Enchanted by the beauty of a wood roof? In the second installment of our Rooftop Knowledge series, we take a closer look at the pros and cons of cedar shingles.
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Aesthetically, it's hard to beat the amazing, rustic beauty of a cedar shingle house. Over time, the cedar shingles age out to a lovely gray or soft silver finish. But for all their good looks, cedar shingles have some unfortunate downsides -- among them, high cost and the effort to maintain wood shingles. Do the pros outweigh the cons? Here's your guide to buying, installing and maintaining cedar shingles, the most popular type of wood shingles on the market.
Pros of Cedar Shingles
As one of the oldest roofing materials, cedar shingles continue to be highly desired by homeowners. Here are a few reasons why:
- Cedar shingles have stood the test of time.
In the expert home guide, Mr. Fix-It Introduces You to Your Home
, contractor and Ace home expert Lou Manfredini
notes that wood roofs were the most common in Colonial America. Those homes were built using shingles created from an easy-to-find resource: cedar trees.
- Cedar roofs are attractive
and add curb appeal to a home. As the years pass, the color of the wood ages beautifully, providing a value-enhancing charm.
- Cedar is wind- and impact-resistant.
Cedar shingles are durable and resilient in the face of storms, hurricanes, strong winds and flying debris.
- Wood offers energy benefits.
It helps to insulate attics, and allows your home to breath and circulate air better. In the case of a fire, flames will burn through the roof
, instead of trapping dangerous carbon monoxide within the house.
Cons of Cedar Shingles
Despite their beautiful appearance, here are a few reasons you may not want to invest in cedar shingles:
- Cedar is an expensive roofing material.
Cedar shake shingles cost about $200 a square plus installation costs, notes Manfredini. For an entire roof, you can expect to pay six or seven times what you'd spend on an asphalt roof (see Rooftop Knowledge: Asphalt Shingles
- Cedar roofs require regular maintenance.
Manfredini explains in his book that cedar expands and contracts, plus it's very porous and susceptible to moss and mold growth. As a result, regular maintenance is required, including mildew and moss
removal. If you live in an area with heavy rainfall, cedar shingles aren't the ideal choice.
- The sun is an enemy of cedar shingles.
Damaging UV rays from sunlight cause cracks to develop.
Buying Cedar Shingles
There are two main options for cedar shingles: machine-sawn shingles for a smooth, refined look or hand-split wood shakes, which are shingles that offer a rougher, rustic appearance. Look to buy cedar shingles with a Class A fire rating because these shingles include a fire-resistant treatment, according to the National Roofing Contractors Association
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Installing Cedar Shingles
The installation process for cedar shingles is very similar to installing an asphalt roof
. A few tips to keep in mind:
- Flashing is the trickiest part of the installation job.
Metal flashing is used over joints in your roof to prevent water from seeping in and causing damage. Without proper flashing, you're bound to see leaks. Check out this guide to help you with flashing
- Avoid re-roofing
(as you don't know the condition of the sheathing underneath).
There are a number of options for shapes of wood shingles: fish-scale, cove, and V-cut shingles
. Cedar shingles require open sheathing
, or 1-by-6 boards that are spaced apart. The spacing in the sheathing keeps air circulating to help prevent moisture buildup.
- Begin at the bottom.
You'll want to start the installation process on the bottom edge of the roof and work your way up.
Maintaining Cedar Shingles
A cedar shingled roof demands maintenance and repair. Follow these tips to keep your wood shingles in working order:
- Inspect the roof in the fall for any cracked or curling shingles.
Leaves and debris can build up on your wood shingled roof, so you'll also want to clean out your gutters
- Clean and preserve your roof with a linseed-oil preservative.
Experts suggest that you clean cedar shingles every three to six years. Cleaning and preserving your roof is especially important in humid climates, where you run the risk of mildew growth. You can also use a DIY solution of equal parts warm water and chlorine bleach with a little detergent to combat moss and mold growth. Since this is a wet and slippery job, exercise caution if you plan to do it yourself.
- Combat weathering with an oil-based stain.
Moss growth on a roof traps moisture and can seep through shingles and rot your roof structure in a matter of a few years. Help reduce weathering by applying a semi-transparent oil-based stain
as a finish to your cedar roof. The roof naturally expands and contracts with the weather, so avoid applying any paints or varnishes which can cause the shingles to crack.
- Power wash correctly.
Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, make sure the power-washing of your cedar shingles
is done right. If done improperly, shingle damage, leakage and wood erosion can occur.
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