Wood roofing used to be the norm but fell out of favor with the introduction of asphalt shingles. Today, a wood roof is a specialty item. There are two varieties – shingle and shake. If you are springing for a custom roof, be aware that wood shingles don’t last too long (usually 15 years or less).
It makes more sense to invest in a thicker, high quality shake roof that can last 30-40 years. This material has excellent insulating properties. It also adds natural beauty to your home. Cedar can be sealed to preserve the original color or allowed to weather to a silvery grey over time.
Is Cedar Safe?
Cedar can be pressure treated and impregnated with fire retardants to make it fairly resistant to burning. However, its fire resistant rating is not as high as that of other materials such as cement, tile, and slate.
Some municipalities that experience frequent wildfires prohibit the use of cedar shakes; but in most areas they are permissible as long as they meet fire codes. When you look for materials, make sure the wood isn’t simply treated with a spray-on or brush-on flame retardant – those may wear off over time.
What About Moisture?
A properly installed cedar shake roof with appropriate underlayment and flashing doesn’t pose a leakage risk. A good power washing every few years will actually help keep the roof in good condition.
If you live in a particularly humid area, look for materials that have been pretreated with a fungicide. This should prevent excessive mold or mildew growth on the exposed surfaces of the shakes. Algae may also grow on the wood but doesn’t damage it.