How To Install Cedar Shingles on a Shed Roof and Walls

It’s time to put a roof on that backyard shed you just finished building and you’re looking for something that’s going to add a little more style and durability than your standard asphalt shingles. You’ve heard cedar is a great way to go, but you aren’t sure about the installation process.

So, how to install cedar shingles on a shed?

  • Cover the roof in felt roofing paper
  • Install a cedar breather if needed
  • Use a chalk line to align the starter course of cedar shingles
  • Install shingles using 2” weather-resistant nails
  • Install the first course directly on top of the starter course
  • Add remaining courses until you reach the roofline
  • Add the ridge cap across the peak of the roofline

As you can see, installing cedar shingles isn’t a difficult process. This project can be completed with just a few simple tools. This article will help you successfully install cedar shingles on the roof and walls of your shed.

How To Install Cedar Shingles on a Shed

What are Cedar Shingles?

Cedar shingles are machine cut from a solid block of either red or white cedar. In addition to being a visually attractive option for roofing, it also offers several advantages over traditional shingles and other wood products.

Unlike other woods, cedar has inherent natural preservatives that make it resistant to water, insects, and mold, making it ideal for roofing and siding. Thanks to its lightweight, straight grain pattern and uniform consistency, cedar is an easier material to work with than many other kinds of wood. Cedar also has natural insulating properties that asphalt shingles lack, helping you save money on heating in the summertime and air conditioning in the winter.

How to Install Cedar Shingles on a Shed Roof

Although there are definite dos and don’t when installing cedar shingles, the process is relatively simple, especially once you get the first couple of courses installed. And there are no special tools required for the job. In fact, with cedar shingle installation, expensive tools like a nailer are eschewed for a basic hammer. That and a circular saw, table saw, or chop saw is all you need.

Step 1: Planning and Preparation

Roofing felt

As with most roofing efforts, you’ll want to start your installation process by first laying some roofing felt. Determine how much you need by calculating the square footage of each roof section. This should be a relatively simple task for a shed project.

Cedar Shingles type

Just because you’ve chosen cedar as your roofing material doesn’t mean the selection process is over. You have a surprising amount of decisions to make regarding the type of cedar shingles you want to use before getting started.

First of all, It’s important to note that cedar roofing shingles are required to be fire rated. This means that they have been treated with minerals and salts that help to prevent cedar shingles from catching fire.

Consider what color you’re looking for. Western Red Cedar gets its name from its distinctive reddish color while Northern White Cedar is lighter with a yellow hue.

White cedar has its pros and cons. As unfinished white cedar ages, it develops a silvery gray color, which is appealing to many homeowners.

White cedar also holds paint and stain well. White cedar is not as durable as red cedar. It is more brittle than red cedar and therefore deteriorates more quickly, requiring more maintenance.

The presence of tannic acid coupled with its high water repellency makes red cedar significantly more durable than white cedar. Red cedar is capable of lasting several generations before needing replacement.

Aesthetically speaking, red cedar does not age as well as white. The high concentration of tannic acid in the wood tends to make it darken over time and become blotchy. Red cedar also does not hold paint or stain well.

Cost is also an issue to consider. Red cedar is significantly more expensive than white because it grows more slowly.

In addition to color, you also need to consider cut. Cedar shingles come in two available cuts: sawn and sanded. The choice is purely an aesthetic one.

Sawn cedar shingles give you the shake style, which is a rustic look that is appealing to many homeowners. Sanded shingles are smooth and even on both sides, which provide a less stylized look for your shed.

You can also choose to go with actual cedar shakes, which have a rugged appearance. Unlike standard cedar shingles, which are sawn, cedar shakes are split. This gives them a less uniform look as the cut typically follows the grain of the wood.

Uneven structure does make shakes more vulnerable to wind and snow. As such, they must be installed with a layer of felt weaved between them for added protection.

Fasteners and tools

Materials & Size

Having the right nails for any roofing job is critical to making sure your shingles stay where they are supposed to stay: firmly attached to your roof. The failure of even a couple of nails to stay in place can result in a loose shingle, leaky roof and water damage. When installing cedar shingles, use two-inch nails made of stainless steel, aluminum or galvanized steel.

All of these fasteners will do a good job, but if you choose to use stainless steel, make sure you select the right stainless steel alloy. Sounds complicated? Not really.

Choose your alloy based on how far you are from the beach and the moist salty air that comes with it. If you’re within 15 miles of the ocean, you’ll need 316 alloy to ensure your nails don’t corrode. If you are further away, 304 alloy will do the trick.

In addition to purchasing shingles, you’ll also need cedar v-shaped ridge caps to cover your roofline. These can be purchased prefabricated or can be easily made once you’ve completed the installation of the other shingles.

Cost Estimation

To figure out how many shingles you need to complete your roofing or siding project, you first need to determine the square footage your covering. Measure the length and width of all surfaces you are planning to cover.

If you’re siding your shed as well, also remember to subtract square footage for your windows and doors. Add the totals for each side of your project.

Each box of cedar shingles covers 25 square feet, so divide your total by 25 and round up. A shed needing 100 square feet of siding would need four boxes of siding.

Wood Acclimation

After purchasing your cedar shingles, you’ll need to acclimate the shingles before installation. Remember, cedar shingles are wood, so acclimation is necessary to allow the wood to expand or shrink based on the moisture content in the air.

Failure to do this will cause your shingles to potentially warp and pull free of their fasteners while on your roof, causing a bevy of problems you don’t want. Store the cedar shingles outside, making sure to keep them off the ground and covered by a tarp, so they stay dry. A week or so should be enough time for the wood to acclimate properly.

Step 2: Install Roofing Felt

Before you take a hammer to those shingles, you’ll first need to install the roofing felt. Why is this important? Roofing felt provides a second water barrier should you have a leak in your shingles.

You’ll need a hammer stapler to secure the felt onto your roof. Secure by applying staples every 12-14 inches and make sure to overlap edges for full coverage.

Step 3: Install Shingles

No products found.Proper ventilation is critical to ensure that your cedar shingles last for a long time. You have two options to ensure adequate ventilation. One is to cover the rafters of your shed with spaced sheathing as opposed to plywood sheets. The gaps between the sheathing allow for proper ventilation, which prevents the cedar shingles from warping and cupping.

Another option is to use plywood sheathing in conjunction with a cedar breather (No products found.). Cedar breather creates a space between the cedar shingles and the roof.

This space allows the shingles to dry more quickly, preventing warping and cupping, prolonging the life of the shingles. Cedar breather comes in 200-square-foot rolls and should be installed over the roofing felt with nails or tacks.

Once you’ve secured your underlayment, you’re ready to begin the installation of your cedar shingles. Proper spacing is crucial here, so it’s important to review the entire process before getting started.

Begin by installing a starter course along the eaves of the roof. This first row of shingles should overhang the edge eaves and fascia by about 1 1/2” and about 1/2” over the edge of the roof to allow for proper drainage. Then overlay the starter course with your first row of shingles.

Alignment is key during the installation of the starter course and first course, as this will set the tone for the remaining rows of shingles. First, install shingles at each edge of the roof with the proper overhang.

Drive a nail into the butt of each shingle and run a chalk line to each nail. This will provide a guideline for the remaining shingles in the course.

Install each shingle by driving two nails about 3/4” from the edge of each shingle and about 1 1/2” above the butt of the next row of shingles, so the nail heads are covered by the succeeding shingle.

You might be tempted to break out the nail gun to make short work of this project. Don’t. Nail guns tend to drive nails too deeply, cracking the cedar. To ensure proper installation, you need to do this job the old fashioned way and use a hammer.

Remember, cedar, like all wood, will expand and contract as weather conditions change, so make sure the shingles are spaced 1/8” to 1/4” apart to allow for expansion. Failure to properly space will cause your shingles to buckle.

As you install each course, make sure to stagger your seams, so no two seams directly line up in any three courses.

When you reach the roofline, install premade ridge caps to cover your roofline. Begin by covering the peak of the roof with an adhesive sheeting.

Run a course of shingles followed by another course until the shingles create a straight peak across the roofline of the house. Once installed, make sure to cover the length of the roofline with roofing cement along with the exposed nail heads. As an alternative, you can also purchase a prefabricated ridge cap to cover the roofline.

How to Install Cedar Shingles on a Shed Wall

Maybe you love the look of cedar shingles so much that you want to cover the whole thing in cedar. Go for it! Installing cedar shingles on the wall isn’t a difficult process.

Begin by calculating the number of shingles you’ll need. As with the roof, measure the area of each surface, making sure to remove square footage for any windows or doors. Divide your total by 25 and round up to determine the number of boxes you will need.

Before getting started with the shingles, you’ll want first to wrap the walls in a water barrier. Fifteen or 30-pound felt or a house wrap will work.

Make sure to add drip edge flashing around tops of door openings and windows. Your shingles will run up against the door and window jambs, so make sure you’ve installed those before you begin.

Next, determine the bottom line for your shingles. Your shingles should hang over the edge of the shed’s wall sheathing by about an inch or two.

Nail a shingle at the end of each wall with the proper overhang and snap a chalk line to serve as a guide for the row. Using this chalk line method, extend the first row around the entire shed. As with the roofing shingles, make sure to leave a gap of 1/8” to 1/4” between each shingle to allow for expansion.

Attach each shingle with two 1 1/4” roofing nails, driving the nail heads flush with the wood but not into the wood. Cut each shingle to fit at the end of each row.

Next, mark a line for the lower edge of the next row of shingles. The lower edge should be about 5 to 8” above the edge of the previous row, depending on how much reveal you’re after.

Remember that the smaller the gap, the more material you will need for the project. Make a pencil mark at the desired height on each side of the wall and snap a chalk line as a guide. Do the same on the remaining walls.

Install the next row of shingles. Stagger the joints from one row to the next, making sure not to line up any two directly seems over any three courses. Continue with each row until you reach the top of the wall, then cut shingles to fit for the final course. Install wood trim at the top of the last row for a finished look.


If you’re willing to spend a little extra, Cedar roofing and siding is an excellent choice for finishing off your shed. Not only does cedar offer a natural beauty that other sidings and roofing options don’t, but it will also do an excellent job of protecting your investment thanks to its weather-resistant qualities.

By following these installation guidelines, you can successfully install cedar roofing and siding onto your shed, beautifying and protecting it for many years to come.

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