Shingles ................ .............. Illustrated Architecture Dictionary
Relating to or having tiles, shingles, or slates that overlap.
The weather-tight covering formed by overlapping rows of plain or end-modified tiles or shingles thereby producing distinctive surface patterns.
Overlapping rows of shaped tiles or shingles that resemble overlapping fish scales.
Origin: 1640-1650; from Latin imbricare "to cover with roof tiles"
Popular on Queen Anne, Second Empire, Stick, Arts & Crafts, Shingle, bungalow and Foursquare style houses
Shingle Pattern for Queen Anne Houses
By Demetra Aposporos
Old-House Journal, May-June 2008 (online Nov. 2016)
One of the hallmarks of the Victorian era was a desire to be noticed. It’s a theme that repeated itself on every aspect of home furnishings of the day. Furniture was dripping in ornament, hardware was intricately incised, and buildings were adorned with every manner of attention-grabbing detail - from gingerbread trim to stained glass windows to seductively turned porch rails. Even exterior walls vied for attention through rows of patterned shingles, a technique with the funny- and formal-sounding name imbrication.
Victorian architects managed to use common cedar shingles to wildly decorative effect. These architects took simple pieces of wood - albeit ones handsomely cut across their butt ends - and placed them in rows to form distinctive patterns that managed to draw the eyes of observers as effectively as a wolf-whistle turns heads on a crowded street.
The patterns could be simple, like a single band of fancy shingles running three or four deep around the middle of a house, which is known as a belt course. Or they could be much more elaborate, with row upon row of shingles of different shapes and styles stacked one atop the other, top to bottom, much like a queen wearing dazzling crown jewels on her way to a royal ball.
Some shingles were fancier than others, although all of these decorative shingles are referred to today as ‘fancy cuts.’ Back in the day, the simplest shingle designs might be square- or diagonal-cut across the bottom. But even these plain-Jane cuts could make dramatic statements across a house, especially when paired together in alternating rows. Mixing two rows of square-cuts with one row of diagonals created a shadow-box effect, heightened as the sun moved across the sky throughout the day. Paint those shingles different colors, and suddenly walls came to life in the pointy petals of a black-eyed Susan or a sunflower.
And those were just the simple patterns. On complicated, architect-designed high-style houses, it was possible to find five or six rows of different shingle designs. Shingles ending in diamonds or arrows were set atop round- or fish-scale cuts. Half coves were arranged in a line above square-cut shingles, their cutouts matched at the seams to form half-circles. A gable might be decked out in shingles with ends cut to resemble puzzle pieces, looking like something you’d find in a crumpled heap in the corner of a child’s room. The possibilities were endless.
The Art of Shingle Patterns
By Mary Ellen Polson
May 9, 2016, Arts & Crafts Homes
Victorians lavished fancy-cut wood shingles on Queen Anne homes, especially at the gable - just one of many exuberant accents. Architects favored continuous rows of cedar shingles to wrap the walls, towers, and eyebrow windows of their Shingle style “cottages.” While earlier styles lend precedent for shingle patterns used on Arts & Crafts houses, the overall effect is subtler on a bungalow or Foursquare.
Certainly, the most common use of shingles was the straightforward laying of evenly butted rows of tightly spaced shingles marching across the façade. Sometimes simple works best, especially when paired with architectural elements that tend to stand out, like massive porch piers and airplane-hangar trusses. In other cases, the modest bungalow or the grand architectural statement gets a slightly different look through minor variations in how the shingles are cut, laid, or both.
Like clapboards, shingles are tapered, cut to be thinner at the top and thicker towards the bottom (butt). Again like clapboards, they are installed in overlapping rows, exposing several inches of the course below with each succeeding row of shingles. Since there are gaps (called keyways) between each shingle, it’s important to stagger the next row. That way, the overlapping shingles fall so that all the exposed keyways in the course below are completely covered.
Like clapboards, courses of shingles throw horizontal shadow lines. As an added textural feature, the keyways create a vertical element in the overall composition of a shingled exposure. That’s the reason shingled facades seem to have a rhythmic quality, even when the shingles are installed as simply as possible.
Varying that rhythm while maintaining the purpose of the shingles - that is, to shed water and protect the house - is easier than you might think. Simply varying the exposure of the butt ends or the width of the keyway can lead to a dramatically different appearance overall. Here are the popular historic variations on Arts & Crafts houses:
DOUBLE COURSING In this method, each course is two shingles thick - in effect, doubled up - to create a deeper shadow line. It is especially dramatic when used with fancy cut shingles.
RIBBON COURSING In this technique, the exposed depth of shingle rows varies between courses to create a series of alternating wide or narrow bands. Depending on preference, the narrow bands can be very tight and the wide bands broad, or anywhere in between.
STAGGERED BUTT COURSING In its most subtle form, the butt exposures are staggered slightly (up to an inch) with each shingle. Shingles can also be laid in an “up and down” pattern that resemble picturesque slate. Although each course follows a general line, there’s not a straight horizontal in sight.
KEYWAY VARIATIONS Simply eliminating or enlarging the gap between shingles alters the look of the house as well.
LONG EXPOSURE Another Greene & Greene technique was the use of oversized shingles with exposures much longer than the typical 3″ to 7″ used in most shingle sidewalls. Although they’re visually long, the shingles are in perfect proportion for the scale of a massive yet graceful structure like the Gamble House.
Today’s best siding shingles are cedar, preferably vertical grain, a cut that produces a tapered shingle that’s tight-grained and long-lived. Although you can still get traditionally cut shingles, most of today’s products are precision-cut by machine, squared to install uniformly, and designed with ridges on the backs to aid ventilation for moisture control.
Manufacturers have reduced labor costs for us as well, selling the material in ready-to-install panels up to 8' long, eliminating the need to nail up shingles one at a time. They’re idiot-proof, too: some come with marks on the rows to help the installer line them up perfectly with the desired overlap.
Examples from Buffalo architecture:
- Illustration above: Hewitt House
- For more examples, see Shingle entry