3 tips for maintaining wood shingles and shakes

July 28, 2015

A wooden roof is a pretty sight, but needs special care to keep it in good shape. Here are three tips to have your wooden roof hold its good looks.

3 tips for maintaining wood shingles and shakes

1. Keep it clear of water and debris

  • Wood-eating fungi thrive in moist places. So make sure the rain runs off your wood roof into the gutters and downspouts.
  • Occasionally sweep the shingles clean. You may be able to do it from a ladder with a long-handled broom. Pine needles, leaves and debris can hold in moisture after a rain and act as a perfect nest for fungi.

2. Fight mildew

  • If your wood roof develops mildew, fungus, moss or algae, get rid of it before it spreads. First, sweep the roof clean and prepare as much solution as you need, adding a cup of laundry detergent and 250 millilitres (one cup) of chlorine bleach for four litres (one gallon) of water.
  • Cover any foundation plants with plastic sheeting and wear rubber gloves. Start at the top of the roof and work down. Pour the solution over the shingles or spray the solution using a hand-pump garden sprayer, and then carefully sweep or brush away the growths or stains. Watch your footing, though, because the wet wood will be slippery.
  • Once the roof is thoroughly clean, rinse with a garden hose.
  • Both shingles and shakes are made of western red cedar, white cedar or (less often) spruce. Shakes are hand-split and then sawn in half, giving them a rough surface on one side and a smooth surface on the other. Shingles are machine-sawn on both sides, resulting in thin, tapered panels that are smooth on both sides.
  • Both shingles and shakes are usually installed in single, overlapping courses. On some roofs, however, double courses overlap one another to add depth. If you remove a shingle or shake from your roof, the pattern used will be obvious. Follow it in replacing any panels.
  • Extend the life of your wood roof for years with a wood preservative. First, clean the roof thoroughly and rid it of any mildew or other growths, as described above; then apply a commercial wood preservative according to directions. Repeat this treatment every five years or whenever the wood starts to look dry or brittle.

3. Replace a split or warped shingle

  • Use a wood chisel and a hammer to split the damaged shingle into pieces so you can slide it out. If the overlapping shingles are holding the damaged one tightly, gently drive wooden wedges under them to ease the pressure.
  • Use a hacksaw blade with tape wrapped around it as a handle. Slip the blade under the overhanging shingles and cut off the nails that had been holding the damaged shingle. Cut a new shake a 0.5 centemetre  (1/4 inch) narrower in width than the space it goes in. This will let the shingle expand as the weather changes.
  • Slide the new shingle under the overlapping shingles; nudge it into place by tapping it with a hammer and a block of wood. If the shingle won't go in, check for nails you may have missed. Don't force the shingle; you'll split it.
  • In the gap between the shingles in the overlapping course, drill pilot holes and drive in two galvanized roofing nails. Use a nail set to drive the nails flush. Then cover the nail heads by sliding a small square of metal flashing under the overlapping shingles. Push screwdriver blades under the overlapping shingles to raise them a bit, if needed.
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