The look of a wooden roof is unmistakable—especially atop a home on a block dominated by houses with traditional asphalt-shingled roofs. The rustic, weathered appearance of cedar shakes is unparalleled in contributing to the aesthetic of your home, thus providing a natural look that both stands out and exudes an understated class.If you are weighing your options for a new roof, definitely consider an upgrade to cedar. This option isn’t for every homeowner or every home, so you should thoroughly understand the pros and cons, which we will outline later in this post. But first, a primer on cedar:
Cedar Shake Roofs, Explained
Cedar—specifically, red cedar—is the most popular variety of wooden roof, though other types of wood can be found atop homes. Cedar roofs may come in shakes or shingles, and there is a difference. Shingles look like, well, traditional shingles, but shakes are formed by being split from the wood rather than sawed. The result is a thicker, more rugged product that is often rough and uneven.
The color and texture of a cedar shake roof fits perfectly in a natural environment. Over time, the shakes naturally age into a silvery gray color.
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Cedar shake roofs offer many benefits to the home and the homeowner. Here is a sampling of the pros:
- Energy efficiency: Cedar shakes are an incredible insulator, not only retaining warmth during the winter, but also reflecting heat during the summer so that air conditioning (along with your energy bill) isn’t escaping through the roof.
- Hail protection: Traditional asphalt shingles can take a beating during a hailstorm, but cedar won’t bruise when pelted by chunks of ice.
- Long life: When properly maintained, cedar shake roofs can last up to 50 years.
- A three-dimensional look: Shingles technically are three-dimensional, but their look is undeniably flat. Shakes bring a textured appearance to a roof that complements just about any architectural style.
- Increased home value: A cedar shake roof can provide a boost to your home’s resale value. Plus, it simply looks impressive to potential homebuyers—as they drive up to your house, the cedar might be the first thing they notice, thus providing a favorable opinion of your home before they even step inside.
- Green impact: For environmentally conscious homeowners, cedar shakes outperform virtually every other type of roof in terms of sustainability, energy savings, and recyclability. Unlike a petroleum-based asphalt shingle, cedar is grown and harvested from sustainably grown forests. The energy efficiency of cedar has already been mentioned, but manufacturing shakes also requires less fossil fuel than a traditional shingle, as well as a metal or concrete roof. And when a cedar shake roof reaches the end of its lifespan, it can be recycled into wood chips, whereas asphalt roofs end up in a landfill.
Despite the many advantages of cedar shake roofs, there are a few caveats you must be aware of. These cons include:
- Cost: Cedar shake roofs are more expensive than a standard asphalt roof. The green aspect of the shakes contributes to the increased cost, as well as the additional expertise required for installation. That said, this added cost might be offset in both energy savings and increased home value.
- Additional maintenance: Homeowners with cedar shake roofs must be proactive in maintaining their investment. The cedar needs to breathe, so excessive leaves and branches must be cleared from the roof. Ice dams can damage the roof during the winter—and repairs, if not made quickly, can cause further damage.
- Expert installation: The average contractor might not be qualified to install a cedar shake roof, but it nonetheless must be installed correctly. Seek a roofer with experience with cedar in order to avoid problems later.
- It needs the sun: As you might guess, excessive moisture is not good for a cedar shake roof. Snow is generally unavoidable in winter, but in the spring and summer, if the roof can’t adequately dry out in the sun, mold, mildew, and rot can set in. Therefore, cedar might not be the best choice if it will be mostly in the shade of any large trees on your property.
Many of the cons of a cedar shake roof can be overcome with the right contractor. If you do want to give your house this beautiful upgrade, seek a roofer that is experienced in installing shakes, is also an expert with maintenance and repairs, and will answer your questions and provide the highest-quality service.