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How Long Does a Cedar Shake Roof Last?

How Long Does a Cedar Shake Roof Last?


So, how long does a cedar shake roof last? Years, decades, centuries?  Perhaps not centuries and you have to hope certainly more than years!  But you can take various actions to help to prolong the life as much as possible. Some of these factors can be controlled, and others can’t.  We can do our best with the factors we can control!

In its lifespan, every Cedar Roof is exposed to different variable factors, all of which have a role to play in its ultimate longevity.

How to Determine the Longevity of a Cedar Shake Roof

When considering how long does a cedar shake roof last, there are many factors.  Just like anything that is exposed to the outdoors, variable climates, changing weather patterns, the longevity of a Cedar Roof depends on how well it was maintained, and the quality of the cedar roof installation.

In this article, we will take a look through some of the contributing factors.

What can Affect - How Long Does a Cedar Shake Roof Last?

Some homeowners don’t face any major issues with their Cedar Shake Roof for decades, in order to achieve that there are some things that need to be taken into account.  We will take a look through those and how best to make your cedar shake roof last as long as possible.

Local Weather Conditions can Dictate the Lifespan of your Cedar Shake Roof

Depending on your local weather you may find that your roof is moss, algae, and fungus-free for a long time with relatively little need to check it.  If you live in a damper climate and have trees and other organic material around then you will likely need to take a little more action to keep it in tip-top condition.  Making sure to get it cleaned to remove all organic matter should be high on your list.

What Grade Material is used on your Cedar Shake Roof

If you are not familiar with the different Grades of Cedar Shake, here is a quick summary of them.

Cedar Shakes can differ in terms of their thickness depending on the grade. Cedar Shakes are chopped out of a larger block by hand and will vary slightly in their thickness. Two Cedar Shakes will never be an exact copy of each other. This gives a Cedar Shake roof a wonderfully rustic, and vintage look.

Now let us talk about Grading.

How are Cedar Shake Roofs Graded? Well, there are a lot of factors starting with the thickness, acid content, and length of the shingles.

There are mainly 4 different grades of Cedar Shake Roofs – Premium, Number 1, Number 2, and Number 3. This process is in compliance with the Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau’s Certi-label Grading System.

Different Cedar Shake Roofing Grades

The North America the typical cedar shakes are made from California Redwood(Sequoia sempervirens), Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), and in some other case Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis) is also used. If you are looking to shakes roofs in Scandinavia and Central Europe then it will most commonly be Pine (Pinus Sylvestris).

There are 3 common lengths of Cedar Shakes, these are 16″, 18″, and 24″.  Once the shakes have been split they are graded according to the Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau’s Certi-label Grading System.

Number 1 -Blue Label

These are the highest grade of Cedar Shakes and are 100% hearthwood, 100%  clear, and 100% edge grain.  These shingles are available in the various sizes 16″, 18″, and 24″.

Number 2 - Red Label

This is a standard grade of cedar shake and is perfectly suitable for many applications.  They have a slightly higher tollerence for imperfections such as some flat grain and a limited amount of sapwood.  They come in 16”, 18”, and 24” lengths but in a 16″ length there is no less than 10″ of clear.

Number 3 - Black Label

This is the lowest grade of cedar shake and is useful for economy applications such as use on sheds and outbuildings.  This grade of cedar shake can have a minimum of 6″ of clear on a 16″ length.  The length of shakes is also available in 16″, 18″, and 24″.

How long does a cedar shake roof last

The Quality of the Cedar Shake Roof Installation

Why is the quality of the installation important? Making sure the roof is created correctly from the beginning will help to make sure that everything that comes after it is solid and reliable. The builder who puts the roof on should have a good understanding of cedar shakes, their properties, benefits, and possible issues.

Make sure to consult with someone who has vast knowledge, and experience in installing Cedar Shake Roofs.

It will be important to pick a grade of cedar shake that will last, suit the purpose of the building, but also fit your budget.

How Well was the Cedar Shake Roof Maintained?

Keeping the roof free of organic material is important as this will cause the shakes to degrade, this could be leaves, algae, fungus, etc.  Shakes can also become discolored and lose their natural beauty.  When considering cleaning your cedar shake roof you should take into account the issues and risks that are involved with it.  You can read more about them in our article on “Can I walk on my Cedar Shake Roof?“.

What to look out for on a Cedar Shake Roof?

  • Is there large amounts of organic material on the roof such as leaves, moss, fungus, or algae? If so, these should be removed.
  • Are the Cedar Shakes visibly clean and undamaged?
  • Are there trees with overhanging branches around your house? If so perhaps these can be cut back a little without damaging the surrounding natural habitat.
  • Is there water clogging along the bottom of the roof or perhaps the water spills over when it rains?
  • Can you see any damaged or lose shakes?
  • Can you see the underlay of the roof?


In conclusion, if you look after your Cedar Shake Roof correctly; fix any damaged shakes as soon as they are noticed, get it cleaned once every 10 years or so then you can expect it to last around 30 – 50 years. It is worth spending a small amount of cleaning the roof in the short term in order to save a large spend in the long term.

If you need some help with this then Bruce Sullivan from Sullivan Cedar Shakes Roof Cleaning can help you out.

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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