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Red vs white cedar shingles

MA's picture

We are trying to decide between red and white cedar shingles for a house underconstruction in southeastern Mass.  The house will have flares and woven corners.   Perhaps more important is that the house sits on an exposed location, lots of wind and salt air (about 4 miles from the ocean).  The white cedars are dipped, rebutted and resquared.  The cost difference is minor (<$300).  We will be installing Rain Shield in either case.

What we are trying to figure out is what will happen a few years down the road.  Will mold more likely be a problem with the red cedars,  will they be more durable, and will they turn dark or (perhaps more slowly) turn grey as they age?   Any ideas as to estimated lifetimes?  Looking around the community: most houses seem to use white cedar shingles and mold is a problem for those that sit in sheltered/enclosed areas.

We very much appreciate hearing what others' experiences have been especially in coastal areas.

Thanks to all


(post #92261, reply #1 of 8)

I have no experience with White Cedar shingles, but we use Western Red Cedar here in the Pacific Northwet quite a bit and I have some definate opinions about them, ma.

First off, how long they'll last is largely dependent on how much water and direct sunlight hits them, and how often you oil them.  I believe a properly designed building has adequate roof overhangs to keep the majority of the rain from hitting the siding.  Thoughtful site planning and solar orientation also provide for shade from direct summer sun on the South and West walls. 

So if that's the case, #2 WRC shingles, exposed less than 5" to the weather will last somewhere around 50 years, with zero maintanance.  They will last indefinately if reoiled every few years.  #1 are better quality and will withstand more before they deteriorate, but how the heck you gonna beat "indefinately"?

Okay, I'll add this - woven corners look great.  But they take a beating and you are just begging for water infiltration, especially in a harsh climate that gets freezing weather.  I believe (I stress the "I" here) that corner boards will withstand far more concussion and have a better chance of keeping water out over the life of the building.  Others will disagree, pointing to 200 year old woven corners, but I stand by my opinion.

I guess the main thing to recognize is that those shingles are only one part in the building envelope, one part of a much larger and more complex system.  How well they perform, over what period of time, is as much dependent on other parts of the system as on the shingles themselves.



(post #92261, reply #2 of 8)

well, ma, i like'em both.. if you are comparing dipped  R& R white cedar to R&R red cedar.. it's a closer call..

the reds will absoulutely have a  more formal appearance.. they are straight grain ( i assume we're talking about RC.#1, resquared & rebutted )..and the whites are not straight grain.. also the growth rings are wider on the whites..

the reds will lay and stay.. the whites will move with humidity and sun.. they will look like potato chips on the south side after a rain..

i like whites.. we used to do mostly whites in the '70's ..trying for the "Cape Cod " look.. if you keep  a silver grey stain on them they will maintain that look..

 the reds lay better and stay flat.. the weathering can be uniform to blotchy depending on exposure and overhangs...

if your house is oriented so it can get sun on all four sides in the summer.. it will weather more uniformly...stain of course takes care of the blotchy problem..

both shingles will last forever if they keep a weathering surface on them.. jim referred to oil.. i would assume a solid stain.. reapplied every 6 years or so.. the stain will erode.. if there is no stain , oil , or paint on them .. the shingles will erode until they becme as thin as paper right under the butt of the shingle above.. eventually this disappears also and the sheathing is exposed.. if you do nothing to a natural shingle, this will take about 20 years for the whites and about 30 years for the reds..

a well constructed woven corner will last just as long as the shingles on the rest of the wall.. most applicators screw it up by tightening their corners with galvanized finish nails.. the corner should lay tight without any visible nails...

a corner board is a fine detail also.. but it has to be painted or stained, and a good painter has to cut it in without getting paint on the shingles.. most painters paint just the face of the corner board, because the cutting in is too labor intensive..

most of the time we use corner boards for clapboards and wovern corners for shingles..

 here's a pic of whites and reds on the same wall.. whites on top.... stained reds on the bottom..

and then another pic. of a woven corner with reds


Mike Smith   Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

Mike Smith   Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

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(post #92261, reply #3 of 8)

here's a before & after on that same job....

Mike Smith   Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

Mike Smith   Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

(post #92261, reply #4 of 8)

and here's a fancy woven corner covering a sonotube footing.. this is reds , next to the salt water..after about 5 years with no protection

Mike Smith   Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

Mike Smith   Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

(post #92261, reply #5 of 8)

Whooooeeee brotherman, that's a mess of shingles on that gambrel.  Must have been on that job for a while.

Hey, that last photo you posted, do you take shingles right to the ground like that as a rule?  I try to keep any siding 6" off grade, maybe it's because we get so much water out here?


(post #92261, reply #6 of 8)

jim.. we try to keep every bit of wood except PT 8" off the ground...

what i probably did there ( can't see 'cuz of the snow) was use a  2x10 pt  mud trim... and kept the shingles up ... then someone mulched high .. who knows ?

here's a pic of a 2x10 mud trim with the shingles up 8"

Mike Smith   Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

Mike Smith   Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

(post #92261, reply #8 of 8)

Man those things look good when they're fresh, don't they?


(post #92261, reply #7 of 8)

Reds better, especially if the price is that close.

Woven corners are better, in my mind. I see too many times that cornerboards are neglected.

my perspective is from re-doing 80 to 100 year old homes.

Mike beat me to everything else. I like to keep all wood up 18" from the ground but sometimes you gotta settle for only 8"


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