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Guide to Selecting a Color for Your Cedar Roof

Updated: Sep 11, 2019


Cedar shingles offer natural beauty atop your home when you properly maintain them. While some homeowners love that natural color, others want more choice when it comes to the color and appearance of the shingles.

You can choose a different color of cedar shingles during the initial installation, but you also have the option to add stain or coloring on an existing cedar shingle roof to get the look you want or to change up the appearance of your roof. Keep reading to figure out how to choose a cedar roof color that enhances the natural beauty of the wood on your roof and works with the rest of your home’s exterior to create a cohesive look.

Natural Colors of Cedar Shingles

Cedar shingles come in one of two varieties: red cedar and white cedar. The two types offer a similar style of shingle, but the specific coloring, the way the shingles age and the durability of the shingles vary slightly. If you’re buying new shingles, take the two different varieties into consideration when deciding what color of cedar roof looks good on your home.

Red cedar shingles have the following features:

  • Grain: Red cedar features a tight grain.

  • High tannic acid: Cedar contains tannic acid, a component that serves as a natural preservative for the shingles. Red cedar tends to have higher levels of tannic acid than white cedar.

  • Durability: Red cedar shingles tend to hold up a better than white cedar, thanks to the tighter grain and higher tannic acid levels.

  • Weathering: Red cedar weathers to a rich, dark color, although the color change is often blotchy, which creates an inconsistent look.

  • Color options: You can stain red cedar to change the color somewhat. Because of the tight grain, red cedar has a lower absorption rate. Painting a red cedar roof typically results in a streaky, blotchy look. For these reasons, the color changing options are often limited with red cedar shingles.

White cedar shingles have the following characteristics:

  • Grain: White cedar tends to have a wider grain.

  • Lower tannic acid: The tannic acid level in white cedar shingles is lower than that of red cedar.

  • Durability: In general, white cedar shingles don’t hold up as well as red cedar shingles, due to the difference in grain and tannic acid levels.

  • Weathering: White cedar tends to weather to a uniform silver appearance, which many people find appealing.

  • Color options: Because white cedar shingles are naturally lighter in tone, they are better able to absorb different colors during staining or painting. The paint or stain also helps protect the white cedar shingles more than they would be when left unstained.

Over time, weathering causes changes in the natural color of the cedar shingles if they are left unstained or uncoated.

Adding Color to Cedar Shingles: Cedar Roof Stain

Whether you prefer white or red cedar shingles, you can change the color to get the look you want. If you like the natural color of the shingles, a clear protective coat helps your shingles hold up to weather elements and the environment. The clear coating allows the shingles to weather naturally and change color, but the coating helps protect the cedar. You’ll notice the silvering effect on your shingles in about six months after applying the clear coat.

If you prefer a consistent color without the weathering effect, a cedar stain is a solid option for you roofing. Cedar shingle stains come in a variety of colors. The best colors for a cedar roof suit your personal taste and coordinate with your home’s overall look. Most of the options complement the natural look of the cedar, adding a natural color, such as brown or reddish. We offer a variety of brown tones, as well as a gray tone that mimics the naturally weathered look.

When you opt for a cedar shingle stain on your roof, expect the color to stick around for a while. The shingles typically hold the color for about five to seven years. The longevity makes the stain a solid investment, but it also makes it important to choose a color you can live with for that long. When you choose to stain your cedar shingle roof, you also need to commit to re-staining the roof periodically to maintain the color and protection for your shingles. One of the great benefits is there are so many cedar shingle colors to choose from.

Stay Neutral

Color is a great way to add personality to your home, but the roof is one place you typically want to stay neutral. Why is a neutral roof an advantage? Think about your home’s curb appeal. What do you want people to notice first when they pull up to your home? The roof likely is not your first answer. Sure, you love your cedar shingles, and you want people to see them, but an odd-colored roof that stands out throws off the balance of the entire façade.

Neutral colors play it safe and give you greater flexibility in your design options. The average life span of a cedar roof is 30 to 40 years, according to the Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau, and some last even longer with proper maintenance. When you think about color fads in design — do avocado green appliances ring a bell? — you realize trendy colors change over time. Choosing a neutral color means your cedar roof will look great long-term, even if you change the siding color of your façade.

When it comes to cedar shingles, brown is a common neutral color, since it complements the natural wood tone. Gray is another popular option, since cedar shakes naturally age to a

gray color.

Light vs. Dark Shingles

Another basic decision is whether to go with a dark color or a light color. This really is a matter of preference, as well as the general type of color that goes well with your home’s exterior. In general, darker roofs tend to blend in better, but a cedar shingle roof limits how dark you can go. You won’t find black cedar shingles, for instance.

Some designers recommend going with a roof color that is darker than your house itself. It offers a more classic look. The exception is when your home is a very dark color already or when you have a very large roof with less siding area. In these cases, a dark roof can seem too much.

The other aspect of choosing light versus dark roof colors is the energy aspect. Some experts believe the lightness or darkness of the roof affects heating and cooling. Studies tend to have varying results. In terms of cedar shingle roofs, the darkness of the color doesn’t seem to matter. The stains used also don’t tend to make much difference in terms of energy savings or influences on heating and cooling. In other words, don’t base your cedar shingle color selection based on whether or not you think it might save you on your heating bills.

Complementary Colors

Unless you’re in the planning stages of building a new home or you’re renovating your entire façade, you already have exterior colors established in the form of siding, brick or stone. Because the home’s exterior walls and the roof meet up and both play a large role in your home’s curb appeal, those colors need to work well together.

One option is to choose a slightly different shade of your home’s color. For example, if your home’s exterior is gray, using a gray stain on your cedar shingles often works well. If your home is a warm tan or brown color, choosing a similar rich brown stain gives your home a coordinated look.

Beyond the house itself, consider the surroundings when choosing colors. Rich brown colors on your roof blend well with the rich browns in a wooded area, for example.

While you want the color of your cedar shingles to go well with your home’s color, it’s typically best not to match the color exactly. Having shingles and siding or brick the exact same color creates a monotone look that can be a bit boring. It can also be difficult to match colors exactly, so it could end up looking even worse.

Brick Considerations

When choosing a roof color for a brick home, the decision becomes even more important. Unlike a sided home that can be repainted, the color of your brick home’s exterior isn’t going to change. The brick or stone façade sets the tone for all other color choices, so pay close attention to the colors in the brick and the colors you want to enhance. It also stands to reason that since you chose — and hopefully love — the brick or stone look, pulling a color from that stone should translate into a roof color you like as well.

As with any home, you want the cedar shingles to blend in with the brick so they complement the exterior rather than compete with it. The color you choose for your shingles can influence what people notice about your brick or stone. For example, if the brick or stone has reddish elements in it and you choose a stain with reddish tones, the roof can make those red elements in the stone stand out more. The same idea works with gray, brown or gold elements in the natural façade elements. When choosing a cedar shingle color to go with your brick or stone home, pay close attention to the colors in those stones, and decide which ones you want to draw out.

Desired Look

The color of your roof creates a particular look or feeling. What do you want your roof to say? While you don’t want your roof to stand out as odd or misplaced, you may want to draw some attention to the cedar shingles. After all, a major reason to choose cedar roofing is for the distinct look.

If you want to draw some attention to the roof, choose a color that stands out. If you prefer a more subdued look that blends in for a less noticeable look, choose a neutral color similar to the home’s exterior to take attention away from the roof.

The Overall Picture

The key is to consider the overall picture when you look at your home’s exterior. As with all aspects of home design, balance is a good thing. Too many competing colors or patterns can make your home’s exterior seem too busy or cluttered. If your roof color is vastly different than all of the other elements of the home, it really calls out the different sections and gives them a disjointed look.

Look at the rest of your home as its right now. Does it have lots of different colors on it? Are there several different materials used on the façade of your home? Are there different patterns happening, such as the variegated color in bricks or stone on the front of your home? If you’ve already got a lot going on, don’t add to the busyness with a bold, stand-out roof color. Choose a color that blends in as best as possible to help tone down the overall activity on your home’s exterior.

Test out the Options

It’s often difficult to imagine what a cedar shingle color might look like with your home. One way to test it out on a small scale is to get samples of the colors you are considering on an actual cedar shingle. Colors don’t always look exactly the same on a color swatch, so having an actual shingle with the stain or finish on it gives you a better idea of what you’re working with.

Hold the shingle up to different elements of your home, such as your main siding color, any brick or stone sections, your trim and shutters on your home. This helps you get an idea of how well the cedar shingle color complements those other colors already on your façade. Test out the sample at different times of day. This helps you determine how different light levels play into the look of the shingles. A particular color might look completely different in bright, direct sunlight than it does in shade or at dusk.

Personal Preference

Designers and experts have all sorts of rules and guidelines for helping you choose colors for your roof, but ultimately, it comes down to what you want. Of course you want the color to go well with your overall façade, but you also need to like the color. If a redwood stain color isn’t your thing, cross it off your list of options. If you think gray looks too drab, opt for a warmer brown stain color. Ultimately, the color of your cedar shingles needs to be something you can live with for a long time.

Have you figured out what color of cedar roof you should get? Keep the basic design elements of choosing roof colors in mind as well as your own personal preferences to narrow down the stain options. If your existing cedar roof on your Fairfield County, CT, or Westchester County, NY, home needs a makeover, give us a call.

Cedar Roof Coatings offers a range of maintenance, repair and cleaning services for cedar roofs. We can safely wash, repair and restore your roof to its natural glory. Plus, we offer several coatings to add color and to preserve your cedar roof from damage. If you’re still not sure on the color that works best for your home, our experts can help you work through the options and offer suggestions to help you choose a color you love.

Contact the experts at Cedar Roof Coatins online or call us at 203.847.5740.


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