Techniques > Briefs > Roofing for Historic Buildings > Historic Roofing Materials in America

Reference Brief 19

• Examples
• Wood species
• Shingles vs Shakes


Wood shingles were popular throughout the country in all periods of building history. The size and shape of the shingles as well as the detailing of the shingle roof differed according to regional craft practices. People within particular regions developed preferences for the local species of wood that most suited their purposes.

In New England and the Delaware Valley, white pine was frequently used: in the South, cypress and oak; in the far west, red cedar or redwood. Sometimes a protective coating was applied to increase the durability of the shingle such as a mixture of brick dust and fish oil, or a paint made of red iron oxide and linseed oil.

Commonly in urban areas, wooden roofs were replaced with more fire-resistant materials, but in rural areas this was not a major concern. On many Victorian country houses, the practice of wood shingling survived the technological advances of metal roofing in the 19th century, and near the turn of the century enjoyed a full revival in its namesake, the Shingle Style. Colonial Revival and the Bungalow styles in the 20th century assured wood shingles a place as one of the most fashionable, domestic roofing materials.

Material needed from: Wood Shingles, Roofing for Historic Buildings, NPS