What Is Shake Siding?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Shake siding is home siding made from shakes, pieces of wood split from a log. In addition to traditional wooden shakes, it is also possible to find vinyl shakes, which are appealing to people looking for a low maintenance, less costly alternative to wooden shakes. Shake siding is used as the exterior cladding for homes and other structures all over the world, and it is sometimes viewed as a selling point, because some people find the look of shakes aesthetically pleasing.


Shakes are sometimes confused with shingles. Shingles are made by sawing a piece of wood on all sides to cut it to the appropriate size. Shakes are made by cutting wood down and splitting it. As a result, shakes have some natural variations in shape and size, and a more rustic look. They are sometimes referred to as “rough shingles,” which is a reasonably accurate description of how they look.

In the case of shake siding, the splits are classically long, and the shakes are overlapped in a pattern which covers the exterior of the home. Sizes may be varied to create visual interest. For example, small shakes may be used near the roof, with large shakes being used on the rest of the structure. Cedar is a popular wood for siding, although pine, redwood, and numerous other woods can be used as well.

The finish on shake siding can be quite varied. Sometimes the shakes are left untreated, fading to a naturally grayish color over time. Woods may be treated to help them resist pests and mold, in which case the treatment may discolor the wood slightly, and they can also be stained, in which case the siding will retain a rich, dark color as long as it is re-stained on a regular basis. People can also opt to paint shake siding.

Like other types of exterior cladding, shake siding can eventually break down. Individual shakes may fall off if they have not been properly secured, and the wood can also soften and split. One convenient aspect of this type of siding is that as long as people keep replacement shakes around, it's easy to replace a few damaged shakes. Many contractors will leave a box of shakes behind when they finish the siding on a home so that replacements are readily available. Shakes can also sometimes be salvaged from other structures, if they are removed with care.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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