Contractor Tips for Working with Composite Shake Keyway Pieces

By-lined by Eric Salvesen, Technical Service Manager for DaVinci Roofscapes

During the past few months I’ve traveled to jobsites where our DaVinci Roofscapes Hand-Split Shake Siding was being installed. I’ve worked side-by-side with installers. From those experiences, I have some “tips for success” to provide you for when using this new siding.

To start, you need to understand our specific DaVinci siding product. We make four different siding profiles. Each tile is 18” long. They’re similar to an 18” Perfection, though our tiles have more texture and a deeper woodgrain. All four of the different product profiles can be installed at either 6”, 7” or 8” exposure to the weather.

“False Break” or “Keyway” Pieces

At DaVinci, we have two molds for our tiles. One creates an 8” wide tile, and another creates a 10” wide tile.

Some of the 10” wide tiles have a “false break” or “keyway” that gives the appearance of two tiles in the same piece. This can be measured out (left to right) as a 5-3/8” piece and a 4-3/8” piece on a single tile. Other 10” wide tiles have this reversed out, so the 4-3/8” pieces is on the left when looking at the piece, and the 5-3/8” piece is on the right. Field bundles include shakes with false breaks and both 8” and 10” pieces without false break to vary appearance. The finished look creates an appearance of 4″, 6″, 8″, and 10″ shakes.


DHSS-Figure16a DHSS-Figure16b
We create the 10” wide pieces with false breaks for several reasons. Appearance is certainly one of them. However, these pieces also give you more options to create different sized pieces easily.

Out of the Box Pieces

Right out of the box, our siding pieces are 8” and 10”. However, you can cut down the tiles to make two smaller sized pieces. Simply take a sharp straight blade knife and carefully score the keyway at the edge of the tile.

Your other option is to use a table saw to cut individual pieces. This is a fast, easy way to gain the smaller pieces and gives very clean cuts.

This simple step takes just seconds to do. It’s your primary way of “splitting” the existing tiles.

 Why do the tiles need to be split? To help create a realistic, random look when applying the siding. Using the smaller, cut tile pieces prevents the keyways from aligning vertically from course to course.

Using Smaller Pieces

DaVinci Siding_Select ShakeLet’s trouble shoot a bit.

Imagine that you’re moving forward with the siding installation. You notice that the edge of a tile lands on a keyway of a 10” wide tile below. If this happens, a different sized tile should be used.

When you install the smaller pieces amidst your standard sized pieces, you’re creating a more random look. They help prevent grouping of tiles of a consistent width. And, these smaller pieces are also useful for around windows, corner boards and penetrations.

Again, the most important reason to use the smaller pieces throughout your installation is to prevent a consistent grouping and overlap of the tiles of the same width. So, here’s my tip: randomly use smaller pieces throughout the coursing to “throw off” the consistency of the same sized piece in the same general area.

At DaVinci, we’re dedicated to making each job you undertake with our products a true success. To help make that happen we’ve created an online Siding Installation Guide. Make sure to download that guide to gain a full understanding of the steps involved in installing our hand-split siding product.