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Cedar Shake Roof

How Long Does a Cedar Shake Roof Last?

February 12th, 2024 | 6 min. read

How Long Does a Cedar Shake Roof Last?

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A cedar shake roof is one of the best-looking roofs on the market but is also one of the most expensive. The good thing is that you’ll get plenty of ROI from the initial expensive investment. 

This comes in the form of boosted curb appeal and increased home value, but the most important is its lifespan. In fact, other than how much it costs, the most common question I get asked is how long a cedar shake roof will last. 

For over 30 years, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has taken pride in helping homeowners find the perfect roof for their budget and situation. Continuing this tradition, let’s take a deeper look at how long a cedar shake roof lasts.

This article answers the following questions:

  • How long does a cedar shake roof last?
  • What factors affect how long a cedar shake roof lasts?

How long does a cedar shake roof last?

As long as it’s properly installed and with proper maintenance, a cedar shake roof should last 30 years. If you invest in quality materials and live in an area with the right conditions, it could even get up to 50 years.

freshly installed cedar shake roof

Not only does the durability and strength of the wooden material give a cedar shake roof a long lifespan, but it also stands up well to storm damage. You won’t have to worry about hail damaging the function of cedar shake shingles as much as you would with asphalt shingles.

The big thing you need to consider when getting a cedar shake roof is the climate. The climate in our area of Nashville, TN, is great for a cedar shake roof, but other climates aren’t as suitable (more on this in a second).

What factors affect how long a cedar shake roof lasts?

The lifespan you just learned makes a cedar shake roof a durable and reliable roofing material. However, multiple factors directly impact how long a cedar shake roof lasts. 

These factors include:

  • Grade of cedar shake shingles
  • The climate in your area
  • Quality of installation
  • Hiring a roofing company with cedar shake installation experience
  • Getting regular roof maintenance

Let’s look at how each of these factors affects the lifespan of a cedar shake roof. 

The grade of your cedar shake shingles 

The grade of cedar shakes is simply their quality, with the three grades being common, select, and 100% straight grain. A cedar shake roof with quality grade shingles lasts longer than one with inferior cuts.

Common cedar shakes are basically the leftovers of other cuts, which makes them the cheapest and most inferior grade. Their inferiority is why common-grade cedar shake shingles are the first to split and warp.

Select cedar shakes are a mix of the two other grades, with the mix being somewhere around 80% straight grain and 20% common. They’re called “select” because your roofer goes through and selects the best quality cedar shingles to install. 

100% straight grain cedar shakes are the highest quality and best cut. Each one is hand-selected and straight-grained, which ensures they lay flat and you don’t have to worry about curling. 

The climate and weather in your area 

Your area’s climate plays a huge role in how long a cedar shake roof lasts. While the climate in Tennessee is great for them, cedar shake shingles don’t last as long in a very moist or dry climate. 

While moisture or high heat won’t have an immediate effect, the climate in your area should be somewhere in between to get the most out of cedar shakes. Another thing that affects how long a cedar shake roof lasts is the wear and tear from the weather. 

aged cedar shake shingles that have been affected by wear and tear from the weather(Aged cedar shake shingles with wear and tear)

While it does stand up well to hail, an area with a lot of rain and extreme weather leads to the wear and tear to affect a cedar shake roof faster. Luckily, you’ll have insurance if a storm damages your cedar shake roof enough to compromise its functionality. 

Quality of the installation

Other than the quality of materials, the installation quality has the biggest impact on how long a cedar shake roof lasts. Even if you get the best quality materials, it means nothing if they aren't installed correctly.  

No matter what, a cedar shake roof that’s installed properly will get as close to the maximum lifespan as possible. Unfortunately, some homeowners get quality materials and then use cheap labor for installation. 

While saving this money may look good at first, I guarantee you’ll end up spending more in the long run. A cedar shake roof is already a huge investment, so don’t go looking for the cheapest price and put it at risk from the start. 

Hiring a roofing company with cedar shake installation experience

Speaking of quality installation, hiring a roofing company with cedar shake experience is crucial. Cedar shake roofing is a niche material that requires experience and skill to install correctly.

It’s also a slow installation process, and certain specific components must be used to ensure it lasts as long as it should. If you hire a roofing company without experience, I guarantee you'll end up with curling and cracked cedar shake shingles, along with other problems. 

And because cedar shake roofing doesn’t come with a material warranty like shingles, you’ll only have your roofer’s workmanship warranty to fall back on. 

Getting routine roof maintenance 

Getting routine roof maintenance inspections is one of the best ways to get the most life out of a cedar shake roof. It keeps your roof running smoothly throughout its life and you’ll always know its condition afterward. 

While this is great, a huge reason to get maintenance is to catch and fix potential problems that can turn into future leaks. It’s also a chance to clear your roof of sitting wet debris that shortens the lifespan of the cedar shake shingles. 

Because of all this, I recommend getting your cedar shake roof maintained at least once a year. 

What are the pros and cons of a cedar shake roof?

Now you know how long a cedar shake roof lasts and the factors that directly affect its lifespan. I’m confident your cedar shake roof will last as long as possible if you live in the right climate, invest in quality materials, and hire a roofing company with experience.

However, lifespan is just one thing you need to know about cedar shake roofing. In fact, there are things you need to learn to determine if it’s even the right roofing material for your roof replacement.

That’s why I wrote another article breaking down the pros and cons of a cedar shake roof. 

Check out The Pros and Cons of Cedar Shake Roofing to learn if a cedar shake roof is right for you.  

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