Asphalt shingles are by far the most popular roofing option in America. They’re the go-to choice because they’re the easiest to install, they are relatively inexpensive compared to other roofing materials, and they typically last around 15 years—just a few years longer than the average homeowner spends in any given home. If you’ve always gone with asphalt shingles but are considering something else, perhaps a cedar shake roof, there are some things you’ll need to know about it first. We’ll break from tradition and start with the cons and then the pros.
When talking about cedar roofs, you have to start with the cons because there are a lot of them. The reason wood shakes are a less popular roofing option is because they’re more expensive to install and maintain. They require a lot in the way of maintenance, perhaps more than any other roofing material. Cedar roofs need a lot of attention, especially in rainy climates. They’re more susceptible to mold, moss, rot, and pests (like termites) than other roofing materials.
Also, because wood is combustible, many local governments (especially in wooded areas) have legislation banning cedar shake roofs. Wood shakes are chemically treated to be fire resistant, but this chemical treatment can wear off after several years leaving your home more susceptible to fire. If cedar roofs aren’t banned in your area, you will want to get your roof chemically treated every now and then to keep it fireproof.
After looking at the cons, you may wonder why anyone would want a cedar shake roof. Well for one, they can last 2-3 times longer than asphalt shingles assuming they’re well maintained. But the real reason many homeowners opt for cedar shakes despite the setbacks is the unique look they add to a home. If you’re looking for that rustic, natural look, no other roofing material can pull it off quite the same way as cedar shakes though there are composite shingles that attempt to imitate it.
The Bottom Line
If you’re really set on that look that only a cedar roof can offer, and you’re willing to invest more up front and down the road, then a cedar shake roof might be for you. If you like the look but don’t need the hassle of all the maintenance that comes with it, there are composite roofing shingles that can be made to look similar to wood shakes but are fire, mold, rot, and insect resistant.
The use of wood for a roofing material dates back centuries and it isn’t without its good qualities. But you should familiarize yourself with the setbacks before you rush to get that cedar shake roof you’ve always wanted.
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