How to put on a wood shingle roof

Updated July 19, 2017

Wood shingles are typically made of cedar. They are strong, durable, shed water well and deflect heat better than composition shingles. Using wood shingles on your home can give it a distinctive look and add value. You can hire a professional to put on a wood shingle roof or do it yourself. Choosing to install wood shingles can be a moderately difficult project and take a couple of days to complete. The job will require proper supplies and good instructions.

Double-check your supplies and instructions. Make sure you have everything you need before you step onto your roof. It will be a waste of time to start your wood shingle roof, only to stop because you are missing supplies.

Lay down your first shingles. Take two shingles and place them at the eaves, putting one on each end of the roof. Position the shingles so they hang over the eaves by 2.5 cm (1 inch) and hang over the rake by 6 to 9 mm (1/4 to 3/8 inch). Eaves are the horizontal edge of the roof and the rake is the side edge.

Install a starter row of shingles. Hammer one nail into the shingles you just put down at the eaves. Use your chalk line to make a line between the two shingles. Use this line as a guide to keep your starter row straight. Begin laying shingles along the line between the shingles at the eaves. Use two nails to attach each shingle to the roof. Hammer nails 2 cm (3/4 inch) from each edge and 7.5 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) up from the bottom edge.

Install more rows of shingles. Use a chalk line if needed to keep your rows straight. Leave between 3 and 6 mm (1/8 and 1/4 inch) between each shingle because the wood will naturally expand. For each new row, don't let the spaces between them line up with the spaces between shingles directly below. Stagger the spaces by 3.8 cm (1 1/2 inches). Use two nails for each shingle like you did with the starter row.

Cut shingles for the roof valley. Count the number of shingles you'll need for the valley. Align the butt of one sample shingle with the eaves and mark the roof angle with a pencil. Get off the roof, get your circular saw ready and cut out the sample shingle. Cut all other valley shingles to match your sample shingle.

Attach valley shingles using a guide. Take the piece of one-by and place it in the valley. Do not nail it in place. Take the shingles you cut out, place them in the valley next to the piece of one-by. Nail them to the valley the same way you did other shingles. Let the last one hang over the roof ridge. Mark it with a chalk line where it meets the ridge. Use your utility knife to score the shingle at the line and press down gently on the shingle so that it snaps in two. Discard the part you broke off.

Put shingles on hips and ridges. Use shingles designed for these areas and attach as you did with other shingles.


Make sure your ladder is sturdy. Check with local officials to see if you need a planning permission. Ask someone to help you.


Do not touch power lines or antennae and don't allow a metal ladder to touch them. Remember to wear rubber-soled shoes so you won't slip and fall.

Things You'll Need

  • Shingles
  • Chalk line
  • 3d galvanised nails -- for 40 and 45 cm (16 and 18 inch) shingles
  • 4d galvanised nails -- for 60 cm (24 inch) shingles
  • Utility knife
  • Piece of "one-by" -- 2.5 cm x 5 cm (1 x 2 inch) board
  • Circular saw
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About the Author

Serena Brown graduated from the University of South Alabama with a bachelor's degree in communication. She has more than 15 years of experience in newspaper, radio and television reporting. Brown has also authored educational, medical and fitness material.