top of page
  • Cedar Roof Coatings

How to Identify Damaged Cedar Shingles on Your Roof

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

Cedar is a beautiful, long-lasting roofing material that looks great on many homes and architectural styles. If you have a cedar roof, you want to keep it in top condition so it continues to look as attractive, charming and dignified as it did when it was first installed. Cedar can last for 40 years or longer with the proper maintenance. So, how do you know when your roof needs light repairs and maintenance versus a total replacement?

A quick visual inspection can help you distinguish between superficial and performance-affecting damage and when to call in a professional. Let's talk more about how to tell if a cedar shake roof is bad or if you can fix it with a few new shakes and a professional's help.

Cosmetic Damage vs. Structural Damage

When deciding if your roof is damaged and in need of repair, you may notice some minor weathering. Although you may want to repair it for aesthetic reasons, cosmetic damage is nothing to worry about. It won't affect your roof's ability to keep your home and family protected and is not liable to spring a leak. However, it's challenging for many homeowners to distinguish between cosmetic and structural damage.

Cosmetic damage to a cedar roof usually takes the form of splatter marks on the shingles or shakes. This type of damage can occur after heavy storms, leading many homeowners to believe their roof is in poor condition. However, splatter marks are really just a change in coloration. It occurs because heavy storms can loosen and scrape away the natural oxidation and dirt, which accumulates and darkens cedar roofs over time. This condition doesn't affect a roof's water-shedding ability and the wood usually reoxidizes in a year or two.

Another cosmetic concern is checks, which are cracks that don't run as deep as splits. Because the cracks don't go all the way through the shingles, they can still shed water. Also, warped cedar shingles are a natural part of your roof's aging process and aren't an immediate concern. However, eventually, they will curl or cup, exposing your roof's underlayment.

Other forms of damage are less superficial and may warrant a professional opinion. Even if your roof is not leaking, more substantial damage can quickly cause issues if not repaired. Besides an outright leak, signs of structural damage include:

  • Rot or moss growing on the bottom edge and between shingles or shakes.

  • Missing or damaged shingles.

  • Excessive curling, cupping or split shingles.

  • Punctures or erosion.

Types of Damage Found on Cedar Shingle Roofs

As a natural building material, wood is prone to many types of damage. Regular cleaning, repairs and maintenance can keep these issues in check. Some types of shingle damage you'll need to look for and repair include:

Wood Split

When shingles and shakes split, a large crack divides it in two. Some wood splits form naturally after exposure to heat and moisture. Flat-grain shingles are more susceptible to splitting than edge-grain shingles. On the average 10-year-old wood roof, one-third of edge grain shakes or shingles will have splits. If the roof has flat-grain shakes or shingles, two-thirds will have splits.

Splitting can also occur after someone walks on the roof since sudden impacts can cause older wood to split. Split shingles constitute damage because there may be a portion of the shingle that's no longer nailed into place. The shingle may come loose and expose the bottom layers of the roof.

A few scattered split shingles can be replaced individually. However, widespread splitting, which may be present after a storm or on an older roof, may require a complete replacement.

Curling and Cupping

Like splitting, curling is a natural and expected part of cedar shingle aging. Exposure to moisture and heat eventually causes cedar to warp. Too much of this can cause the wood to curl, where the edges curve upward, or cup, when the edges turn downward. Too many cedar shingles curling or cupping will expose your roof's underlayment to the elements and cause leaks. In this case, you may need a complete roof replacement.

Wood Rotting

Rot is one of the easiest types of damage to spot because it's usually visible from the ground. Wood shingles are susceptible to water damage, usually forming on the butt or lower edge of the shingle first. It's often accompanied by moss, which is even easier to see from a distance. Besides moss, you can identify rot by the frayed texture or splits along your shakes' bottom edges. It occurs more frequently near gutters and along the trim.


Punctures occur after direct hailstones. Once a puncture occurs, it could go through several layers of the roof, causing significant damage. You may need a total roof replacement.

Sometimes, homeowners mistake regular erosion for punctures. Decay that forms in rounded indentations may look like punctures, except that they don't go through the whole shingle. Erosion makes a roof more likely to become damaged in a storm and can also require repair and attention.

How to Perform a Visual Inspection and Determine If You Need a Professional

Knowing when to repair or replace cedar shingles can be a bit of a guessing game until you involve a professional. Still, you can perform your own visual inspection first to decide if it's time to get a professional opinion. This will help you rule out cosmetic damage that's not an immediate threat to your roof.

A few steps you can take as part of a basic self-inspection include:

  1. Consider your roof's age: Figure out when your roof was first built or last replaced. This will give you a good indication of the expected state of your roof. An older roof will have more natural wear and tear.

  2. Inspect from the ground: Most of what you need to see is visible from the ground. Don't climb a ladder or get up onto your roof. It's unnecessary and dangerous. Additionally, climbing onto an older roof could cause footfall damage.

  3. Examine the outside: Have a notebook and your phone's camera ready to record the signs of damage you want to keep an eye on or show to a professional. First, look around for any trees or branches that rub up against the roof or drop debris. Then, check for missing shingles, moss, water discoloration and uneven bleaching from the sun.

  4. Spot the details: Some things are harder to see from the ground, like split shingles. Inspection for a cedar shake roof especially might require a closer look because shakes have intentional irregularities. However, you can spot a fresh split by a sharp change in color contrast. Since cedar changes color after sun exposure, any areas of your roof with their original coloring visible may indicate damage. To check for curling, look for your roof's underlayment. If you can see it, your shingles have become misshapen.

  5. Check the inside: Finally, climb up to your attic to look for signs of leaks and water damage. With a flashlight, you can inspect the beams and walls closely for water stains or dampness. You can also look for rusty nails.

If your inspection turns up anything that concerns you, contact the professionals at cedar roof coatings.

Professional Roofing Services From Cedar Roof Coatings

Your roof protects you and your home from the elements. As such, you should work with a qualified professional for any roof repairs you may need. Poor shingle selection, incorrect nail placement and even footfall damage can occur when an unqualified repair person works on your cedar roof. What may look like a quick fix at the moment can cause problems in just a few years. A cedar roofing specialist like Cedar Roof Coatings will know how to repair cedar shingles and maintain them correctly.

When you work with Cedar Roof Coatings, you benefit from our years of experience, sound advice and professional equipment. We back our repairs with a guarantee and can ensure your roof's safety after completion. Our cedar roof repair services include:

  • Replacing ridge caps.

  • Replacing damaged shingles.

  • Inspecting, repairing and replacing vents, valleys and flashings.

We also offer cedar roof maintenance and preservation services and can extend the life of your roof with a special coating that prevents water and UV damage. We hand-apply this treatment for deeper penetration. Call us at 203-847-5740 or contact us online today to get a free, no-obligation roof inspection and estimate.

1,108 views0 comments


bottom of page