How to Hand-Split Shingles and Shingle a House

How to hand-split shingles and shingle a house, including tools, traditional shingle break and illustrated guide, nailing base and shingle placement.

| May/June 1987

  • 105-056-01i1
    Reroofing the Gott cabin is a job for the entire family
    PHOTO: JACK GREEN
  • Shingle step 1
    1. First,split a shingle block into eight more or less equal sections, using a froe and hardwood mallet.
    KIM BELGER-SUCHOKI
  • Shingle step 2
    2. Split away the darker colored (unusually) heartwood from the point of each wedge of wood.
    KIM BELGER-SUCHOKI
  • Shingle step 3
    3. You'll also need to split off the bark and the sapwood beneath it.
    KIM BELGER-SUCHOKI
  • Shingle step 4
    4. Once the block has been split a few times, you'll need to support it in a shingle break.
    KIM BELGER-SUCHOKI
  • Shingle step 5
    5. The final splits call for a delicate touch with the froe to prevent uneven splitting.
    KIM BELGER-SUCHOKI
  • Shingle step 7
    7. The intricate shingling pattern provides good insurance against leaks.
    KIM BELGER-SUCHOKI
  • Shingle step 6
    6. A large chisel can be used to "dress up" any ragged edges and prepare the shingle for use.
    KIM BELGER-SUCHOKI
  • 105-056-01i5
    A traditional shingle break.
    KIM BELGER-SUCHOKI
  • 105-056-01i10
    Shingle nailing base and shingle placement.
    KIM BELGER-SUCHOKI

  • 105-056-01i1
  • Shingle step 1
  • Shingle step 2
  • Shingle step 3
  • Shingle step 4
  • Shingle step 5
  • Shingle step 7
  • Shingle step 6
  • 105-056-01i5
  • 105-056-01i10

Hand-split "shakes" are unmatched for beauty when you shingle a house. 

How to Hand-Split Shingles and Shingle a House

Near as Peter Gott can recollect, he's split some 15,000 shingles over the past quarter of a century. Appalachia's master hewn-log craftsman used the most recent batch of 4,300 in the fall of '85 to replace the original 23-year-old cedar shingle roofs on the Gott family cabin and outbuildings in Cowbell Holler, which is just a piece off Tater Gap Road in the Smoky Mountain foothills of western North Carolina.

And as Peter proved to me—among the least crafty of wood craftsmen—anyone who owns a few inexpensive hand tools and a good measure of patience can learn to split (or rive, to use the appropriate lingo) beautiful wood shingles to shingle a house.

When calculating the number of shingles required for a roofing job, Gott figures 400 standard-sized shingles (3-1/2 inch to 9 inch wide by 19 inches long) per square (100 square feet) of roof to be covered. While a novice would have to hustle to rive even a few dozen usable shingles in a day, Peter can turn out several hundred in the same period of time.(See the shingle diagrams and step-by-step shingling in the image gallery.)



Here's how it's done:

First you need a tree—or maybe several trees, depending on the number of shingles required and the diameter of the tree. If you live in or near the eastern hardwood forests, just about any variety of oak will suffice-, Peter uses red oak because it's both plentiful and easy to split (though less durable than white oak). Out west, most varieties of pine and some firs are suitable for shingles, but these softwoods should be treated with a low-toxicity, non-flammable wood preservative to forestall rotting.






Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard
Free Product Information Classifieds

}