When I'm siding with cedar shingles, I like to give my projects
a distinctive look by taking advantage of this material's
unique artistic possibilities. I use just a few basic
techniques to craft a range of designs, from simple accents and
dramatic repeating patterns to amazing free-form
These techniques are easy to learn; I taught myself how to
create different shingle designs by looking at the work of
other sidewallers and then experimenting. In this article, I
will demonstrate how to build a simple geometric diamond.
A Simple Geometric Design
A diamond is a common shingle pattern; it can be as small as a
single shingle or it can fill an entire wall. In this example,
I'll create a diamond accent measuring about 15 inches wide by
30 inches high using point (also called diamond)
Like other common shapes that can be used to make repeating
geometric patterns — such as round, hexagon, half-cove,
fish-scale, and arrow — precut point shingles are
available from a number of different shingle manufacturers.
Precuts are convenient, particularly if you need a lot of them,
but you're limited to the quantities, sizes, and exposures
offered by the manufacturer.
If you need only a few shingles — as in this project
— and don't have use for an entire box, it's easy enough
to cut your own point shingles. The key is the vertical
tip-to-shoulder measurement, which must match (within 1/4 inch)
your shingle exposure.
For example, for a typical 5-inch white-cedar shingle exposure,
the point shingles will have a 5-inch ‘rise.' Keep in
mind that this is the vertical measurement, not the diagonal
measurement along the cut.
Whether you use precuts or make your own point shingles, you'll
also need reverse-point shingles, which are the same width as
regular point shingles but are cut along only one side. These
are used to close the top of the diamond (see Figure 1).
Figure 1.Pointed and
reverse-point shingles (top) are cut on the same angle, using
shingles of the same width for a balanced look. To make sure he
keeps nails out of the exposure area, the author marks the
pointed shingles with a cardboard template
A Weathertight Design
To create a diamond pattern, point shingles are dropped down
from the course being applied. This leaves a shorter head lap,
making the design area prone to water intrusion. So I like to
take the precautionary step of adding an extra layer of
housewrap behind the design (Figure 2). That way, if any water
does find its way through the diamond, it will be redirected
onto the surface of the shingles below.
Figure 2.After installing the
last full course of straight shingles, the author slits the
housewrap above the diamond area. He then slips a piece of the
housewrap into the slit (top), which extends about 6 inches
beyond the diamond on each side. He tapes the top and trims the
bottom so it laps 4 inches over the last full shingle course
Before getting started installing the shingles, it's a good
idea to lay out your first diamond designs on a flat piece of
plywood to see how the system works. This will give you a feel
for aligning courses and for making the transition from growing
the base to closing the top of the design.
After you get the knack, you'll be able to build diamonds right
on the wall when laying up field shingles, without missing a
Also, it's easy to misplace fasteners when applying point
shingles. To make sure that fasteners are located where they'll
be covered by the diamond shingles above them, I make a
cardboard jig with a ‘V' cut out and mark every diamond
shingle with white chalk. This may seem like overkill, but it
takes only a few seconds to mark a series of shingles, and it
saves ripping a couple off later because of mislocated
Building the Diamond
I start the pattern by dropping a pair of point shingles out of
a shingle course so that their points align with the bottom
edge of the course below. Doubling up the shingles in the
bottom of the diamond gives proper ‘weight' to the base
of the design (Figure 3). Then I install the remaining field
shingles in that course.
Figure 3.A pair of overlapping
point shingles (top) starts the design. The author slips one of
these shingles under the housewrap for better water resistance.
To build up the diamond pattern, he installs additional point
shingles at each course, using a framing square to align them
with the point shingles in the previous courses (middle,
bottom). Note the V-shaped outline drawn on the shingles, which
indicates where it is safe to drive fasteners.
On the next course, I drop two point shingles down, aligning
the tip of each point with the shoulder of the point shingle in
the course beneath and the shoulder of the point shingles with
the field course shingles. A framing square helps to orient the
shingles so that they're plumb.
On succeeding courses, I drop more point shingles down,
installing them in the same manner until the diamond has grown
to the desired width. In this project, I stop after the third
Before starting to close the top of the diamond, I install
sideways ramp shingles on either side of the last pair of point
shingles (Figure 4). These allow the next shingle course to
smoothly transition up and over the design.
Figure 4. Tapered ramp
shingles — thin strips sliced from full shingles —
are the key to this layered design (top). The thickness of the
ramp butt matches the butt thickness of the diamond shingle at
the course line, allowing adjoining shingles to feather up to
meet the pattern. Once the pattern has reached the desired
width, the author uses reverse-point shingles (middle) to close
the diamond, filling in with pointed shingles
Over the ramp shingles, I install reverse-point shingles
— which are used to close the diamond pattern back up
— infilling between them with point shingles. To finish
up the diamond, I use a pair of reverse-cut shingles at the top
of the design (Figure 5).
Figure 5. To finish the
diamond, the author fastens the final point shingle between a
pair of reverse-point shingles (top), then installs the
reverse-point shingles that close the top
After the pattern is completed, the remaining courses of field
shingles are installed. To emphasize the shingle pattern, I've
left the point shingles in this example unfinished. But usually
I prefinish pattern shingles on both the fronts and backs, as
well as along cut lines, before installation.Mike Guertin is a
builder and remodeler in East Greenwich, R.I., and a member of
the JLC Live construction demonstration team.