The Homeowner's Guide to Shake Roofing

homeowners guide to shake roofing

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Shake Roofing Overview

A wood shake is instantly recognizable due to its beautiful, textured, and three-dimensional appearance.

Used for centuries, wood shakes are split from logs. Wood shakes are most commonly made from cedar and pine, but California redwood, cypress, and spruce are used as well.

In the past, these rough-hewn shakes were then left untouched, but with the rise of sawmills, shakes are now typically sawed off on one side to create a flat, uniform surface.

When shakes are sawed on both sides, creating a product with an even taper and identical thickness, it's known as a "wood shingle."

In the past, the #1 disadvantage of wood shakes was their flammability. Today, wood shakes can be pressure treated with fire retardants and chemical preservatives to increase fire-resistance.

Cedar shake roofing

Shake Roofing Durability

A well-maintained wood shake roof can last up to 30 years.

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 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.

The key to prolonging the life of any roof is proper installation and proper maintenance.

Be aware that wood shakes lose their initial brown coloring within a year of installation. This is caused when the very top layer 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.

Composite wood shake roofing made from 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, are Class A fire-rated, and resistant to 110 mph winds. Depending on where you live, a polymer-based shake roofing product may be a better choice compared to authentic wood shakes.

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How to Maintain a Wood Shake Roof

It’s not difficult to maintain a wood shake roof, but routine maintenance is necessary in order 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, like algae/moss growth, and for major cracks or damaged shakes.

Repairing damaged areas quickly can save you a pretty penny later on. Shake roofing 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.

Shake roofing

Advantages and Disadvantages of Shake Roofing


  • Beautiful rustic appearance
  • Available in natural wood or polymer-based materials
  • One-of-a-kind roofing material
  • Naturally 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

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Cost of Shake Roofing

The cost of installing a new shake roof can vary significantly due to a number of factors, including the style of shake, the size and complexity of your roof, your geographic location, and the contractor you hire, among others.

The prices below will give you a ballpark figure for the cost of tearing off a single layer of roofing material and installing new shakes.

The most expensive option for shingling a roof is wood shakes – between $6.00 to $9.00 per square foot or $600 and $900 per square (100 square feet), installed. Wood shingles are slightly less pricey at $4.00 to $7.00 per square foot or $400 to $700 per square, installed.

Average Cost of Shake Roofing

Roof Square Footage Low-End Cost Average Cost High-End Cost
1,000 sq. ft. $6,000 $7,500 $9,000
1,500 sq. ft. $9,000 $11,250 $13,500
2,000 sq. ft. $12,000 $15,000 $18,000
2,500 sq. ft. $15,000 $18,750 $22,500


City Average Cost for 2,000 sq. ft. Shake Roof
Chicago $11,500 - $18,200
Atlanta $11,000 - $17,000
New York $12,000 - $19,500
Los Angeles $11,400 - $18,000

Costs include tear-off of a single layer, materials, and installation for a 2,000 square foot roof. Costs do not include price to install added ventilation or gutters.

Factors that influence the cost of installing a shake roof include:

  • your geographic location
  • the scale of the project
  • number of existing layers to be torn off
  • quality of the roofing material you're using
  • the roofer you hired

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 a 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 on their reputation, 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 contractor's 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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