Your roof is a big part of your home, so it’s only natural that you want to use the best shingles. Some types of shingles, the average asphalt ones, for instance, will protect your home but aren’t the most appealing or durable option.

There’s an aesthetic quality to wood ‌shakes that just can’t be matched, especially for homes and buildings with more traditional architecture. A well-laid wood shake roof will last you anywhere from 20 to 40 years if you take care of it properly.

Wood shake shingles provide the rare combination of beauty and functionality that many homeowners want. If you’re thinking about getting a wood shake roof, there are some factors to consider. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know before giving your roof a new look. 

What Are Wood Shakes?

Wood shake shingles are slightly different than wood shake siding. They are still cut from durable, rot-resistant woods like cedar and redwood. The rich textures and varied colors of natural wood shake shingles provide a one-of-a-kind look. They stand up well over time when properly installed and maintained. Although there are many kinds of modern shakes available, a large number of homeowners prefer the look and feel of classic, rustic wood shakes.

Wood shakes come in a variety of cuts, with split wood shakes and tapered wood shakes being the most common. Hand-split wood shakes provide the most rustic look, revealing the natural grain of the wood, but it’s an expensive and time-consuming process.

How to Maintain a Wood Shake Roof

There are many things homeowners should know when it comes to maintaining a wood-shake roof.

Although your shakes might have a special coating on them to protect them from moisture, lingering moisture is still going to be the number one thing you have to watch out for with a wood shake roof. Lingering moisture can cause your roof to break down fast due to fungi, mold, and mildew.

Because of this, keeping your roof completely clear of any debris is essential to helping it last a long time. Pine needles, leaves, and anything else that holds moisture should be removed as soon as possible. You’ll also need to trim any trees shading your roof, as they will prevent it from drying out quickly. Keeping your gutters clean will be just as vital.

In addition to debris removal, regular inspections and minor repairs can prevent more costly repairs down the road. Look for damaged, cracked, or missing shingles after major storms. Repair or replace them promptly to prevent leaks and rot. Replacing a few shakes here and there over the years is less expensive than a full roof replacement due to neglected maintenance.

Proper attic ventilation is also key for shake longevity. Good airflow under the roof sheathing prevents trapped moisture. Installing ridge vents provides proper attic ventilation for the roof.

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Applying wood preservatives or sealants every 5–7 years will also protect the wood from weathering and extend its service life. Using breathable products will allow moisture vapor to escape while protecting the wood.

Alternative Roofing Types

In addition to wood shakes, you can also have your roof fitted with vinyl shakes, asphalt shakes, hybrid cedar shakes, and more. Vinyl cedar shakes are cheaper but easier to maintain than authentic wood. Asphalt is the most durable and cost-effective, but it doesn’t offer the same diversity of natural colors as wood.

Hybrid cedar shakes made with vinyl but styled to look like cedar or wood offer a compromise between the two shake types. They provide ‌durability and maintenance ease, along with the desired aesthetics.

See the pros and cons of each shingle roofing type in the tabs below:

Beautiful, natural look
Long lifespan if maintained
Requires maintenance
Low cost
Easy installation
Long life span
Not as visually appealing
Limited styles
Extremely durable
Stylish profiles
Needs specialty installation
Good durability
Easier maintenance than wood
Won’t match real wood quality/appeal
Costs more than asphalt

Additional Factors to Consider

When weighing your roof replacement options, consider factors like climate, roof style, budget, and expected ROI. Discuss all needs and considerations with roofing contractors to get recommendations for your home.

So, Is Wood Shake Roofing Right for You?

For homes and homeowners who appreciate real wood and don’t mind seasonal roof maintenance, wood shake roofing can provide long-lasting satisfaction.

If you want easier roof upkeep with the look of wood, composite shakes are a great option. But for maximum durability per dollar, asphalt is the best choice.

At the end of the day, compare all roofing materials based on your priorities. Deciding between cedar shake shingles and asphalt shingles comes down to factors like style, durability, and maintenance.

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FAQs About Wood Shake Roofs

How long do wood shake roofs last?

With proper installation and maintenance like debris removal, treatment, reapplication, and repairs, a wood shake roof can last 20–40 years or more.

Do you need underlayment with wood shakes?

Yes, wood shake roofing requires underlayment as a secondary moisture barrier. Felt or synthetic underlayment is installed before the wood shakes.

Should wood shakes be spaced apart?

Yes, small gaps between wood shakes allow for expansion and contraction as they weather. The gaps also improve ventilation to prevent rot. Typical spacing is 3/8 to 5/8 inches.

Are wood shakes still made?

Yes, wood shakes remain popular for certain home styles and are still produced. However, modern manufacturing makes shakes more uniform than traditional hand-split shakes.

How much do wood shakes cost?

Wood shake roofing costs $6 to $12 per square foot installed or $12,000 to $24,000 for a typical 2,000-square-foot roof. Natural wood is pricier, while alternative shake materials reduce cost.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Doug Sluga

Doug Sluga

Doug Sluga is a professional roofer and carpenter with ten years of experience in residential and commercial construction. His expertise spans the breadth of the roofing trade from minor repairs to laying shingles to framing trusses. These days he spends most of his time writing about roofing and the roofing industry.

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photo of Casey Daniel

Casey Daniel

Casey Daniel is a writer and editor with a passion for empowering readers to improve their homes and their lives. She has written and reviewed content across multiple topics, including home improvement, lawn and garden care, sustainability, and health and wellness. When she’s not reviewing articles, Casey is usually playing board games, repainting her bathroom, or quilting.

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