Replace cedar roof with cedar or more durable material?

repacSeptember 15, 2012

The original cedar shingle roof on our home has finally bit the dust (50+ years). We love the look of cedar, but some say that a new cedar roof won't last as long as the original, it needs maintenance, and it is a fire hazard. Is that true? We're trying to decide if we should just go with cedar anyway, use fire-retardant-treated cedar, Enviroshake, or just go to an asphalt shingle. Not knowing anything about roofing materials, we'd like to know what would others suggest?

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New cedar roofs do not last as long because of the poorer quality of the cedar (generally old growth trees are not being made into cedar shakes). Yes, cedar looks pretty for a couple of years, and then the deterioration and maintenance starts. And yes, they are more flammable than other types of roofs.

After living with cedar roofs for more than 30 years, I vowed that my next house would not have one. I now live in a house that has a standing seam, steel roof that is maintenance free, fireproof, and will be still functioning long after I am.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 12:46AM
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If you look, you'll find mills in Maine, Canada and no doubt other northern states that still produce vey high quality - in some cases hand split - cedar shingles. The only draw back is their (very) high cost.

The fire issue is real. Cedar shingles can be treated to make them highly resistant to fire, however, and this is routinely done by some manufacturers. State and local building codes may require such treatment or even ban cedar shingles altogether. Check with your insurance company, too.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 5:15AM
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If you can find high quality shakes these days, you're lucky. I live in the Pacific NW and paid top dollar for high quality replacement roofs on two occasions, using hand split "heavies"...the thickest shakes you can buy. By the end of 10 years they were substantially deteriorated, unlike the original cedar shake roof that lasted 25+ years. And the problem is, you don't really know what the quality is when you buy them...only years later when you see how long it takes for them to begin to deteriorate.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 5:28AM
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Fori is not pleased

I just replaced my roof with heavy cedar shakes (from Canada I think). They are treated with the fire retardant stuff (California is picky about things like that for some reason). If they last half as long as the ones they replaced, I'll be pleased. They do make the other homes on the block look like they went cheap in comparison even though they didn't.

There are some shake alternatives that look okay on some homes and I guess I would have to see your house before approving of a newfangled roofing material for it. :)

I'm sure other materials are more practical, but that's not everything!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 2:28PM
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Thanks for all the input. I was hoping that everyone would tell me that a cedar roof is wonderful and long-lasting, but better to know the truth!

What about the treated, fire-retardant shingles? Do they last any longer than untreated cedar shingles? This probably sounds incredibly naive, but that's what you're dealing with here . . . someone who knows nothing about roofing (and I wish I could have blissfully gone along without needing an education on this topic).

Are there any cedar roofing materials warranted to last for, say, 20 or 30 years?

Fori, can you tell me of the alternatives that you mentioned? We have a 75 year old Tudor home with brick and cedar siding. You can come out and see my house any time. ;) Do you think any of the alternative materials would suit our home?

I don't know if we're being ridiculous to even consider the cedar roof at this point. We do prefer to keep the house as original as possible, but perhaps we're being as foolish as we were with the garage doors. First we insisted on replacing them with real wood--twice!--which looked great for the first year, then looked awful as the animals gnawed away at them and nature had its way as well. Finally, we replaced them with metal doors which are far more sturdy, have great insulating properties, though not quite as beautiful as new wood doors.

Can you help me make sense of all the choices? Thanks in advance . . .

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 11:05PM
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Debbi Branka

How about a metal roof? We are having a stone coated steel roof installed today - it looks like asphalt shingles, but it's steel and will last longer than we will. The metal roofs also come in shaker style. They don't look like wood close up, but from far away they look nice. The are fireproof, hurricane proof, and will last forever, and you could keep the shake style for your house.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 11:12AM
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Fori is not pleased

Well, I have a low-slung rustic ranch and in my opinion, anything but the real thing or a really good faux shake looks wrong (unless the house has been modernized--I'm in a pretty big 1950s subdivision so I see a lot). I don't get any weather where I live now so I am less concerned about durability than you might be.

But the old Tudors...different story! You want faux slate! :P I've seen some good metal wood-look roofs on Tudors. Since they're taller you don't always get as close as you do on a ranch. But there's always a bit that dips low, where you can see it up close, isn't there? You might need to just drive around and see what others have used that works, or check with a historical district in your area an see what's recommended. Ask the old house forum here at GW. When I was looking at paint options for my Tudor a few homes ago (the POs had roofed it with nasty flat "architectural" shingles so I was stuck there) I drove around Indian Village in Detroit for inspiration--if you have a similarly cool old neighborhood locally, spend some time in it.

(All I can say about the durability of the treated shingles vs untreated is that they'll probably last longer in a fire. Haha you'd hope so at least!)

Do see if you can get any recs at the old house forum. I don't think they'd allow you to misshingle up a cool old house.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 8:22PM
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"If you look, you'll find mills in Maine, Canada and no doubt other northern states that still produce vey high quality - in some cases hand split - cedar shingles. "

Unless they are using old growth trees the starting material is not as good.

And large enough old growth for shingles it worth far more as lumber.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 11:22AM
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How about metal shingles? They might make some that look like shakes. Combine the high material cost of metal with the higher labor of installing shingles.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 3:55PM
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