Cedar Shakes or Asphalt Shingles? How to Install Cedar Shake In 6 Easy Steps

First thing first, there are many types of roofing options available. Therefore, it’s important to consider substrate compatibility and perform a balance test before choosing the right one for your needs. To make an informed decision, it’s helpful to have some background knowledge on the different types of shingles available.  In this article, I will look at Cedar Shakes or Asphalt Shingles.

Cedar shakes and asphalt shingles are popular roofing options. Firstly, Cedar shakes are a natural wood product that are known for their rustic appearance and long lifespan. In contrast, asphalt shingles are a synthetic material that is durable and relatively inexpensive.

Secondly, while cedar shake can be more expensive than asphalt shingles, they offer a number of benefits. For instance, they are made from a renewable resource and have a unique natural appearance that many homeowners find appealing. On the other hand, asphalt shingles are more affordable and require less maintenance. However, they may not last as long as cedar shakes and are not as environmentally friendly.

Therefore, the choice between cedar shake and asphalt shingles will depend on various factors including personal choice and preference.

This is just a rundown of the main things you need to know about cedar shakes or asphalt shingles. So, let’s delve further into their properties to help you understand better. I will also compare and contrast their physical and functional properties to help you make a better choice.

What Is Cedar Shake?

A cedar shake roof system is made from natural cedar wood material and serves the same purpose as metal and asphalt roof. However, it is among the most beautiful roofs available, making it unique.

It is made from split wooden shingles that are cut by hand or machine into a wedge shape and then installed on a roof to provide a rustic, natural look.

Types of Cedar Shakes

  • Hand-Split Cedar Shakes

These shakes are split by hand using a mallet and froe, which gives them a rustic, uneven appearance. They are typically thicker and more durable than machine-sawn shakes.

  • Taper-Sawn Cedar Shakes

These shakes are sawn to a consistent thickness and tapered on one edge to create a more uniform appearance. They are often used in more modern or architectural designs.

Uses of Cedar Shakes

  • Cedar Shakes or Asphalt Shingles?
    A Cedar Shake

    Roofing materials: cedar shakes are primarily used as roofing materials for residential and commercial buildings. They are very popular in northern America, where they have been used for centuries due to their durability, natural beauty, and resistance to weathering.

  • Siding materials: cedar shake is used as a siding material for homes and other buildings. Cedar siding provides a warm, natural look to a building’s exterior, and can also offer excellent insulation properties.
  • Construction of outdoor structures: it is also commonly used for the construction of outdoor structures such as pergolas, gazebos, and fences. The structures can be designed to complement the natural beauty of the cedar shakes and can provide a long-lasting low maintenance solution for outdoor living spaces.
  • Interior designing: cedar shakes can sometimes be used in interior design for accent walls, ceilings, or as a decorative element in commercial space or a home. The natural texture and warm color of cedar shakes can create a cozy and inviting atmosphere in a room.

Pros of Cedar Shakes

  • Element Resistance

Cedar is naturally resistant to many elements like hail and wind. This makes it an ideal choice for buildings that are in areas susceptible to extreme weather conditions. In addition, they are rot-resistant making it hard to succumb to water damage with time. For this reason, they are a low-maintenance option for many property owners.

  • Eco-Friendly

It is an eco-friendly option for various reasons. Firstly, they are 100% natural without any chemicals or synthetic materials. Secondly, they can be replaced after harvesting since it’s a renewable source. Lastly, cedar shakes have insulation properties thus reducing the amount of energy needed to cool and heat a home. For these reasons, cedar shakes are a safe choice for human health and the environment.

  • Boosts Home Value

Because they are made from real wood, cedar shake shingles offer a unique natural look that is very eye-catching. They are also durable and long-lasting, which means you won’t need to replace them soon. As a result, a cedar shake roof can be a selling point for potential buyers in case you decide to sell your house.

  • Durability

Cedar shakes are made from sturdy, thick cedar wood, which makes them resistant to damage from heavy rain and high wind. Additionally, they are naturally resistant to insects and rot which extends their lifespan. Cedar shakes are prized for their durability and can last for up to 30 years with proper maintenance.

Even better, they can be treated with water repellent coatings to add to the protection against weather elements.

  • Energy Efficient

Cedar has natural insulation properties that help keep homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer reducing the urge for cooling and heating. Moreover, they reflect sunlight, thus reducing the amount of heat that enters through the roof, saving the owner energy bills.

  • Enhances Home Appearance

Everyone wants a beautiful house and cedar is a wonderful choice for a beautiful exterior, with their unique appearance.


  • Expensive 

Higher quality often comes at a higher cost.  Cedar shakes are priced for their durability and appearance, while they are more expensive than other roofing materials like asphalt, as they offer superior quality. It’s a great investment for a homeowner.

  • Maintenance 

While Cedar roofs can last a long time with proper maintenance, other types of roofs may require less maintenance. Cedar shake roofs, in particular, require regular and higher maintenance to prevent the growth of mold, moss, and mildew. This includes cleaning, sealing, and occasional repairs.

  • Fire Risk

Cedar shakes can pose a significant fire hazard when compared to fire-resistant metal roofs. Therefore, if you live in an area with a high risk of fire, it’s advisable to insure your home against the risk of fire. Although cedar shakes can be treated with fire-retardant chemicals, this can increase the cost and maintenance requirements.

  • Installation 

Cedar shakes require skilled installation to ensure proper spacing and nailing, which prevents water infiltration. Improper installation can lead to leakage and other issues.

  • Weather Resistance 

While cedar shakes are durable, they are not as resistant to extreme weather conditions as some other roofing materials. They can be damaged by heavy rain, hail, and high winds.

What Is Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are a type of roofing material made from a base material such as fiberglass or organic felt that is coated with ceramic granules.

  • Three-Tab Shingles

These are the most basic and traditional types of asphalt shingles. They are called three-tab shingles because each shingle has three tabs or notches that are cut into the lower edge of the shingle. Three-tab shingles are relatively thin and flat designed to give a uniform look to the roof.

  • Architectural Shingles

Also known as laminated or dimensional shingles, these are a more modern and popular type of asphalt shingles. They are made of two or more layers of asphalt that are fused together to create a three-dimensional look. Additionally, they are thick and heavier than three-tab shingles, and come in a variety of textures and colors.

Uses of Asphalt Shingles 

  • Residential Roofing 

Asphalt shingles are one of the most common types of roofing materials used in residential construction. They are widely available in a wide range of styles, colors, and textures, making them a versatile choice for homeowners.

  • Commercial Roofing

They are used in commercial buildings, particularly on low-slope roofs. They are often used on smaller buildings such as strip malls, warehouses, and office buildings.

  • DIY Projects

Asphalt shingles can also be used for a variety of DIY projects such as, building sheds, playhouses, and other small structures. Moreover, they are an affordable and easy-to-use material that can be cut to size and shape with basic tools.

  • Repair And Replacement 

Asphalt shingles are often used to repair or replace damaged or worn-out roofs. They are easy to install, which makes them a popular choice for homeowners and contractors.

Pros of Asphalt Shingles 

  • Versatility 

Asphalt shingles can work with almost any type of roof, since they cover many different shapes, angles, and forms. This is due to their flexibility and the fact that they can be easily cut and shaped to fit different roof designs.

  • Color Options 

They are available in a range of colors and styles, making them a suitable option for many different architectural styles and preferences.

  • Low Cost

Asphalt shingles are not only less expensive to produce, but they also cost less in terms of labor to install. Their ease of installation makes them arguably the most economical option available.

  • Ease Of Installation

They are one of the easiest of all roofing materials to install since they are lightweight and flexible. Additionally, asphalt shingles can be easily cut to fit around obstacles such as chimneys and vents, which further simplifies the installation process.

  • Long Life Span 

Asphalt shingles can last for between 15 to 50 years, with thicker shingles reaching the latter end of this range. To reflect the higher grade materials used, warranties for these shingles can last for decades.

  • Recyclable

Asphalt shingles can be recycled when they reach the end of their lifetime.

  • Reflect Sunlight 

Asphalt shingles tend to reflect the UV rays from the sun instead of absorbing them. This helps your home be more comfortable, especially during the hot summer temperatures.  It also enhances the energy efficiency and reduces related cooling expenses for your building.

Cons of Asphalt Shingles

  • Environmental Impact 

Shingles are made from fiberglass, which is derived from petroleum. When petroleum is combusted, it releases greenhouse gasses into the environment. Additionally, the production of fiberglass releases toxic air pollutants like styrene into the air.

  •  Durability 

Asphalt shingles have a relatively short lifespan compared to other roofing materials such as tile or metal.  They last around 15-30 years, depending on the quality of the shingles and the climate in which they are installed.

  • Susceptible To Weather Damage 

Asphalt shingles can be damaged by strong winds, hail, and extreme temperatures. They can crack, curl, or lose their granules, which can shorten their lifespan and compromise the integrity of the roof.

  • Not Suitable for Low-Slope Roofs

Asphalt shingles are not recommended for roofs with a low slope, as they are more susceptible to water infiltration. In these cases, other roofing materials such as membrane roofing or metal roofing may be a better option.

  • Maintenance 

Asphalt shingles require regular maintenance, such as cleaning and inspection, to ensure their longevity. Failure to maintain them can result in leaks, damage to the roof deck, and other problems.

Cedar Shakes Vs Asphalt Shingles 

Cedar shakes and asphalt shingles have some differences and comparisons:

  • Durability 

When properly installed and maintained, Cedar shakes are generally more durable than asphalt shingles. They are relatively resistant to insects, wind, rot, and moisture, which means they can last up to 30-40 years or even longer. However, on the down side, they do not hold up so well against excess moisture and they are not fire resistant.

On the other hand, asphalt shingles are a good choice for moisture and rain, but they may not survive strong winds as well, they can be blown off by strong wind, leading to unexpected replacement costs.

Additionally, the lifespan of asphalt shingles varies from 15-30 years depending on the quality of the shingles and the climate in which they are installed.

  • Cost 

Cedar shake roofing generally costs more than asphalt shingles. The price of cedar shakes can vary depending on the quality of the wood, the thickness of the shakes, and the region in which they are purchased. Contrarily, Asphalt shingles are a less expensive option than cedar shakes, making them a popular option for homeowners on a budget.

Cedar shakes can run between $8.00 and 15.00 a square foot as compared to $3.50 to $5.50 a square foot for a typical asphalt shingle roof installation.

  • Ease Of Use 

Asphalt shingles are generally easier to install than cedar shakes. They come in uniform sizes and are installed using a simple nailing pattern. Moreover, they are often considered a suitable DIY project due to their ease of installation.  Although they can be heavy to handle, they are more forgiving during installation compared to cedar shakes.

Cedar shakes on the other hand cedar shakes require more skill and experience to install, as they come in irregular sizes and shapes requiring more precise techniques that can be done by a professional.

  • Availability 

Cedar shakes may be less available than asphalt shingles, depending on the region. Cedar shakes are usually sourced from specific regions and are not as readily available as asphalt shingles, which are widely produced and available in most areas.

Why Synthetic Cedar Shakes Are the Better Alternative

Synthetic cedar shakes are a popular alternative to natural cedar shakes for a number of reasons. Here are some of the main advantages:

  • Durability

Both synthetic cedar and cedar shakes have a great lifespan, but synthetic cedar typically lasts longer- around 40-50 years, as long as it’s installed correctly.

This is due to its ability to resist wind, snow and hail, making it more durable than natural cedar shakes. Additionally, synthetic cedar is more resistant to damage from insects and rot than natural cedar shakes.

Cedar shakes roofs on the other hand have a lifespan of 30 years when installed and maintained properly. However, if you invest in high quality cedar shake  and live in an area with the right weather conditions, natural cedar shake can go up to 5o years.

  • Wear And Tear 

Every roof wears and tears over time depending on the material. Synthetic cedar has a resistance to wear and tear than natural cedar shake.  On the other hand, Natural cedar shakes crack, rot, and curl as they age unlike synthetic cedar shake.

With proper installation, synthetic cedar shakes maintain its fresh color and also their aesthetic appearance. On the other hand, natural cedar shakes change from a fresh cedar color to a worn color as they age. However, some homeowners prefer the worn out color.

  • Warranty 

Cedar shake shingles lack a manufacturer warranty since they are a naturally occurring material. On the other hand, synthetic cedar comes with a material warranty. However, how long the material warranty will last will depend on the manufacturer.

  • Low Maintenance 

Synthetic cedar shakes require very little maintenance, unlike natural cedar shakes which need to be cleaned, stained, and resealed periodically. Synthetic cedar shakes can be cleaned easily with a simple pressure wash.

  • Cost 

Although cedar shake roofing options can offer a significant return on investment, as they can be expensive for many homeowners.  Synthetic cedar shakes are often a more cost-effective option compared to natural cedar shakes, as they require less maintenance and have a lower initial cost.

For instance a real cedar shake can cost about $25.00-$30.00 per square foot while a new synthetic cedar shake can cost around $14.00-$18.00.  It’s worth noting, giving the exact price can be hard as they vary depending on the location.

  • Environmentally Friendly

Natural cedar shakes are typically made from old-growth trees, which can take decades to replace. Synthetic cedar shakes, on the other hand, are made from recycled materials and can be recycled again after use.

  • Consistency

Synthetic cedar shakes are manufactured to be uniform in shape and size, which results in a more consistent look when installed.

How Do You Protect Cedar Shake Roof?

Cedar shakes roofs can be protected through regular maintenance practices. Here are some ways to maintain and protect cedar shakes roofs:

  • Check Your Cedar Shake Periodically

Check your roof regularly to ensure that there are no missing or damaged shingles. Look for any gaps or cracks in your roof that can allow stagnation or penetration in the wrong areas. Exposing your cedar shake to excess moisture makes them vulnerable to algae, mold, and fungi infestations.

Thus, leading to roof leakage that can damage and grow mold inside your home. However, use cedar-friendly cleaning products since the wrong products can damage the wood.

  • Clean The Gutters

Roof gutters are an important part in any house as they direct the rainwater away from the foundation and roof to prevent water damage. However, when gutters get clogged with debris, leaves, or other materials, water can accumulate and lead to degradation over time.

Therefore, it’s important to conduct regular inspections and cleaning your gutters, especially during the autumn season when falling leaves and debris can block them.

Keeping your gutters clean and well maintained can protect your home from water related damage and ensure its longevity.

  • Remove Debris, Moss, Leaves, And Needle

It is essential to remove any debris from your cedar shake roof since the debris can retain moisture or obstruct water from dripping down the roof. As a result, moisture can create a favorable environment for the growth of fungus or mold that can deteriorate the shakes, reducing their lifespan and requiring expensive repairs. Debris can be molds, organic materials, twigs, and needles.

  • Trim Trees 

Trim any overhanging trees that can deposit debris on your cedar shakes roof or create shade that can encourage mold and mildew growth.

  • Repair Damaged Shakes

Replace any cracked, warped, or missing cedar shakes as soon as possible to prevent water damage and underlying structure.

  • Seal The Roof

Apply a sealant to your cedar shakes roof to protect it from moisture and UV damage. This should be done every few years, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Avoid Power Washing 

Be cautious when cleaning your cedar shake and avoid using a high pressure or power washer as this can strip away the protective oils from the cedar and cause damage.

Instead, opt for a non-pressure garden hose to thoroughly clean your roof without harming it. By following this advice, you can ensure that your cedar shake roof remains in good condition and continues to protect your home from the elements.

How to Install Cedar Shakes On a Roof 

Installing cedar shakes on a roof can be a complex and time-consuming process that requires skill and experience. Here’s a general outline of the steps involved in installing cedar shakes on a roof:

Step 1:  Preparation

Ensure that the roof deck is clean, dry, and free of any debris.

Step 2: Install Roofing Felt 

A roofing felt helps to protect your shakes in case of water leakage.  Therefore, install a roofing felt or synthetic underlayment to provide a moisture barrier. Use a hammer stapler to place the felt on your roof. Apply staples every 12-14 inches and make sure to overlap edges for full coverage.

Step 3: Install Starter Course 

Begin at the base of the wood and install a starter course of cedar shakes. The initial row should protrude beyond the edge eaves and fascia by roughly 1 ½ while extending approximately 1 ⁄ 2 beyond the rooftop to ensure proper drainage. Next, cover the foundational layer with the first row of shingles. Each layer should overlap the previous one by about 1.5-2 inches.

In addition, precise Alignment during the installation of the foundational course is crucial, as it establishes the standard for the rest of the shingles.

 Step 3: Install Subsequent Courses 

Starting at the eaves, work your way up the roof, installing subsequent courses of cedar shakes. Each course should overlap the previous course by about 1.5-2 inches.

Step 4: Cut and Shape Cedar Shakes 

Cut and shape cedar shakes as necessary to fit around roof vents, chimneys, and other roof features. Use a saw to make precise cuts, and a chisel to shape the shakes as needed

Step 5: Nail the shakes 

Nail each cedar shake into place using hot-dipped galvanized nails. The nails should be long enough to penetrate through the shake and into the roof deck below. Drive the nail into the butt of each shingle and run a chalk line. This will provide a guideline for the remaining shingles in course.

Install each shingle by driving two nails approximately ¾ of the way from its edge and roughly 1 ½ inches above the bottom end of the next row of shingles, ensuring that the heads are concealed by the succeeding shingle.

Note:  it is advisable to refrain from using nail guns as they have a tendency to drive nails too deeply, cracking the cedar.  Therefore, using a hammer is a preferable alternative. Furthermore, it is important to note that cedar expands and contracts depending on the weather conditions. So, it is imperative to ensure that the shingles are not installed too tightly, as this could cause them buckle overtime. 

In addition, when installing the shingles, it is important to vary the placement of the seams in each course. This means that no two seams should align directly in any three consecutive courses. As you work your way up the roof, lay one course of shingles and then follow it with another until you reach the peak of the roofline and create a straight line of shingles.

Step 6: Install Ridge Cap 

Once you have installed all of the courses, install a ridge cap at the top of the roof to provide a finished look and protect against water infiltration.

It’s important to note that the exact installation process can vary depending on the specific type of cedar shakes being used, as well as the design and layout of the roof. Additionally, it’s recommended to consult a professional roofing contractor to ensure that the installation is done correctly and safely.

Here’s a Video Tutorial On Cedar Shake Roof Installation:

Maintenance Practices on Asphalt Shingles 

Proper maintenance practices can help extend the lifespan of your asphalt shingle roof and keep it looking good for many years. Here are some maintenance practices you should consider:

  • Regular Inspection 

It is important to regularly inspect your roof for signs of damage, such as missing or broken shingles, cracks, or gaps.  Rain, wind, and sun are all factors that can affect your shingles, resulting in fading, staining, or build up. Conducting roof inspections at least once twice a year, in the spring and fall, can help you detect and address any issues before they become major problems.

However, it’s a good idea to hire a professional if they can easily identify the location of any problems. Besides, hiring an expert is cheaper than costly repairs or complete roof replacement.

  • Clean Gutters And Downspouts 

Over time, debris such as leaves, twigs, and other organic matter can accumulate on the roof and in gutters, leading to clogs and water damage.  Clogged gutters can overflow, leaking water underneath your shingles or siding.  For this reason, regularly clean your roof and gutters by removing debris to ensure proper drainage and prevent water damage.

  • Trim Overhanging Tree Branches 

Overhanging tree branches can cause damage to your roof by scratching the surface, breaking shingles, or falling onto the roof during storms. Trim any tree branches that overhang from your roof and the sides of your home to prevent damage.

  • Seal Flashing 

To keep your roof watertight, thin strips of metal known as flashing are installed along the edges and joints of the roof. Flashing is also used to cover areas surrounding penetrations such as pipes, vents, and skylights, diverting water from areas that asphalt shingles cannot reach.

However, flashing can rust, lift or separate over time compromising its effectiveness. To prevent water seeping through any gaps in the flashing, it is recommended to apply a waterproof sealant to seal any potential leaks.

  • Monitor Moss And Algae Growth 

Moss and algae can grow on asphalt shingles in damp and shady areas, causing damage over time. Even worse, damage from algae weakens the structural integrity of your roof and its ability to reflect the sun.

While asphalt shingles do not show signs of dirt as easily as other roofing materials, it’s beneficial to clean your roof twice a year with moss and algae remover. Better still, you can hire a professional to remove the growth on your roof.

  • Repair Damage Promptly 

If you notice any damage to your asphalt shingles, such as missing or cracked shingles, repair them promptly to prevent further damage to your roof.

Final Thoughts 

To conclude, roofing is an essential element of any home or building, as it protects the structure from the elements and adds to its overall aesthetic appeal. The choice of roofing material is an important decision that homeowners must make, taking into account factors such as cost, durability, and maintenance requirements. While there are various roofing options, the above content addresses…

Cedar Shakes or Asphalt Shingles  

Both cedar shakes and asphalt shingles have their advantages and disadvantages. While cedar shakes offer a natural and timeless look, they require more maintenance and can be more expensive. On the other hand, asphalt shingles are more affordable and require less maintenance, but they may not last as long or offer the same aesthetic appeal.

Finally, the choice between cedar shakes and asphalt shingles will depend on the homeowner’s budget, style, preference, and long-term goals for their property

All the best in your roofing endeavors.

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