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The Expected Life of a Cedar Shake Roof: Factors Affecting & Contributing to its Lifespan

The Expected Life of a Cedar Shake Roof Factors Affecting & Contributing to its Lifespan


The Expected Life of a Cedar Shake Roof

The idea of installing a Cedar Shake roof always comes with a question of its life expectancy. The life expectancy relies on many factors, some easily controllable and some less so.  Ensuring that all these factors and variables are taken into account will make sure you can keep your cedar shake roof in great shape for as long as possible.

A cedar shake roof adds a simple, classic, and natural look to a home, increasing the curb appeal of the house and giving it one of the most elegant rooftops.  Cedar shake roofs are weather-resistant and organic and will last a lifetime if looked after correctly. 

The cedar shake roof is preferred for its weather-resistant quality because it withstands harsh, snowy, windy, and hot climates. However, it does not mean that the roof can last for years without maintenance. Depending on the local climate and weather conditions, a cedar shake roof needs proper maintenance and a full clean roughly once every 5 – 10 years. It is also recommended to make sure the gutters are clear, and there is no organic matter (leaves) settling and staying on the roof – this can be done about once or twice per year. This means that you can almost double the life of your roof by investing a little time and money into Cleaning and maintenance. Read on to find out the expected life of a cedar shake roof.

Table of Contents

What is a Cedar Shake Roof?

A cedar shake is the type of natural wood piece that comes from Cedar trees and is split into parts and used to build a roof. Wooden shakes are used for roofing and are a durable, organic, eco-friendly, sustainable, and cost-effective roofing material. These shakes are purely made of wooden pieces and require proper care and regular maintenance.

These are preferred for roofing because it gives a rough and rugged texture to the roof which gives a fantastic look to the house!

Types of Cedar Shakes:

Three types of wooden cedar shakes differ in their quality. It means that the expected life of a cedar shake roof depends on the grade and quality selected for roofing.  The higher the grade, the higher the price, but the longer the lifespan.

Common Grade

The most common and typical type of Cedar Shakes is “Common grade”, which is the cheapest and will be prone to damage soon. These are made up of the random part of the cedar trees and sometimes the leftover pieces of the wood. It will not stick properly because these are cut randomly and curl up easily within a short period. So, these types of Cedar shakes are not mostly recommended if you intend ensure a long lifespan for your roof.

Selects Grade

The second type of Cedar Shakes is the “Selects”, which is the mixture and combination of Common and Straight grains. It is made up of almost 20% common grade and 80% straight grain. It will last longer compared to the common Shakes but not as long as the straight grain. If you are looking for maximum quality and longevity you are looking for the next level up.

100% Straight Grain Grade

The best type/grade of Cedar shakes is 100% pure and made of quality material and selected finely of the chosen parts of Cedar Trees. These shakes are grained straightly, so it protects the roof shakes from curling up. However, it is somewhat costly as compared to the previous two types. It means that the high cost of 100% Straight Grain Shakes will undoubtedly increase the expected life of a Cedar Shake Roof.

Factors Affecting & Contributing to the expected life of a Cedar Shake Roof

The expected life of a Cedar Shake Roof depends on the following factors:


The installing of Cedar Shakes roof is very technical, costly, and requires expertise to install. 

Proper installing of the roof helps increase the expected life of a cedar shake roof and saves the roof from any structural damage. Having a professional install the shakes will ensure the correct spacing, type, and general installation is done as it should be.  Cutting corners in one area can cause issues in many others.


The expected life of a cedar shake roof also depends on the way it is preserved and maintained. Many people will suggest adding oils, sealers, and other chemicals to a cedar shake roof to help increase the lifespan. This is simply marketing and upselling and can do more harm to your cedar shake roof than good!

Organic debris needs to be checked every year and needs to be removed before a rainy or snowy season starts. However, the maintenance done by the professionals and roof experts is ensured safety and durability and will remove/reduce the possibility of breaking the shakes and falling from the roof.


The proper cleaning and maintenance of a Cedar Shake Roof will help you increase the expected life of a cedar shake roof. It helps to get rid of the algae, mildew, debris, and leakage that may cause to shorten its lifespan. Wet debris needs to be cleaned properly to avoid any leakage and harm to wood shakes. However, the cleaning process needs to be done by professionals and experts who do so with complete care and caution. 

Moreover, cleaning a cedar shake roof requires a non-aggressive and soft wash technique with a specially formulated solution that removes debris and kills the germs and bacteria, causing fungus and algae to grow. The washing process of a wooden roof done with a power washer can damage the wood shakes by tearing the shakes with pressure. So, the experts recommend that the roof be adequately cleaned with a soft wash technique and the pressure of only a garden hose. It helps to increase the expected life of a Cedar Shake Roof as the cause of the infestations are remove and the cedar shakes are not damaged in the process.

Bug infestation

The expected life of a cedar shake roof is affected by the bugs that began to grow on the wood shakes due to humidity and moisture. Firebrats and bugs are common on cedar shake roofs because these insects grow with moisture and cause damage to the shakes. Although the bugs do not bite yet, they grow and damage the cedar shake roof. Cedar shakes are commonly known for resisting bug infestation; however, bugs begin to grow with wet and snowy climates and moisture. 

Here, a professional cedar shake roof cleaner is required in order to deal with the problem and preserve the cedar shakes, all the while not causing damage to the roof. Ensure the process is handled by cedar shake experts who do so without power washing the roof.


Repairing cedar shake roofs is necessary whenever it gets its edging rolled or tilted up, starts leaking due to moisture, or starts tilting up due to sun rays. It needs to be cleaned again to regain a long-lasting effect. So, the repairing process helps to increase the expected life of a cedar shake roof.

By cleaning and maintaining the shakes this will help to keep the felt underlay in top condition.  Keeping this in good condition will make sure that no water or leaks get into your home.

Wood Degradation

Cedar wooden shakes are naturally very resistant but they can get eroded and degrade as time passes when combined with other elements.  Cedar shakes degrade when they come into contact with moisture for long periods of time and this happens when fungus, algae, and moss grow on the roof.  It becomes essential to repair the wood that rots and ideally prevent it by cleaning it correctly before it rots. Ensuring you stop the wood from degrading in the first place will help to increase the expected life of a cedar shake roofing.

Climate & Atmosphere

Although climate does not have an immediate effect on the roof, it results in a gradual deterioration over time. Extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain and the excessive heat can cause damage to the roofing material. The atmosphere the cedar shake roof is exposed to will dictate the longevity of the roof.


Overall the expected lifespan of a cedar roof if well maintained is 40 – 50 years, this does require some professional cleaning and maintenance, if this is ignored you may find the roof lasts between 20 – 30 years.  Call Bruce today and get a quote to clean your roof and get it back to looking how it should so it last for years to come.

Cedar Shake Roof Cleaning in Des Moines Iowa
Cedar Shake Roof before & after cleaning

Meet Bruce

50 Years of Experience &
Over 2,000 Shake Roofs Cleaned

Bruce Sullivan has over 50 years of experience in maintaining, cleaning, and restoring cedar shake roofs. Making him one of the top authorities on cedar shake roofs in the US.

Watch the Cedar Shakes Cleaning Process in Action in this video

Play Video about Roof Cleaning How to Remove Moss, Lichen, Fungi from a Cedar Roof Sullivan Roof


What can I say? Bruce and Keith provided an exceptional service, and they are really nice guys too. Found out at the last minute they were in Minneapolis, and they fit me in for a cedar shake roof cleaning the next evening after their regular job was done. Even cleaned up my gutters, small fence, and small deck at no charge. The place looks outstanding! Highly recommended.

Mike Richards

I highly recommend this business. Due to the work performed we are going to get another 10-14 years out of our cedar shake roof. We were told by some roofing companies that the roof should be replaced in 2 years. I lucked out and found Sullivan Roof Cleaning while researching companies that perform this service, and was pleased to learn that the company does work outside of Iowa. If you need your cedar shakes cleaned, go with Sullivan Roof Cleaning.

Eric Oelrich, 
St Cloud, MN

Bruce did a great job cleaning the whole exterior of my house. The roof has new life! It looks practically brand new. All the mold and moss on the roof, on the gutters, under the eaves, completely gone. He exceeded all our expectations. When he tells you what he can do for your house, you can believe and trust him. Great guy, great service.

Stuart Malone
Kansas City, MO


Cedar shakes are organic. Though a resilient material. Being organic they need to be maintained. Over time, like any organic material that are subjected to weather elements, they reach a stage of deterioration. Like UV exposure, moisture and seasonal changes. Which results in moss, mold, mildew, lichen and brown rot fungi. These infestations need to be removed to further preserve the integrity of the cedar shake.
The proper way to clean a cedar shake roof is from a ladder. By spraying a special formulated solution onto the shakes and then rinsed with a garden hose pressure. Best done by a professional cedar shake roof cleaner. Not DIY recommended.
No. Pressure washer will require walking on the shakes, which will harm them, and even at its lowest setting will also damage the shakes.
On average, cedar shakes should be cleaned every 10 ten years. Subjective to the grade of the shakes and the amount of surrounding tree cover.
Avoiding walking on a cedar shake roof, other than for repairs.
Never seal a cedar shake roof. Cedar shakes need to breathe. They expand and contract in rain conditions. Seal will shorten the lifespan, to the point of premature replacement.
Staining has no real preserve value and can also harm the integrity of shakes, as stated, they need to be able to breathe. Also, if the shakes are not properly cleaned staining can seal the deteriorating infestation within the shakes.
Depending on the grade of the shakes and installation, and if maintained properly, 40 to 60 years.


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