Fundamentals of Shake Roof Repair

shake roof repair

In this guide, we'll discuss...

Shake Roof Durability and Expected Lifespan

While a wood shake roof has a higher initial cost than asphalt shingles, shake roofing can outlast shingled roofs with the proper maintenance and care.

A properly maintained cedar shake roof can last 30 years or longer, sometimes up to 70 years before needing a roof replacement.

Modern synthetic shake roofing products are designed to last longer than traditional wood shakes. They are made of composite and/or rubber materials that offer superior waterproofing properties and UV protection.

Aside from regularly scheduled maintenance, the lifespan of a wood shake roof is highly dependent upon the workmanship quality when initially installed. This is the reason shake roof repairs and replacements are best handled by a roofing contractor experienced with shake roofing.

LEARN MORE: The Homeowner's Guide to Shake Roofing

shake roof cracked

Signs a Shake Shingle Needs To Be Replaced

Cracking or Splitting

Cracks result due to the shake expanding and contracting over time. Exposure to moisture and the ensuing drying can crack shake shingles. When these turn into large cracks, replacement is necessary.

If the split is a dull orange color and has rounded edges, it’s natural and caused by exposure to the weather. If the split has sharper edges and is lighter orange in color, it’s most likely the result of an impact and should be replaced.

Curling or Cupping

Curling is often a result of wood stress due to the sun’s UV rays and rain. If this occurs right after installation, the shake tiles were not installed correctly.


When the bottom edge of shake shingles begin to rot, it causes the shingles to fray. The decay is usually the result of microorganisms from moss or algae. Roofs that receive a lot of shade and never dry out after a rain are more prone to bottom edge rot and fraying. 

How to Replace Wood Shakes

If a shake is damaged, you may need to replace it—here's how it's done...

1. Split the damaged shake

Use a hammer and chisel to split the wood shake and pull out as many pieces as possible.

2. Pry out the nails

Slide a flat bar under what remains of the shake, if anything, and pry out the old nails. Be sure not to damage the sheathing beneath the other shakes.

3. Place the new shake

Gently tap the replacement shake into place, stopping roughly ¾ of an inch before it’s aligned with the other shakes. Leave ¼-inch on either side to accommodate expansion.

4. Nail the shake into place

Hammer two roofing nails just below the edge of the shake that's above the replacement. Then, gently tap the replacement shake until it is flush with its neighboring shakes.

Costs to Repair

The costs of doing repairs on a shake roof are minor compared to other common roofing materials, especially if you’re willing to handle the repairs yourself. Usually, the repair requires minimal materials for small expenses, like individual shakes, a power washer, nails, a hammer, or cleaning supplies. 

Shakes range from $3.50 to $12 per square foot depending on the material. If you’re looking to find a contractor to handle the repairs, repairs and maintenance range between $80 - $120, depending on the type of repair, cleaning task, and your location.

Paying for labor will increase the costs of repair, but it's more than worth it if you are uncomfortable going up on the roof. 

shake roof that is aged

Shake Roof Repair or Replacement

Wood shake roofs require more frequent maintenance than metal or slate roofs, and will likely need to be repaired here and there, but the repairs are typically straightforward and easy to execute.

With regular maintenance and proper cleaning procedures, a shake roof should last for years without any major problems.

One of shake roofing's main benefits is that it’s relatively easy to spot-repair, and unlike other types of roofing, you can pinpoint leaky areas on a shake roof and repair it locally rather than having to replace a large section of roofing material to resolve the leak.  However, if 25-30% of the shakes appear severely cracked or damaged, it may be better to replace the entire roof. Doing so ensures the entire property is secure.

Find a qualified roofing contractor near you

Shake Roof Maintenance and Cleaning Tips


The first step in proper maintenance of a shake roof is routinely clearing leaf litter, pine needles, and other matter that accumulates on the roof. Accumulating debris slows the shedding of water, which can lead to the growth of fungi.

Promoting the drying of the roof is another key component to maintaining a shake roof. Removing overhanging branches that shade large sections will help the drying of the roof’s surface.

Preventing Moss Build-Up

Nailing zinc or copper strips at the ridge cap can be used to mitigate the growth of moss on a shake roof. The reaction between rain and the zinc or copper forms a mild solution that limits the growth of moss and other organic matter.

Oftentimes, simply cleaning with your garden hose is adequate enough to remove most moss and fungal growth. Hosing down the roof once or twice per year helps remove leaves and tree limbs. This is important because debris hinders water shedding and can cause rainwater to pool. Roof contractors may also use a low-pressure power washer to clean the surface of the roof.

Staining and Sealants

Staining a shake roof may look fine for the aesthetics of the property, but it generally does not assist in preserving the roof. Cedar or Redwood shake roofs should never be stained, as the stain does not allow the shakes to get the air they need. By restricting cedar or redwood shakes from breathing, you severely reduce the lifespan of the roof.


There are several types of chemical cleaning products on the market designed to clean moss, fungi, and staining from wood shake roofs.

You can create your own mild cleaning detergent using the following ingredients:

  • 3 oz. trisodium phosphate (TSP), which you can get at a hardware store
  • 1 oz. of laundry detergent
  • 1 qt. of 5% sodium hypochlorite (liquid bleach)
  • 3 qt. warm water

Apply the solution to a section of roof and scrub it with a brush or broom, and then rinse with lots of water. This solution can kill flowers and plants, so be sure to rinse with lots of water to dilute the runoff. Always be sure to use gloves and protective clothing when working with chemicals.

If working on the roof isn’t for you, call your local roofing contractor to do the cleaning for you. It’s an inexpensive service that will more than pay for itself by extending the life of your roof.

Find a Shake Roof Repair Contractor

If your shake roof needs a minor cleaning or small debris cleared, you should be able to handle such tasks yourself. However, if you suspect your roof to be leaking or damaged beyond your abilities to repair it, consider contacting a qualified contractor to assist you.

At, we have an extensive list of pre-screened, licensed, and insured roof repair contractors. When viewing roofers for your area, select their name to view more details, like whether they specialize in shake roof repairs and installations. You can also read verified reviews from customers in your area who have already used a roofing contractor for shake repairs or roof replacement.

Find a qualified shake repair contractor