There are two types of wood roofing—shingles and shakes. Neither boasts the practicality of a modern roofing material like asphalt shingles, but it’s difficult to deny traditional wood’s aesthetic appeal. In fact, many other roofing products try to simulate look of wood shingles and shakes. Made from cedar, spruce, or treated pine, wood roofing is especially appropriate for older homes and those based upon historical styles.

Wood shingles are machine-cut and tapered for a trim, crisp appearance. By contrast, wood shakes look more rustic, as they are hand-split on one side. Each has its own specific installation requirements, but generally speaking, wood roofing is more difficult to install than some other common roof types. Though susceptible to discoloration, wood products last about as long as asphalt (up to 30 years), plus they’re biodegradable and derived from a renewable resource.

Wood Shingles

Wood shingles are usually thin strips of wood and appear to have a smoother look. The width of each shingle is different which gives the roof a random, eclectic style that many homeowners enjoy. During installation, the wood shingles are installed over open strips of wood called slats. When viewed from the attic, you can see the underside of the wood shingles. You may also be able to see light coming from between the shingles. This gives wood shingles the ability to vent the entire attic without the need for other venting methods.


Unlike smooth wood shingles, shakes are usually not smooth, but instead have a rougher texture and are usually thicker in their style. Shakes can come in different shapes and thicknesses at the edge. They are commonly called medium shakes, heavy shakes or jumbo shakes based on increased thickness at the edge. Shakes can be installed over a wood shingle roof or a plywood deck. When installing the shakes, a row of shakes is installed first, then short layer of felt, then another row of shakes, and felt again continuing up the entire roof.