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We admit it, we’re purists at heart. We believe that if you’re choosing a cedar roof for your roofing system, then you should keep the natural look of the cedar shingles or shakes and not apply a stain or color to change their coloring. But we can understand why some homeowners might want the cedar to age in a different color or would prefer a roof color that is a darker or lighter shade than the exterior siding on their home. For these instances, there are pre-stains and semi-transparent finishes available for cedar roofs.

Options for Cedar Roof Color and Finishes

The Western Red Cedar Lumber Association groups the options for cedar roof color finishes into four categories: natural finishes, opaque coatings, semi-transparent stains and oils. In addition to making a color choice, consider other factors, such as care and maintenance.

Things to Consider:

  • When cedar shingles and shakes age, the natural weathering turns them a silvery grey color.
  • While paints and stains can be added during installation, having it done the first time during the manufacturing process is best because all sides of the shingle or shake can be coated.
  • Painted or stained cedar roofing needs to be maintained with frequent repainting or restaining.
  • When repainting or restaining, use a high quality product for best results.

Natural Cedar Wood Finishes

Natural finishes include transparent stains that are designed to preserve the cedar’s natural color. Although transparent stains don’t entirely change the color of the cedar wood, they slightly alter its tone because they contain some pigments. Natural finishes require frequent refinishing.

Opaque Cedar Roof Coatings

Opaque coatings include solid color stains and paints. With a paint color, the cedar wood’s natural grain is completely covered, while some of the wood’s texture and characteristics can be seen through solid color stains. The color selection is vast, ranging from nature colors like blues, greens and tans, to sophisticated colors like red, plum and various shades of grey. Water-based, latex, acrylic enamel and solvent-based paints can be used. Paint usually lasts 10 years on shingles and 12 years on shakes before repainting is needed. Solid color stains typically last three to five years on cedar shingles and four to six years on shakes.

Semi-Transparent Stains

Semi-transparent stains are available as either solvent borne oil-based or latex. Oil-based stains are the best choice because they are more durable than latex stains. They also offer more color options, including cedar tones. Semi-transparent oil-based stains last three to six years, while latex stains need restaining in one to three years on cedar wood shingles and two to four years on cedar wood shakes.

Cedar Wood Oils

Cedar wood oils include bleaching oil and water repellent preservative and oils. Bleaching oil contains a small amount of gray pigment and is used to accelerate the aging process. When first applied, the color is a delicate gray tone, which after a few months changes to a darker gray, similar to the color of driftwood. Water repellent preservative and oils can be used as a natural finish or as a pre-treatment before painting. Some have lightly pigmented finishes so they will slightly change the color of your cedar roof. Bleaching oil has a life expectancy of three to five years on cedar roof shingles and five to six years on shakes. Cedar wood oils last one to two years for both cedar shingles and shakes.

What’s Your Color Preference?

The Shake Guys can assist you with making your final color decision. Since colors on swatches may look different on cedar wood, we can let you know what shade or tone to expect. In fact, whatever questions you may have about cedar roofing and color options, we’re your expert resource. Simply get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to help you with your cedar roof finishing options.


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