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Top Factors That Affect the Lifespan of a Cedar Roof

Updated: Apr 13


Cedar is an aesthetically pleasing, durable and natural roofing material, and a cedar roof reflects the time, energy and commitment that goes into caring for your home. A cedar roof can also increase the resale value of your home and improve curb appeal.

How Long Does a Cedar Roof Last?

The typical lifespan of a cedar roof is about 40 years, though some roofs have been known to last up to 100 years. With proper care and maintenance, keeping your roof in top condition will ensure your investment is protected for decades to come.

There are several factors you should be aware of that affect the lifespan of a cedar roof, though. Here are a few points to think about when deciding if a cedar roof is right for your home.

1. Consider Environmental Elements

Cedar roofs are naturally weather resistant. They can withstand rain, snow, ice, extreme variations in temperature and freeze-thaw cycles.

Since they are made from natural wood, cedar shakes or shingles are strong and resistant to natural forces. However, two main factors can shorten the lifespan of your roof:

  • Moisture from rain or other precipitation

  • Infestation of mildew, mold, fungi, lichen, etc.

Both of these threats occur because of improper drainage of moisture from your roof. Yet, both can be easily mitigated through quality installation and with regular maintenance, which protect the natural oils and structures within the wood cells that make these roofs moisture and infestation repellent and resilient.

2. Quality Installation Matters

Proper installation of a cedar roof is vital for ensuring its longevity. Hiring a contractor that is experienced with this specialized material will mitigate potential installation mistakes that could cause the roof to age and warp in just a few short years.

Common installation mistakes include:

  • Not using the proper number of nails per shingle: This varies depending on the weather conditions of your geographic region.

  • Failing to install a suitable underlay: The right underlay will depend on the slope and condition of your roof.

  • Not spacing shingles correctly: Shingles should be spaced one-quarter inch apart to allow for them to expand as they absorb moisture.

  • Failing to install a starter strip: A starter strip along the edge of the roof takes more time and attention to detail to install, but doing so will create a base for the alignment of subsequent rows of shingles.

  • Improperly sealing around roof features: Cutting and sealing shingles around roof pipes and other features can be difficult. Experts in cedar roofing can properly apply cement around these features to ensure a proper seal.

Cedar roof installation is a specialty craft, not a common trade, and maintaining cedar shakes isn't something every roofing company can do. Make sure your contractor has the experience and accreditation to care for your roof properly.

3. Proper Care & Maintenance

The key to making your roof last is regular care and maintenance. Ideally, cedar roofs should be treated every four to five years to protect against UV damage and other threats.

Roofs should also be cleaned every three to five years on top of regular seasonal maintenance. Consider hiring a professional for this process since pressure washing the roof yourself could cause unnecessary damage to the shingles and, ultimately, the integrity of your roof.

Performing seasonal maintenance on your cedar roof will also ensure any issues are caught and repaired quickly and before they become major problems:

  • Fall: Perform a visual inspection of your roof to check for any irregularities, such as raised nails, wide gaps between shingles and curled, cupped or missing shingles. Fall is also a good time to replace moss inhibitors and check the insulation and ventilation of your roof. It is also important to clear any debris off the roof and clean your gutters before winter weather arrives.

  • Winter: Fall maintenance should ensure your cedar roof needs little care in the winter, which can be dangerous. Watch for ice dam build-up, but consider calling a professional roofing contractor if they do need to be removed as doing so yourself can be tricky and unsafe.

  • Spring: As in the fall, it is important to clean your gutters and clear off any debris from your roof each spring. Spring is also an excellent time to consider getting your roof professionally inspected and beginning to plan for any necessary maintenance that can be carried out during the drier summer months.

  • Summer: Take time in the summer to clean and professionally treat your roof, when needed.

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your cedar roof will protect it and ensure it has the longest lifespan possible. Being attentive to your cedar roof is an investment, but with proper care, you will reap the rewards of a beautiful roof that lasts for decades.

For homeowners in Fairfield County, Conn., Westchester County, N.Y. or surrounding areas, the expert staff at Cedar Roof Coatings is ready to assist you with your cedar roof needs. Contact us today.


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