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Cedar Roofing Questions and Answers

Cedar Roofing Questions and Answers

If you’re interested in a cedar roof but aren’t sure where to start, then we’ll start off by answering some common questions!

Shake Guys is the premiere cedar roofing contractor in Illinois due to our proven customer satisfaction, guaranteed results, top-tier products, and our ability to keep our clients informed. Hence, we have prepared the following FAQ list. We’ve broken the cedar roofing questions into categories to help you quickly delineate the pros and cons of cedar roofing & find any and all of the answer(s):

  • Answers on Sizing
  • Answers on the Longevity of Shake
  • Answers on Product Sourcing
  • Answers on Color & Preservation
  • Answers on Warranties
  • Answers on Installation

If you don’t see the cedar roofing FAQ you’re looking for here, we ask that you please email us your question at


Answers on Sizing

Q: What sizes do Western Red Cedar shakes come in?

  • Heavy Split & Resawn Shake – These shakes are 3/4″ thick at the butt and is cut in two lengths – 18″ and 24″.
  • Medium Split & Resawn Shake – These shake s are 1/2″ thick at the butt and is cut in two lengths – 18″ and 24″.
  • Tapersawn Shake – These shakes are 5/8″ or 3/4″ thick at the butt and is cut in two lengths – 18″ and 24″.

Q: At installation, what is the spacing required between SBC shingles?

Spacing does vary according to the moisture content of the shake and weather conditions at installation. Cedar wood contains 20% to 25 % moisture and by the time it becomes shakes sitting in a driveway the moisture is around 15% to 20%. Due to this variance, spacing for shakes will be different. Natural shake will shrink after installation unless kiln-dried or stained at the factory – in which case they expand. As a general rule, a space of 1/16’’ is required for natural shingles and 1/8’’ to 1/4’’ for kiln-dried or stained shakes.

Q: What is a “square”?

A square simply refers to the amount of shingles necessary to cover 100 square feet of exposure. One square is 4 bundles of shingles.


Answers on the Longevity of Shake

Q: How long does a cedar shake roof last?

A well-installed roofing system with top grade edge grain shake will last over 50 years with regular cleaning and 2 to 4 preservation treatments.

Q: Does Eastern white cedar last as long as Western red cedar?

Both red and white cedar should be roughly the same because they possess similar tannins that ward off decay and insects. However, the cellular makeup of red cedar heartwood is a good deal stronger. This strength adds to its insulation value and protection from impact. White cedar is better served as a siding material. If used on a roof, white cedar won’t last as long depending on the climate zone of the house. High heat summers, icy winters, and spring storms that bring large hail are far worse on the longevity of white cedar.

Q: Are cedar shakes resistant to high winds?

Tests have proven that Western Red Cedar shakes will keep out wind-driven rain and resist freezing temperatures. High winds are a problem for those living in areas that see a dozen or more wind storms a year… that is unless the roof is installed with less facing exposure. This means using more shakes to self-secure or using shorter shakes and still having them overlap a half inch more than standard practice.

Q: Why did my old shakes cup and curl?

Some curling on shingle is normal since cedar shingles are a natural material. Excessive cupping and curling is usually due to improper installation or low grade shakes. If you see an excessive amount of this problem and there is a good deal of split shakes, it is likely a product issue. If cupped shingles are coming loose in light winds it may be an installation mistake. In all actuality, if you are seeing this problem the company that installed the roof is to blame unless there wasn’t proper funding for quality shake in the first place.


Answers on Product Sourcing

Q: Where does the cedar used for roofing systems come from?

Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and Maine all produce cedar of one type or another for roofing but the BEST (Western Red Cedar) comes from British Columbia’s old growth forests.

Q: Who is your supplier?

Shake Guys works directly with mills in Vancouver, Canada to cherry pick the best material. Why? We want our homeowners to have the best of the best. Our 100% Premium edge grain shakes and our more economical 90/10 edge/slash grain shakes offer greater insulation value, higher performance via strength, and simply outlast shakes of lesser quality. Due to changes in the supply of raw old growth logs and other variables, Shake Guys has used several mills/companies.


Answers on Color & Preservation

Q: Is it possible to preserve the natural color of Western Red Cedar?

Left natural, Western Red Cedar shakes will change color and will gradually become grey over 2-3 years. This change of wood color comes as a natural function caused by sun (UV rays), rain, wind, and thaw. Preserving the cedar’s natural color is possible with a clear oil coating but there is a significant drawback to this – treated wood won’t breathe the same and will deteriorate much quicker.

Q: How do I clean my cedar shake roof?

Shake Guys advises that you avoid all DIY projects that pertain to a cedar roofing system. There are simply too many dangers to life and product. You may hear other roofers or neighbors saying to wash the roof with a hose and a mild detergent but in most cases there isn’t an adequate way of doing this. Call a professional for all care needs.

Q: What is the white moss growing on my roof?

The white moss we sometimes see on fresh cedar shakes is caused by the moisture content of the wood. It is not mold and mildew. This reaction is a possible occurrence on cedar shakes that are kept tight in a bundle after a few weeks, especially during summer months, and is not related to any specific treatment to the logs. This white moss will wash away with rain and wind. There is no need to clean these shingles.

Q: Can uniform color be maintained on my roof to pitch and direction?

The color of naturally weathered shakes varies according to its exposure to moisture, sunlight and salt water. Those with greater exposure will lose their natural, fresh-sawn color faster than the ones that are more exposed. The only way to get a more uniform color for a longer period of time is to apply a bleach agent to a LIGHT power wash. Copper ridges and flashing can also help with this as water carries and deposits bits of the metal into the wood over time. Treatment options will help maintain some sort of color uniformity to your shingles but there will always be some variations caused by natural elements. This is what makes the beauty of real cedar shingles.

Q: Is it possible to obtain the look of naturally weathered shingles right at installation?

If you wish to stain your cedar roof it can be done but the longevity of the roof may greatly suffer. Shake Guys recommends going the natural route with this beautiful product and won’t mess with alterations that damage the lifespan.

Q: Should I stain my shakes or should I leave them natural?

The answer to this question depends on the look you wish to have for your house. There are stains available but Shake Guys recommends going the natural route with this beautiful product.

Q: Does Western Red Cedar shakes need to be treated?

No, the natural preservatives of cedar protect against fungi (not moss), humidity, and insects. They are often left natural and turn silver gray with time. However, they can be treated with preservatives to achieve a different visual effect.

Q: What colors do you offer?

Currently, Shake Guys offer only Western Red Cedar which has a random color range from pale flesh tones to darker reddish browns.

Q: Are cedar roofs “green”?

Well, we have a whole blog post that discusses the environmental implications of cedar roofing if you click right above.


Answers on Warranties

Q: Do your shakes come with a product warranty?

Yes, we offer the best manufacturer’s warranty. We also offer a 10 year warranty on our own installation (parts and labor).


Answers on Installation

Q: Which grade of shingles should I use for the roof?

While #1 Grade is great, it is mostly slash grain (fibers run diagonally at the butt but still show a vertical face). Shake Guys uses 100% Premium edge grain or a hand selected mix of this straight vertical grain and up to 90% slash grain. Grain direction, when looking at the butt of a shake, makes a huge impact on the strength of a shake and its resistance to cupping, splitting, and warping over time. This top tier grain is also the hardest to acquire as it is a limited product.

Q: Do you use nails or staples?

Both options are acceptable but Shake Guys prefers nails. The most important factor is that the nails are rust-resistant. At all times, the fasteners must penetrate 1/2’’ into the solid underlayment. Use of air powered fastening guns is totally acceptable as long as they have the ability to set the depth and not over drive the fastener. Shake Guys only uses the best nails on the market because we use the best, thickest, and strongest shakes available. The weight of our premium shakes demands the toughest nails on the market.

Q: How many nails or staples should be used when installing cedar shake?

A shingle less than 8” wide should receive only two fasteners while those at or over 8” wide should receive four fasteners. The extra two fasteners should be placed near the center of the shingle, about an inch apart.

Q: Does Shake Guys leave air space between cedar shingles and the underlayment?

YES! Good air space behind all siding products is essential and can be achieved in a variety of ways. Wooden laths or a ventilation membrane are two options to keep an air space. These materials allow trapped moisture a way to drain out. They also allow drying of both the shingles and the underlayment. This technique is beneficial as it protects shakes from rotting.

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