Note: This is cleaning/treatment/restoration only. We do not offer roof repair services.
Cedar Site Logo

The Useful Life of a Cedar Shake Roof

Useful Life of a Cedar Shake Roof


A cedar shake roof is considered among the best roofing options available to have on your home, a cedar shakes roof will protect for the long term, ensure that your home stays thermally insulated, and add natural beauty. Cedar shake roofs are durable, natural, and offer excellent curb appeal! 

They are said to remind people of a simple Cape Cod style with their cedar wood, wood shakes, and simple elegance. Cedar shakes are typically a good roof material in most conditions but you should maintain them regularly, this is a professional clean once every 5 to 10 years with smaller “brushing” in between. In this article, we will discuss the useful life of a Cedar Shake Roof like what causes issues for cedar shake roof life, what affects the shingles, and how to care for a cedar shake roof and ensure that it is able to last for twice as long as some people expect!

Table of Contents

What is Cedar Shakes? Useful Life of a Cedar Shake Roof

Cedar shakes are made of natural wood material that is organic, eco-friendly and sustainable. Cedar Trees are cut to form shakes that are used for roofing purposes. These are preferred for roofing due to various reasons but the most important factor for choosing a cedar shake roofing is its weather-resistant quality that traps the heating in winter and makes the house cooler in summer. Thus, it is considered energy efficient. 

Cedar Shake Roof Oil Treatment

Cedar Shakes give a ruff, rugged and natural look. Sometimes, cedar shakes are shaped to give a smooth look that is also very attractive to look at. However, Cedar shakes also vary according to their quality and cost. The cheapest cedar shakes not only have maintenance issues but also damage soon decreasing the lifespan of the roof. On the other hand, the quality grade of Cedar Shakes gives 40-50 years of expected life if maintained well. 

Cedar Wood Shingles – These differ in appearance and manufacturing from shakes. Cedar shingles have a straight, uniform appearance and are tapered for a uniform look. Shingles will often be used on the siding of houses.

Cedar Shakes – Cedar shakes are more common on the roofs of homes as they are often looking a little less organized due to the way they are cut. You will often find that cedar shakes are thicker than cedar shingles due to the way they are cut. They also come in three different grades which will dictate the quality and how long they can be expected to last.

How Long do Cedar Shake Roofs Last?

What is a Cedar Shake Roof

What is a typical cedar roof life expectancy? This number can vary wildly depending on the condition the roof is kept in, how much maintenance it receives, the quality of the original roofing materials, and your local weather conditions. If you live in a very damp environment then the shake roof life expectancy will reduce as cedar a wood shingle roof is not a big fan of remaining wet. This can cause wood rot to set in and infestations to take hold.

You can however improve on the chances of your cedar shake roof life expectancy by maintaining it well by removing loose debris and organic matter from the roof roughly once every year or so and then giving it a professional clean once every 10 years. Removing the debris will reduce the organic growth that develops in the time period in between cleaning and keeps the roof from deteriorating. 

Moss is a fan of the damp but for a cedar shake roof to last as long as it should you will need to prevent moss from taking hold. It will increase the water absorption and affect the time period that the cedar shake roof lasts. There is no need for chemical treatments as cedar wood has natural preservatives that keep the wood in good condition. Chemical treatments, stains, and sealers do not offer superior protection than that of the natural shingle or shake.

If you live in a place that is susceptible to hurricane conditions then this may reduce the lifespan much faster than a bit of mold or algae! That being the same for any roof!

Causes of Deterioration of Cedar Shake Roofs

There are several causes of the deterioration of the cedar roof. Some of these include:

Moisture – Over time, moisture gets trapped under any organic growth and seeps into the wood, causing rot and decay.

Insects – Termites, carpenter ants, and other insects can cause damage to the cedar shake roof through feeding and nesting affecting the average lifespan.

Weather – Rain, snow, hail, wind, and sun exposure all contribute to the weakening of the roof over time.

Improper Installation – Poor grade wood and badly installed cedar roofs can lead to leaks, drying issues, and the eventual rotting of the cedar shake roofing.

Damage – Cracks, holes, and other defects can weaken the structure of the roof and allow water to penetrate down to the felt underlay and eventually the roof structure.

Age – The age of the roof affects its durability. Older roofs tend to deteriorate faster than newer ones.

Organic Infestations – Other problems may occur such as algae, fungus, and moss infestations cause the roof to deteriorate faster due to the continued damp that is caught in between the organic matter and the roof.  If the cedar does not dry out properly then the shakes deteriorate.

Sealing, Chemical Treatments, and Staining – There is no need for any of these services for your wood shake roof. Unscrupulous roofing companies will try to sell you these roofing products as an upsell on the cleaning service but they are not needed. A cedar shake or shingle roof is durable and resistant, naturally, on its own. Cedar roofing will last for decades as long as damp is prevented, and dampness is prevented by airflow and clean shingles and shakes. Do not buy these wood product unnecessary product fails.

Here are some tips to help prevent the deterioration of your cedar roof:

Pests, Insects, & Termites in the Shakes

1) Inspect Your Cedar Shake Roof

Be sure to inspect your roof at least once per year. Look for signs of wear and tear, cracks, holes, and other damages. If you see anything wrong, call a professional immediately for their opinion.

2) Regular Roof Maintenance

Regular maintenance and cleaning of your wood shingle roof will increase the roof life expectancy and is the easiest way. Routine maintenance can be carried out on a yearly period to remove leaves and other simple issues that will likely cause larger issues and decrease the life expectancy in the long term. A professional clean should be carried out every 10 years or so to ensure that the roof will last its full lifespan. And the cost of cedar roof maintenance is affordable if you do it regularly.

3) Use Quality Grade Materials From the Initial Install

When installing a new roof, make sure to use only high-quality materials. Avoid using cheaper grade shingles and shakes on the install. These lower-quality wood shakes will not hold up as well under the elements but they will generally outperform other materials such as asphalt shingles.

3) Use Quality Grade Materials From the Initial Install

When installing a new roof, make sure to use only high-quality materials. Avoid using cheaper grade shingles and shakes on the install. These lower-quality wood shakes will not hold up as well under the elements but they will generally outperform other materials such as asphalt shingles.

4) Clear the Surrounding Areas

Keep your surrounding area tidy. Remove leaves, trim back overhanging trees, and other debris before they build-up leading to a premature roof replacement. This may not appear eco friendly but by removing a little you save the roofing contractor from coming and replacing the whole wood shake roof.

The roof of a house with green leaves on it.

6) Clear Gutters & Ice Dams

Regular maintenance of your gutters and removing ice dams will help to keep the roof better, your home exterior better, and give your roof a longer lifespan. Wood shingle roofs benefit from not remaining wet longer than necessary.

7) Maintain Proper Ventilation

Make sure to ventilate your attic space to keep humidity levels down. This helps to prevent mold growth which can lead to structural damage from the inside out.

A man working on a roof with a tool.

8) Repair Damages

Homeowners often ignore damage until it causes an issue, but you should fix it before it causes issues. If you notice any cracks, holes, missing wooden shakes, or other damages on your roof, contact a professional right away. They’ll be able to fix these problems quickly and efficiently. The longer damage is on your roof the more issues it will create now for the future.

How Much Does a Cedar Shingles & Shake Roof Cost?

A cedar shake shingles roof has a great life expectancy is properly cared for, those who tell you it does not are generally misinformed about the way to look after them. The initial installation cost of a properly installed wood shake roof can be high, especially when purchasing a cedar shake roof of high-grade wood shingles. Installation quality is key, it is more expensive but it is worth the price. Other roofing materials may come in cheaper but they will need replacing sooner so in the long term homeowners are better of with shakes or shingles in place of something like asphalt shingles.

To keep the roof as long as possible regular treatment as far as maintenance is required. Do not treat the roofing with anything else to try and artificially inflate the average life expectancy, nature can do this on her own with the correct TLC.

While the cedar shingle roof life expectancy is not bad, it comes at a high cost. Initial installation costs for cedar shake roofing are about double the cost of alternative roofing options, like the more common asphalt shingles.

To maintain the integrity of the wood shingle roof life, cedar shake roofing requires a great deal of professional maintenance to keep it free of moss, algae, and other fungi, and also generally to keep it from deteriorating too quickly. This adds a significant, additional cost to shake roofing.

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.


Free No Obligation Estimation

Recent Posts

Free No Obligation Estimate