Tips for First-Time Owners of a Cedar Roof
Updated: Apr 11
Cedar shingles and shakes have been used for centuries and are valued for their durability, functionality and rustic beauty. However, to maintain the beauty and integrity of this timeless roofing material, you will have to perform a variety of routine maintenance and repair tasks. In this guide, we'll share some valuable tips for cedar roof owners, including common maintenance tasks and how to recognize signs of roof failure.
Benefits of Cedar Roofs
Cedar shakes and shingles provide the following advantages over many other roofing materials:
Dimensional stability: Cedar has a low density and experiences minimal shrinkage, meaning that cedar shingles and shakes retain their original dimensions in even the most humid of conditions. They also lie flat and hold fastenings securely.
Resistance to harsh elements: Cedar contains natural preservatives that protect it against damage from UV rays, moisture and insects. It's also less likely to experience moss growth than many other types of roofing materials. Cedar can also be treated to resist fire and fungus.
Workability: Cedar produces lightweight, long timber lengths with straight, fine grains and uniform texture, making it simple to saw, cut and nail. Cedar also accepts many types of finishes, including stains, fine oils, paint and solid coatings.
Strength: Considered among the sturdiest woods in the world, cedar is naturally durable and will improve your roof's structural strength.
Insulation: Cedar also insulates well, keeping the interior of your home cool during the summer and warm during the winter. This will reduce your air conditioning and heating bills.
Timeless, natural appearance: In addition to all of the practical advantages that cedar offers, it will also enhance your home's curb appeal. Cedar shingles provide a smooth look, whereas cedar shakes provide a more rough-hewn and rustic appearance. As cedar ages, it only becomes more beautiful, turning a distinguished gray color.
Eco-friendliness: Choosing cedar also helps the environment, as it's a renewable resource and biodegradable.
Signs Your Roof May Need to Be Replaced
Although durable and long-lasting, cedar roofs do eventually need to be replaced. Here are some of the warning signs a cedar roof is nearing the end of its useful lifespan:
Leaking is among the most common problems associated with damaged or old cedar roofs, and a definite sign that your roof needs replacing. However, it can often be difficult to detect these leaks before they cause too much trouble.
If your cedar roof is showing its age, regularly check for leaks after severe storms or heavy rain. Keep your eye out for any discoloration on walls or ceilings and go up to the attic and look for any water or discoloration on the roof's inside. Any of these signs could mean water is intruding.
2. Cupping or Curling
Cedar shakes tend to distort and warp with age. Although this is natural to some extent, excessive distortion can lead to leaks or shingle damage. One common way that cedar shingles distort and warp is by cupping or curling.
Cedar shingles and shakes naturally curl and cup over time when they're exposed to heat, rain, UV rays and various other natural elements. This is no cause for concern. However, when they curl and cup so much that you can see the underlayment, you need to get your roof repaired or replaced.
Keep in mind that new shakes or shingles will curl or cup slightly. But, if the curling or cupping is extreme, the installation was poorly performed. For this reason, always make sure to hire roofers who have experience installing cedar roofs.
3. Split Shingles
Split shingles often mean you need to replace or repair your roof. Curling or cupping, as well as exposure to natural elements, can cause splits. Cedar shingles and shakes can split suddenly or gradually over time.
If you notice some of your shingles are splitting, make a note of what the split looks like compared to other parts of the shingle. If the color of the split is noticeably brighter than the rest of the shingle's surface, the split occurred rapidly and is generally the result of damage from a storm or falling debris. In this situation, you should check the policy of your homeowner's insurance to find out whether your repairs are covered.
4. Moss, Algae or Rot
Unlike asphalt, cedar is an organic material, which means sun exposure and water may cause it to get softer and break down over time. Rotting, along with mold, moss and algae growth, are problems commonly associated with cedar shingles, especially if installed in cool or shady places with lots of moisture.
To determine whether your shingles are experiencing growth or rot, keep your eye out for:
Split or frayed bottom edges.
Furry or fuzzy textures between cracks or along the edges.
Streaks or discoloration on the shingles or interior walls directly below the roof.
5. Damaged or Missing Shingles
Your cedar shingle roof may also need to be replaced if certain shingles are damaged or missing. If you notice leaks in your home, make sure none of the shakes on your roof are missing.
How to Maintain Cedar Roofs
The lifespan of a well-maintained cedar roof is at least 40 years, but maintaining it properly requires lots of work. You should ideally perform cedar roof maintenance at least every five years, although certain steps should be performed more frequently. Here are some of the most important cedar roofing tips and maintenance tasks to keep your roof looking its best:
1. Debris Removal
Make sure to remove any debris that falls on your cedar roof, including conifer needles, fallen leaves, lichens and mosses. If you don't remove the debris, it can impede runoff and promote the growth of wood-destroying fungus. These types of fungi are known to retain moisture, which could weaken the shingles and lead to breakage.
2. Vegetation Removal
In addition to removing debris, you should also routinely remove vegetation, such as branches hanging over your roof. Removing branches will prolong the lifespan of your roof because it will allow the roof to dry more quickly, thereby reducing the chance of harmful fungi growth.
3. Gutter Cleaning
Cleaning the gutters around your house is a critical part of cedar roof maintenance. Gutters direct runoff on your roof away from your house to avoid damage to your foundation or your roof. However, if the gutters are clogged, they can't direct the runoff away. Clogged gutters can lead to rainwater soaking into your cedar roof and causing the roof to deteriorate or rot. Make sure to clean out your gutters regularly — particularly in the fall.
4. Cleaning the Roof Surface
Cleaning the surface of your roof is another essential part of cedar roof maintenance. Although thought to be more of a cosmetic step, it is often necessary to maintain your roof's integrity and strength. Power washing your roof will take out weaker, more weathered pieces of wood and can also remove any fungi or mosses.
5. Adding Treatments
One benefit of cedar is that it's naturally moisture-resistant, making it slightly less challenging to maintain than other types of wood.
Professional Roofing Maintenance
To ensure your cedar roof maintains its integrity, you'll need to hire a reputable cedar roofing maintenance service in your area. This is usually more cost-effective, and you can also be assured that the job is done correctly from start to finish. When hiring a professional cedar roofing service, you can expect them to do the following:
Inspection: A professional cedar roofing service will examine the state of your shingles or shakes, as well as evaluate the condition of the ridges, valleys, and other sections of the roof. The company may even assess the state of the nails used to secure the shingles or shakes. By performing a thorough evaluation, they can figure out the best way to treat and maintain your roof.
Cleaning: Allow the roofer to determine the best methods for cleaning and caring for your roof. To do this, they will need to know about the treatments previously used on your roof.
Repairs: While some damage to your roof may be obvious, there are many others that cannot be detected with an untrained eye. Cedar roof professionals have both the skilled eye and sophisticated equipment to detect all damage to your roof and can recommend the best way to repair it. If you have a professional perform your cedar roof repair, you won't need to worry about the issues recurring or prematurely replacing your roof.
The Importance of a Professional Doing the Maintenance and Repairs
While some DIYers may be tempted to maintain their cedar roofs, they often fail to consider the many benefits of hiring a cedar roof professional, which include:
Cost: While doing the work yourself may save you money in the short run, your lack of experience in this highly specialized trade will likely cause you to make mistakes. You'll then have to call in a roofing professional to fix them. This will end up costing more money, as the roofer will be fixing both your mistakes and doing the needed roof repairs.
Experience: Watching videos online on how to perform cedar roof maintenance is not a replacement for the years of knowledge and experience acquired by a cedar roof professional.
Detail: Cedar roof professionals have the skills and tools to properly inspect your cedar roof and pinpoint the causes of the issues you're experiencing, as well as discover any other issues that may lead to damage in the future.
Time: Professionals can quickly figure out what the problem is and determine the most efficient method to fix it.
Safety: Falling is one of the most common injuries when repairing roofs. To ensure their safety and the safety of everyone nearby, roofing professionals invest in the proper equipment and safety gear. Unless you happen to already have this specialized safety gear on hand, you'll have to pay for it yourself — and it's not cheap.
Warranty: If your cedar roof is still within warranty, having professionals maintain it is a no-brainer. If you attempt to do repairs on your roof by yourself, you run the risk of voiding your warranty.
Choose Cedar Roof Coatings to Perform Your Cedar Roof Maintenance, Repairs and Inspections
To ensure your cedar roof gets the care it needs to protect your home, look no farther than Cedar Roof Coatings, the leading company in cedar roof preservation, restoration and repair in Westchester County, New York, and Fairfield County, Connecticut.
For the past 35 years, we have been serving our community by providing customers with beautiful, long-lasting roofs at reasonable prices. When performing roof repairs, our experienced team begins with a thorough, honest examination of your roof. If the roof is older, we won't simply suggest a replacement — if maintained properly, your cedar roof may be able to serve you for another 10 or even 15 years. If we can salvage your roof by restoring it, that is the option we'll recommend.
To receive a free estimate, contact us by calling 203.847.5740 or by filling out our contact form.