Maintain Your Cedar Shake Roof

Brad GordonCedar Shake


Your cedar shake roof will give you years of life when you keep it in good shape. There are many things a homeowner can do to their own roof. Know your limitations, though, and bring in the professionals when the job is too dangerous or complicated to do yourself.

The Hazards to a Cedar Shake Roof

As with any wood exposed to nature, your roof faces damage from weather, birds, insects and rot. Snow and ice can stress the shingles. Heavy rain and wind can blow shingles off the roof or cause them to crack. Birds make holes in cedar shakes looking for insects. Wood boring insects weaken the shakes. The worst enemy to your cedar roof is wood rot.

Normally your roof deflects rain water, gets wet then dries out in the sun. Your roof is an effective barrier from the elements that can damage your house. If something prevents a portion of your roof from drying out, the wood will begin to disintegrate, or rot. Portion of the shingles may break off the roof, causing it to leak.

Sticks, leaves and needles can accumulate on your roof. If not removed periodically, they can become quite deep and trap moisture in the wood shakes. This prevents the wood from drying out and allows rot to set in. It also creates a fertile place for moss to grow. The moss creates an even greater barrier, trapping moisture in the roof. Moss can be so thick as to keep water from flowing off of the roof during rainstorms.

Cleaning Your Roof

Once or twice each year, inspect your roof for any missing or damaged shakes. Look for places where leaves and needles have accumulated or moss has grown. A pressure washer and a stiff broom are typically enough to clean off the roof. Do as much cleaning as you can from the ground or secure ladder. It’s not recommended that you work on the roof yourself. There is too much of a risk of slipping and falling on a wet cedar shake roof. This is the time to call in a professional service.

Be careful that you don’t damage the shakes with the power washer. Already damaged cedar shingles could crack or fall apart under the water pressure. The small spaces between two shakes is called a keyway. Clean that out well as it can become a place where dirt and needles get trapped.

Clean out your gutters while you’re at it. Pine needles can create a sold barrier to water flowing smoothly. If sufficiently trapped, the water could cause moss to grow on the edge of the roof creating another barrier to water running off of the roof. If you have pine trees overhanging your roof, consider trimming the branches so fewer needles fall onto the cedar shakes and gutter.

Treatment and Prevention

Every three to five years, you may want to treat your roof with a product that slows the growth of moss and fungi. These are most effective on a newer roof. They aren’t as useful on a roof that has weathered a number of years where some deterioration has started.

These products typically have a mineral base, such as zinc or copper, and they create a surface on which things won’t grow. You will want a service to do these treatments. The chemicals are toxic and a professional company knows how to treat a roof to get the most benefit.

A well-maintained cedar shake roof can have a life span of up to 30 years. Have it inspected regularly, make any repairs to it promptly, and keep it clean to get the best protection from your roof for your home and family.