Wood Shake Roof 101: How to Choose the Right One

a background made of wood shingles

Wood shake roofs are a classic choice that add a touch of elegance and style to any home. Using a wood shake roof can utilize local resources. The wood shake roof installation cost is higher than that of other roofs but adds a unique look. Because of the grain and pattern of different wood, you will achieve an original roof.

Do you want to know what type of wood shake roof you should pick? This article will go over basic advantages and then consider the decisions that need to be made when deciding which wood shake roof to use.

What Is a Wood Shake Roof?

Wood shake roofs are exactly as they sound. They are made of wood and are cut to specified sizes. Many of these roofs are treated to extend the life of the roof. These are made from four different types of trees: western red cedar, cypress, pine, and redwood trees.

The shakes are made from splitting logs and are reshaped to specifications. The difference between a shake and shingle primarily comes during the manufacturing of the product. Whereas a shake is meticulously hand-split from the log, a shingle is cut with a saw. This ensures that the shingle has a uniform size. Shakes are thicker than shingles.

A roof truss design creates the traditional A-frame shape of a house. These trusses can be used to construct all different sorts of shapes or designs to the house.

Using a wood shake roof can create unique house roof designs. For example, patterns can be outlayed around windows or different heights of a roof can be constructed. A wood shake roof is high maintenance and requires delicate and professional care, but it adds a ton of character to your house.

Pros and Cons of a Wood Shake Roof

a small cottage

Advantages of a Wood Shake Roof

Wood shake roofing is not limited to any one geographic area. They can be put on roofs all around the world. It is complicated to install a wood shake roof. The following list shows the advantages of this type of roof.

  • This type of roof lasts longer than traditional roofs.
  • The nature of wood means that these roofs if treated well, can withstand the elements and preserve their original shape.
  • These roofs are very strong. Not only are they strong on their own, but they also preserve the structure of the frame below the roof.
  • These roofs are very appealing and add aesthetic value to your home.
  • Wood is a renewable resource and thus using a wood shake roof is environmentally friendly and efficient. Some of these materials may actually be completely recycled. Wood roofs do not rust like metal roofs might.
  • The wood roofing material is very light and thus easier to work with during installation.
  • These shakes are very easy to replace because one can be cut out and replaced individually without having to worry about other components of the roof.

Disadvantages of a Wood Shake Roof

The largest disadvantages come from the cost and maintenance of these roofs. The initial cost is 3 to 5 times higher than other roofs like asphalt or metal. In addition, they can require more frequent maintenance.

The wood used needs to be treated to withstand the elements. If the wood is not treated properly, then it would be damaged from the sun and possibly damaged from insects or mold and mildew.

Untreated wood is susceptible to water damage. Without treatment, the wood could expand and contract when it gets wet and lead to gaps in the roof structure.
Wood shakes, like all wood, are prone to burning rapidly if they catch on fire. In the event of a fire, they could actually help spread the fire to different parts of the house.

If a few wood shakes need to be replaced, they will have a different age then the rest of the roof. Because of the nature of wood and stressors in the environment, the shakes will never match exactly.

Types of Wood Shake Roofing

There are four different types of wood that can be used in wood shakes. These are western red cedar, cypress, pine, and redwood trees. They all have differences that lead to variation in wood shake roof cost.

Western red cedar trees are the most common trees used. These materials can be treated with fire retardant materials and are pressure treated. This can extend the life of the shakes. This is normally the material of choice when installing wood shakes. It is also the most expensive type of wood shake.

Cypress wood shakes were used in the oldest and still standing structure in the United States. This is a very resistant wood to use because it is resistant to insects. The main reason it is resistant to insects is due to an oil used known as “cypresseine.” Due to the variation in cypress trees, the wood shakes will likely be different colors and shades.

Pine shakes tend to rot more than both western red cedar and cypress. However, they are much cheaper than western red cedars. According to This Old House, a Western Red Cedar sells for $880.00 a square foot while a pine tree would sell for $185.00. Pine shakes tend to be longer than cedar shakes. This can cheapen the cost of the project even more.

Redwood tree shakes are eco-friendly and can be customized for individual projects. These are similar to red cedar trees but are not as commonly used and thus it may be harder to find someone to obtain and install these shakes.

Bottom Line

Wood shakes are a very classic look for a house. They scream grace and elegance. Perhaps fittingly, they are quite expensive and require more maintenance over their lifetime. However, if they are taken care of, then they can last much longer than other types of roofs.

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