GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

White Cedar Wall Shakes

RussMill | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

All you “up north” guys, White Cedar is a foreign product to me.

Can anyone give real world life expectancy for Eastern White Cedar shakes, 5/8″ thick , 18″ long / 6″ to the weather over slicker type product. I (really the Mrs.) would like them but, I’m concerned about longevity and upkeep. They would either be left raw or treated with a clear product.

Also, is the slicker product THE best practice or is there a better way, over spaced lathe, etc.??

Thanks.. once again!

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Shakes or shingles? (Shakes are split; shingles are sawn.)

    Siding or roofing? [Edit: Oops! Looks like you're talking about siding.]

    -- Martin Holladay

  2. RussMill | | #2

    Sorry Martin,

    Wall use and they are calling them Shakes and they are SAWN. ?? The website is below.

  3. RussMill | | #3

    Roof Grade as they call is what we would be using

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    I have a lower grade on my walls -- including tight knots. They are now about 36 years old. Untreated. No problems whatsoever. They certainly look like they are ready for another 36 years, at least.

    -- Martin Holladay

  5. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #5

    Life expectancy varies by the amount of direct wetting they see, as well as the amount of sun. Houses in the woods with minimal roof overhangs can have substantial algae & moss growing there in them under 20 years unless treated, whereas on a house with 2' overhangs to keep them dry but with a decent amount of sun could go 50.

  6. RussMill | | #6

    WOW!! That is all I can say. I thought they were giving me their sales pitch. THANKS AGAIN!!

    I truly hope soon I can give back to this community that has helped me so much with so many things I didn't/don't know.

  7. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #7

    This is a really popular siding type in coastal New England due to it's longevity. I'm familiar with an old shore-front summer home on an island in Maine where most of the white cedar siding is original to the building and 60+ years old, though there are clearly sections of replacement shingles of various vintage in the mix, mostly on the shady north side where the moss could get started. I also have some friends with a house in the woods on Martha's Vineyard built in the late 1970s that still has the original shingles, but some are showing signs that they'll need replacement soon (again on the most shaded side of the house.) It's good stuff!

  8. RussMill | | #8


    What are your thoughts about the rainscreen assembly for the wall shingles.? Horizontal 1x or ?

  9. gozags | | #9

    Russell, Martin and Dana will know better, but on This Old House they used this material that looked like micro chainlink fence (neon yellow) that was stretched over house wrap and then shingled over. Not sure what it was called though.

  10. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #10

    The name of the yellow product is Benjamin Obdyke Slicker.

    -- Martin Holladay

  11. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #11

    I used horizontal 1x3s back in 1980. If you are installing rigid foam, you could install Zip-R sheathing or nailbase over OSB to get a nailing surface.

    -- Martin Holladay

  12. RussMill | | #12

    Here's the response back from the shake mfg:
    "....As far as putting them up, lay on some Tyvek or typar and nail them right over it. You don't need to use rain slicker on the walls. That is for roofing only. I know they say use it but its because they want to sell it to you. Believe me just use house wrap and nail the shakes on. All done........."

    Now, I have noticed for example: Back in Jan. '11 South Mountain did the Martha's Vineyard houses and showed no rainscreen, am I missing something. I've also heard Mark Guertin talk about the "flex" and creep with the slicker products.

    All that aside I will follow your method I believe. The Cedar pushes the price up some but, it's life cycle and how it's made are (without a factory behind it) very attractive!

  13. diynorth | | #13


    The shingles (white cedar, second clears) on my house (siding) are over 35 years old and certainly have many years left. And that is without any rain screen or other product providing an air space, which is certainly a good idea. Strapping or another sheathing layer adds work, expense, and thickness, but would be necessary if doing rigid foam. Otherwise, that lumpy surfaced product would be simpler.

    I stained mine a redwood color and that was probably a mistake, at least as far as maintenance needed. Shingles getting a lot of sun will need re-stained often,-more often than I wanted on a 2 story house. They weather much differently on different sides of the house

    A clear product would be the least maintenance, I would think, and could more easily be sprayed. Most products still ask to be brushed (for warranty coverage), but clear would be so much more forgiving whether or not you brushed (the spaces in between shingles are difficult to get well, and the application is more demanding if a color). I think they might still weather differently with a clear stain (maybe not if a good product applied often), but that can still great, albeit rustic and not "polished" in nature.

  14. Sawdust_Steve | | #14

    I have just installed red cedar over benjamin obdyke's hydrogap housewrap. This house wrap allows for a drainage barrier behind the shingle, it's probably not as good, but it's a whole lot less work than constructing a rain screen assembly.

  15. RussMill | | #15

    Steve S,

    What did you use for your trim boards, red cedar as well?

  16. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #16

    Are the trim boards going to be left clear too? If not I'd suggest going with Azec, Hardi-trim or some similar products. The trim is where the maintenance and longevity problems will arise.

  17. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #17

    Here in Maine, lots of people (me included) use white cedar shingles on sidewalls. Typically they are 3/8" butt and 16" long, with 5" to the weather. I used a locally made product (from Longfellow's in Windsor ME) with 1/2" butts, with the same 5" exposure. I haven't seen white cedar shakes, but I'd imagine they last even longer than shingles, which last several decades, even if left unfinished. We used the yellow slicker product.

  18. RussMill | | #18


    Yes, AZEK was already counted on.I very much dislike Hardie Trim, heavy and awkward!

    Stephen, That's the thing these items aren't local to me and don't have a local wood product for siding use that has much of a lifespan. Most people who don't want brick end up with hardi plank, in fact that's what I drew in our plans but, I'm not satisfied with the fiber cement at all. So, a field trip/vacation/pickup siding material trip is in order I do believe. I really appreciate the input from everyone!

    I've now found a source of CLEAR white cedar clapboards as well. The 5/8 x 18 clear wall shingles are $425-/square, "tight knot" is $300-/square, waiting on a price on the clapboards.

    Thanks to everyone for your input, information and sharing your experiences it is more than money can buy!

  19. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #19

    Russell- where are you located? my source for cedar shingles,

    was much cheaper. Two years ago we paid around $250/square for their best grade. I'd contact Jim Longfellow and ask about shipping. He could also tell you how big a truck/trailer you'd need to move them yourself. They are really nice people to deal with.

  20. Sawdust_Steve | | #20

    The trim is all Azek. They make a great pre-formed outside corner and all no maintenance.

  21. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #21

    Russel, the reason for using a rainscreen gap is partly for longevity of the shingles, especially ones with a finish, and more importantly to allow the wall assembly (framing and insulation) to dry more easily. Shingles installed directly on housewrap can actually increase the amount of moisture in the wall (due to solar vapor drive) so it's best practice to leave a gap. A small gap (like what Slicker offers) is good; bigger (horizontal 1x strapping) is better. It's still a new enough practice that crusty old builders are not all on board yet.

    I'm not sure why they are calling those shakes, but it must be their 5/8" thickness.

    The white cedar shingles on my barn walls are worn through after 100+ years. The ones on my woodshed walls, likely installed in the 1960's, are still in good shape. I'm in Maine, not far from Stephen Sheehey, and also recommend Jim Longfellow and his shingles.

  22. RussMill | | #22

    Michael Maines,

    I've become well educated on rainscreens, (and alot of other info) on this site. And, from some of your work. I was amazed at the statement from the shingle mfg to slap it on the walls with nothing. But, I shouldn't be amazed at all! Our local building dept DID NOT KNOW WHAT A RAINSCREEN WAS!

    We're doing a 12" Dbl stud cellulose wall so, there will be a rainscreen for sure! I think I'll use Martins method of 36 years ago with the wood strapping.

    I sent an email to Jim Longfellow yesterday and will wait to hear from him.


  23. RussMill | | #23

    Just an FYI for anyone else reading this, Longfellow prices were inline with Dows for shingles, for the thicker 5/8" material anyway.

    I've learned that 5/8 thickness isn't necessary to having a good shingle job.

    Thanks again for the education

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |