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Cedar Shake Roof | Roofing materials | Synthetic Roofing

Natural Cedar Shake vs. Synthetic Cedar Shake: Which is Right for You?

July 13th, 2022 | 7 min. read

Natural Cedar Shake vs. Synthetic Cedar Shake: Which is Right for You?

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Cedar shake shingles are one of the naturally occurring roofing materials. But improved technology led to the development of synthetic shingles that look just like real cedar shakes. 

As synthetic cedar shake shingles become more popular, there’s debate on whether synthetic or natural is better. This is understandable because they have major differences, even though they look the same on the surface. 

That’s why I’ll be using my 30-plus years in the roofing industry to give you an unbiased comparison of natural cedar shake and synthetic cedar shake. To help you determine which is right for you, we’ll compare the two on lifespan, aging, warranties, and cost. 

But before we get to that, let’s quickly review the difference between natural and synthetic. 

What is a natural cedar shake roof?

A natural cedar shake roof is a premium roof system made of natural wood (cedar) materials. It’s considered one of the best-looking roofing materials on the market. 

cedar shake roof

The shingles themselves come from large cedar trees in the Northwest United States or Southwest Canada. The trees are cut into 2-foot sections by hand splitting them or sawing them into a tapered thickness (tapersawn). 

Hand split gives you a more rugged look, while tapersawn is a much smoother look. There are 3 grades (types) of cedar shake shingles: common (most inferior), selects (80/20 split), and 100% straight grain (highest quality). 

I recommend going with 100% straight grain to get the most out of a cedar shake roof investment. 

What is a synthetic cedar shake roof?

Synthetic (also known as composite) cedar shake roofing is made of recycled materials (or an engineered polymer) designed to mimic a natural cedar shake roof. They have realistic grain patterns and deep grooves to make them look just like real cedar shake shingles.

synthetic cedar shake roof

They also have multiple color options and styles to fit any home’s look. While they mimic natural cedar shake, you can probably tell the difference between synthetic and natural if you work in the roofing industry. 

However, I guarantee your neighbors won’t be able to tell the difference from the ground or when passing your home.

Natural cedar shake vs. synthetic cedar shake: the 4 main comparisons

With the quick overview out of the way, we’re ready to go over the comparisons. For the rest of this article, I’ll compare natural to synthetic on lifespan, aging, warranties, and cost so you can determine which one is right for you. 

1. The lifespans of natural cedar shake and synthetic cedar shake

The lifespan of a roof is the number of years you get out of it. Both natural cedar shake and synthetic cedar shake have good lifespans, but a synthetic cedar shake roof should last longer. 

You can expect to get around 40-50 years out of a synthetic cedar shake roof as long as it’s installed correctly. On the other hand, you can expect to get 30 years out of your cedar shake roof as long as it’s properly installed and with proper maintenance.

If you invest in quality materials and live in an area with the right conditions, you could possibly stretch natural cedar shake to around 50 years. If you live in an area with a very humid or dry climate, natural cedar shake won’t last as long. 

The reason synthetic cedar shake has a longer lifespan is because of its high impact rating (resistance to impact from hail, winds, etc.). The top manufacturer’s (DaVinci) synthetic cedar shake shingles have a Class 4 impact rating (the highest rating possible). 

Because of this durability, synthetic cedar shake is one of the longest-lasting roofing materials on the market. 

2. How wear and tear impacts natural cedar shake and synthetic cedar shake

Every roof goes through wear and tear throughout its lifetime, but how fast it impacts your roof depends on the material. With this in mind, natural cedar shake shows more signs of wear and tear than synthetic cedar shake. 

Natural cedar shake shingles rot, crack, and curl as they age. You don’t have to worry about this with synthetic cedar shake.

curled cedar shake shingles

As long as they’re installed properly, you should have no aesthetic problems with synthetic cedar shake shingles. You also don’t have to worry about the synthetic shingles losing their “fresh” color.

new cedar shake compared to aged cedar shake(Left: natural cedar shake; Right: aged natural cedar shake)

This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but natural cedar shake shingles change from a fresh cedar color to a worn (or aged) color as they age. Some homeowners don’t think this is a big deal, and some even like the worn look. 

But no matter which one you choose, both natural and synthetic cedar shakes are great-looking roof systems that raise your home’s curb appeal

3. The warranty differences between natural cedar shake and synthetic cedar shake

When getting a new roof, you’ll get two types of warranties to protect your investment. The first is on the roofing contractor’s workmanship, and the second is on the roofing materials themselves. 

The workmanship warranty will be the same whether you choose natural or synthetic cedar shake. But the number of years you get on a workmanship warranty depends on the specific roofing contractor you hire. 

The real difference between natural cedar shake and synthetic cedar shake shows up in the material warranty. Because cedar shake shingles are a naturally occurring material, there’s no manufacturer warranty on the shingles themselves.

On the other hand, synthetic cedar shake shingles will come with a material warranty. But how long the material warranty lasts ultimately depends on the manufacturer. 

For example, Davinci Roofscapes’ synthetic cedar shake shingles come with a limited lifetime material warranty. This is pretty uniform across the manufacturers of synthetic shingles, but the definition of “lifetime” may be different for each. 

4. The cost difference of natural cedar shake and synthetic cedar shake

Both a natural cedar shake roof and synthetic cedar shake roof are premium roof systems that are huge investments. The truth is that most homeowners won’t be able to afford these roof systems. 

However, they do come in at different price points. A synthetic cedar shake roof will always cost less than a natural cedar shake roof. 

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give you an exact price for both roof systems. However, I can give you a price range to help you see the difference and understand the budget you’ll need for both.

A new synthetic cedar shake roof will cost around $14.00-$18.00 per square foot. On the other hand, a real cedar shake will cost around $25.00-$30.00 per square foot.

As I said, both roof systems are huge investments. To put into perspective, both will cost more than the most expensive asphalt shingle roof.

Is natural cedar shake or synthetic cedar shake right for you?

After reading this article, you should have a good idea which roofing material is right for you. If you’ve decided, you’re ready to reach out to a local roofing contractor

But what if you’re still on the fence, want to know the other roofing material options, or decided and need more information about a roof replacement?

No matter which one of the above applies to you, I have the buyer’s guide just for you. The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof gives you the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular residential roofing materials, plus the lifespan, pricing, and warranty information. 

The guide also includes finding a great roofing contractor, paying for your new roof, avoiding being taken advantage of, and much more. Keep going to get The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof.

The team at Bill Ragan Roofing has provided thousands of high-quality roof replacements in Nashville and surrounding Middle Tennessee areas. No matter the roofing material, you can count on our workmanship and lifetime craftsmanship guarantee to give you a roof that lasts for decades. 

If you’re local to Nashville or a surrounding area, don’t hesitate to Contact Us today for roof replacement needs.

Get The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof to become the most knowledgeable homeowner in the roofing industry.

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