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Cleaning Cedar Roof Shingles: What You Need To Know

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

If you drive through a neighborhood of houses and most of them have cedar shingles, you might notice a pattern. Chances are, the homes with the best-kept yards also have the most attractive cedar shingles. The reason for this, of course, is that these are the same homeowners who keep their shingles clean. Simply put, you'll find the best looking cedar roof shingles are rooftops that get cleaned on a periodic basis. Cedar roof cleaning can take your home to the next level.

How Often Should Cedar Shingles be Cleaned?

Ideally, cedar roof shingles should be cleaned every 3-5 years, preferably during the mid-spring or early fall — after the last of the winter weather or before the fall of the autumn leaves. Depending on the stipulations of your roof warranty, you might be legally required to have the shingles cleaned on an annual basis. In any case, the quality and appearance of your cedar roof depend on routine cleanings.

The process of cleaning a roof is not a simple task, though. It involves a lot more steps than vacuuming a rug or mopping a floor. To clean your shingles in an effective and lasting manner, specific types of tools and cleaning fluids are necessary. Furthermore, safety precautions must be taken to ensure proper balance and prevent bodily injury. In short, the steps required to clean a cedar rooftop are not for the faint of heart.

Why Do You Need to Clean Cedar Shingles?

Cedar remains one of the best options for residential roofing because of its strength and natural thermal qualities. As a lumber native to the Pacific Northwest, cedar has stood the test of time through centuries of endurance as a housing material used by Native Americans — long before the arrival of European settlers.

Due to the direct contact that rooftops have with sunlight, inclement weather and the elements, a set of cedar shingles will not last for all of eternity, but they can last for decades — a whole lot longer than asphalt — if properly taken care of and cleaned on an annual basis. If you have your cedar roof shingles professionally cleaned every spring or fall, for example, they could last for 40 years or upwards of 60 years.

Cedar remains the warmest roofing material on the market. It provides infinitely more warmth than metal or aluminum and also has five times the insulating qualities of slate and eight times that of concrete.

Thanks to the superior insulating qualities of the lumber, cedar shingles can help you maintain your desired temperatures indoors and allow you to live in comfort, minimizing your family's use of your heating and cooling system. As a result, you can save on your energy consumption.

The benefits of cedar are financial, as well as aesthetic.

Perhaps the biggest threat to the quality of your cedar shingles is the growth of organisms along the surface of the wood. When such growth occurs, it manifests through darkened colors along the shingles. If the shingles turn from a fresh or silvery cedar color to a dark brown or black tone, it is time to have your roof cleaned by a professional.

Can I Clean My Own Cedar Roof Shingles?

Yes, you can clean your cedar roof shingles, but it does come with some risks and some preparation. If you're planning to clean them, you should have the following on-hand:

Ladder, Harnesses, and an array of other roofing tools to ensure safety. To clean the shingles on a residential rooftop, you need to be able to ascend to your roof safely. Depending on how many stories a home contains, the risk level can range from moderate to high. For starters, you need to have a ladder with enough height to get you onto the roof. As such, a leaning ladder is better than a standing ladder for this purpose.

Work Shoes Of course, you need to be careful as you climb up and down the ladder. To that end, it is essential to wear shoes or work boots with proper traction that help you keep your balance on the rooftop. Only high-traction work boots or shoes are appropriate for this type of undertaking. When you consider the roof climb, the task of shingle cleaning is best handled by a roofing professional.

Work Clothes Likewise, you will need to don protective clothing that you wouldn't mind getting dirty. Avoid wearing your favorite pair of jeans when stepping onto your roof, and opt for old work clothes instead. Make sure they're free from holes or snags, though, as you want to keep your body protected and prevent your clothes from catching anything when walking on your roof.

Walking is not the only dangerous part of stepping onto a rooftop, as you also need to be careful with how you stand. Some homeowners who attempt to clean their roofs will lose balance and slip due to the presence of a leaf or a strip of moss underneath their feet. Furthermore, the steepness of the roof eaves can be disorienting if you lack prior experience with the surface of residential rooftops. When you consider these challenges, the best option is to hire a roofing professional to clean your cedar shingles.

Before you even set foot on your roof, you need to consider the surface texture of the shingles. For obvious reasons, you would never want to do this kind of work on a rainy day. For similar reasons, it would not be a good idea to get up on your roof the day after a rainstorm since moisture and wetness — or, even worse, standing water — are liable to linger.

Even if the roof is dry, the surface could still be dangerous to walk on if you're unfamiliar with roof-walking. For example, the presence of moss or foliage on the roof could cause you to slip and lose balance. Even though part of the objective is to remove moss and leaves, you might not get the chance if you can't keep your feet planted. For all these reasons and more, it is best to call a roofing professional to do this work for you.

Safe Ways to Go About Cleaning Cedar Roof Shingles If you're confident in your ability to work on your roof, the next challenge is to clean the shingles. This process is easier said than done because shingles require specific cleaning methods. For starters, you would need to make sure that the shingles remain intact, as they're not difficult to damage with select cleaning tools, and follow these recommended directions:

Avoid High-Pressure Equipment The most frequent mistake that homeowners make when it comes to cleaning shingles is to use high-pressure equipment on the cedar. Damage to even one of the shingles could compromise the integrity of your roof.

For the novice cleaner, it often feels tempting to use a high-pressure, high-power cleaner on your shingles. After all, when you get on top of the roof, you want to get the job done as quickly as possible. Given the enormity of your roof, the task can seem overwhelming too. And who wants to spend an entire afternoon completing this kind of chore? Not many, which is why a lot of homeowners use pressurized cleaners to blast dirt off their shingles.

Upon contact with the surface of your roof, pressurized water and fluid could get under the shingles and compromise your roof. Furthermore, shingles can become chipped or loosened in the process. Of course, a professional roof cleaner could come to your house and take care of the cleaning for you — and at an affordable rate.

Apply Cleaner Downward of Shingles If you do decide to attempt your own roof cleaning project, do not hold the nozzle of your cleaning tool anywhere close to the surface of the shingles, as this could inflict too much pressure on the roof. Instead, apply your cleaning formula from above the shingles and let the fluid work its way down the roof and into the drain tracks. Never use the cleaner upwards at the shingles, as this will send water under and behind the cedar.

Purchase Appropriate Cleaning Equipment Granted, in order to get this far, you will need to invest in the right cleaning equipment in addition to a ladder of sufficient height and stability. A lot of homeowners attempt the task of shingle cleaning once, only to learn the hard way that they would much prefer to have a professional roof cleaner come and do the job instead, which leaves your garage with unused equipment. Before you start cleaning your cedar roof shingles and making equipment purchases, consider if it's worth your time and effort.

When you call a roofing specialist to your house, you will not have to worry about cleaning formulas and applications of pressure because all of those things will be handled by a professional with years of experience at this sort of work. When you consider the benefits of a clean, attractive roof, you owe it to yourself and to your home to hire a professional roof cleaner to bring out the natural beauty of your cedar roof shingles.

How to Clean Wood Shingles

So you still want to tackle the job of shingle cleaning yourself? Ok, here comes the next part — mixing the chemicals of your roof-cleaning formula. To clean your cedar, you will need a mix of the appropriate cleaning solution and water. Prepare enough of the mixture to cover the entire roof. Attach the sprayer to a machine and take it onto your roof.

Walk up near the apex of your roof and begin to spread the cleaner across the shingles, using right and left motions. Walk along the length of your roof's apex as you make these motions, one slow step at a time, as you treat each square foot along the upper portion of your roof. Each movement of your arm should cover four or five feet up and down the apex.

Once you complete one side of the eave, do the other one. This process should take several minutes, which gives the formula time to set into the surface of the wood, break up dirt and loosen moss off the shingles.

With the apex now treated, walk along the mid-portion of the eave from one side to the other and coat the shingles with the formula, moving your arm left and right as you cross the roof. Once you finish one side, walk to the other side and repeat the same steps along the middle of the eave. By now, you should have between eight and ten feet of the roof covered, from the apex to the lower half.

Depending on the length of your eaves, you might need to repeat these steps a third time until the cleaner covers the edge of the roof. In any case, do not situate your body less than four feet from your roof's edge as you walk from one side to the other.

Remember, coat the roof downward and avoid spraying upward.

By the time you've finished coating your roof, the formula will have likely had at least 10 minutes to work its magic on the cedar.

By now, you should see the difference in your shingles. The cedar will most certainly be cleaner and free of moss growth. However, dirt will still linger unless you give your home's roof a final rinse.

You then need to wash and rinse the entire area of your roof.

Should I Hire a Professional to Clean Cedar Shingles?

Like most homeowners, when you first attempt to clean your own roof shingles, you're liable to take far longer than the experts on YouTube. As with all the miracles that professionals perform before the camera, a roof cleaning can look a whole lot easier than if you took the task into your own hands.

Despite the effectiveness of water and bleach, today's professional roof cleaners come equipped with more advanced arsenals of cleaning formulas and equipment. Furthermore, a pro cleaner will have the skill and eye for detail to cover every square inch of your roof and complete the job to a standard of quality that will keep it clean.

For all those reasons and more, it is advisable to skip any do-it-yourself (DIY) attempts at roof cleaning and instead hire licensed roofing professionals to clean your shingles.

Shingle Cleaning From Cedar Roof Coating

In the northeastern part of the United States, inclement weather is a fact of life. With the cold and often rainy winter months, cedar shingles are a feature to cherish with their insulating properties. That said, cedar shingles need to be cleaned from time to time to protect their quality and ensure the longevity of their wood.

In Fairfield County, CT, Westchester County, NY and the surrounding areas, Cedar Roof Coatings is the most trusted name among residents for roof cleaning services. Our family-owned and operated business comes with more than 35 years of experience, as well as a team of fully bonded, licensed and insured professionals to meet your home's roofing needs.

If you need cedar roof cleaning and coating, call us at 203.847.5740 or contact us online today.

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