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Curb view of cedar shake roof after leak repair completed.

DIY Cedar Shake Roof Leak Repair

The Midwest is full of beautiful trees, lakes, and all four seasons, and we are proud to call it home, but when the season turns rainy and storms settle in, it can mean trouble for your roofing system.

If you’re a proud owner of a cedar roof or are looking to install one, the Shake Guys are here to walk you through the ins and outs of cedar roof leak repair so that a small issue doesn’t turn into a huge one.

Cedar roofing is one of the more complex roofing systems, so proper installation is critical to the roof’s performance and longevity. Inadequate installation can lead to leaks, premature deterioration, and other issues. For the highest-quality repairs, it’s important to hire a reputable roofing contractor with experience in cedar roofing to ensure a durable and reliable solution to the issue.

But whether you already have a roofer picked out or are planning on tackling the repairs yourself, here’s our best advice for cedar roof leak repair.

A deeper look at the reason leaks typically occur over time

Closeup of aged cedar shake roof in need of leak repair by the Shake Guys

Like all wood, cedar shakes will swell in wet and humid weather and contract in dry weather. After years of this, especially without preservation treatments, the shakes weaken but their shifting wears on the felt lining below them. The deteriorated underlayment can become less leak-resistant.

Coupled with worn, cracked, missing, or cupped shakes, a leak becomes possible. The plywood decking itself isn’t a very water-tight barrier, as you can imagine. Water works its way through this layer and will eventually produce water stains on the ceiling after it rains.

A professional must repair the roof if there is excessive damage but minor leaks that show up as small stains or drips can often be fixed in a relatively brief time by anyone who knows what they’re doing. Hence, this blog will outline the steps and materials it takes for a DIY cedar shake roof leak repair.

Shake Roof Leak Repair Prep List

  • Make sure you’ll be making your repair on a warm day!
  • Be sure to have a spotter ready to aid you when you climb a ladder.
  • Have the following materials and tools ready:
    • Stepladder or attic access ladder
    • Flashlight
    • Extension ladder
    • Wooden block
    • 16-inch nail bar
    • Reciprocating saw with metal-cutting blade
    • Pliers
    • 12-inch-by-12-inch-by-24-gauge metal shingle or 24-gauge sheet metal
    • 5-penny shingle nails
    • Hammer or shingle hatchet
    • 50+ foot garden hose

DIY Cedar Shake Roof Leak Repair Steps

Closeup of cedar shake roof after leak repair.

Step 1 – Find the Source of the Leak

Finding the source of the problem may be tricky, dusty, and dirty.

You’ll probably need to start with a trip to the attic during the middle of the day. Get a good flashlight and head up. Then, inspect the underside of the roof for a pinhole of daylight. Alternatively, look for moisture or a water stain at the underside of the roof sheathing or on the side of a rafter, and follow the stain to its highest point.

Following the moisture is the universal tracking need here. Note the area and proceed with fixing the leak. If necessary, measure from the area of the leak to the point where a corresponding rafter protrudes through an outside wall, and note the measurement. Remember, keeping up with minor repairs is one of the most important ways you can extend the life of your cedar roof.

Step 2 – Get up on the Roof with Your Materials

Access the roof using an extension ladder. Add the measurement for an overhang to your attic measurement, and measure up this distance from the edge of the roof to the location of the leak.

Now follow these steps to make your cedar shake roof leak repair:

  1. Place a wooden block flat on the roof below the area of repair to protect the shakes immediately below from damage. Using a 16-inch nail bar, pry up on the lower edge of a shake at one side of the leak, with the bar resting on the block.
  2. Hold downward pressure against the block with the bar. Cut off the roofing nails at the underside of the shake with a reciprocating saw and a metal-cutting blade. Repeat this at the shake on the other side of the leak.
  3. Put on work gloves and use pliers to fold under the opposite corners of a 12-inch-by-12-inch-by-24-gauge piece of sheet metal and crimp each securely to prevent the square corners from catching under the shake.
  4. Slide the shingle or sheet metal under both shakes and center it over the leak. Slide the piece up until the lower edge is even with the lower edges of the corresponding shakes. If you encounter an unseen obstruction, don’t force it, as this may damage the underlayment or other shingles. If necessary, the lower edge of the shingle can remain exposed and be painted to match the roof.
  5. Secure the shakes and metal shingle underneath to the roof with 5-penny shingle nails. Drive a pair of nails, evenly spaced, between the outer edges of the exposed portions of the shakes, using a hammer or shingle hatchet.
  6. Clean up your materials and get yourself safely to the ground.

Step 3 – Test your Repair

Ridge view of cedar shake roof after leak repair.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why you didn’t just hire a professional, but you might as well see how you did. It’s likely that you’ll have to do this from a ladder, so get your spotter and your garden hose.

Spray the repaired area for a couple of minutes with a hard stream.

Now it’s back to the attic to look for water penetration.

If there’s no water leaking in then you’re done. Bravo! If there’s still leaking you have two options; call a pro or purchase some caulking and patch the area where water is still coming in. However, there’s probably only a 50% chance that caulking will work as the water will likely find a new access point. So either repeat these steps or get in touch with your favorite roofer, and if the leaking doesn’t stop or the damage spread, consider whether or not it’s time to replace your cedar roof.

DIY Not for You?

When it comes to an important investment, such as a cedar shake roof, it’s best to leave any repair work to an expert. If you live in the norther Chicagoland area, you can always call on the pros at Shake Guys to take care of your proper inspections, repairs, preservation treatments, or roof replacement needs.

Call us today at 847.278.2272, or ask for a quote here.

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