Shake roofs

Shake roofs have long-standing traditions in the Nordic countries and Europe and are quite well known in North America.

The most common, sturdiest local wood is usually used to build shake roofs and in Estonia this can be aspen – or larch and cedar in America. In the Nordic countries, local pine and spruce represent the most common material for having shown their resilience in our local weather conditions.

Shakes are, in essence, small boards, shaped as wedges, which are either sawn or split from the chosen wood. Shakes with the following dimensions are available from Puitkatused OÜ: width 80 mm, lower edge 14−15 mm, upper edge 2−3 mm; customised dimensions are also available upon requests. Shakes have lots of applications: both as roofing and façade cover, usually being made of softwood. When used indoors, as a lining inside saunas, aspen or alder is used as softwood is not suitable for sauna premises.

Building: A shake roof offers perfect protection for the structures beneath from water, mechanical wear and tear, etc., and other damages. In principal, there is no need to use an underlay as a part of the structure, as the area under the roof enjoys natural ventilation (is not closed). Three layer shake roofs are most common; shakes of the upper layer overlap with the crack between the layer of shakes below, covering also approximately 2/3 of the row beneath. As shakes have the shape of a wedge, the lower, thicker part (approximately one third) of the shake will protrude from under the next row and this part of the shake should be treated with either tar oil or neat tar to add some protection. Tar oil, which is easy to apply and readily available, is most commonly used to treat wooden roofing materials. Tar is used in construction works of value in terms of heritage conservation, where historical authenticity and long service life are important. Shake roofs can be given a unique appearance by cutting shake ends to patters; sharp, rounded or angled finishes at the ends are most common. Be bold, use your imagination!

About the service life: You can expect modern shake roofs to last for approximately 10 years per layer, which will ensure a minimum service life of 30 years for triple-layered roofing. Further service life will depend on the diligence of the homeowner; the roof should be inspected once or twice a year, followed by the removal of loose debris (leaves, needles, etc.) and impregnation of the roof, where appropriate. Additional information is available from the maintenance instructions of wooden roofs.

Can I have a shake roof for my house? Every building with a minimum roof pitch of 26–30º can be fitted with a shake roof. Roofs at lower angle will suffer from the accumulation of rain water and this will also mean a shorter service life. Indeed, we have built roofs at lower angles, such as when these are connected to the main part of the roof (roofing of storm porches, above entrances) to maintain the integrity of the building. A proper, water resistant underlay will be needed in this case. And should you feel the need to replace your roofing more often, it will be easy to detach and fit a new roof without worrying about leaks.

Prices: Just like any other natural roof materials, shakes are not very cheap. The prices are comparable to stone or steel sheet roofs. The full price, including removal of old roofing material, transport and miscellaneous expenditures will amount to an average price of 30–45 euros per m², depending on the difficulty of the project, roof structure and materials chosen.

Historically, many houses with shake and shingle roofs can be found in Nõmme, Tallinn. Many have been designed by Edgar Velbri and are called “the Velbri houses”. The reputable architect used to live in one of these houses himself; this house is still standing (Vabaduse pst 127) today.

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