Roofing, Siding, and Deck Blog Post

The Differences Between Shingles and Shake

There is a common misuse of the terms Shake and Shingle; with most people thinking that these refer to the same thing. When referring to Wood shakes and shingles, while the 2 materials can look quite similar, these are still 2 vastly different roofing options. Let’s go deeper into the individual definitions for each.

difference between shakes and shingles


Split by hand and made from lumber logs, shakes are specially sawn with a crafting tool. Shakes can either be sawn on just one or on both sides of the wooden tile or plank. One of the most popular sources of wood is Cedars. Cedar shakes can be crafted by and but, recently, to meet the growing housing demands, are also manufactured with the use of heavy power equipment.

Shakes are typically thicker than shingles and can be classified into 2 main classifications that vary on how they are sawn. Hand split and resawn shakes are the types of shakes that have the split exposed. This gives off a natural and rustic look. These types of shakes are sawn on the back portion of the plank. The other type of shakes is known as taper sawn shakes, which are the ones that are sawn on both sides, giving it a textured appearance. These shakes can be applied for either roofing or for putting up sidewalls.


When compared to wood shakes, wood shingles are usually thinner, machine-cut, and cut from both sides. A distinguishing feature of shingles is that one end of the cut, known as the butt, is also the thinner end. From both sides, shingles have a smoother cut and a more tapered look than shakes.

Shingles can also be graded based on 4 levels. The best grade is the type of materials taken from the heartwood of the tree. This makes the block purely edge grain and containing zero defects. A lower grade would be flat grains with minimal sapwood. There are a few knots and some defects found on the clear portion of this type of wood. Even lower graded wood includes both sapwood and flat grain components. The last grade of wood is not to be used for roofing and is known as the Utility grade. The previous grades are rated #1, #2, and #3.


The number one similarity between shingles and shakes is that these are both types of roofing materials that are wood-based and sourced from a specific type of tree. Common sources of wood that can be made into either shingle or shakes a cedar, pine, cypress, or redwood. Cedarwood is the usual preference because of the high-quality wood, durability, and a great look and feel. Cedar shakes and shingles are both durable and can give you a roof that could last up to 50 years with proper roof maintenance and care.


The main differences between these types of roofing are mostly based on how they are prepared, processed, and made in manufacturing. Also, because they have a different form, a different installation process is required for each type of roofing.


In order to create a cedar shake, a wooden block is split by hand or with a specialized handcrafting tool. On the other hand, cedar shingles are cut with the use of a high powered electrical circular saw. This creates a tapered cut on each end and leaves the manufacturer with a wooden block with the same thickness. Because of these different processes, shingles are thinner than shakes. Shakes also follow the grain of the wood more closely than shingles. Lastly, shingles give off a smoother surface than shakes as well.


Installing cedar shakes requires the placement of overlapping layers. However, the different ends of shingles guide the installation without requiring overlapping layers. Instead, the thicker ends should be placed on secure strips of wood to help the roof dry quicker.

Best Choice

When thinking about whether to use wooden shakes or shingles, the main deciding factor is looking at which type of roofing would best fit the architectural style of your home. For example, if you have a skylight on your roof or if you have more classical windows. If you have yet to finalize the design, then it would be to decide on what you want the style to be like. Shakes are a more natural option that tends to blend better in rural settings such as ranches, and well-forested areas. Cabins and cottages also fit best with shingles.  Although the 2 materials are probably sourced from much the same type of wood, the look it can give your home varies. Aside from these 2 materials, there are also other roofing materials available: metal roofs, asphalt shingles, vinyl shingles, and more.

In Canton Georgia and still looking for more advice on whether to go for either shakes or shingles?

You can reach out to Fowler Exteriors. We are here to handle all your roofing and home building needs. With over twenty years of experience in the industry, we have a team of professional craftsmen who can help you out.

You can visit Fowler Homes at the office at 118 Riverwatch Court, Canton, Georgia 30114, or call us up at 470-361-2454.

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