Maximizing Longevity: Essential Maintenance Tips for Your Cedar Shake Roof

Are you wondering if a cedar shake roof is right for you? With its enduring charm and tough weather resistance, cedar shakes are a top choice for both beauty and functionality. In this article, we’ll explore what makes these roofs so special, unpack key maintenance strategies, and examine how they compare to other materials. Get ready to discover if a cedar shake roof aligns with your home’s needs and style.

Key Takeaways

  • Cedar shake roofs are valued for their aesthetic appeal, insulation properties, and durability against extreme weather but require meticulous hand-craftsmanship and regular maintenance.

  • The installation of cedar shake roofs is complex and requires skilled contractors to ensure proper nailing, layering, and venting, which are essential for longevity and protection against the elements.

  • While cedar shake roofs present a higher initial investment, they offer energy efficiency and potential long-term cost savings. Still, homeowners should compare them with other materials and consider maintenance, climate, and warranty options.

Understanding Cedar Shake Roofs: An Overview

Illustration of a rustic cedar shake roof

The distinguishing mark of cedar shake roofs lies in their creation. Cedar shakes are:

  • Hand-split to mirror the strokes of an ax or mallet

  • Showcase a rustic charm that echoes their historical roots

  • Created using a hand-split technique, a nod to time-honoured methods

This technique speaks to the historical importance of cedar shakes and roofing shingles in cedar roof construction.

The result? It is a roofing material that marries natural beauty and durability, making it a popular choice among homeowners.

The Aesthetic Appeal of Cedar Shakes

There’s more to cedar shakes than meets the eye. The rustic charm they’re renowned for significantly enhances a home’s curb appeal. The extra padding they offer contributes to their rustic look and provides enhanced roof or siding protection. Over time, the colour of cedar shakes evolves from a vibrant original state to a distinguished dark brown, adding an element of timelessness to their appeal.

Plus, with various wood shake styles available, you can easily match your stylistic preferences.

The Durability Factor

What sets cedar apart is its resistance to extreme weather, which significantly contributes to its durability as a roofing material. With their thicker and more textured surfaces, Cedar shakes offer more protection from the elements and act as superior insulators for homes.

The Craftsmanship Behind Cedar Shake Roofing

Illustration of craftsmen hand-splitting cedar shakes

Creating cedar shake roofing is a craft that draws on traditional roofing techniques and requires a high level of artistic craftsmanship. The quality and grade of cedar used directly influence the durability of cedar shakes and their maintenance needs over time, with higher grades offering better performance.

From Tree to Roof: The Making of Cedar Shakes

Ever wonder where cedar shakes come from? They start with aged Cedar, a material that takes hundreds of years to grow and is particularly prized for its deep, rich shades. Sometimes, cedar shakes are sourced from salvaged cedar from downed trees near logging sites or old-growth logs found in coastal areas.

Once the wood is sourced, the hand-splitting process begins. Here’s how it works:

  1. Use a froe and mallet to split the cedar wood into sections called bolts.

  2. Split the bolts further to create shakes.

  3. Flip the wood repeatedly to create a natural taper in the shakes.

  4. To maintain consistency, sustain a uniform thickness by flipping the shake block end over end after each split.

This process ensures the creation of high-quality shakes.

Hand-Split vs. Machine-Cut: Choosing Your Style

Regarding cedar shakes, you have two main choices: hand-split or machine-cut. Each offers a dramatically different look and texture. Hand-split cedar shakes provide a unique rustic appearance, with varied textures and an irregular shape that adds to their aesthetic appeal.

On the other hand, machine-cut cedar shakes are sawn to uniform thickness and offer a smoother and more consistent appearance, performing better in high wind conditions. Ultimately, the choice between hand-split and machine-cut cedar shakes will depend on your preference for a more rugged, natural look or a cleaner, uniform appearance.

Installation Insights: Getting Your Cedar Shake Roof Right

Installing a cedar shake roof is an art form that requires careful hand-nailing and layering. Each shake must overlap strategically to prevent direct alignment of gaps beneath, ensuring effective water runoff. Avoiding incorrect installations is critical to prevent gaps or cracks from improper allowance for natural expansion, and utilizing the proper nails is essential to avoid roofing damage.

The installation process should be undertaken by craftsmen who possess updated licenses, adhere to building codes and permits, and are trained in safety protocols. Effective communication throughout the Cedar Shake roofing project is key to resolving issues promptly and ensuring the project meets your expectations.

Preparing the Decking and Underlayment

Illustration of decking and underlayment preparation for cedar shake roof installation

The decking and underlayment must be prepared before the cedar shakes are installed. Cedar shake shingles should be installed using aluminum, stainless steel, or galvanized steel nails with ring shanks for optimal hold and durability.

Additionally, roofing felt interlay between rows of cedar shakes is crucial for preventing leaks and enhancing the roof’s protection from the elements.

Laying the First Row: Starting Off Strong

Starting off strong is crucial when installing a cedar shake roof. Ensure an inch and a half of overhang off the roof’s edge to facilitate runoff and protect the edges of the house. Install the thickest part of the shingle at the top of the first row to optimize for weather resistance and visual appeal.

Keep the shingles about a quarter-inch apart to maintain proper alignment and space for expansion.

Protecting Your Investment: Cedar Shake Roof Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key to extending your cedar shake roof’s lifespan. This should be done at least once a year, with annual inspections recommended to address potential issues and improve longevity. Routine maintenance helps to prevent moss, mould, and mildew growth, and trimming nearby tree branches can help to minimize debris buildup.

Due to their thicker and rougher texture, cedar shakes require more diligent maintenance than cedar shingles. It is crucial to keep gutters clean to prevent moisture entrapment, and pressure washing can effectively remove difficult debris, aiding in the prevention of rot and the growth of moss and mildew.

Regular Inspections and Cleaning

Illustration of annual inspection and cleaning of cedar shake roof

Regularly cleaning a cedar shake roof is crucial to remove fungi early and prevent potential roof failure. Homeowners are advised to regularly remove debris such as leaves, moss, and needles from the cedar shakes or shingles to prevent moisture retention and wood rot.

Wood shake roofing, which is often made from wood shingles, requires regular maintenance, including cleaning, treating for insects and decay, and replacing damaged shakes.

Treating and Preventing Wood Damage

To enhance their durability and resistance to environmental factors, cedar shakes and shingles can be treated with various substances, including:

  • Fire retardants

  • Stains

  • Sealants

  • Preservatives

  • Moss and mildew inhibitors

Cedar’s natural oils provide inherent resistance to rot, which is an advantageous property for roofing materials exposed to moisture. However, exposure to solar radiation can break down the lignin in cedar, leading to moisture infiltration and colonization by wood-destroying fungi like white rot and brown rot, especially after the natural preservatives have been depleted.

The wet-dry cycle causes cedar to swell and shrink, which, over time, can lead to warping and the formation of larger, deeper cracks.

Climate Considerations for Cedar Shake Roofs

Climate plays a significant role in the performance of cedar shake roofs. Cedar shakes and shingles can dry out in extreme heat conditions and are prone to splitting or cracking. Excessive moisture is detrimental to cedar shakes, as they can absorb and hold too much water, which shortens their lifespan.

The ideal climate for a cedar shake roof includes moderate to cool temperatures with mild summers and winters. Homeowners should consider their local climate, including the heat and moisture levels, when deciding on a cedar shake roof.

Adapting to Wet Climates

Solid deck application guidelines are provided to ensure the longevity of cedar shake roofs in areas with high humidity. Decking should be made of wood suitable for high-humidity areas to prevent moisture-related damage.

Adhering to specific maintenance tips for wet climates can help preserve the integrity of the cedar shake roof.

Heat Resistance and Ventilation Strategies

When it comes to managing heat in cedar shake roofs, proper ventilation is crucial. Roof vents should be more numerous at the lower parts of the roof than the upper sections to avoid depressurization of the attic and draw in cooler outside air, aiding in effective heat management. This is particularly important in areas with high heat.

Comparing Cedar Shake with Other Roofing Materials

When considering cedar shake roofing, it’s important to compare it with other roofing materials. While cedar shakes have unique aesthetic and insulation benefits, a basic overview of their differences from alternatives should include an appearance, cost, and longevity analysis.

For instance, metal roofing offers a two to three-times longer lifespan than traditional materials like cedar shakes, and synthetic cedar shake tiles are more durable and require virtually zero maintenance. Stone-coated metal roofing provides the look of wood shakes with increased durability and offers more style flexibility.

Cedar vs. Asphalt Shingles

Compared to asphalt shingles, the cost of cedar shakes can be significantly higher, reaching up to $15.50 per square foot for premium, straight-grain wood. However, cedar shakes offer a distinct aesthetic advantage, such as a classic Cape Cod look, that can be used for roofing and sidewalls, unlike the typical application of asphalt shingles.

Natural Cedar Shake vs. Synthetic Alternatives

Synthetic cedar shake alternatives offer similar aesthetics with increased durability and lower maintenance. For example, Brava’s synthetic shake roofing tiles offer the natural beauty and rustic split textures of real cedar with the benefits of composite material, including a longer life expectancy. Its adaptability and reliability allow synthetic cedar shake roofing to be installed in any climate without concern, which shows how versatile the material is for various environmental conditions.

Some key benefits of synthetic cedar shake roofing include:

  • Increased durability

  • Lower maintenance requirements

  • Longer life expectancy

  • Versatility in different climates

Additionally, polymer shake roof tiles have a 50-year limited warranty, emphasizing their durability and the manufacturer’s confidence in their performance.

The initial costs of synthetic cedar shake roofing are comparable to natural shakes but offer long-term savings. Synthetic shake roofing systems are ideal for many projects, including new residential and commercial building re-roofs. Accessories available for the synthetic shake roofing system include tile accessories, starter pieces, and hip/ridge trim that facilitate a complete roofing solution. The composite roof tiles by Brava come with a thickness range of 58” to 78”, providing flexibility to match different architectural styles.

Cost Analysis: Investing in a Cedar Shake Roof

Investing in a cedar shake roof is a significant financial decision. Installing a cedar shake roof on a 3,000-square-foot roof can range from $18,000 to $34,000, with cedar shingle options costing between $12,000 to $27,000 for the same-sized roof. Cedar shake roofs have an average cost of around $25.00 to $30.00 per square foot, which includes material and installation costs. Labour expenses for roof replacement average between $40 to $60 per hour, impacting the overall cost of installing a cedar shake roof.

The cost of installing cedar shake roofs is affected by various factors, such as the roof’s pitch, which may require more material and specialized equipment, and the material’s premium cost compared to other roofing options.

Per Square Foot Pricing Explained

To break it down further, cedar shakes typically cost between $6 and $15.50 per square foot, which encompasses variations due to the quality of the wood and the labour costs involved in the installation.

Long-Term Savings: Energy Efficiency and Durability

Illustration of energy-efficient and durable cedar shake roof

While the initial cost may be high, cedar shake roofs offer long-term savings through energy efficiency and durability. Cedar’s natural insulating properties can help homeowners save on energy costs over time. The energy-efficient nature of cedar shakes can translate into long-term cost savings due to reduced energy expenditures for heating and cooling.

Cedar roofs have several advantages:

  • Durability: Cedar roofs are known for their durability, reducing the need for frequent repairs or replacements.

  • Cost-effectiveness: The durability of cedar roofs contributes to their cost-effectiveness over time.

  • Energy efficiency: A cedar shake roof’s energy efficiency can be enhanced by maintaining an R-value at least equal to the insulation within the walls at the perimeter of the attic.

Selecting a Roofing Contractor for Cedar Shakes

Selecting a skilled roofing contractor is crucial for a successful cedar shake roof installation. Here are some essential factors to consider when choosing a roofing contractor:

  1. Ensure the contractor specializes in natural wood roofing and has experience with cedar shake roofs.

  2. Verify that the contractor has a valid license for roof installation and repair.

  3. Understand the contractor’s policy on using subcontractors. It’s important to know who will be working on your roof and ensure they are qualified.

  4. Ensure the contractor provides appropriate insurance coverage. This will protect you from any liability in case of accidents or damage during the installation process.

Considering these factors, you can find a reliable and skilled roofing contractor for your cedar shake roof installation.

Acquiring multiple estimates from different roofing contractors allows homeowners to compare prices and the scope of services each roofing company offers. Contractors with suspiciously low prices may indicate potential use of low-quality materials or subpar craftsmanship. Opting for a roofing contractor who offers a warranty on their work can provide homeowners with peace of mind and ensure that any issues are addressed post-installation.

Experience Matters: Finding Skilled Craftsmen

When it comes to installing cedar shake roofing, experience matters; hiring a contractor with specific experience in it is critical due to the unique skills required for proper installation and maintenance. A contractor’s history with cedar shake roofing projects and the references they provide can strongly indicate their expertise in handling the material.

The contractor’s craftsmanship directly influences the quality and longevity of a cedar shake roof, making the selection of a skilled craftsman with the right experience paramount.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring

Before you hire a contractor, it’s important to ask the right questions. Ask about how many cedar shake roofing projects they have completed in the last year to gauge their current experience with the material and techniques involved. Inquire whether they have any specialized training or certifications in cedar shake roofing to ensure they are up-to-date with the best practices.

Question the contractor on compliance with the local building codes specific to cedar shake roofing installations. Verify if the contractor carries liability insurance and worker’s compensation to protect your property and their workers during the roofing project. Ask for a list of references from previous clients who had cedar shake roofs installed so you can assess the contractor’s past performance. Request photos or addresses of past projects that you can view to personally inspect the quality of the contractor’s work on cedar shake roofing.


Cedar shakes offer a unique blend of natural beauty, durability, and energy efficiency that sets them apart from other roofing materials. While they require a higher initial investment and ongoing maintenance, their longevity and aesthetic appeal can significantly enhance your home’s value. By understanding the characteristics of cedar shakes, the installation process, and the importance of selecting an experienced contractor, you can decide whether this roofing option is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes cedar shake roofs unique?

Cedar shake roofs are unique because of their rustic charm, natural beauty, and durability, as they are hand-split to reflect traditional roofing techniques.

How are cedar shakes made?

Cedar shakes are made by hand-splitting aged or salvaged cedar wood into sections using a froe and mallet.

What maintenance is required for cedar shake roofs?

Regular upkeep, such as annual inspections, cleaning, insect treatment, and shake replacement, is essential to maintaining cedar shake roofs. This helps prolong the roof’s lifespan and performance.

How does climate affect cedar shake roofs?

The climate greatly impacts cedar shake roofs. Extreme heat can cause drying and cracking, while excessive moisture can lead to premature aging.

How can I choose the right contractor to install a cedar shake roof?

To choose the right contractor for installing a cedar shake roof, look for specific experience in cedar shake roofing, check for specialized training or certifications, compliance with local building codes, liability insurance, and worker’s compensation, and ask for references and photos of past projects.