Installing Siding Shingles

This project covers installing siding shingles.


Cedar shingles take more time to install than most other types of siding, but they create a richly textured look. Shingles can be installed only if the sheathing is boards, plywood, or OSB.

Shingles should be installed to provide triple coverage, with three layers of shingles covering the wall. To achieve this, the exposures should be slightly less than one-third the length of the shingle. For example, in these pages 16-inch-long shingles are installed with 5-inch exposures.

You could first install outside corner trim made of 1X boards and then butt the shingles up to the trim, but a woven corner is more attractive. A woven inside corner is much more difficult to achieve, so the usual practice is to install inside corner trim prior to shingling.

Because shingles can swell slightly, it is sometimes recommended that you provide 1/8-inch gaps between the shingles. However, as long as the shingles are not completely dried out, they will shrink slightly after installation, so gapping is usually not needed. Check with your supplier to be sure.

Prestart Checklist

With a helper, a day for 400 square feet

Staple gun or hammer, circular saw, tape measure, Surform tool, block plane, chalk line, drill, flat pry bar, level, story pole, caulking gun, utility knife, T-bevel, tin snips, ladders and/or scaffolding

Basic carpentry skills

Cover sheathing with building wrap; install trim boards and flashings.

Wood shingles, cedar wood trim, stainless-steel or galvanized nails or staples, caulk, primer and paint or sealer

Step 1

Apply building wrap and prepare the walls. Apply self-stick flashing to corners and around windows and doors; apply flashings as needed. Take special care not to crease the wrap or flashings.

Step 2

Apply trim around the windows and doors as needed. If you will weave the shingles at outside corners (see steps 6 and 7), you don't need outside corner trim.

Step 3

Use a story pole to lay out courses and to avoid narrow pieces above or below windows and doors. You may choose to raise or lower the bottom course to achieve the desired layout (see Step 10) or use the swing-stick method. Mark the layout all around the house.

Step 4

Install inside corner trim pieces. These should not be too visible but must be wide enough to provide room for caulking after the shingles are installed. A 1X1 board ripped from 5/4 cedar decking is often the ideal size. Hold up several layers of shingles to make sure the trim is thick enough.

Step 5

Install the first starter-course piece at a corner. It should run past the corner by about 1 inch. Use a small level to hold it plumb and attach with two nails or staples. Less-expensive low-grade shingles can be used as the starter course.

Step 6

Install a piece on the other side of the corner butted against the first piece. Use a utility knife to roughly cut the first piece.

Step 7

Use a small plane or Surform tool to trim the shingle edge flush. When building a corner, trim and plane each piece before moving on to the next course.

Step 8

Make a jig (as shown) as a quick and failsafe way to keep the courses even. Use a straight 1X4 as the guide and 1X2s as the hangers. Check that it's level and fasten it with 3-inch screws.

Step 9

The starter course is made of two layers of shingles. Attach the second layer so its joints are offset at least 1-1/2 inches from the joints of the underlying layer. You will likely need to cut the last pieces in each row.

Step 10

Build up the corners. The bottom course (which is on top of the starter course) may be anywhere from 1 to 4 inches above the starter course, depending on your layout. To maintain correct exposures use a homemade exposure guide. Drive nails or staples about 1 inch above the exposure so they will be covered. Also check your layout marks every few courses. Trim and plane a corner board before you install the next course.

Step 11

Build the inside corners in the same way; you will not need to plane any shingle edges.

Step 12

Once you have built up the corners by about 10 courses, snap a chalk line to mark the bottom of the next course. Attach vertical pieces to a long, straight guide and attach to the wall as shown. Place shingles on the guide board and fasten them, offsetting joints by at least 1-1/2 inches.

Step 13

At window and door corners, install wide notch-cut shingles. Avoid having a joint closer than 1 inch from the corner.

Step 14

Above a window or door, you will need to cut and install strips of the correct thickness so that the full-thickness pieces installed over them will be correctly flared out from the wall.

Step 15

Turn off the water and remove a hose spigot. Use a drill and a hole saw to cut a neat hole in the shingle. The hole should be large enough that there is at least a 1/4-inch gap between the pipe and the shingle to avoid damage from condensation. Caulk the gap before replacing the spigot.

Step 16

Set a scrap of wood on the roof and use a T-bevel to capture the angle for cutting along a gable. Where possible, install the angled pieces first, then fill in with full-length pieces.

Step 17

Along a roof, install flashing. Then install shingles 1 or 2 inches above the flashing. To cut a series of shingles that follow a roofline, align four or five of them on a worktable and snap a chalk line across them all, using the T-bevel as a guide.

Step 18

Once all the shingles are installed, apply caulk at all the trim joints. Apply two or more coats of sealer or two coats of primer before painting.

Comments (7)
tomdwonchgmail wrote:

Great help

12/21/2016 10:13:55 PM Report Abuse
wadejoel1234gm wrote:

Siding is really nice because it gives your home a bit of flair. It can be pretty hard to install if you do not know what you are doing. I did not know that you could install wood shingles on the side of your home, I might have to try that sometime.

7/11/2016 01:19:01 PM Report Abuse
Add your comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Register | Log In
Find a Pro

Get free quotes from prescreened professionals in your area.