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Five Must-Do’s for the Cedar Roof Owner


Here at Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning, we often find ourselves in more of an educational role, for owners of these beautiful wood roofs. Cedar shake (or wood shake roofing as some call it) is the only roofing that really needs ongoing maintenance. It also can last many more decades than conventional roofing shingles. However, you must see to these five areas:

1. Excessive Moisture

Always be sure to clean your gutters. If water has been stopped up, the wood at the edge of the roofline wicks that water right back in, eventually rotting the wood. Always clean out that area.

2. Remove Debris from Valleys

We’d like to see you make sure that any sticks, leaves or other debris are removed regularly from any valleys on the roof. If not, this will be another area for shingles to wick moisture and eventually decompose.

3. Maintain Trees around the Home

We often see homes covered by tree branches, either hanging above or lying directly on the shingles themselves. Removing this problem by cutting the trees back regularly will help prevent your roof from building up moss or lichen due to too much shade.

4. Missing Cedar Wood Shingles

If you see a shingle missing, have it replaced right away! If you do not, UV rays can melt that barrier of black felt between your shingles and the roof, which will only lead to further damage.

5. Ice Dam Removal

If you live in an area where there is excessive ice dam buildup, always make sure to have this properly removed as soon as possible, so as not to put too much strain on the cedar shakes.

A Well-Cared for Roof Will Last

Having your roof cleaned on a regular eight to ten year basis will maintain your roof for its whole intended life! Log onto our site and click on Find a Roof Cleaner. We’ll see to it that we connect you with someone in your area that can help!

Visit: www.cedarroofclean.com

What is the Average Cost to Clean Your Cedar Shake Roof?

Here at Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning we are often asked what our “average cost” is for a roof cleaning job. The simple fact is that there really is no average. Even so, I’d like to address this question, as you may find it helpful to know how we charge for roof cleaning.

Each Roof and Its Unique Situation

The fact is, each roof has its own particular circumstances and requires a specific response from us as cedar roof cleaners. It’s not about size; it’s about which infestations have become imbedded in the shakes and other problems that arise with that situation.

There are various kinds of infestations, situations, leaks or problems that we may need to tend to in a single visit. On one occasion, a roof that was 4,000 sq. ft. cost more than a neighbor’s, whose roof was 6,000 sq. ft.! It seems hardly fair…until you look down the list of infestations, cracks, and the labor that was required to make other repairs on the smaller roof vs. the larger one, which had a milder infestation.

A Broad Range of Pricing

Around $.50-$1.00 per square foot is about the closest we can come to a set price. Even though this is still a very broad range, it may allow you to see the variance we end up working with in the field and it can give you some insight into why we don’t provide a more direct answer before we see a few up-close pictures of your roof.

Our price for our Soft-Wash process is around 5% of the replacement cost, and one cleaning will last between 8-10 years. After having looked at other types of roof cleaning, we’ve also found our pricing to be about a third of the cost of others who use much more invasive processes to clean your roof. Give us a call and we’ll set something up or, if you are out of our area, we’ll help locate someone near you, who can give you a proper estimate.

Visit: www.cedarshakesroofcleaning.com for more information, education and to request a free estimate.

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Hiring a Responsible Cedar Shake or Wood Shake Roof Cleaner

Here at Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning, we often receive emails asking how people find a responsible and reputable cedar shake cleaner. Of course, there are several elements to look for and I’d like to address them here:

Two Kinds of Roof Cleaners

How can you be sure a company is reputable and responsible? First, I want to address something that is unique to wood shake cleaning. Plainly put, there are two types of roofing cleaners:

1. Roof cleaners who also will do wood roofs (usually utilizing the same invasive tools used on other roofs)
2. Cedar shake and wood shake roof cleaners who use a special cleaning process for wood

Your cleaner should be of the second type spraying your roof with nothing more pressurized than a garden hose. They will also never walk on your roof or use a power sprayer. Wood shake roofing is organically designed to withstand the elements, but it is not designed by nature to withstand the incredible power of a pressure washer.

What More to Look For

Of course, beyond making sure someone is using the right process, there are other things that you should look for in a wood roofing cleaner. The following is a short list of important items you should look for whenever hiring anyone to work on your property, especially on something as important as roofing:

  • What’s their Better Business Bureau rating and reviews?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What example photos do they have?
  • Will any of their customers verify their service and quality?
  • Is the company well-insured?
  • Are they knowledgeable about wood roofs and their different components?

With regular maintenance, a cedar shake roof can last longer than most other roofing materials. Get to know your roofing cleaner and make sure they meet all the qualifications you require. Going to our website and clicking on the link for a roof cleaner in your area is a great place to start!

Visit: www.cedarroofclean.com


What Happens If I Neglect My Cedar Shake Roof?

Here at Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning, we are often asked about the consequences of not maintaining your cedar shake or wood shake roofing; it’s a fair question, so I thought I’d answer it here.

The Clear Answer

Without any doubt, to neglect cleaning your wood shake roof on a regular basis means premature replacement. Half-life replacement is something roofing companies love! It is easy business for them, but it costs you, the roof owner, thousands upon thousands more than simply calling someone up to have your roof regularly cleaned.

A cedar shake roof is made of organic material. You wouldn’t go beyond the recommended time without cleaning your teeth. Why is that? By just having them cleaned and maintained regularly, they will last a whole life! Or we might compare it to why we change oil in a car. Certainly, if we never do, we may only see half its intended life because a car is also something designed to be regularly maintained which is exactly the case with a cedar shake roof.

The Only Roof that Needs Maintenance

Wood roofing happens to be the only kind that absolutely needs regular maintenance. A couple of unbiased sources for this information that I’d like to tell you about are both the USDA Forestry Service and Cedar Shake Bureau. The bottom line is that we are talking about less than 5% of the replacement cost to have your entire wood roof cleaned. And having that done once every eight to ten years will be the difference between having a wood roof replaced prematurely, and having a roof that most likely out-lives you or I.

As always, give us a call and we can help you ourselves or set you up with someone in our network of cleaners across the US and Canada who use our proprietary, non-invasive cleaning solution and method that will keep your roofing clean and healthy for years to come!

Visit: www.cedarroofclean.com


Cedar Roof Cleaning Insurance Premium Discount

Here at Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning, over the past 2-3 years we have heard from more and more clients who need roof cleaning, so they can receive a discount from their insurance companies. While this is a great benefit to them, the other side of the coin is that if they don’t get the work done, some of these insurance companies actually cancel these insurance policies outright!

The Bottom Line

Wood roofing requires maintenance and the insurance companies know they lose a lot of money in early replacement, so they’re making sure that this isn’t an issue in the future. Although we’ve also heard from owners of other types of roofing, it is wood roofing which really seems to be their focus.

Recently, I spoke to an insurance underwriter. He needed some information from me in order to apply a discount to one of their clients. He was basically verifying the client had had the work done, and asked that I write a report on the roof. For that home owner, this translates to a significant savings over time. So, if you have recently had your roofing cleaned, or are planning on doing so, make sure to tell your insurance company, so you can take advantage of this discount!

A Win-Win Situation

If you have your roof cleaned (with the Soft-Wash process), then you are extending the life of your roof it seems only logical that your insurance company should be invested in rewarding you for that! While we have more clients because of this shift and the insurance companies have to replace fewer roofs, you, the homeowner, see the greatest benefit: a healthy and beautiful roof that lasts for the decades for which it was intended – and at a lower cost in the end!

Feel free to contact me if you want help finding out if this discount applies to you and how you can take advantage of it! Even if you are out of our area, we’ll help you find someone nearby that can clean your wood shake roofing.

Visit: www.cedarroofclean.com


My Roof Needs Cleaning, What Should I Do?

Here at Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning, people are often asking what they need to do to have their roof cleaned. The answer involves these three things:

  • Do your research on cedar shake roofing.
  • Get to know your cedar roof cleaner’s process.
  • Find a cedar roof cleaner who uses a non-invasive process.

The Importance of Research

Learning a bit about how a wood roof reacts to weather, shade, moisture and pollens in the air, and how it should be cleaned, should be a top priority. Learning this information will mean the difference between early replacement and keeping your wood roofing looking excellent for the decades it was intended to last. Check out the following websites to learn more about cedar shake and wood roofing: USDA Forestry Service and Cedar Shake Bureau.

Processes of Wood Shake Roof Cleaning

There are two kinds of companies in this business: the first kind of company is a roof cleaning service that also cleans wood roofs. Because wood roofing isn’t their specialty, they typically employ too harsh of methods that can include walking on shakes to clean them with a pressure washer. This can cut long gouges in the wood and the shakes can snap under the weight of someone walking excessively on them. The main problem here: otherwise unneeded replacement of shakes and in the most severe cases, full roof replacement.

The second type of cedar roof cleaning, which we offer, uses what is called a Soft-Wash process. We access your roofline with a ladder and from there we can clean the entire roof with a cleaning solution that exerts no more pressure than a garden hose! This leaves your roof looking great, without the harmful and potentially dangerous aspects of the other processes.

I certainly hope you’ve learned a few things by reading this. I would encourage you to give us a call for any assistance and like always, if you are outside our area, please do still contact us, and we’ll get you in touch with the right cleaning company in your area!

Visit: www.cedarroofclean.com


What is the Junk on My Roof?

Here at Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning, one of the most commonly asked questions has to do with what all the build-up is on your wood shake roof. Simply put, the junk, gunk and debris on your roof is most likely a combination of any of the following infestations:

  • moss
  • lichen
  • British Soldiers (mushroom like growths, which are hard to remove)
  • tanning (black bumpy film, which comes out of the wood and is also hard to remove)
  • dark brown fungi
  • mildew
  • algae
  • saplings (which grow out of the dirt between shingles)

What Do These Infestations Do to My Roof?

As they grow on and into the roof, the wood becomes soft and eventually vulnerable. Being organic, over time these infestations get lodged in-between the breathing spaces of the shingles and are eventually planted in that dirt and on the wood. The problem arises when you don’t have it cleaned soon after this these infestations grow and feed on the wood, leading to decomposition over time. Your roof will then be in need of a partial or complete replacement many decades before it would have otherwise.

How Can Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning Help?

What Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning can do here is to help educate you on how to maintain the only kind of roofing that needs regular maintenance. As I’m sure you’ve been able to tell so far you’ve come to the right place! Although this kind of roofing does need maintenance, it’s of course also considered one of the finest and most beautiful roofs available now it’s up to you to find out exactly what is needed to keep it looking beautiful for decades to come!

Sullivan Cedar Roof Cleaning uses a Soft-Wash process that removes the infestations without any invasive pressure washing, and without walking on your fine wood shake roofing. Contact us today for an estimate. If you are outside of our area, contact us anyway and we’ll put you in touch with the right kind of roofing cleaner in your area!

Visit: www.cedaroofclean.com

We have discussed the reasons you may want to apply a chemical preservative treatment to your roof. Some homeowners may not feel comfortable with the use of these chemicals, and want an alternative treatment. While non-chemical treatments are possible, their effectiveness is not known, and may not provide adequate protection. However, these kinds of treatments are worth exploring.

Non-chemical Treatments:

For those who prefer not to use chemicals, zinc and copper strips could be a safe and relatively inexpensive treatment to control moss and fungi, although it is not a guarantee. Zinc and copper can effectively kill and/or retard the growth of moss and fungi. It could be possible to fasten a 2 inch wide copper or galvanized metal (containing zinc) strip to either side of the ridges and run it the entire length of the roof, as well as across sections of the surface, and below the flashings (unless using copper flashings). It is believed that the rain will leach the zinc and copper from the stips, allowing them to wash across the the cedar, preventing organic growth.

I can not find any scientific study to verify the effectiveness of this technique, and it is unclear as to how much zinc and copper would be required, but I have seen some examples of its effectiveness. In one example, galvanized metal strips placed below chimney flashings appear to be effective for shingles and shakes in that area for the life of the flashings. In another case, on a roof considered favorable for moss growth, two strands of 10-12 gauge copper wire was placed on the roof (one near the ridge, and one about 15 ft. below at the halfway point on the slope), and no moss was seen to grow on the cedar. Again, while I have been unable to find any scientific data on this technique, it looks to be a promising solution for those unwilling to use chemical treatments.

Oil Treatments:

You may see oils that are advertised to replenish the natural oils in the wood. In red cedar, these natural oils account for less than 3% of the total mass. While they do contribute to dimensional stability and decay resistance, applying so-called replenishing oils to weathered shingles may be of little value, especially if they contain no preservative or water-repellent chemicals. However, you might see some temporary benefit, with regard to controlling the cupping and warping of the shakes and shingles.
In my opinion, oil treatments are very limited. Without including an effective mildewcide or other preservative, these oils, such as linseed, may actually encourage mold, mildew, and fungi growth. Furthermore, these petroleum based products oxidize in the sunlight, so they have a very short-lived benefit, and will only increase the flammability of your cedar roof. It is also worth noting that you should never stain, varnish, or seal your cedar roof. The cedar needs to breathe, and it can not do this if a stain or seal has been applied.

One Final Note:

There has been a debate among roofing contractors about the benefits of new cedar over old cedar. In my opinion, cedar is a natural wood and any natural material will be as good as the care it’s given. Your cedar roof is organic and needs to be given special care to reach its natural lifespan before being completely replaced. Just because your cedar roof is old, does not mean it needs a total replacement; most of the time, it just needs a professional cleaning and treatment.

All the information in this series of blog posts came from research from a variety of sources (most notably S.S. Niemiec, former Reseach Assistant, College of Forestry, OSU and T.D. Brown, Professor Emeritus, Wood Science, OSU), and in part from my own professional experiences. These posts are for informational and educational purposes only. While you may prefer to maintain and clean your cedar shake roof yourself, I strongly recommend you hire a professional roof cleaner.

Part 1: Why do I need to Maintain my Roof?

Every week, I get emails and calls from cedar roof homeowners throughout the USA and Canada, asking me a variety of questions about their roof. I find that a lot of homeowners do not fully understand how important it is to maintain, clean, and treat their cedar roof until they start to see leaks. I also get a lot of questions from homeowners asking me if they need to completely replace their roof, or if it simply needs to be cleaned or treated. It has been my experience that most cedar roofs need regular maintenance and cleaning, rather than a complete replacement. While I do not recommend that you clean your cedar roof yourself, I am more than happy to provide you with a series of blog posts with all the information you need to know about how to properly maintain, clean, and treat your cedar roof.

A Quick Note on Cedar:
Most shingle and shake roofs are made from Western Red Cedar (Thuja Plicata). Western Red Cedar is an exceptional wood because it has a defect-free straight grain, dimensional stability, low weight (low density), and is impenetrable to fluids. Most importantly, it is decay resistant because of natural substances found within the wood. Other wood species, such as Redwood (Sequoia Sempervirens) and Cypress (Taxodium Distichum), have similar properties and are occasionally used, but decreasing supplies significantly restrict their production and distribution. For the sake of simplicity, when I mention cedar shingles and shakes, I will be referring to Western Red Cedar. Regardless of the wood type, the maintenance, cleaning, and treatment processes are the same.

Why it is Important to Maintain, Clean, & Treat Your Cedar Shake Roof:
After exposure to sunlight and precipitation, the cedar wood surface begins to change. This change is both physical and chemical, and is known as weathering. As your cedar roof weathers, the first thing you will notice is a color change. The initial red-brown color begins to fade and turn into a silvery gray. This change happens on a microscopic level, and is the result of ultraviolet radiation from the sun stripping the wood surface layer (which is less than 0.01 inch deep) of certain cell-wall materials. This first change in color is rather rapid, and often occurs within the first year of exposure (under severe conditions, within several months). Gradually, the silvery gray will change to a darker, more graphite gray, and eventually to a brown/black color. The color change to brown/black indicates the colonization of the surface by micro fungi (known as white and brown rot fungi).

By nature, wood rapidly attracts water to its surface. When this happens, the wood swells. As it dries and the moisture content decreases, the wood shrinks. This repeated wet and dry cycle causes the development of compression and tension stresses, which cause microscopic cracks to develop. These cracks grow larger over time as they are exposed to more wet-dry cycles. As the cracks grow, they trap water and allow wood-rotting organisms to penetrate deeper into the wood. At this point, the wood becomes harder to dry. With increased moisture, the wood-rotting organisms increase their destructive activity and damage more wood material.

As the roof continues to age, the surface and sharp edges of the shakes and shingles continue to erode because of ultraviolet light and abrasive particles carried by wind and water. In addition, wood destroying organisms continue to slowly degrade the surface. As a result, the roof looks weathered and worn out.

Throughout the years, debris from trees (leaves, pine needles, etc) begin to accumulate in the valleys and between the shingles. As a result, some areas will remain wet for longer periods after each rain. Soon, lichens and mosses begin to grow on the shakes and shingles. At this point, splits develop in the wood, and cupping and curling of the shingles begin to become more apparent. If you are seeing splits, cupping, and curling, expect your roof to start leaking soon. This weathering process can take up to 30 years, but it often happens much sooner if you do not properly maintain, clean, and treat your cedar roof.

Now that you understand what can happen to a neglected cedar shake roof, I encourage you to check out the rest of this five part blog series for more information on roof maintenance, cleaning, and preservative treatments. It is important for you to be as knowledgeable as possible about your cedar shake roof so that you can make the best decisions, and hire the best professionals, to help extend your roof’s life.