If you are selecting roofing material for a new home or need to replace the roof on an existing home, you are faced with a myriad of choices. One attractive alternative is to use cedar shakes. Shake roofing has been in use for literally centuries. This natural wood product gives your roof a warm, natural appearance, and weathers to gray or silver over the years. Cedar shake roofing lends itself to many architectural styles, particularly traditional or colonial styles. Because of the way they are manufactured, cedar shakes vary in width, length, thickness, and texture, ensuring that no two shake roofs are exactly alike. Cedar shake roofing is also considered an environmentally sound product, made from a renewable resource.
Cost of shake roofing
An installed shake roof will typically cost $6 to $9 per square foot. This translates to a range of $10,200 to $20,000 for a single-story home with a roof area of 1,700 to 2,100 square feet. Shakes are sold by the square, which is enough to cover a 10-by-10 foot area, or 100 square feet. When purchasing shakes, it is customary to buy 10 percent more than the amount needed to account for waste. If you live in a fire-prone area, you will want to purchase pressure-treated shakes that are rated for Class A fire resistance. This rating requires an underlayment that will add to the cost. Additional cost factors may include repair or replacement of rotted or damaged rafters.
Popular brands and styles
Cedar shakes are sawn or split by either by hand or machine from wood blocks. Sawn shakes are more uniform in appearance, and split shakes have a more random, rustic look. Although it can be stained or painted, in most instances cedar shake roofing is left to weather to an attractive silver or gray patina. Most manufacturers of cedar shake roofing are located in Washington state or the Canadian province of British Columbia, where cedar forests are plentiful. There are too many manufacturers to list here, ranging from A&B Shake Mill to Zofell Log & Milling. Choose a manufacturer that is a member of the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau (CSSB), a non-profit organization that promotes industry standards and authorizes the use of the Certi-label™ on cedar roofing products.
Durability and fire resistance
A typical roof made of cedar shake roofing is warrantied by the manufacturer to last 20-25 years. You may experience a longer life with regular roof maintenance. Cedar shake roofing will perform well in most weather conditions, including rain, snow, hail, earthquakes, and high winds. Cedar shake roofing has been tested to withstand wind speeds of up to 245 miles per hour. Pressure-impregnated preservative treatment prevents decay and pressure-impregnated fire retardant lessens vulnerability to fire. Depending on the degree of fire danger in the area you live, you should choose a shake roof rated at Class A (severe), Class B (moderate), or Class C (light) fire resistance.
Cedar shake roofing provides good insulation, lowering heating and cooling costs. It is also environmentally sound, because it is made from wood, a renewable resource.
Roofing material manufacturers also have products that resemble cedar shakes, but are made from composites, metal, clay, and stone. These materials have the advantage of longer life, better thermal performance, and higher fire resistance, but at a higher cost. Some of the alternative roofing materials may qualify for Energy Star tax rebates.
How to get started
Begin your research on shake roofing by using the lead form on this page to get detailed information. You can also get information from the CSSB or by visiting manufacturers' websites, showrooms, and home improvement stores. Select a contractor that is experienced in installing shake roofs, and make sure that they are licensed and insured.