One of the more “New England”-oriented things to do when it comes to the exterior décor on one’s home is to let white cedar shingle siding weather.
When using the term “weather”, I am referencing literally, not (or minimally) treating the shingles.
The purpose of allowing the shingles to weather is typically to allow them to achieve an appearance that has become synonymous with many “beach” communities – think Cape Cod, Block Island, Narragansett, RI, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, etc.
Unlike their red cedar cousins, when left to weather, white cedar shingles will change in appearance over time.
They will shrink and “gray” out, even if treated with some type of a clear coat water protectant/repellant system.
When accompanied by white trim, a home with grayed out white cedar shingles seems to officially be able to check the boxes and achieve this “beachy” home status.
Although white cedar shingles tend not to rot out in the traditional idea of rot [becoming soft & punky, which could happen in certain situations (above a window or door as an example) but is rare] their physical shape will be greatly changed over time.
White cedar shingles, particularly the more weather they are exposed to, will give off the vibe of a wooden contortionist.
Curling, warping, buckling, and the like are very much what one would expect to come across as the white cedar weathers.
We field dozens of yearly calls regarding this type of phenomenon and folks concerned as to whether or not the shingles need replacing.
My answer always is “it depends”.
If you want your shingles cosmetically to look as perfect as possible, then perhaps replacing the contorted shingles is something that may be worth looking into.
Even attempting to pre-drill holes in certain areas of the shingles (to avoid cracking) and driving stainless steel ring nails into the shingle, will usually not be a viable solution in terms of satisfying the urge to “flatten” the white cedar shingles’ look when they get to a certain state of natural curvy being.
From a structural standpoint, assuming the white cedar shingles were originally installed correctly, they should be absolutely fine.
Each white cedar shingle is between 18” and 24” long.
Because of the way the shingles are layered and weaved as they are installed, the only portion of the shingle that is most greatly affected by the weather is the portion of the shingle that is actually exposed to the weather (somewhere between 5” and 8” of the shingle).
When installing shingle siding, it is installed from the bottom of your home up.
This means that there are many layers of protection, guarding against moisture penetration as the shingle siding makes its way up and around the house.
The shingles are staggered when they are installed which allows for water to be shed off the face of each shingle without the worry that it will land in a gap directly below it.
I am not sure that anyone would make the argument that white cedar shingle siding bending and curving at all different angles is “pretty”, but it is important to note that regardless of the way they cosmetically appear, white cedar shingles twisting six ways to Sunday over time does not necessarily warrant replacement in the interest of stabilizing the structural integrity of your home.
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