The Ultimate Guide to Cedar Shakes and Shingles


Cedar shakes and shingles are a beautiful and traditional roofing material that have been used on roofs dating back to the beginning of the 19th century when early American settlers used them as their primary source of roofing materials.

Split from the cedar found in Canada and the northwest and northeast regions of the U.S., cedar shakes created a sustainable and accessible way to create a roof that was protected from the elements and added a layer of protection against rain, snow, and wind.

Cedar shakes have a rough side that retains the rustic look of natural hand-split cedar with the other side sawn to help it lay flat against the roof. Cedar shingles are sawn on both sides to create a more uniform appearance and make installation easier.

Cedar shakes and shingles are often manufactured with machines today, but they were originally hand-split with an ax or saw making them accessible to settlers. Cedar shakes feature rich depth and dimension along with variegated color that resulted from natural wear and weathering.

While actual cedar is a common material for cedar shakes, they can also be made from other types of wood, including redwood or pine, each with their own longevity and maintenance concerns. Unfortunately, natural cedar shakes and shingles come with a range of downsides that make them a difficult material to keep up with for modern housing needs.

Wood Cedar Shakes And Shingles

Natural cedar shakes and shingles have an authentic look that transports the design to a simpler time, but maintaining a wood roof isn’t simple. Despite lower upfront cost, the costs to maintain a wood roof add up over time and require protective treatments to lower the risk of fire, pests, and algae as well as prevent the roof from buckling, rotting, or burning.

Cedar roofs have a long lifespan, and can last 30 years or more with proper and regular maintenance. A well-cared for cedar shake roof can stand up to harsh weather conditions, and cedar shakes are naturally impact-resistant.

Pros Of Wood Cedar Shakes And Shingles

  • Resistant to weather damage - A properly maintained wood roof is resistant to cracking and breaking as a result of the elements.

  • Impact resistant - Unlike slate or clay tiles that can break, chip, or flake upon impact, natural wood is unlikely to split or crack upon impact if it’s been property maintained. If it hasn’t and is brittle or already weak, then an impact could cause damage.

  • Traditional look and feel - If you want your house to maintain a traditional feel of early American buildings, then wood shingles and shakes can help you achieve that. It’s important to keep in mind that, as an original building material, wood was used out of necessity as there were few options for roof protection at the time.

  • Lower upfront cost - Wood cedar shake and shingles have a lower upfront cost than synthetic because natural cedar is less expensive than synthetic cedar shakes.

  • Sustainable - Made from natural materials and fully recyclable at the end of the roof’s life, wood shakes and shingles are a sustainable roofing material.

Cons Of Wood Cedar Shakes And Shingles

  • Fire risk - Because of the fire risk associated with wood cedar shakes and shingles, they are prohibited in the building codes of many jurisdictions.

  • Higher lifetime cost - Even though the upfront cost to install a natural cedar shake roof is lower than installing a synthetic cedar shake roof, the maintenance costs add up over the life of the roof. Most contractors recommend treating or cleaning a natural cedar shake roof every 5-7 years.

  • Risk of algae growth - Wood absorbs water, which encourages the growth of algae, mold, and mildew.

  • Prone to warping and rotting - Because wood is absorbent, even with regular maintenance and its naturally water-resistant qualities, it can absorb water and then warp or rot. If there are cracks in the wood that result from an impact or the natural expansion and contraction of wood as a result of moisture and temperature fluctuations, water can seep into the cracks, which increases the likelihood of warping or rotting.

  • Require specialized installation - Natural wood cedar shakes typically require specialized installation.


The initial cost of installing a cedar shake roof is between $18,000 and $20,000, which breaks down to between $600 and $670 per square. Maintenance costs can add an additional $1,000 each year to keep the roof in good shape and avoid larger issues down the road like leaks, cracks, mold, and rot.


The costs to maintain a wood roof can add up over time. Maintenance includes:

  • Cleaning and inspecting the roof regularly.

  • Removing overhanging branches to decrease shaded areas where mold can grow.

  • Gutter maintenance so water can flow away from the roof freely.

  • Power washing every few years to remove moss, debris, lichens, and weaker wood.

  • Replacing broken, rotten, or cracked shingles to decrease the places where moisture or pests can get in.

  • Applying preservatives over the life of the roof, typically every 3-5 years after the initial treatment and a few months after installation. Protective treatments may need to be applied as often as every year. These include fire repellents, fungicides, and algaecides.

Vinyl Cedar Shakes

Vinyl cedar shakes are an affordable alternative to both wood and synthetic cedar shakes, but what they offer in affordability they lack in other areas.

Pros Of Vinyl Cedar Shakes

  • Mimic the look of wood cedar shakes - Vinyl cedar shakes give the appearance of wood cedar shakes.

  • Relatively long lifespan - Properly maintained, vinyl siding can last for up to 40 years and in some cases even 60 years or more.

  • Low-maintenance - Vinyl cedar shakes are low-maintenance and easy to clean.

  • Wide range of color options - Available in a wide range of colors, vinyl shakes can enhance the aesthetic of the home.

Cons Of Vinyl Cedar Shakes

  • Don’t appear as authentic - Vinyl shakes can mimic the look of cedar shakes, but they don’t offer the authentic look and feel that other materials would.

  • Prone to fading - The color of vinyl shakes can fade over time, especially in areas that are exposed to sunlight causing an uneven appearance on the roof of the home.

  • Difficult to replace - Vinyl shakes are installed in an interlocking layering pattern which makes it difficult to replace individual shakes if they become damaged.

  • Low fire resistance - Because of their low fire resistance, some building codes won’t allow vinyl cedar shakes, and they could leave the home vulnerable in case of fire.

  • Not as impact-resistant as other materials - A hail storm or fallen branch can mean damaged vinyl shakes that will leave the roof vulnerable to moisture which could lead to leaks, mold, and a weakening of the underlying structure.


A vinyl cedar shake roof costs between $450 and $600 per square installed, making them less expensive than both wood and synthetic cedar shakes. This may be a good option if you’re on a budget, but be sure to factor in their lifespan and maintenance costs.


Vinyl cedar shakes are low-maintenance. They require periodic washing or spraying down with a hose. Any broken, cracked, damaged, or missing vinyl shakes should be replaced immediately.

Synthetic Cedar Shakes

Brava synthetic cedar shakes and shingles are crafted with a blend of 100%-recycled compressed plastics, natural minerals, and binders to form a durable and sustainable composite cedar shake that rivals natural materials. Our range of colors and realistic look and feel make our Cedar Shakes stand out while standing up to harsh weather and years of use as they protect your home and the people inside it.

Pros Of Synthetic Cedar Shakes

  • Authentic look and feel - Our Cedar Shakes are made with molds cast from hand-split Western Red Cedar shakes. This gives them an authentic look and feel without the repetitive pattern that can make some synthetic shakes look manufactured.

  • Incredibly durable - We use state-of-the-art compression technology to create the strongest shake available. Synthetic cedar shakes can stand up to wind, hail, rain, snow, and ice.

  • Fire resistant - Our Cedar Shakes come with a Class A fire rating, the highest level of fire resistance to create a safe environment.

  • Don’t require specialized installation - Any professional roofing company can install our synthetic shingles, making installation costs less expensive.

  • Impact resistant - A Class 4 impact rating means that these synthetic cedar shakes can stand up to impacts from hail and debris without splitting or cracking.

  • Won’t become brittle or rot - Wood tends to become brittle and rot over time, but synthetic shakes don’t dry out or absorb water, meaning they will maintain the same look and feel over the life of the roof and won’t become brittle or rot.

  • Fully sustainable - Our goal is to keep used building materials out of landfills, so we continually work on our manufacturing process to get us closer to this goal. Our Cedar Shake is fully recyclable and all of our products use recycled materials.

  • Superior color options - Wood cedar shakes can be stained and sealed to achieve the look you want, however the color can fade over time and stain will need to be reapplied. Brava Cedar Shakes are colored throughout with variegated colors achieved without proprietary multi-coloring process. We offer nine hues that are inspired by nature, but you can also customize a color so the cedar shakes are exactly the right fit for the roof and aesthetic.

  • Long-lasting - Synthetic roofing materials can last up to 50 years with little to no maintenance throughout its life.

Cons Of Synthetic Cedar Shakes

  • Inauthentic look - Some synthetic cedar shake shingles are molded in a way that makes them look inauthentic and manufactured. They can also look too shiny which makes them look like a cheap replica.

  • Higher initial cost - Synthetic cedar shakes can cost more than a natural cedar shake roof, but this higher initial cost is offset by the fact that there are few maintenance costs over the life of the roof.


Brava Cedar Shakes cost between $1,100 and $1,800 per square. This is slightly more expensive than non-fire treated non-synthetic cedar shakes, but there are no maintenance costs over the life of the roof. Plus, synthetic cedar shakes have a lifespan of over 50 years compared to a 25-year lifespan for wood roofing materials.


After installation, a synthetic cedar shake roof doesn’t require any maintenance for the life of the roof. You’ll likely want to remove debris or branches from the roof for aesthetic reasons, but they won’t have the negative impact that they would have on a wood roof, namely allowing water to pool or seep in and restricting the roof’s ability to dry.

Brava Synthetic Cedar Shakes and Shingles Are The Right Choice

Even though natural wood cedar shakes and shingles create a beautiful roof reminiscent of days gone by, that features the natural variegation and weathering, they come with a significant number of disadvantages, namely that they are prone to crack and warp and are not as fire resistant as synthetic roofing materials.

Brava Cedar Shake Roofing gives you the beauty and natural color variation found in wood shakes and shingles but without the downsides. Their natural look ensures that they appear authentic and because there is no maintenance and maintenance costs, you can rest easy knowing your home and family are protected.

Contact the experts at Brava today to explore our synthetic Cedar Shake roofing options for your home.