Cedar Shake Roof 101 – Pros, Cons, Maintenance, Costs & Installation

a selection of different types of roof shingles with different colors and shapes

The roof on your home is there to protect you from the elements and help maximize your home’s energy efficiency. You may not realize it, but your roof can accomplish this and add a spectacular visual accent to your home as well. There are various types of roofing material, but nothing adds an accent to your home like a cedar shake roof.

Here’s some basic information about cedar roof shingles, sort of cedar shake roof 101. You should first appreciate some of the advantages and disadvantages of a cedar shake roof. Then, you can review the costs and steps in the installation process for a roof made of cedar shingles.

Cedar Shake Advantages

A cedar shake roof has a number of advantages over asphalt shingle, slate, or metal roofing materials. Here are the main advantages to strongly consider if you’re thinking about a cedar shake roof.

1: Lightweight & Durable

Cedar shakes are the lightest roofing material, yet they are also extremely durable. Cedar is a low-density material that doesn’t contract and expand with temperature changes. Moreover, cedar shakes lie straight and secure tightly to the roof.

2: Easy Repair

In those rare circumstances, such as high wind, cedar shakes will hold as well as most any roof. They are installed in a straight line so that they can withstand bad weather very well.

However, in the event a repair is necessary, it is possible to fix a single shingle on a cedar shake roof. This makes repairs quicker and less costly than other types of roofing material.

3: Strong & Resilient

Shingles on a cedar shake roof are made with natural preservatives. This makes them resistant to moisture and less prone to mold. They do not absorb UV rays, so they are energy efficient.

Cedar shakes can also be treated to be fire-resistant. Even storm resistance is rated higher for a cedar shake roof. This is because the individual shakes will only break individually.

This means that entire sections will not be caught by strong winds like conventional roofing materials. Metal roofs, for instance, can be completely torn off by high winds, and asphalt shingles are especially susceptible to storm damage.

4: Energy Efficient Natural Insulator

Cedar works as a natural insulation layer. This helps your home stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Combined with the UV ray reflective quality, a cedar shake roof is extremely energy efficient.

5: Eco-Friendly Material

There is no other roofing material that can compare to this ecological advantage. Asphalt shingles use petroleum in the manufacturing process, and metal roofs require a great deal of energy to make.

Slate is far more expensive to make, and the installation process is extremely expensive. The most ecological roofing material in the world is cedar.

6: Beautiful Appearance

A cedar shake roof is one of aesthetic beauty. Metal roofs can be colorful, and slate shingles offer an interesting texture. However, cedar shakes provide an authentic look of nostalgic beauty to your home. They turn a protective layer of shingles into an awe-inspiring accent to any house.

Disadvantages of a Cedar Shake Roof

There aren’t many distinctly obvious disadvantages to installing a cedar shake roof. However, there are a few things you should consider before you decide to use cedar shakes. Usually, the durability and aesthetic beauty outweigh these three limited disadvantages.

1: Matching the Existing Roof

In the event you need to make a repair to a few cedar shakes, or a large section of the roof, it can be challenging to match the existing roof. It can be done, so don’t let this deter you from using cedar shakes.

Matching replacement shakes usually requires some professional expertise to perfectly stain the new shakes to blend. Eventually, new cedar shakes will weather to match, but if you want an instant blend, it takes some extra effort.

2: More Frequent Inspections

Cedar shakes need to be kept in good condition. While they are durable, when a section of cedar shakes is damaged they need to be repaired quickly. Most roof damage should be immediately addressed.

Missing cedar shakes can cause moisture to spread under the remaining shakes, creating a more expensive repair project. For this reason, you need to inspect a cedar shake roof more frequently.

3: Higher Cost

The third disadvantage of using cedar shakes for your roofing material needs to be weighed against the long-term benefits. Below is a more detailed list of the costs related to installing cedar shakes.

It is more costly than standard asphalt shingles, but the lifespan can be as much as four times longer. In comparison to other types of roofing material, the durability and longevity outweigh any difference in overall cost.

a beautiful elegant cedar shake roof on a house

Costs of Cedar Shakes

Cedar shake roof installation is a process of stages, making it somewhat different from conventional roofs. The process is not dramatically different, but the material does not come in precut pieces like asphalt shingles, metal, or slate roofs.

The installation job is a little more time-consuming. They also should never be installed using a nail gun. This adds a little more labor time to the job. For these reasons, you need to list the material expense itself, then ask for quotes related to the actual labor required to install your roof.

Most cedar shakes come in pre-cut sizes, but there are some individual measurements needed and additional cuts required. The flashing around chimneys and air vents needs to be quality, but this adds to the longevity of the final roof.

The average cost of materials is approximately $50 more per square foot than asphalt shingles, but less than a metal roof and nearly 75% cheaper than slate. You may find cheaper metal substitutes, and low-quality asphalt shingles are less, but the durability rating is nearly 20 years less than cedar shakes.

The installation is a little more labor-intensive than conventional shingles and metal roofs, but actually less than a slate roof. When you consider every aspect of installing a cedar shake roof, the cost is competitive with other roofing materials. This is when the list of unique advantages becomes the determining factor that makes cedar shakes so appealing.

Installation Process

For the purposes of addressing the steps in the installation process for cedar shakes, there will be an assumption the existing roof has been removed. When disposing of your old roofing materials, always consider recycling the tear-off. All types of roofing material can be recycled at some level, including old cedar shakes.

These are simple steps, and installation can be completed with some basic construction knowledge. However, without a reasonable knowledge of roof installations, you should consult with a professional roofing company to install your shakes. Here are the seven basic steps for installing cedar shakes.

#1. Check for Problems

Since the longevity ratings for cedar shakes can be decades, do a thorough check of your roof for problems. Fix, or repair any issues with the sub-roof.

Make certain all flashing around chimneys and vents is strong. Finally, check the eaves and fascia. These problems can be costly to correct after you’ve finished installing your roof.

#2. Quality Under Layer

The tarpaper layer for any roof is important. However, when you use cedar shakes it is wise to upgrade the quality of roof paper. You should make the smart choice and pick the best quality paper to line your roof. This will extend the lifespan of your roof and avoid the headaches involved in fixing leaks.

#3. Precut vs. Measurements

Only an expert cedar shake installer should attempt to use uncut cedar to make individual shakes. This involves years of experience.

Nearly every do-it-yourself homeowner will use precut cedar shakes. Measure out your installation, and planning to work your way towards chimneys and vents, then down to the eave.

#4. Top to Bottom

Begin at the vent cap on your roof. Gradually work your way down and towards chimneys and vents. You can finish an entire row if it spans from the vent cap to the eave. This is an excellent method.

From there, work yourself across your roof from right to left. This will help eliminate extra cutting and placing seams down the middle of your roof. As you work across the roof in rows, use a simple chalk line to measure and mark the next row.

#5. Hand Nail

This is a strong recommendation from industry professionals. Hand nailing is probably the most labor involved part of the process after cutting. Do not use a nail gun when applying cedar shakes. There is a tendency to drive the nail too far into the shake or split the shake.

You may not even notice small cracks, problems that will over time compromise the roof. Hand nail your cedar shakes and replace any shake that accidentally cracks with a whole one. You can use any pieces for finishing up small areas.

#6. Finishing Up

As you work your way towards chimneys or vent caps, attach shakes, no more than two widths from the final area. This will leave you space to make adjustments. Measure these final segments and draw a rough diagram with these measurements.

Make sure you don’t end up with extremely thin pieces to cut. If one shake is less than 3-inches, take the total width of the space and cut two shakes to fill the space. Never use sliver-thin cedar shakes, except as a final trim around the flashing.

#7. Seal, or Not to Seal

After you have finished your entire roof and inspected it, you can add fire-resistant sealants or mold retardants. As mentioned in the advantages of cedar shakes, this isn’t necessary. However, if you live in a wooded area with possible fire hazards, you might consider this simple and inexpensive step.

Heavily wooded areas can also be prone to excessive moss and mold, so you can add an inexpensive seal to your roof that will dramatically extend the time between cleanings. Both these applications help to extend the life of your cedar roof as well.

Let’s Recap

If you’re looking for an authentically beautiful roofing material for your home, cedar shakes are an excellent alternative. Cedar shakes are the only truly eco-friendly roofing material. All other types of roof material carry some level of environmental consequence.

Cedar shake roofs are the single most environmentally friendly roofing material you can use. The total cost of installation is competitive with other materials. When you consider the impressive list of unique advantages, the cost becomes a minimal factor, making a roof out of cedar shakes an excellent alternative for your home.

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