Western Red Cedar trees are well known for their great heights, huge trunk diameters and in turn being decay resistant. All this makes for one of the more durable home siding options with unmatched natural beauty.
The average cost to install cedar shake siding ranges from $7.50 to $14.00 per square foot, depending on job complexity and location. You can expect to pay between $16,600 and $25,500 for a contractor to install new cedar shake siding on a typical house. Add an extra $1,000 to $3,000 if needing your old siding removed and disposed of.
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Stylistic Considerations and Pricing Factors
Besides Western Red Cedar, Northern White Cedar provides the lumber that are transformed, by sawmills, into shake. It used to be shakes were axe cut by hand and shingles were the lumber that went the route of saw mill cutting. Not anymore. For the most part, all cedar shakes are produced using power equipment.
Much of milling is concerned with grade of wood, where knots and blemishes come into play. Clear grades are considered premium. For the most part, all shake siding makes use of clear grade. Though if going with a double layer on the home, a lesser grade may be used underneath, as it presumably has no exposure.
Length of each board is a key factor. These are most often 18 inches (called Perfection) or 24 inches (referred to as Royal length). You can expect to pay more for Royal lengths, while realizing you’ll need more of Perfection cuts to cover the same area.
The two major factors that drive style for shake are the color and bottom edge, also known as butt-end, appearance. Color comes primarily from type of tree, so light (from white cedar) or dark (from red cedar). The thickness, along with other design patterns, comes from the way it is cut.
Another distinction between shingles and shake is the thickness of the lower edge. Usually for shingle it stays uniform at 3/8th an inch. With shake, it ranges from half an inch to 7/8ths. Hand-split shake pieces would sometimes exceed thicknesses of 1 inch.
The most common variation of cedar shake appears as all flat bottom edges, which produces well defined horizontal lines. Staggered patterns characteristically go away from this uniform approach. They always appear as bottom edges that don’t align. And routinely have widths that are not exactly the same as shakes that surround it.
Then comes the variations with the bottom edge. Again, straight across, or square, is the most common. But options include round, fish scale, pointed, diagonal, octagonal and arrow. These fancy cuts usually mean a higher price for the material, but buying in bulk is the way to keep costs down.
Finally, there is staining, or painting the shake material. Clear stains retain the natural beauty, while adding protective coating to ward of insects or make the material more resistant to fire.
Because of how labor intensive staining and painting can be, it is perhaps better to buy pre-stained or pre-primed shake. This won’t necessarily be more expensive than non-finished material, and will likely save on labor costs after installation. Usually, staining or painting runs about $2 per sq. ft. for exterior application.
Of all the wood siding options, shake and shingle installation is most expensive in terms of labor charges. Lots of individual pieces take much longer to put up than 8 to 16 foot boards or panels.
Wood shake has an R-value near 1, coming in at about .9. That’s greater than non-insulated materials such as hollow-back vinyl, or aluminum siding, and significantly more than a single coat of stucco, and brick or stone veneer. To achieve greater insulation, a double layer of shake will then rival even insulated options of above materials.
Like other forms of wood siding, composite materials are manufactured to replicate cedar shake siding. These tend to be more durable, longer lasting options that overcome the disadvantages (see below) of shake siding, though don’t quite capture the inherent beauty of actual wood.
Because it is a wood siding, an experienced handyman can handle installation. For many other siding options, specialists trained specifically in working with that material are your best option. With wood in general, this is not the case. Though with shake, experience is preferable.
- natural beauty – likely the number one reason any chooses this material
- relatively inexpensive – compared to other wood options, more expensive, but compared to fiber cement, a bit less expensive
- beauty and moderate expense make for decent ROI. Other wood siding options don’t achieve the 80% ROI that cedar shake routinely averages in the U.S.
- durability – resists rot and insects better than other woods
- good to great insulation properties
- ongoing maintenance is the major disadvantage of wood – plan to refinish it every 10 years or more
- untreated wood, or poorly maintained, will burn rather easily
- plus wood does eventually rot or dry out
- while repairs are possible, the layering style makes replacing individual pieces fairly challenging
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