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Your advice regarding cedar wall shingle rainscreens

jollygreenshortguy | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

I’d welcome your recommendations, especially as regard to price, durability and ease of installation. I’m detailing a rainscreen wall for cedar shingles and looking at some options.
1. Something along the lines of Benjamin Obdyke’s Slicker, a plastic mesh over which shingles can be laid directly.
2. A panelized shingle product such as Shakertown’s Craftsman panel. These can be installed over simple 3/8″ vertical furring strips. This seems like a fairly low labor approach to both shingling and achieving a rainscreen gap.
3. Traditional cedar shingles, installed over 2 layers of furring, the first vertical (3/8″ thick), and the second horizontal (3/8″ thick?) spaced per the shingle exposure. Less costly materials, more labor? Is it strong enough to simply staple shingles into a 3/8″ horizontal furring strip? Or do I need a full 3/4″?

I assume all 3 are pretty much equal with regard to durability, assuming they are competently installed. Correct?

As far as price, it’s a trade off between materials and labor. As long as you feel there isn’t a big difference between options it’s all the same to me. But if there is a big difference I’d like to know.

I like the idea of the Shakertown panels because they make pre-woven corners, which saves a lot of labor for that detail, which I particularly like. But with the panels you’re stuck with a fixed exposure dimension. I like to be able to adjust exposure a bit to achieve alignment with window sill and header trim and the panels don’t allow for this. So I’m looking at options 1 and 3 to regain that flexibility.

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  1. user-6623302 | | #1

    What is the rest of the wall structure? A lot of houses have lasted hundreds of years with felt paper over the sheathing and shingles nailed directly. What is your budget? Are you going to apply a finish? Are you going to hire this done or DIY?

    1. jollygreenshortguy | | #2

      The rainscreen will be applied over a WRB (tyvek or sim.) over structural sheathing (plywood) and 2x framing inside. As far as the shingling is concerned, I'm not shingling over a thick layer of exterior insulation. So that's not an issue here. It's not DIY. Shingles won't be painted but would receive some kind of clear coat protection appropriate to the local climate. As far as budget, if there is a big difference between the options, considering both labor and materials, then I'd be interested to know that. But now I'm just repeating what I said in my original post.

      What I'm really interested in most is other people's direct experience using one or more of these options.

  2. paulmagnuscalabro | | #3

    I've used products similar to the Benjamin Obdyke Slicker, and I personally found it a bit of a pain to work with. The shingles never seem to lie as flat as you want, and it seems like they split easier. Staples worked better than nails in terms of minimizing splitting.

    Haven't used panelized shingle products, so can't speak to them.

    I know multiple furring strips is more work, but that's the way I'd lean. And I think you'd want to size up to full 3/4" for your horizontal nailer.

    1. jollygreenshortguy | | #4

      Thanks. That was helpful. I suspected a 3/4" nailer is probably necessary. With a 3/8" vertical furring strip behind that the full thickness of the gap, to the back of the shingles is 1 1'8". This makes exterior trim at windows a bit of a hassle. The back face of the shingles is further from the wall than the front edge of the window frames. Most windows project out about 1" beyond their nailing flanges. That means I can't put my trim outboard of the furring. I need to have it tight to the WRB and make the trim very deep.

  3. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #5

    I installed a lot of cedar shingles as a carpenter, and now often include them on the homes I design. Although their integral striations are enough to allow some stormwater drainage, my minimum spec is a spun-bonded polyolefin matrix--e.g., Slicker Classic. It works well but it's a little squishy so you have to push on the shingles as you're nailing them or the nails will go right through. Even better is the "basket house" approach, cross-strapping the wall with 1x3s. You could substitute 1/4" or 3/8" material for the vertical strapping but for the horizontal strapping you need 1x material for strength.

    To deal with the depth issue, when using Slicker Classic, I use 5/4 exterior trim which is usually 1 1/8" to 1 3/16" thick, and the shingle butts usually just clear the face of the trim. It's common in New England to use 3/4" trim with the shingle butts sticking way out in front of the trim, but I don't like that look. Ideally the trim would also be installed over a rain screen; on my last few small projects I have stapled strips of Slicker Classic to the back of the pre-assembled trim before installation.

    When using 1x for rain screens, the windows either need to be set on a projecting buck (1x, 2x, Thermalbuck, etc.) or they need exterior extension jambs. This isn't a super detailed article but it covers some basics: The lead image in that article is the third project attached here.

    The first two projects are ones I built; the last is one I designed, photo by John Deans.

    1. Expert Member
      Akos | | #6

      I've only ever seen shingles installed either over building paper or drainage mat. Unless your local trades are familiar with rain screen installs, the pricing will be out there.

      I think if you want better than standard install, spec the cedar breather which is pretty simple and adds only a couple of extra dollars per sqft.

      I use a narrow crown staples for shingles which doesn't put much stress on them, no issues over breather fabric.

      Those panelized shingles do look very interesting.

    2. jollygreenshortguy | | #7

      Thanks, Michael. This was very helpful, especially about the trim. I too like to keep the shingle butts behind the trim. My sketches were already leaning towards 5/4 trim over the rainscreen. Your experience confirms I'm on the right track. I'll be going with the drainage matrix rather than the panels. The only drawback is having to hand weave the corners. But that's minor compared to the advantages.

      1. Expert Member
        Michael Maines | | #10

        Hand-weaving shingled corners, and installing cedar shingles in general, is one of my favorite carpentry tasks! There are a few different ways to do it but if you get into the right Zen mood, it's pretty fun.

  4. carsonb | | #8

    I used a mesh rainscreen from the orange place’s website called mortairvent. 1/2 rainscreen with a fabric that should help with bugs. While I haven’t done the grid slat system others described, fastening siding and trim was fairly easy and I don’t have to worry about screwing things into specific spots. It does make flashing penetrations a bit more complicated, but probably easier to cut through plastic mesh than wooden slats. Another bonus is that the same rainscreen can be used for portion ms of my home with stone veneer.

  5. carsonb | | #9

    Picture for reference, the mesh is still visible at the bottom where stone is going. I have shingles, vertical, horizontal, and stone veneer all using the same rainscreen. The shingles have a sweep at the bottom to leave an air gap between them and the stone.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #11

      Looking good Carson!

      1. carsonb | | #12

        Thanks Malcolm! It's been quite an experience surviving building a house the past few years. Maybe I should put a blog together on what NOT to do :)

    2. jollygreenshortguy | | #13

      Beautiful house!
      The convenience of using the same mesh material for different sidings is a good point, since I will be mixing sidings in some of my other designs. I'll definitely be going with mesh.

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