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How Cedar Shingles Are Made: The Process of Crafting Rustic Roofing and Siding Materials

how cedar shingles are made


Cedar shingles and shakes have been a popular choice for roofing and siding for centuries. Known for their natural beauty, durability, and fire resistance, cedar shingles are a great choice for homeowners looking to add a touch of rustic charm to their homes. In this article, we’ll explore the process of how cedar shingles are made, including the differences between shingles and shakes, and the various grades and types of cedar used in their production.

What are Cedar Shingles and Shakes?

Cedar shingles and shakes are thin, flat pieces of wood used for roofing and siding. They are typically made from western red cedar, which is a common species of cedar found in the Pacific Northwest. While both shingles and shakes are made from the same type of wood, there are some differences between the two.

Cedar shingles are machine-cut from cedar blocks and have a smooth, uniform surface. Shingles are always tapered and come in a variety of sizes, from 16 to 24 inches long and 3 to 14 inches wide. Cedar shakes, on the other hand, are hand-split from cedar blocks and have a rough, irregular surface. They are also thicker than shingles and can be up to an inch thick.

The Process of How Cedar Shingles Are Made

The process of how cedar shingles are made starts with selecting the right type of cedar wood. The best cedar for shingle production is old-growth cedar, which has tight growth rings and is more resistant to decay and insects. The cedar logs are then sawn into blocks, which are cut into shingles or shakes.

For shingle production, the blocks are placed on a machine that cuts them into the desired size and shape. The shingles are then sorted by size and quality, and any defective pieces are removed. For shake production, the blocks are split by hand using a mallet and a free, which is a specialized splitting tool.

Once the shingles or shakes are cut or split, they are graded based on their quality. Cedar shingles are graded based on their thickness, width, and number of defects, such as knots or splits. The highest grade cedar shingles are known as “clear,” which means they have no knots or defects and are cut from the heartwood of the cedar tree. Lower-grade cedar shingles may have knots, splits, or other defects, but are still suitable for use as roofing or siding material.

Cedar shakes are also graded based on their quality, but the grading system is different than that used for shingles. The highest grade cedar shakes are known as “hand-split and resawn,” which means they are split by hand and then sawn on the back side to create a smooth, even surface. Lower-grade cedar shakes may be sawn on both sides or have more defects, but are still suitable for use as roofing material or siding material.

Uses of Cedar Shingles and Shakes

Cedar shingles and shakes are popular choices for roofing and siding because of their natural beauty and durability. Cedar shingle roofs and siding are particularly common in areas with a rustic or traditional architectural style. Cedar shingles and shakes can also be used as decorative accents on homes and buildings.

Cedar shingle roofs and siding are particularly suitable for homes located in areas with high humidity or frequent rainfall, as cedar is naturally resistant to moisture and decay. Cedar shingles and shakes are also a great choice for areas with high fire risk, as they have natural fire-resistant properties.

In addition to their use as roofing and siding materials, cedar shingles and shakes are also popular for use as decorative elements. Cedar shingles can be used to create unique patterns and designs, such as the fish scale pattern, which adds visual interest to a home’s exterior.

Cedar shingles and shakes are also a sustainable choice for building materials, as cedar is a renewable resource that is harvested from managed forests. When properly installed and maintained, cedar shingle roofs and siding can last for decades, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Maintaining Cedar Shingle and Shake Roofs and Siding

Proper maintenance is key to ensuring the longevity and durability of cedar shingle roofs and siding. Cedar shingles and shakes should be regularly cleaned and inspected for damage or decay. Any damaged or deteriorated shingles or shakes should be replaced promptly to prevent moisture from entering the roof or wall system.

Cedar shingle roofs and siding can be treated with a clear sealer or stain to protect against weathering and sun damage. A regular application of a sealer or stain can help extend the life of the shingles and maintain their natural beauty.


Cedar shingles and shakes are a beautiful and durable choice for roofing and siding materials. The process of how cedar shingles are made involves selecting the right type of cedar wood, cutting or splitting the blocks, grading the shingles or shakes based on quality, and treating them with fire-retardant chemicals if necessary. Cedar shingles and shakes are suitable for use in a variety of applications, from traditional rustic homes to decorative accents. Proper maintenance is important to ensure the longevity and durability of cedar shingle roofs and siding.

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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