One of my Architect friends Tim Cuppett owns a very old house in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin TX. Tim’s house was originally built in 1850 which is one of the oldest houses in Austin. It was Abner Cook‘s house who was the Architect for the Texas Governor’s Mansion.
This beautiful old bungalow just doesn’t look right with a modern comp shingle roof, and Tim has for years wanted to covert the house back to a wood shingle roof like it had when it was first built. When Tim called me to help him, I jumped at the change!
Before I get into the details, let’s talk about why wood roofs have gone out of favor and how we can install the wood roof the RIGHT WAY:
#1 There is a durability perception that wood roofs won’t last. I believe this mis-conception has been born of many years of poor installs leading to pre-mature failures. Wood roofs really need to dry to both the top and bottom when they get wet. If the wood shingles are installed directly on tar paper they can only dry to the top. This can result in cupping, splitting, and ultimately shorten their life by 50+%. The solution is to vent under the wood shingles, and the easy way to do that is with a 3-D venting mesh like Benjamin Obdyke’s Cedar Breather. This mesh rolls onto the roof and when the shingles are nailed on top it leaves roughly a 1/4″ air gap underneith. Then when the shingles get wet they can dry both to the top and bottom. For more information visit the Cedar Breather product page here.
#2 There is a perceived fire danger from a wood roof and insurance companies have really dampened sales by requiring fire resistance. Modern wood shingles can come with a chemical treatment that resists burning and you can get either a Class A, B, or C rated shingle today. We used a Class B rated shingle on this project.
#3 Black Streaks. We’ve all seen Cedar Privacy fences with those ugly black streaks at every nail head right? Now think if that’s your roof! Those black streaks are eliminated if you use Stainless fasteners in your fence. You need to get the details right when installing a wood roof and fasteners are very important. You must use a Stainless nail, and the correct grade of stainless is important to ensure compatibility with the fire retardant and to ensure that your shingles won’t get black streaks from nail corrosion.
Ok, so I hope this blog post has given you a renewed confidence in wood roofs! Do the details right, talk to a roofer who’s done this before and don’t be afraid to verify the install details before they start and during the project. I think this wood roof will see 30+ beautiful years of service to this very pretty historic house.
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