and easy to understand. One can learn about everything they need to on this site.

Rule of thumb: anything over 4" is usable somewhere. Leave the staggered butts alone, they add character. You just line the center of the angled cut up with your run and it looks great. Never nail less than one inch from the end. Not sure what your 1 1/2" is you are talking about. Hope that's not your headlap because you need a minimum of 3-4" there, depending on the pitch of the roof. It may be the sidelap you are talking about. Sidelap should NEVER be less than 1 1/2". Hope this helps and enjoy your project.

JulieMor 06-22-2012 10:45 AM

Thank you! Yes, the 1-1/2" was the sidelap. I downloaded and read (most of) the roofing manual from Cedar Bureau and it will be my guide. I just didn't see anything about staggered butts and narrow shingles.

I also watched the video there. It looks like they nail very close to the edge of the shake. The video got me to wondering about the nailing the ridges. I can't nail through the sheathing because it's the finished ceiling. What I did was nail 1/2x1-1/2 runners over where the joists below are. Then I screwed 1x3 battens perpendicular to the runners/joists.
This was my test run for placing the battens. I have to make an adjustment so they will be where I need to nail. (The opening in the middle is for a cupola.)

I laid down some shakes to see what a 7-1/2" exposure would look like on such a small roof (about 10' dia) and I think it looks like the right exposure.
As you can see, I got some pretty narrow pieces in that first bundle. I don't think they are even wide enough to use on the ridges. If they are less than 4" wide, are they useless?

When I actually start the nailing, I'll be using a felt interlay even though there is already felt on the sheathing. I did that because I wanted to protect the sheathing and I knew I wouldn't be getting immediately to the shake install. But I read the felt helps water drain away from the shakes and that extends the life of the shake.

After seeing the video, I think I need to install the fascia before I begin installing the shakes. Is that correct?

One other question, some of the shakes have uneven edges and can range as much as an inch or more in width. If I space them 1/2" apart, farther along the line it could be an inch or more spacing. Do I shave the edges to make them parallel to each other? I saw the guys in the video use a hammer/hatchet to trim the shakes along the grain. I have a roofing hammer and a hatchet.
The hammer edge is too blunt for splitting the shakes so should I use the hatchet or should I cut them on the table saw?

Thanks again for all your help.

OldNBroken 06-22-2012 07:59 PM

Your batten system will ensure those shakes last forever. The downfall of wood roofs nowadays is solid sheeting. As long as it can breath on both sides they will last decades.

In general anything under 4" is waste. The reason is you need that 1 1/2" sidelap plus your 1/4-1/2" spacing. Nails should always be right at 1" from the end. For those not square on the ends you can have the wider gap but just make sure it is over the top of a wide shake below it. Cutting them square isn't a good idea because part of a shake's longevity is that the grain is intact. Squaring it will crosscut through the grain, allowing that shake to degrade more rapidly.

As far as your batten spacing. Once you get the first course in you space them to your shake exposure o.c. (in your case, 7 1/2") You will want to run solid batts the full exposure of your first course. (looks like three solid batts to start.) Once your fascia is installed, your first single batten should be 14 1/2" oc from the face of the fascia. ( 7 1/2" first course - 1 1/2" overhang + 7 1/2" second course + 1" above that for your nail line)

Now the fascia. Yes, install it first. Install it 1/2" ABOVE your batten plane. This gives you a built in cant strip for your first run. Install your starter shake over that and your first run should plane out perfectly to the rest of your roof. If you install the fascia flush with the batten plane then you have to use a double starter or you will have a "sag" in your first run of shakes when you are done. Raising the fascia that 1/2" saves some effort and material.

...and, yes, shake liner is a good idea. It isn't absolutely necessary but it helps and is cheap and easy to add.

Holy crap I think that's the most I've every typed. Running low on ink so I'll stop.

JulieMor 06-22-2012 08:49 PM

Thank you so much! I hope you're fingers recover but I want you to know I appreciate every callous your fingers got replying with all that information. :thumbup:

Now, one more question and I won't bother you anymore...:wink:

I'm going to lay a starter course. I already cut the shakes to 15". Do I nail the starter shakes to the lowest batten? The one closest to the fascia?

BTW, I relocated the battens to match where the nails will go then laid down the starter course and the first three courses. I saw in the CSSB video how the installer used a hatchet to cleave the edges to square them up. I tried that with my hatchet and it really worked well. Maybe I have a career in cedar shake roofing! :laughing:

OldNBroken 06-23-2012 01:44 AM

You don't absolutely have to cut the starter down but no biggy. Just nail it about where you will the rest of the courses. The whole starter is covered so it's not like they will be exposed if you go too low or high. Yes, chopping the shakes is fine, sawing them..not so much. (except for field made ridgecap)

Sounds like you may be a pro by the end of this project. Hope we get to see the end product.

kwikfishron 06-23-2012 05:29 AM

199 Attachment(s)
If I know my last coarse is going to be 6” shakes for example I’ll cut the last coarse first and set them aside then use those cutoffs for starters.

JulieMor 06-23-2012 10:37 AM


Originally Posted by OldNBroken (Post 949442)
Hope we get to see the end product.

I will post the finished project. I already posted some pics of the cupola construction. Depending on the weather here, I've been working on that or the gazebo roof.

Yesterday I trimmed the sheathing for the fascia and installed about 3/4 of the fascia. I'm trying to create joints like I would making furniture but the variations created by the PT lumber seasoning make that difficult. I thought using Cedartone PT lumber would be the way to go. I'm now wishing I had just taken the whole thing down to the deck and rebuilt it all with cedar. I'd probably be done by now.

BTW, "Old" is relative and since I was born when Truman was president, I don't see me thinking you're old. And you're not "broken" when you can help others like you helped me. Thanks again.

JulieMor 06-28-2012 02:12 PM

I only installed 5 of the 8 fascia boards before the heat melted me. With the weather, the work on the cupola and family stuff, I haven't done much on the roof. But with some of the fascia on I can see it has potential to look really nice when it's done.

The cupola has been taking up a lot of my time. After trying to figure out exactly what I'm going to do with it, I finally came to a decision.
To do this I took a 4x4 and cut it down on the bandsaw to give it a rough sawn look. I have all the pieces dadoed and rough cut. I'm making each panel separately to make sure they fit snug.

Looking from the inside...

Good thing someone isn't paying me by the hour. This thing would cost more than a bar of gold! :laughing:

Uh-oh! The foreman is looking for me wondering why I'm not working. :wink: I'd better start making some noise. :hammer:

hotrod351 06-28-2012 07:20 PM

sound like you got seconds. i did hundreds and hundreds of shake roof in L.A. many many years ago. dont remember getting bundles that had a lot of useless skinny pieces or out of square bottom cuts. some of these places will sell junk to home owners because they figure they dont know any better. as for the look, just my opinion but cedar shingles would look 100% better. the two things we have in common = opinions and butts and they both stink. second thought, you might try and interweave the hip to be rid of hip and ridge, that would look really rustic. would take a lot more time but would be something.

Tom Struble 06-28-2012 07:46 PM

julie that looks sweet!:thumbup:

Windows on Wash 06-29-2012 07:16 AM


Originally Posted by Tom Struble (Post 953619)
julie that looks sweet!:thumbup:


Very elegant and well done.


JulieMor 06-29-2012 09:07 AM


Originally Posted by hotrod351 (Post 953585)
some of these places will sell junk to home owners because they figure they dont know any better.

That would be me. Or at least was me. I've learned a few things in the process.

Thanks for the words of encouragement guys. It's nice to get an "atta girl" once in a while. It keeps me motivated. :)

I finished the lattice on the cupola yesterday. I'm thinking I need to finish the sheathing and shakes on it too before it goes up. It's already fairly heavy.

I don't know how I could work on the roof once the cupola is in place. So I'll have to figure out a way to get that thing up and in place once it's completed. Helicopter? Crane? My son is too busy lifting weights to help. :laughing:

Gary in WA 06-30-2012 12:15 AM

If I may ask, what is holding the beam joints together so they don't spread after adding the top framing (as there are no rafter ties present)?

Will you be adding post/beam diagonal bracing, also?

Looks very nice!


JulieMor 06-30-2012 07:18 AM

I have some tie plates I have yet to install. The post-beam diagonal bracing will be added too. I thought about that whole spreading thing when I removed the old roof and decided on tie plates.

Then I realized that for 25 years there was no ties or other form of bracing to keep the posts from spreading. There was also no diagonal bracing. And yet, this stood all those years without any sign of failure. The joints at the beams on top of the posts are as tight today as they were 25 years ago. And it has weathered many storms too, from high winds to almost two feet of snow. It seems to have defied structural engineering standards.

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