Why Do Beach Houses Have Wood Shingles?

By their very nature, beach houses are required to withstand some of the harshest weather conditions, so the materials used for these buildings must perform as required.

Wooden shingles were originally used on coastal houses as this was seen to be the most effective way to safeguard the house against inclement weather conditions. Wooden shingles are seen as a durable material that can withstand harsh coastal conditions while remaining aesthetically pleasing.

While shingles were originally used for their weather-withstanding properties, this building material has remained popular and has become somewhat of a tradition in coastal areas.

Why Do Beach Houses Have Wood Shingles?

When building in coastal areas, the materials must be chosen to allow for working with nature instead of working against it.

Regardless of the weather, beach houses need to remain comfortable and livable throughout the year.

On the coast, the combination of saltwater and sand – as well as wind – will very quickly deteriorate painted surfaces. This limits the materials that can be used, which will require little to no maintenance.

Wooden shingles will not only withstand harsh weather but will also age and weather naturally, improving their aesthetic as time passes.

Shingles have relatively low maintenance requirements and can withstand harsh UV radiation, as well as the extreme humidity and heavy wind conditions prevalent in coastal areas.

Another reason for the use of wooden shingles in coastal areas of the United States is that Cedar trees (from which the majority of timber shingles are produced) are commonly found in these areas. So it was a highly cost-effective material to make use of.

In addition to this, Cedar possesses a high level of “built-in” weather resistance, is easy to repair, and is highly receptive to oil-based treatments. This allows for the shingles to be effectively weatherproof without the need for painting and repainting. This increases its appeal to be used in coastal areas.

Cape Cod homes have become synonymous with wood shingles, often used in the roofing and siding of these homes. Shingles were used primarily to protect these homes against extremely harsh New England winters and have become a good low-maintenance alternative to traditional siding.

What Are The Disadvantages of Cedar Shingles?

Cedar shingles are most often more expensive than asphalt shingles.

Wood fungus is another common occurrence in timber shingles, occurring in damp areas of the building and ultimately leading to rotting of the timber itself.

While considered low maintenance, wood shingles must be coated with a clear timber preservative every 3 years. This allows the timber to age slowly and evenly.

While cedar shingles are considered the most durable of natural timber shingles, they possess limitations.

If these shingles are installed correctly and maintained properly, homeowners can be assured that their timber shingles will last for decades.

Unfortunately, however, installation is often faulty, and maintenance is often lacking, with the result that the timber can begin to rot in certain areas.

Certain exposed areas, such as sections close to the ground or those around doors or windows, can become susceptible to rotting. To prevent this, painting or staining must take place, and this must be repeated with some regularity.

This maintenance must be carried out to ensure moisture does not become an issue and ensure that the building maintains its aesthetic appeal.

The environmental impact of using cedar timber must also be considered. If the timber used is not sourced from sustainable plantations, it can have a significant environmental impact. The need for replacement every 15 years or so also means that the building’s carbon footprint is significantly increased due to the need to replace materials.

Good quality cedar shingles can last up to 30 years depending on maintenance and climate factors, but small sections may need to be replaced after only 10 years. This requirement for replacing the entire building façade every 2 or 3 decades can be a major drawback for homeowners.

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What Are The Alternatives to Natural Timber Shingles?

Due to the issues found with natural timber shingles over the years, a concerted effort has been made to find alternative materials which can be used.

Initially, aluminum and vinyl were used; however, these showed numerous issues.

Fiber cement was introduced later, and this has proven to solve most of the issues seen with previous iterations of shingles alternatives.

Fiber cement shingles create a durable siding that also resists insect infestations, moisture problems and is seen as far more resistant to flames than timber shingles.

It is seen as a low-maintenance alternative to cedar shingles and often boasts a warranty of up to 30 years.

Certain companies such as “Beach House Shake” have developed a polymer shake that allows homeowners to enjoy the beauty of natural cedar cladding without the maintenance requirements or discoloration inherent in the natural product.

What Is The Difference Between Shingles and Shakes?

The main difference between shingles and shakes is seen in their shape. Shingles are typically sawn on both sides from a timber block, while shakes are usually sawn on one end and split by hand on the other side. As a result, shakes are typically thicker than shingles and possess a thick textured appearance, resulting in a more irregular, organic finish on the building.

Due to their inherent thickness and the resultant use of material. This is also due to their inherent difficulty in installation when compared to typical shingles. This difficulty is a result of their inconsistent shape.


While timber shingles on coastal homes were born out of a need for a durable building material that can withstand harsh weather conditions, timber shingles have become a somewhat traditional material in coastal areas of the US. This material and its synthetic alternatives now serve to maintain a long-established aesthetic which also serves a highly functional purpose.