Rowhouse shingles

I started this blog post on March 16, 2013 — that’s when I started shingling the Queen Anne Rowhouse — and it’s been sitting as a draft for 2,004 days. But not anymore, because the roof is finished!

I used hexagonal shingles that came with the Greenleaf Fairfield. I really liked them on the Fairfield and someone from the Greenleaf forum sent me a bag that she hadn’t used. I started by dumping them into a foil roasting pan and dumping stain on them. Then I picked them out (wearing gloves!) and pressed them under paper towels to get the stain off. Because this takes some time, some shingles get more color than others, which makes for nice variety on the roof. The stain I used is ACE Early American.

Behold the first row! I used to live in northern Marin county, where it gets hot. I would bring the house outside on a card table and shingle all afternoon.

The rows are 5/16″ apart. When I try to draw all the lines at the beginning it turns into a horrible mess, so I shingle an entire row, and then draw the line for the next row. I had the foresight to write “lines 5/16″ apart” on the roof so I’d remember this five years later.

I turned shingles upside down to get them flush against the chimney. You can also turn shingles upside down to turn any shaped shingle into a rectangular shingle. (Makes me wonder why they sell rectangular shingles at all…)

This is probably how much I got done in the first weekend. Each side of the roof is 15″ x 9″, with about 40 shingles per row.

And here’s how far I’d gotten by the time I moved in October 2015. Not much progress for two years!

The house I moved to is in foggy San Francisco, and the backyard isn’t exactly scenic, so that marked the end of my “shingling in the yard” days. I didn’t start up again until this spring, when I brought the dollhouse upstairs from my workshop garage to shingle while watching TV. By the time I started fixing the stair rooms in June, the first side of the roof was almost done.

When I started the shingles, I was using The Ultimate white glue. I didn’t have any of that when I re-started, so I used Aleene’s fast grab tacky glue. Unfortunately it didn’t grab as fast as I’d hoped — I could only get through about a row and a half before the shingles started buckling so much I needed to tape them down and set the house aside for a day while the glue dried.

I don’t think the glue is solely to blame — I live in a more humid climate now, and these shingles are very thin, so they warped easily. When the glue dried they flattened out again, but they’re not as flat as I would like. Next time I shingle, I might go back to hot glue (which I was perfectly happy with until I hurt myself with the glue gun).

This is a nice, simple roof that didn’t involve cutting the shingles at angles (which is not my favorite thing). But it does have a hinged panel, which is not something I’ve dealt with before. I tried finding close-up pictures of how other people have shingled over the seam and couldn’t find any good ones, so here’s mine, I hope it will help some future shingler!

I cut the shingles so a small piece is on the bottom edge of the seam, and a larger piece on the top edge. I shingled both of these rows at the same time to ensure the top and bottom pieces of each shingle matched.

I shingled over the flat part of the hinge, so only the rounded part is visible.

Above the seam, I attached strip wood to the roof and glued the shingles on to that, so the shingles’ angle wouldn’t be quite as severe. The second row of shingles always sticks out a little more than the other rows, because the slope of the overlapping shingles hasn’t been established yet. But I didn’t want the second row of shingles above the seam sticking out and potentially interfering with the opening of the panel. I added the strip wood so the shingles would attach at less of an angle.

(I’m not sure if I’ve explained this well — it’s one of those things you’d see if you were looking at in person but is hard to articulate. And I call myself a writer!)

Before applying the shingles, the roof opened flat. With the shingles on, they bump each other and prevent the roof from opening flat, but it still opens enough to provide good access.

With both sides finished, I rested the corner trim on top to see how it looked. The top row of shingles is too long. I counted out my remaining shingles and had just enough to add one more row on each side (you’ll see it in a later picture).

With the shingles finished, here’s how the front of the house looks. The roof edges are kind of janky and need to be covered with trim.

The Rowhouse is made from 1/4″ plywood, and I had already prepared 1/4″ basswood pieces to go on the roof edges (that’s the same size I used to cover the rest of the edges). But the strip wood I’d added above the seam caused these gaps, which I didn’t want to be visible. So I prepared new trim pieces from 5/16″ strip wood instead.

Here it is with the trim attached.

And the back side.

Here you can see the final row of shingles under the corner trim at the peak. I cut these down to maintain the proper spacing.

And here’s the hinged side. The seam is more obvious from some angles than others. The next time I do a hinged roof, I’ll probably use rectangular shingles instead — then each row of shingles will end with a straight line, and the seam will be even less obvious because it will look like any other row. That’s not something I considered when I decided to use the hex shingles.


  1. Sandra

    The shingling on a house I ‘inherited’ was already finished but I needed some idea of how to finish the edges; thank-you so much for your clear instructions and detailed pictures! Can’t wait for your next post.

    • Emily

      I love using strip wood on the exposed edges, especially on die-cut houses. It gives the house a finished look.

  2. CHRIS

    very nice work, jib well done. I remember doing my roof and a friend’s doll house.
    It’s such a looong boring task. I made it a contest, how many shingles. can I do in an hour? LOL!

  3. Alayne

    The house certainly is a treat to look at with its beautifully finished roof shingles…I still have this task ahead of me on my houses (note plural!) so appreciated the great instructions and photos.

  4. John Morganti

    You know that works out to just under one shingle a day which probably would’ve been a lot less boring. Just sayin’. :-)>

    • Emily

      Ha ha! Good point. :P

  5. Diane

    I think your roof came out great! Isn’t it such a sense of accomplishment when you finish a roof? The house looks beautiful.

  6. Sheila

    I really love how the shingles look and I don’t even notice the seam. The pattern is just busy enough that the hinges and seam aren’t noticeable, at least to me.

    It’s turning out so pretty! And the stain looks wonderful.

  7. Carrie

    The house is gorgeous Emily…..I hope you did a happy dance!

  8. Paula

    Don’t feel bad about waiting so long to finish your roof. I bought my daughter a Victorian dollhouse for Christmas when she was in high school. My husband put it together and my daughter and I were to finish it together. That never happened. She is now 46 with three children. I recently got it out of the attic to roof, wall paper and furnish for my 11 year old granddaughter. I am thankful for your blog so I can learn before I strike out on my own.

  9. Elizabeth S

    Patience and Time are obviously your 2 watchwords. You’ve made an Excellent job of roofing your rowhouse and the finish look is clean and professional, with
    the hinges almost invisible -Very Well Done!

  10. Jeanne

    It looks great! I think the hex shingles actually make it “busy” enough that they camouflage the hinge line pretty well.

    “… had the foresight to write ‘lines 5/16? apart’ on the roof so I’d remember this five years later” — I can only nod in sympathy.

  11. Susan

    I love your dollhouse! Nicely done!
    Thank you so much for these photos and instructions. I’ve been looking everywhere for ideas on how to finish the roof – those peaks where 2 sides of the roof meet and leave a gap, as on the very top of your dollhouse. Is the molding you used across the top of the roof 1/4″ – or perhaps a little larger? I know the pieces you used on the front edge are 5/16″ and it looks like the top molding could be the same width? Since I’ll be ordering it online, I want to get it right the first time. Thank you again for the photos and words of wisdom and you’re right, the roof is taking forever! I’m anxious to finish this part of the project, for sure.

    • Emily

      Yep, the corner molding on the top is also 5/16″. Good luck finding it! I recently needed some when I was finishing my Victorianna and I couldn’t find 5/16″ in stock anywhere. I used to buy it at my local store, Dollhouses Trains and More, but they closed down last fall.

      • Emily

        Also remember that this is half scale. If your dollhouse is 1:12 scale you might want larger trim.

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