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the longevity of wood shingles

The Wood Shingle Fabrication Process

Thatched roofs were a mainstay in medieval times, gracing the tops of cottages throughout the European countryside. These beautiful roofs were created by peasants who held no formal training and little in the way of special skills. It was simply a means to an end that soon developed into a veritable art form.

As Europeans moved to the United States in droves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they began to replicate the thatched look by using Western Red Cedar — which created a thatch-style appearance. By the 1920s, one could find cedar-roofed homes throughout the United States. The Great Depression greatly curtailed the use of cedar in roofing, but these cedar-roofed homes remained.

By the 1970s, many of these cedar roofs were reaching the end of their usable lifespans. At Custom Shingles, we revived the art of wood shingle roofing to restore many of these vintage homes — and to create the beautiful looked of thatched roofs using cedar on new homes.

How are wood shingles made? The process is intricate and demanding, but the results are fantastic. Here's a look at wood shingle fabrication and how cedar moves from the forest to the roof of your home.

Finding the Right Wood

The process of creating a beautiful wood shingle roof begins with the selection of the right trees. There are so many factors that go into choosing the right wood, from the age and quality of the specimen to the use of sustainable practices that will ensure there’s plenty of cedar, teak and wallaba for future generations.

At Custom Shingles, we are deeply experienced at choosing the right specimens — trees sure to deliver the type of wood that will be durable and beautiful as part of your wood shingle roof. And we also choose wood that’s been grown and harvested sustainably. These are important factors to us — ones we consider essential to delivering outstanding results on behalf of our customers.  

Cutting Wood Shingles

The cutting process must be approached with knowledge and experience to ensure that individual shingles and shakes avoid splitting and warping. The direction of the wood’s grain provides the direction needed for cutting. It’s essential that cuts be made perpendicular to the grain, which reduces wasted wood while also ensuring the highest standards of quality.

Once split into blocks, bark, sapwood, rot and bug holes are removed. These imperfections not only spoil the appearance of a wood shingle roof, but they can also undermine its quality and longevity.

Creating Shingles

Shake blocks are transformed into actual shingles, most often by using a hydraulic press that's attached to a blade. The press and blade are used to make shingles that are uniform in size and thickness. While different projects and different wood materials require different approaches in this phase and throughout the fabrication process, the goal is always to maintain consistency and to promote quality throughout.

Steaming and Bending the Shingles

The beautifully curved cottage-style look of our cedar, teak and wallaba roofs is only accomplished by steaming and bending the shingles. At Custom Shingles, we have a proprietary steaming and bending process as well as patented tools we use to create this unique look. While the process has evolved through the years to promote the highest standards of quality, we first used this steaming and bending approach as part of a significant restoration project in 1982. Today, a similar approach is used to create similar stunning results.


Before we start installing a wood shingle roof, we treat each of our shingles with materials that do two things: 1) ensure that each individual shingle can withstand the rigors of life in the outdoors, remaining strong, attractive and impermeable, and 2) ensure that the wood shingle roof is fire retardant and that it meets the highest possible safety standards.

While the wood selection, cutting, shingle forming, steaming and bending phases are all vital to the process of creating a beautiful wood shingle roof, this final phase is what makes each shingle fully prepared to go to work at your home.

Custom Shingles: Your Source for Wood Shingle Roofing

Custom wood shingle fabrication isn’t a hobby that can be picked up and mastered quickly and easily. For us, it’s a way of life that has morphed into a constant pursuit of perfection. When we’re bending cedar shingles, preparing them for installation and placing them on your home, we understand that we’re creating a beautiful mosaic that will grace your roof for decades. We pour into each project the time, attention and care that custom wood shingle fabrication deserves.

Contact us today about a custom wood shingle roof for your home.

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