Q: I live in a brown-shingle townhouse complex in which the state of the shingles is a frequent point of discussion. The buildings are now close to 30 years old, and the cedar shingles are untreated. Single shakes are cupping and drying out, particularly on the weather side, but most seem to be in decent shape.

A serious leak that was caused by this winter’s heavy rainstorms seems to be related to a faulty glass sliding door and the shingles around it. It will require major balcony and indoor repairs.

There is also an issue with carpenter bees burrowing beneath the shingles.

All of that has raised these questions:

Is it sufficient to tear out just the shingles related to the leak?

Would it be advisable to replace all the shingles and building felt underneath, as the code requirements for the weight of such material has changed (ours is 10-pound)?

Must shingles ever be treated and are there alternative forms of treatment?

Finally, are there companies that specialize in shingle work — and if so, can you recommend some?

A: We’ve always had a soft spot for the beauty of wood-shingled houses. In the early ’90s, Bill owned a Craftsman cottage in Alameda, Calif. We got some "sidewall experience" when we added an addition as part of a kitchen expansion. We worked together on that job and spent more than an hour or two blending the new cedar shingles with the old.

While your 30-year-old siding might seem a bit long in the tooth, most of it probably has years of useful life left. Kevin recalls reshingling homes with siding 60 years old and up.

That is not to say that some repair and preventive maintenance aren’t in order. First we suggest you repair the obviously damaged shingles. One of the advantages of cedar shakes and shingles is that individual pieces can be repaired. As for the bee infestation, contact an exterminator to get rid of the bees, then make the necessary repairs to the siding.

We’ll answer the other questions in the order you’ve posed them.

How many shingles you will need to replace depends on the condition of the shingles around the leak. Water can travel a long way from a penetration in the sidewall to the place where the leak shows itself. If the shingles on the periphery of the suspected leak are warped, cupped or split, replace them. It also may be more cost effective to replace the entire area than just do a patch.

At some point you will have to replace all of the siding. Failure of the siding is the reason for replacement, not compliance with updated building codes. By your description, you aren’t there yet.

You’re correct in assuming that the 10-pound felt underlayment installed 30 years ago is substandard today. The Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau, an industry trade association, recommends that 30-pound felt underlayment be installed under new sidewall shingle applications.

We’d bet the areas most in need of help are the south- and west-facing walls. They take the brunt of the midday sun and are most exposed to winter storms. One option for replacement might be to stage the project, replacing the most worn walls first and the rest as needed.

There is no definitive answer to the question of whether shingles should be treated. We err on the side of caution and say no. However, when replacement time comes, treated cedar shingles are available. This makes sense to us because the new material is pressure treated on all four sides.

For a good primer on shingle maintenance, see the brochure provided by the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau.

There are companies that specialize in wood shake and shingle work. Sorry, but we can’t make a recommendation.

The best way to find a contractor is to make inquiries of suppliers, in this case roofing supply houses. Go down to the yard, explain the scope of your project and ask for recommendations of three companies to bid on the job.

They should be happy to help you out because it means more business for them. You should get a list of contractors who pay their bills on time, which means that they probably conduct business in a professional manner. As always, when searching for a contractor, make sure the one you select is licensed, insured and bonded.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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