Cedar shingles vs Vinyl: help needed!

kit_813March 8, 2009

Hi everyone,

I am in the process of renovating my house and I am completely mixed-up by what the contractors and equipment sellors tell me...

See, my house is a 1941 house, which for my city in northern Quebec is amongst the oldest houses. A small 22x24 1 and a half story with bedrooms in the attic, deep in a country road with no neighboors. I want to give this house a country look, and when I looked at pictures of 1900s houses in Northern Quebec I found that I loved all these old cedar shingles houses, painted in multiple colors, with a roofed porch on 3 sides.

Problem is, the building companies don't want to sell me cedar shingles, allegating that they are hard to maintain. They want me to buy a vinyl imitation made by Royal Designer Shake, but I am not sure. First they don't have the bright yellow color I want, and second I've seen them on some houses and they look fake.

On the other hand, when I spoke with a salesperson of a cedar company, she told me that her white eastern cedar was garanteed for 50 years against mold and deterioration. Plus, if I put 2 coats of opaque stain, extendable to 30 years if I restain it before the 15 years garantee ends. She tells me that beside the paint job (which would not be a problem if only once every 15 years) the cedar shingles are maintenance free.

For installation, it would be harder to find someone able to install cedar, but the company can make them already attached in 8 feet long sections, making the job faster and easier.

I don't know what to think anymore. Of course for the salespersons the product they sell is the best ever, but I can't seem to find a non-biased point of view and as it is a hard choice to make, I don't want to make a mistake I will regret for the next 10 years+.

So I am looking for experienced people advices with cedar shingles, as they are my main focus now.

Thank you very much, reading you all is a pleasure!

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Well, I have a cedar shake roof - I live in New England and they are EVERYWHERE, and all over the coast where they are exposed to harsh weather. (We are on the coast.) We inherited the roof, but were told by our contractor during our (ongoing) renovation that if kept properly sealed, it should last for 20+ years. We're not sure of the exact product used so that's a low end estimate. If it was a high end product it can last for 50+ years. I'm sure you'll get lots of responses from peeps who know the details but cedar in general resists rot. I totally believe the cedar saleswoman - they will last, especially if properly cared for. And yeah, I wouldn't trust the sales guy for the fake stuff because he's clearly trying to sell his product.

We were told to seal our roof every few years. It's an easy job, we hired it out and they sprayed it for I think $500.

There are vinyl products that look pretty good, but if they aren't in the colors you want, then that's that. Real cedar will of course be more maintenance than vinyl, since vinyl is virtually maintenance free. but that's a trade off - the real stuff is unmistakable and it's definitely a "look".

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 12:18PM
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I live in the Pacific NW where we get a lot of rain and where cedar is widely used for roofs (shakes), and siding (shingles). I assume that you are using the term shingles to mean siding. My take on it is this. Newer cedar is not as long-lived as the stuff you used to get decades ago when a lot of the material was still coming from old growth. However, I only think this is a problem if you are using it for roofing in areas where you have a lot of debris falling on the roof from nearby trees. My first house, bought in 1974 had a cedar shake roof with at least 20 years on it by the time I replaced it; subsequent roofs lasted for about 12 years. However, the cedar siding I placed on it in 1979 still looks great because it's in a vertical application, well-sealed, and doesn't collect debris. Also, the pre-assembled panels of shingles that you are referring to are made of a good quality cedar, and look great. I agree that the vinyl can look somewhat phony. If I were you, I would have no problem going with the cedar shingle product. I think you will be happier with the appearance and the longevity, especially if you restain it every so often.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 12:58PM
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I should clarify that our roof is a mansard, and so almost vertical, which will certainly extend the life.

Also, cedar started to be used as siding in the 1800s, so is tried and true. I do agree that newer material is not the same as the old stuff b/c there isn't any more old growth but it's still a good choice. If it wasn't, then you wouldn't see the plethora of homes in NE still using it. It is literally everywhere. I don't notice these homes constantly being resided.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 1:16PM
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Thanks both for your answers. English is not my native language and kudzu, you just enlightened me about the terms shingles and shakes: I thought they meant the same thing!! I would be using cedar shingles as siding, not on the roof.

I was re-reading my first post and I saw that I skipped an important part: the cedar shingle company guarantees the stain job for 15 years (if an additionnal staining is necessary they pay for the stain and workers) and if I stain it before the end of the 15 years, they add up another 15 years of guarantee.

So beside staining when necessary, is there really more maintenace on cedar than on vinyl? And what exactly is this maintenance?
Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 1:20PM
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Alors, vous etes Quebequois(e)? ;-) La famille de mon mari est Quebequoise et la mienne est Americaine, mais je parle Francais, pas lui!

Honestly the only maintenance that I know of is treating it periodically, how often depending on the weather where you live. I believe if you are going to stain it, the staining has to be done more often.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 2:00PM
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Oui je suis Québécoise! :o) How funny it is to find french-speaking people on english forum, especially so when they are not from Quebec!
Thanks for your advices about the cedar, it helps me a lot. This is a hard decision to take!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 3:17PM
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For a period look and years of satisfaction I'd go with the cedar. New paints and stains are making painting and staining easier when it has to be done and if applied as directed can last a good long time. It also gives you the option of changing color should you grow bored with the choices you make this year. You can't say that about vinyl.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 4:02PM
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In a vertical or near-vertical application there is no maintenance other than periodic re-staining, and replacement if a shingle comes loose (rare). Bonne chance!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 7:10PM
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There is no comparison between vinyl and cedar. The best vinyl siding looks pretty good new, but in a few years will look faded and tired. If you Google cedar shakes or cedar siding, you will find many companies in northeastern US and Canada which sell and ship traditional white cedar products. I know that there are here in Maine and in New Brunswick companies still producing traditional thick hand split cedar shakes - there may well be such companies in Quebec as well. These shakes are expensive, but they will last more than a lifetime and if you're willing to allow them to weather to their natural grey color, the maintenance is essentially zero.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 6:25AM
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Okay, so here is the quote! 11$ per square foot, for white cedar shingles with a double coat of stain applied in the factory, garanteed for 15 years 9stain) and 50 years (shingle).
Very high cost. And it is not installed at this cost lol But you are right the look and the quality is so different than vinyl, what I might just do is having the clapboard removed this summer, do the insulation job, prep it so it can past winter easily and then next summer do the siding.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 11:09AM
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