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Roofing Materials - Shingles and Shakes

Wood (Cedar) Shingles and Shakes

Wood shingles and shakes may cost more than asphalt shingles but they give a natural and traditional look. Wood roofs (usually pine, redwood or cedar) may require more maintenance to get the optimum lifespan than many other materials. A typical lifespan will be around 30 to 40 years with a 30 year warranty not uncommon particularly if you use a shingle treated with wood preservative. The highest quality cedar materials properly installed, treated, and maintained can have a lifespan of up to 50 years.

Cedar Shingle Roof

Cedar Shake Roofing

A Bundle of Cedar Shakes

Wood roof coverings come in two different types; shingles or shakes. Shingles are sawn on both surfaces, giving a much more uniform appearance. Shakes give off a more rustic look as they are typically split on at least one side making them less uniform.

Cedar is the most commonly used wood roofing material. In addition to their overall aesthetic, cedar roofs also provide good protection for a home. Being rigid material it is resistant to wind and is excellent for areas that receive hail on a regular basis. Cedar roofs not only absorb the impact better than other materials, the wood can actually recover its original shape if pits or depressions are left from the hail.

While a cedar roof is not naturally fire retardant it can be treated for fire resistance. In fact installed correctly fire-retardant shakes may even earn a Class ’B’ fire rating. Check on your local building codes as there are communities that will require fire retardant shakes and shingles to be used or even disallow their use altogether.


If not properly installed and maintained a wood roofs lifespan can be cut to as little as 15 years. The key to a continued lifespan is and how fast water and moisture evaporate from the roof and good roof ventilation. Water extracts the natural preservatives in the wood, shortening its life. This is also why it is important to keep leaves, dirt, and any other kind of debris off the roof. Cedar roofs work best on steep pitched roofs which allow for better and faster water run off. Sealants are often used to help extend the roofs life but they are a temporary fix and must be reapplied every 5-8 years. Also in the event your wood roof is damaged repairs should be done by an experienced roofer, as a cedar roof can be damaged by walking on it

Wood shingles were very common in early America and thus are often used when restoring a historic building and/or when a very traditional appearance is wanted on new construction.

Pros: Beautiful traditional look, great protection from hail, increases the homes insulation.

Cons: More expensive than asphalt shingles, requires more maintenance than many other materials, usually requires a professional to repair.


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