Cedar (Wood) Shingles and Shakes Roof Costs and Pros & Cons

Cedar aka wood shingles and shakes roofing is very popular thanks to its attractive appearance and longevity. If you are buying a cedar roof for your home, there are a number of important things to consider. For example, in the right settings, a cedar roof can add not only value, durability, and longevity, but also a touch of character and authenticity to a Cape Cod style home or even a simple beach house on Cape Cod. In fact, cedar roofs can make the right house a lot more enjoyable and attractive thanks to their distinctive looks and style.



On average, cedar shakes and shingles will cost between $8.50 to $14.50 per sq. ft. fully installed, depending on your choice of material, roof type, ease of access, and your home’s location.

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Cedar is the most popular wood for shakes or shingles, but it is also possible to find shakes made from other woods. Red cedar is the most common type in North America. Cedar shakes are fairly easy to install and maintain.

Cedar shakes are attractive, durable and resistant to insect activity. They typically last longer than shingles and many other types of roofing. They can be expected to last for between 20 and 30 years. Cedar shakes also have natural insulating properties.

There are some potential disadvantages to cedar roofing. The main problem is that cedar shingles and shakes are a potential fire risk. Some home insurance providers will raise insurance premiums if you install them on the roof over your house. In some high risk areas cedar shakes may not be allowed. However, it is possible to have cedar shingle treated in order to make them fire resistant.

cedar-shakes-roof-by-anthony-wilder Credits: Anthony Wilder

Did you know? Shakes and shingles are very different in appearance. Cedar shakes tend to have a more rugged or rustic appearance than shingles. Shakes are usually thicker and less even than shingles since shakes are split from the wood rather than sawn.

Shakes may also be grooved. Hand split shakes are best if you want a rustic look, while taper sawn shingles are more refined.

When you buy cedar shakes, you will need to decide on the size, shape and quality of cedar shakes which you wish to purchase and on any additional treatments you may need. You should also consider the cost, which will depend on the type of shakes you choose and the size of the roof that needs to be covered.

Two common types or grades are Premium and Number 1 cedar shakes. Both are made of heartwood, but premium grade shakes are 100 percent edge grain, while Number 1 shakes have a maximum of 20 percent edge grain.

If you can afford to invest in premium grade cedar shingles, then the 100% edge grain will help increase their longevity. Premium shakes are cut with the grain running perpendicular to the surface, which prevents the shakes from becoming curled.

Red cedar shakes are usually classified as Blue Label (100 percent edge gain heartwood, no defects), Red Label (about 66 percent heartwood, limited knots and defects), Black Label (about 50 percent heartwood, limited defects) and Under-coursing (which can be used as a starter strip, but not for exterior use).

Cedar shakes come in a wide range of different thicknesses. The most popular options for thickness are heavy and medium. The term perfection is used to refer to shakes which are 18 inches long.

A number of different finishes can be applied to cedar shingles, such as paints, coatings, oils and stains. The finish will usually be best when it is done as part of the manufacturing process, so it is best to choose the style you want before you buy your cedar shakes rather than attempting to achieve it after-wards.

Cedar shakes tend to acquire a silvery sheen over time. Many people like this color change, but if you do not you will need to treat your shakes occasionally.


You may want to consider choosing cedar shakes that have been treated with CCA or chromated copper arsenate, which can help prevent the growth of fungus, mold and mildew as well as preventing the activity of insects.

Most cedar shakes are not CCA treated, and those that are treated are significantly more expensive and often have to be special-ordered. It is also possible to treat cedar shakes to make them more fire resistant. This is much more common.

Installation Points

It is important to ensure that the shakes are installed correctly since improper placement of the nails can result in warping. You will also need to maintain your cedar shakes, for example by preventing moss, mold and mildew from growing.

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