What to consider when working with timber shingles

Although often thought of as a specialist roofing material, with the right tools, shingles are actually very easy to fit and can be done by anyone who can fix roof tiles. Here are some top tips on getting your shingles project right:

1. Choosing your shingles 

Cedar shingles are produced in three grades. These are referred to as Blue Label, Red label and Black Label. We only recommend the use of Blue Label shingles in the UK as they are 100% clear, 100% edge grain and 100% heartwood. 

When choosing your shingles, make sure you choose a product that has a Certi-grade quality assurance label and has PEFC accreditation, which promotes the sustainable management of forests and provides complete chain of custody. 

2. Allow extra for cutting and waste 

When ordering product, make sure you allow extra for cuttings and waste, on a simple roof this will be around 5% but this will be higher for complex structures that require a lot of cutting. 

3. Lay out your shingles before you start 

Shingles come in varying sizes, so when you get them, unwrap them and lay them out on the ground first. Spend some time selecting the best face of the shingles. This makes it easier to create the desired effect on the roof. 

4. Select the right ventilation  

Shingles are a close fitting roof covering, so the way that you install them and the type of ventilation required, will depend on what type of underlay you use – non-breathable (traditional) or breathable (vapour-permeable).  See examples below. 

Non-breathable underlay with 25mm eaves vent system  

Install continuous rafter roll, over fascia ventilator and felt support tray, to direct airflow below underlay intro roof space. Dress underlay down to bottom edge of felt support tray and fix using self adhesive tape.  

Non-breathable underlay does not need to be counter battened.  

Vapour permeable underlay with 25mm eaves vent system 

This method does not require a continuous rafter roll.  Install felt support tray first and fix the over fascia ventilator over the top to direct airflow in the batten space, above the underlay and below the slates. Dress the underlay down to the bottom edge of the felt support tray, behind the over fascia ventilator and fix using self adhesive tape. 

Vapour permeable underlay needs to be counter battened to allow ventilation of the batten space above underlay and below shingles.  

With both types of underlay, the position of the first batten should be the batten gauge plus half the thickness of the batten. The batten gauge thereafter is based on the pitch of the roof.  

5. Ensure 38mm minimum overhang  

When setting out the first course, make sure there is a minimum overhang of 38mm at the verge and either a 38mm overhang at the eaves, or if you’re using a gutter, at least the centre line of the gutter. You need to use a double course at the eaves and a broken bond pattern should be maintained. 

6. Staples can be used to make installation quicker 

Shingles should be twice nailed or stapled.  You can use a 31mm x 1.8mm stainless steel ring shank nail but a much quicker method is to use the ShingleFix staple with a Paslode gun.  This can reduce installation time by as much as 50%.  Position fixings 19mm in from the edge of the shingle to avoid splitting and 38mm up from the butt of the course above.  

7. Use a chalk line to highlight batten position 

You won’t be able to see the roofing batten during installation, so a good tip is to use a chalk line to highlight the batten position to aid nailing/stapling in the correct position.  Ensure the broken bond pattern is maintained throughout the roof and a 5mm gap is left between each shingle.   

8.  Shingles can easily be cut with a Stanley blade 

Shingles can be easily trimmed to size using a straight edge and a sharp knife. When you reach the ridgeline, you will need to cut the shingles to maintain the roof gauge. 

9. Use preformed hips and ridges 

To speed up and simplify installation, use pre-formed hips and ridges. When installing, start at each edge and work towards the middle.