Your roof is a significant aspect of your home — it protects it from the outside elements and provides aesthetic value. The right roof material can increase curb appeal and the resale value of your property while still protecting your home.
Two of the most popular roofing options are cedar and asphalt shingles. This guide will explain what cedar and asphalt roofs are and their differences. Understanding what makes them different can help you decide which one is right for you.
What is a Cedar Shake Roof?
This type of roofing system is made of natural wood pieces harvested from a cedar tree. This material gives the roof a unique look that asphalt cannot replicate. Cedar shakes are often on prestigious houses, and almost everyone can recognize them. They are perfect for custom homes.
What is an Asphalt Roof?
Fiberglass and other organic materials make the shingles for asphalt roofs. Since they are made from heavier materials, asphalt roof shingles weigh more than cedar shakes. They come in various blends, colors and shapes, increasing their popularity among homeowners.
Differences Between Cedar and Asphalt Roofs
Reviewing the main differences between cedar and asphalt shingles can help you decide which one best suits your needs. These differences include appearance, longevity, durability, cost, maintenance, flammability, wind resistance and resale value.
In the wood shake versus asphalt shingles debate, one of the most clear-cut distinctions between the two is their appearance. Since cedar shingles are made from wood, they are favored as a classic roofing option that can complement virtually any style of home. Asphalt, on the other hand, is admired by some for its color variations.
Cedar: Cedar shingles are among the most timeless and versatile of roofing options available to American homeowners. Derived from a tree native to the Pacific Northwest, cedar has long been a staple of residential roofing throughout the country.
Unlike synthetic materials that are liable to date and visually clash with certain architectural styles, cedar has a visual appeal that lasts throughout the ages. On older homes, cedar is generally considered the ideal roofing choice. Cedar shingles also match well with the style of newer, modernist homes.
Asphalt: Opinions are divided on the aesthetic merits of asphalt shingles. According to some homeowners, a home sacrifices visual appeal for strictly functional purposes with asphalt roofing. Others claim that the coarse texture and sandy appearance of asphalt give the material a unique charm that perfectly suits contemporary houses.
These shingles keep their original appearance throughout the life span of a residential roof. Asphalt is available in a variety of shades and tones, from sandy grey to brick red. As such, an asphalt roof could visually complement siding of various colors.
When homeowners weigh the benefits of cedar shingles versus asphalt shingles, longevity is one of the foremost concerns. Naturally, people want to know how long cedar shake roofs and asphalt roofs last. They want a roof that will last through the foreseeable span of a residential occupancy. Moreover, people want roofs that will still be intact and attractive to prospective buyers when the time comes to place their properties back on the market.
The average family will occupy the same house for approximately 15 years. Thankfully, cedar and asphalt shingles both last longer than 15 years.
Cedar: Cedar first became a popular housing material due to its strength, which made it capable of withstanding inclement weather and the ravages of time. If properly maintained, cedar shingles can last up to 30 years. With a cedar roof, a house could easily undergo two rounds of occupancy before the time comes for new shingles.
If you decide to replace your shingles, cedar would be the ideal choice because your new roof would likely last through the remainder of your time at the address. If you do decide to move, the life expectancy of the shingle roof could be an attractive proposition for future occupants.
Asphalt: Asphalt has long been popular because of its strength and resilience. If properly maintained, the life span of an asphalt shingle roof is about 20 years. If you occupy a residence for three-fourths that time, asphalt would provide you with roofing that would last through your time at the address.
When you examine the relative strengths of a cedar roof and an asphalt shingle roof, you need to consider the durability of each material.
Cedar: Cedar shingles can withstand many years of abuse in some of the coldest climates. However, cedar shingles can develop mold growth if the raw wood is subject to constant water exposure. Fortunately, this can be avoided if the shingles are treated to have water resistance. For maximum life, the roof needs to have a working drainage system and be free of overhanging branches.
Asphalt: Asphalt is popular for its relatively low cost and durability. However, the durability of asphalt shingles depends on the price. Shingles can loosen when exposed to high winds, allowing wind, snow or rain to get under them and damage the roof structure. Excessive water can lead to algae growth. Regular maintenance can prevent or fix these problems.
Another top concern with homeowners is what a cedar shake roof versus an asphalt shingle roof costs.
Cedar: Cedar roofing is one of the more expensive roofing materials. When comparing the cost of cedar shake roofs to asphalt shingles, they're more of an investment. However, they pay for themselves by lasting many years and continuing to look classic and beautiful with proper maintenance.
Asphalt: Asphalt shingles are popular because they are one of the least expensive roofing materials on the market. The price does vary based on what kind of shingles you want.
To ensure that a cedar or asphalt roof reaches its life expectancy, hire a professional to clean the shingles on a regular basis or as needed. Both types of roofing could be compromised if certain conditions are allowed to persist.
Cedar: Cedar roofs should be cleaned and treated once every four to five years. This restores their beauty and increases their longevity. A professional should inspect the roof twice annually to check the gutters, drains and nearby tree growth. They will immediately clear any blockage along the drainage system. Blockages can prevent rainwater from draining off the roof and lead to mold on the shingles and saturation under the roofing.
When tree-branch overhang is allowed to fester, a roof is more easily exposed to foliage, fallen pinecones, rodents and insects. Any of these can leave shingles vulnerable to saturation, mold and infestation, all of which compromise a roof's structural integrity. If a branch falls onto the roof, the impact can damage cedar shingles.
For cedar shingles to remain in optimal condition, the branches of nearby trees must be trimmed away from the roof. If a nearby tree has long branches, they should never be allowed to grow over any part of the rooftop. Ideally, no tree should be within six feet of a house.
Asphalt: Asphalt could serve as a breeding ground for algae. Algae can spread quickly and ruin the appearance of an asphalt roof. If algae takes hold, have the roof cleaned by a professional, preferably before the rainy seasons begins. Though algae won't actually damage an asphalt roof, it can cause the shingles to curl at the edges. This, in turn, can render the shingles even weaker in the face of windstorms.
Tree overhang poses much the same threat to asphalt shingles as it does to cedar. A fallen branch could easily cause chips and cracks in an asphalt roof, which could also be vulnerable to saturation due to foliage buildup. The gutters and drains must remain free-flowing to prevent water from lingering on the roof and ultimately making its way through the shingles and into the underlying structure.
Fire resistance should be a top priority when you choose a type of roofing shingles for your house. Residential fires rarely begin on the roof, but cedar can either make or break an inferno, depending on the type and quality of the shingles. Fortunately, both cedar and asphalt shingles can help prevent the development and spread of flames.
Cedar: When it comes to the prevention of fires, cedar must be treated with flame retardants before installation. Otherwise, the lumber could be as vulnerable as any wood to fire ignition. The chemical preservatives in a fire-proofed set of cedar shingles can help slow flames and give rescue crews enough time to extinguish a fire, whether the flames start inside the attic or are passed over from a nearby tree.
Asphalt: In terms of fire resistance, asphalt is one of the safer types of roofing material. Asphalt can inhibit the spread of flames from within and outside a residential property and even withstand the effects of blowing embers. For these reasons, asphalt roofing is allowed in select urban quarters where wood shingles are prohibited due to fire-safety concerns.
Depending on the inclement weather patterns in your area, wind resistance might be one of your primary concerns as a homeowner. For homes in the northeast, it is critical for a roof to withstand the impacts of blizzard-like winds. Cedar shingles are one of the best choices in this regard.
Cedar: Cedar is one of the most wind-resistant materials on the market. Shingles can withstand wind speeds of 173 mph, while shakes can resist winds up to 245 mph. These figures show that even the most violent of storms are no match for cedar roofs. If weather patterns have been particularly volatile in your area during winter months, nearby trees and surrounding fences are likelier to incur damage than a cedar roof.
Asphalt: When it comes to wind resistance, asphalt shingles pale in comparison to cedar shingles and shakes. Whereas cedar withstands the most extreme possible wind blasts, passing wind currents often pick off asphalt shingles. If a blizzard or hurricane passes through your area, chances are some of the more damaged residential roofs will feature asphalt shingles.
To get the best return on investment from a new roof, it will need to boost the value and curb appeal of your home. In this regard, cedar shingle roofs tend to be viewed more favorably by onlookers.
Cedar: A cedar roof can add value to a home. As one of the most ageless roofing types, cedar is featured on many classic homes throughout the U.S., particularly in older neighborhoods along the northeast. For just about anyone in the market for a traditional home, cedar is the natural choice for roofing. If you already live in a classic home, a cedar roof could be your only option, as only cedar will retain the home's architectural integrity.
Asphalt: An asphalt roof is not likely to add value to a home. If you replace an old cedar roof with asphalt shingles, the change could easily lower the market value of your property. If you live in a historic home or district, you might be prohibited from switching from cedar to asphalt.
Contact Cedar Roof Coatings for Shingle Maintenance or Repairs
To keep your cedar roof in optimal condition for 30 or more years, have your shingles inspected from time to time and repaired when necessary. At Cedar Roof Coatings, our team of roofing professionals has serviced and repaired cedar roofs in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and Westchester County, New York, for the last 35 years. As a family-owned and operated company, we understand the importance of relationships, quality experiences and trustworthy work. That's why we offer honest consultations, free quotes and professional services.
When your cedar roof needs restoration, we can help. Our services include consultations and inspections, repairs and preservations. Contact Cedar Roof Coatings today to get your cedar roof cleaned, or contact our sister company Asphalt Roof Cleaning if your home has an asphalt roof.