Shake Roofing Guide

Photo source: Regal Roofing

Shake Roofing Guide

Shake Roof Basics

Beauty and durability are the key benefits of shake roofing. Traditional shake roofing is made from wood that’s mechanically split into shakes – no two shake shingles are exactly the same size, giving the roof a much-desired rustic and dimensional appearance.

The types of wood most commonly used to manufacture shakes include cedar, red cedar, pine, redwood and cypress. Cedar and red cedar are the most common. The wood is typically pressure-treated and chemically modified to increase its fire retardant properties.

Modern composite materials allow for the look of wood shake shingles with the added benefit of increased durability and ease of installation. Most major roofing manufacturers produce composite shake products, including Tamko, DaVinci, Titan and CertainTeed.

Composite Polymer-based Shake Roofing

Composite shake roofing resembles natural wood shakes. Photo courtesy of DaVinci

Shake Roofing Durability

Unlike other common types of roofing, such as asphalt shingles and metal roofs, wood shake roofing is a material derived straight from nature. Cedar, redwood and cypress trees are naturally resistant to decay due to the natural oils in the wood. This can help increase the longevity of the roof.

Wood shakes lose their initial brown coloring within a year of installation. What’s happening during this time is the top 0.01 inches of the wood shake gets stripped off due to exposure to the elements, particularly UV rays. Special oils and protectants can prolong this natural cycle if you prefer the “new” look of wood shake roofing.

Wood naturally soaks up water, causing the shakes to expand and contract with changing weather conditions. Over time, this expansion/contraction cycle leads to tiny cracks in the wood shakes. This will eventually lead to leaking, but it could be decades down the road before you need a roof replacement. Compared to an asphalt shingle roof which lasts 12 to 17 years on average, a well-maintained wood shake roof can last up to 30 years.

Composite wood shake roofing made from various polymers may outlast natural wood shake roofing while still maintaining the rustic look of the real thing. The DaVinci Cedar Shakes, for example, carry a 50-year warranty and are Class A fire-rated and resistant to 110 mph winds. Depending upon where you live, a polymer-based shake roofing product may be a better choice compared to authentic wood shakes.

The keys to prolonging the life of any roof are:

  • Proper installation
  • Proper maintenance

How to Maintain a Wood Shake Roof

It’s not difficult to maintain a wood shake roof, but it is necessary to prolong its usable life. Water is the primary villain of a shake roof, so it’s important to keep the roof free and clear of debris that may affect the roof’s ability to shed water properly.

Once a year you should inspect the roof for signs of water damage (i.e., algae/moss growth) and for major cracks or damaged shakes. Repairing damage areas swiftly can save you a pretty penny later on. Shake roof repairs are relatively inexpensive compared to ignoring the damage and having to replace the entire roof because of it.

In some cases, your roofing contractor may suggest reapplying oils or other protectants every few years to guard against weathering.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Shake Roofing


  • Beautiful rustic appearance
  • Available as natural woods or polymer-based materials
  • One-of-a-kind roofing material
  • Natural resistant to hail and decay
  • Eco-friendly roofing choice
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy to repair
  • 30+ year lifespan


  • Expensive upfront
  • Not as fire-resistant compared to other types of roofing

Cost of Shake Roofing

The cost of installing a new shake roof can vary significantly due to the wide range of styles and products available. The prices below will give you a ballpark figure for the cost of tearing off a single layer of roofing material and installing the new shakes.

Shake Roof Pricing:


Cost Includes Tear-Off (Single Layer)/Materials/Installation (2,000 sqft roof)


$11,500 - $18,200


$11,000 - $17,000

New York

$12,000 - $19,500

Los Angeles

$11,400 - $18,000

Factors that influence the cost of installing a shake roof include your geographic location, scale of the project, number of existing layers to be torn off, and the brand-name/quality of the roofing material. The pricing does not include costs associated with installing added ventilation or gutters. Contact your local shake roofing contractor for an accurate quote.

Shake Roofing Warranty Information

Wood shakes come with a manufacturer’s warranty to protect the product against defects. These warranties are typically long-term, with natural wood shake roofing products ranging from 30 to 50 years and composite shake roofing materials up to lifetime.

Never purchase a roofing product based solely on the length of its manufacturer’s warranty. The length of this warranty isn’t an accurate representation of how long the roofing product will last. The key in determining the optimal roof for you is to consult your local roofing contractor to determine the ideal choice based on the roofer’s expertise and the local climate.

Most roofing contractors offer workmanship warranties in addition to the manufacturer’s warranty. A workmanship warranty protects your roof against damage directly related to the installation. Some workmanship warranties may also contain “leak-free guarantees” or other guarantees against weather-related damage. Always read the fine print!

Hiring a Shake Roofing Contractor

Choose a shake roofing contractor based upon their repuation, credentials, and experience dealing with wood and/or composite shake products. It’s not a difficult roofing product to install, but it does take an advanced level of expertise to get it done right. makes it easy to find the right shake roofing contractor by verifying the contractors credentials and giving you free access to customer reviews, ratings and project costs. Hometown makes it simple to find the right roofing contractor for the job.

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