What to look for when buying shingles & shakes

What to look for when buying shingles & shakes

Care must be taken when buying Shingles and Shakes as the quality can be variable. Poor quality Shingles can exhibit cell collapse, contain too many narrow shingles or not have sufficient coverage. All of which could compromise the performance and durability of your shingle roof.

So how do you know which to choose? What is the difference between the different grades? And does it really make a difference if the shingles you buy are Bureau approved?

Well the easy answer is when choosing shingles you get what you pay for; but knowing the difference in grades and types will help you get the best quality for your investment.

There are two broad categories of Cedar Shingle available in the UK; the most typical is Western Red Cedar but Easten White Cedar is now often confusingly sold as ‘Cedar Shingles’. Eastern White Cedar belongs to the same family as Western Red, but their geography belies significant differences. Whist both can be processed into shingles, the natural make-up of the wood results in a big difference in durability and performance.

As its name suggests, Eastern White is a cedar species indigenous to the South Eastern coast of Canada and North East America, where the climate and growing conditions are very different to the west coast. Eastern Whites grow much smaller than a Western Red making it more likely to contain flat grain and occasionally sap wood, which are undesirable in shingles. It is also less dense and lighter, therefore weaker and more susceptible to damage and wear. Eastern White Shingles are imported into the UK, not for their performance, but simply they can be cheaper.

Western Red by its very nature exhibits far superior performance, ideal for the UK climate. Grown on in the Pacific coastal forests of Western Canada where the growing conditions result in a much taller and larger trees. In fact the very best quality Western Red comes from British Columbia, where conditions are optimum. Western Red Cedar grows with a tight, straight grain, contains very few knots and is even highly resistant to decay as it contains natural fungicide.

Over centuries Cedar Shingles and Shakes have been proven to perform well and as the market has grown so has the number of types of shingle available to buy.

Blue or Red label Shingles?
A number 1 grade blue label is the premium quality shingle without defect. Blue Label Shingles must be 100% clear, 100% edge grain and 100% heartwood. If the shingle exhibits anything other than 100% quality it has to been downgraded to either red, black or green label.

These lower grade shingles can still be used, but only in situations where their inherent defects will not compromise the construction. For commercial use in the UK in habitable buildings, Number 1 grade blue label should be used. Red Label shingles are often used in garden buildings, garages, horse stables for example, where an economy shingle is adequate. Even with red label the face must be at least clear for 250mm from the butt.

Should you buy Bureau Approved Shingles?

So if it’s Number 1 grade blue label, why does it need to be Bureau? Why is it important?

The Cedar Shingle and Shake Bureau is a member organisation that is recognised worldwide as having the highest quality standards. It owns the trademarks of Certigrade (for Shingles) and Certi-Split (for shakes). The Cedar Shake and Shingle and Bureau is a not for profit organisation, established in its initial form in 1915 committed to ensuring the quality and standards relating to cedar shingle are maintained. Whilst the CSSB has no jurisdiction outside of Canada and the US, limited knowledge and under developed British Standards for shingles and shakes in the UK roofing market means this organisation provides invaluable knowledge and support.

Unlike non – Bureau Mills, which only require a single annual inspection, only CSSB member mills are allowed to use the distinctive "Certi" brand name on their product labels. All manufacturing members must commit to independent, third party random inspections. These inspections ensure that grading standards are followed. Strict adherence to these guidelines allows Certi-labelTM products to enjoy a consistent quality reputation. CSSB manufacturing members also undergo a second quality control check by the CSSB-exclusive Cedar Quality Auditor.

Any mills not meeting the standard are not permitted use theCerti-label brand and are removed from the list

What should you look for?

• No.1 Blue Label grade
• Bureau Approved
• Correct product label in the bundle
• Full FSC or PEFC chain of custody

John Brash takes great care in assessing the third party accreditation of its suppliers to ensure only superior quality shingle and shake are used

Western Red Cedar Shingles & Shakes from John Brash are a truly renewable and sustainable roofing & cladding material, with one of the lowest carbon footprints of any widely used building product. They are light for transport but offer a high degree of thermal insulation. All John Brash Cedar Shingles & Shakes have PEFC Chain of Custody, to ensure both a legal and sustainable product.

Shingles and Shakes have been used for a wide range of structures from domestic dwellings to major theme parks. Shingles & Shakes can contribute significantly to the achievements of Zero Carbon Housing.

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John Brash & Co Ltd

John Brash & Co Ltd

John Brash is a leading manufacturer of commercial anti-slip decking, graded timber roofing battens, shingles & shakes, and scaffold boards. With over 100 years technical expertise in the timber industry the company work in close partnership with the...
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 The Old Shipyard, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, DN21 1NG


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