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What Is a Cedar Shake Roof? (2023 Roofing Guide)

Is it time for a new roof? If so, you may be considering your roofing material options outside of the traditional asphalt shingles. 

If this is the case, you may want to consider a cedar shake roof. Cedar shakes — or cedar wood shingles — are an excellent option as they’re: 

  • Durable 💪
  • Long-lasting 🗓️
  • Energy-efficient ⚡

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about cedar shakes in the blog post below, in order to help you make your decision.

What Is a Cedar Shake Roof?

steep cedar shake roof with gables

Cedar shake roofs are made from cedar logs that are cut down and shaped into shingles. They’re considered a premium roofing material as well as a more upscale one, which also makes them one of the more expensive options on the market. 

Here are a few quick facts every homeowner should know about cedar shake roofs:

  • They perform the same as asphalt shingles but are more durable when it comes to major storms.
  • They’re ideal for virtually all homes, as each wood shingle can be cut to a specific length and thickness.
  • Because cedar shingles are custom-made, they’re easily distinguishable from other roofing types and provide excellent curb appeal.
  • The entire life cycle of a cedar shake or shingle is eco-friendly.

Cedar Shakes Vs Cedar Shingles

While cedar shakes and shingles are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two.

  • Cedar shakes are either hand-split or split off by machine as part of the manufacturing process. This gives them a textured appearance as it leaves grooves in the wood. Because of this, they’re also thicker — which also makes them more durable and longer-lasting.
  • Cedar shingles are sawn on both sides, which leaves them even and smooth. They’re also cut down and tapered to a certain extent, and all of this produces a much thinner product — which also makes them less durable compared to their shake counterparts.

The two also differ in how they’re installed:

  • Cedar shingles are easier to install as they’re smooth and lay flat. Therefore, they’re never installed using a felt underlay and instead are instead installed using three overlapping layers at any given point. This provides for a more weatherproof roofing system, even in extreme temperatures.
  • Cedar shakes are more irregular due to the way they’re cut. Therefore, it’s impossible to get them to lay completely flat during the installation process. This causes gaps to occur, which can easily be penetrated by wind and moisture, which is why they’re installed using a felt underlayment to prevent those issues.

The Different Quality Levels of Cedar Shake Roofing

As cedar shake roofs have become more popular over the years as an alternative to slate, tile, and asphalt, manufacturers have developed different classes to give homeowners more options.


There are two distinct classes of cedar shake roofs, each utilizing a varying amount of hand or machine splitting to get a specific thickness and tapering:

  • Grade 1: Grade 1 cedar shakes are the most commonly chosen grade. They have an average lifespan of about 30 years and are also the most expensive option. These wooden shakes range in color from reddish brown to greenish brown, and they require an ample amount of maintenance to keep them looking good and to ensure they remain strong.
  • Grade 2: Grade 2 cedar shakes are also referred to as select cedar shakes. They’re a mix of grades 1 and 3, with a typical 80:20 ratio of straight grain and common grain. Grade 2 shakes usually last up to 30 years, and they have a lower cost which makes them an excellent investment despite requiring frequent maintenance and cleaning.

Cedar Shake Roof Costs

Cedar shake roofing is also one of the more expensive options on the market. While their long lifespans and durability make them worth the investment, it’s still important to know what you’re getting into cost-wise. 

For the average, moderately complex roof, cedar shakes will cost an average of $15-$20 per square foot. This means that a new cedar shake roofing system will cost twice the amount of your traditional asphalt shingle roof. 

However, there are certain factors that will raise or lower your costs, such as:

  • The complexity of your roof. The more complicated the installation process due to having a complex roofing system, the more your cedar shake roofing will cost. This also includes the square footage of your roof.
  • The grade. The grade of cedar shakes that you choose will directly affect the cost. Grade 1 is the most expensive options.
  • Your maintenance plan: Wood roofing systems require a lot of maintenance — mostly cleaning. Many roofing companies will offer a variety of maintenance packages to take the work off your hands, which will add to your long-term costs.

The Pros and Cons of Cedar Roofing

brick home with chimney and cedar roof in Lake Zurich IL

Lastly, let’s talk about the pros and cons of cedar roofing materials.

👍 The Pros:

  • With proper care and maintenance, cedar shake roofing will last between 20 and 30 years.
  • Cedar shake tiles have a much lower environmental impact compared to shingles and other roofing materials, as the wood used is a renewable source. They’re also highly recyclable, which makes them eco-friendly.
  • They’re naturally resistant to UV rays, making them a great option for hot and bright climates.
  • They’re incredibly durable and can withstand severe weather events, including hurricanes.
  • Due to the density of cedar and thickness of the shake tiles, they offer better insulation naturally, which makes them more energy efficient.

👎 The Cons:

  • They’re among the most expensive roofing materials on the market.
  • The style of cedar shake tiles offers a rustic aesthetic, which may not be what you’re looking for.
  • Since they’re made from wood, they come with an inherent fire risk as wood burns much easier than other roofing materials (however, many cedar shake and shingle manufacturers apply a fire-resistant coating to mitigate that risk).

Is a Cedar Shake Roof Right For You?

The cedar shake roof is a perfect choice for many homeowners, especially those who want to change up their home’s overall aesthetic and boost curb appeal.

If you’re thinking about upgrading your roofing system with cedar, call the experts at Shake Guys. We’ll guide you through all of your options and give you a free inspection!

Schedule a Free Inspection & Consultation