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Cedar Shake Roof Installation Guide: Advice From the Pros

close up cedar shakes

When it comes to roofing materials, cedar shake roofs have been a popular choice for centuries. The natural beauty and durability of cedar shakes make them a sought-after option for homeowners seeking both aesthetic appeal and long-lasting protection. But is the cedar shake roof installation process right for you?

In this detailed guide, we will explore:

  • The pros and cons of cedar shake roofs
  • The installation process
  • Cost considerations
  • Maintenance tips
  • Their lifespan
cedar shake roof

Pros of Cedar Shake Roofs

Cedar shake roofs have been popular for years, for the following reasons:

  • Aesthetic Appeal: One of the primary reasons homeowners choose cedar shake roofs is their natural, rustic, and timeless beauty. The warm, reddish-brown hues of cedar add character and charm to any home, blending seamlessly with various architectural styles.
  • Durability: Cedar shakes are naturally resistant to decay, insects, and fungal growth. Cedar contains natural oils that act as preservatives, helping to extend the life of your roof. When properly maintained, cedar shake roofs can last for decades.
  • Insulation: Cedar shake roofs provide excellent insulation properties. They help regulate temperature inside your home, reducing heating and cooling costs, and making them an eco-friendly choice.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Cedar is a renewable resource, making cedar shake roofs an eco-friendly option. The production process generates fewer emissions compared to other roofing materials, contributing to a greener environment.
  • Customization: Cedar shakes can be tailored to meet specific design preferences. They are available in different thicknesses and sizes, allowing for customization that enhances your home’s unique character.

Cons of Cedar Shake Roofs

They may have many advantages, but their are also a few distinct drawbacks to a cedar shake roof system.

  • Cost: While cedar shakes offer numerous benefits, they are more expensive upfront than other roofing materials. However, their long lifespan and energy-saving properties can offset the initial investment.
  • Maintenance: Cedar shake roofs require regular maintenance to preserve their appearance and extend their life. Neglecting maintenance can lead to issues like moss growth, rot, and premature deterioration.
  • Fire Risk: Cedar shake roofs are less fire-resistant than some other roofing materials. Homeowners in areas prone to wildfires should consider this factor and take additional precautions to protect their homes.

The 6-Step Installation Process

Installing a cedar shake roof is a detailed process that should be carried out by experienced professionals. Here are the essential steps involved:

1) Inspection and Preparation:

Before installation, a thorough inspection of the existing roof structure is conducted. Any damaged or rotting materials are replaced or repaired. Proper ventilation and insulation are essential to prevent moisture-related issues. 

2) Underlayment Installation:

  1. A waterproof underlayment is applied to the plywood roof deck to create a barrier against moisture. This underlayment helps protect the roof structure from leaks and prolongs the life of the cedar shakes. Cedar breather is then installed on top of the underlayment to provide continuous air circulation and a drainage space that prevents the damaging effects of trapped moisture. 
  2. Cedar shakes can also be installed on nailing purlins and are typically spaced at 7.5 or 10 inches. For added protection, install a 30 pound tar paper with each row. 

3) Cedar Shake Installation:

The cedar shakes are installed in rows, starting at the eaves and working upwards. Each shake is nailed securely to the roof deck, leaving a small gap for expansion. The shakes are typically staggered to create an overlapping pattern that enhances water drainage.

4) Ridge Cap Installation:

Ridge caps are installed at the peak of the roof to provide extra protection against leaks and complete the roofing system.

5) Flashing and Trim:

Flashing is installed around roof openings and in valleys to prevent water infiltration. Trim is added to the roof’s edges for a finished appearance.

6) Finish and Treatment:

Some homeowners prefer to apply a protective finish or treatment to enhance the cedar’s longevity and appearance. Depending on the homeowner’s preferences and regional requirements, options include stains, sealants, or fire retardants.

The Cost of Cedar Shake Roof Installation

The cost of installing a cedar shake roof varies based on factors such as the size and complexity of your roof, labor costs in your area, and the quality of the cedar shakes used. On average, you can expect to pay between $800 and $1,400 per 100 square foot for cedar shake roofing materials and installation. Keep in mind that this cost may be higher than other roofing materials but offers long-term value due to its durability and insulation properties.

Maintenance Tips

a house with a cedar shake roof

Proper maintenance is crucial to ensure the longevity and performance of your cedar shake roof. Here are some maintenance tips to keep in mind:

  • Regular Inspection: Conduct regular visual inspections of your cedar shake roof, looking for signs of damage, moss growth, or loose shakes. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage.
  • Cleaning: Remove debris, leaves, and moss regularly from your roof. Avoid power washing, as it can damage the shakes. Instead, use a gentle brushing or low-pressure water spray to clean the surface.
  • Treatment: Consider applying a protective treatment or sealant every few years to maintain the wood’s natural oils and resist weathering.
  • Trim Overhanging Branches: Trim any branches that hang over your cedar shake roof to prevent debris buildup and reduce the risk of damage during storms.
  • Professional Inspection: Schedule a professional inspection every few years to assess the roof’s condition and identify any issues that may require attention.

How Long Does a Cedar Shake Roof Last?

The lifespan of a cedar shake roof depends on various factors, including the quality of the cedar shakes, the climate in your region, and how well it is maintained. Typically, a well-maintained cedar shake roof can last up to 40 years. Regular maintenance, proper ventilation, and timely repairs can significantly extend its life.

Installing Cedar Shakes With the Pros

A cedar shake roof is a timeless choice that offers a unique blend of beauty, durability, and eco-friendliness. While it comes with an initial investment and requires regular maintenance, its long lifespan and insulation properties make it a valuable addition to any home. Whether you’re drawn to the classic look of cedar shakes or want a roofing material that will stand the test of time, cedar shake roofs are a solid choice for homeowners looking to enhance both the aesthetics and functionality of their homes.

Ready to make the switch to wood shingles? Contact O’Donnell Roofing today to get started!

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