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4 Things You Need to Know About a Cedar Shake Roof

A man holding a piece of wood in front of a house.


Are you ready to get an upgrade to the roof of your home that stands out from and will outperform the average asphalt roof? Have you seen those gorgeous, attractive wood shingle roofs in your community? If yes, the wood roof you’re looking at is a cedar shake roof.

People can be confused by what exactly is meant by a cedar shake roof. This article will cover the basics and give a few tips.

First, a little about Bruce: Bruce Sullivan of Cedar Shake Roof Cleaning has been working in the wood shake and shingle industry for years and has cleaned thousands of roofs while gaining vast amounts of knowledge about cedar roofs and all the other types of roofs. He is passionate and fascinated by cedar shakes and the properties of this wooden roof that has been used in the US for centuries.

Table of Contents

What is a cedar shake roof?

Cedar shake roof is an excellent roofing material made of natural wooden – cedar. While it technically serves the same purpose as an asphalt or metal roof, it is one of the most beautiful roofs that you’ll come across and far exceeds other types of roofs in this aspect and many others. This is what sets cedar shake roofs apart from different commonly used roof types such as asphalt, metal, tile, and slate.

The shingles are constructed of cedar trees that originate out of The Northwest United States or Southwest Canada. To make these shingles, they use large cedar trees to cut into 2-foot sections, then hand-splitting them into an elongated size (taper sawn). Hand splitting the cedar wood provides a rougher surface (more rustic!), while taper sawn gives a sleeker appearance.

There are three kinds (types) of shake cedar shingles. There are common selects and 100 straight grain; you can read more about these in our article on the different types of cedar shake.

One thing to note is that the producers of cedar shakes do not maintain stockpiles of shingles. They’re custom-made, which means they won’t cut or split them until the order is made. Due to this, it could take between 3 and 8 weeks to receive the cedar materials you need for your shake roof.

Four Important Points to Be Aware of About Cedar Shake Roofs

You know the very basics of the beautiful roofing material cedar shakes and shingles. I will talk about some top points to keep in mind as you learn more about them.

1. The three types of cedar shake shake

There are three main types of cedar shake; they are called “common”, “selects” and “100 straight-grain”.

The common grade is the most affordable and the least expensive of the three types. They’re cut randomly and then made from any part of the trees (basically the remnants of various cuts). The cedar shake shingles will be the first to split and then warp. These are the cheapest type of shake and can be used on smaller projects such as sheds if you wish but do not expect them to last so long.

Our second type of cedar shake is Select. The select grade of shake mixes the two different grades, about 80 percent straight grain and 20 percent commons. Your roofing contractor must examine the available options to determine the highest quality cedar shingles that you can install onto your roofing. By sorting them, you will be able to have a longer-lasting roof by avoiding many of the lower-grade common shakes.

The 3rd and top grade of cedar shake shingles are 100 straight grain. Each one is selected by hand and straight-grained. If you have straight grain, your shingles lie flat, and you don’t need to be concerned about them curving up, and they will last the longest. If you wish to have a high-quality, long-lasting roof, this is the choice for you.

2. How Long Does a Typical Cedar Shake Roof Last?

How long does a cedar shake roof last? This is a good and commonly asked question. Many factors go into this, but I will give a brief and simplified version here.

If the cedar shakes are correctly installed and maintained properly, it is possible to enjoy a lifespan of around 50 years from your cedar roof. This means that you need to invest in the 100% straight grain shakes and ensure it is correctly maintained through the year (removing debris) and professionally cleaned once every 5 – 10 years, depending on local conditions. This will also be affected by the local climate and your surrounding area.

Moss & Algae

If you live somewhere that is particularly wet and humid then you may find that your cedar shakes will not last as long. You will still need to maintain them correctly but you will likely see that they last closer to 30 than the possible 50. Cedar shakes are a natural and organic material that is weather-resistant, but they need to be kept clear to ensure this is the case and to make sure they last as long as possible.

3. Can I Get a Warranty For My Cedar Shakes?

Generally, you will get two new warranties when you purchase a new roof. The first will be the warranty from the roofing material manufacturer, and the second will be from the contractor who installed it. However, cedar shakes are a natural roofing material and do not come with a material warranty. This means you need to ensure that you get a good quality workman to install the roof as his/her skills and warranty will be key to the long-term condition of your new roof.

Choosing a great local contractor who is able to show their work and you can be sure will do the best job possible is incredibly important. Some roofers will offer a guarantee that expires almost as soon as they leave; this is not ideal and should be avoided. Others will offer from two to five years, ten years, or even a lifetime warranty. Aim to find a roofer in your area who provides a lifetime guarantee for their work and read the terms and conditions of this warranty.

Often you will need to have the roof professionally cleaned by a cedar shake specialist such as Bruce and cedar shake roof cleaning.

Roof Condition 2

4. What Regular Maintenance Do Cedar Shake Roofs Require?

Just as you change the oil in your car after a certain time period, your cedar shake roof will also need to be maintained. This is an often overlooked aspect of cedar shake roof ownership, but it is vitally important to the longevity of your roof. Checking your roof and removing debris is a good way to ensure you do not start to see the growth of fungus, algae, moss, and other organic materials that will trap water and begin to damage your roof. By doing this you can prevent the damage before it starts. Along with your regular cleaning of debris, it is important to have a professional clean once every 5 – 10 years depending on your local environment. By doing so you will extend the life of your roof as you restore it back to its previous state and remove all the organic infestations that while making it look pretty, are actually damaging the roof.

How long is a piece of string? A cedar shake roof cost will depend on the size of the roof, and the grade of the cedar shakes you have used. This will also depend on the contractor you use and your locality. You can get a cedar roof ranging from a few thousand dollars to several tens of thousands. The best move here is not to need to replace your roof in the first place and to get it professionally cleaned to keep it in its best condition for as long as possible.

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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