The Ultimate Guide to Cedar Shakes and Shingles


Cedar shakes and shingles are a well-loved traditional roofing material with a long history. You can find these roofs in countries across the world. This guide will take you through everything you should know about cedar shakes and shingles.

A Brief History of Cedar Shakes

Cedar has been favored since ancient times for the many benefits it offers. Ancient civilizations used the wood to build ships, homes, and temples. It was also often used for religious ceremonies and for healing.

That popularity was also prevalent in North America, with Western Red Cedar pivotal in developing Native cultures. As colonial settlers began to arrive, they, too, turned to cedar and other available woods for construction, taking advantage of the abundance to construct homes and roofs. By the 19th century, cedar shingles and shakes were the main source of roofing material for houses and buildings. Even government buildings in the US and Canada were built with cedar roofs.

Initially, cedar roofing products were hand-split from logs; one side was rough and textured, while the other was sawn down to create a smoother surface for easier installation. Today, cedar shakes are manufactured using machine technology to meet demands. These machines are designed to maintain that authentic hand-split appearance while producing larger quantities.

Climate Considerations for Using Cedar Shakes

If you’re looking to create or install a cedar shake roof, it is important to consider your climate. The reason is, regions with moist, arid conditions are not necessarily the best place for cedar shakes. This weather can prevent the shakes from drying out, which can lead to mold, mildew, and rot.

And although cedar is naturally resistant to water, excessive rainfall, and moisture exposure can increase deterioration. Similarly, excessive sun exposure can lead to UV damage and dry out the shakes too much, leading to cracking and warping.

Climates with freezing temperatures can cause shakes to expand and contract, leading to cracking and splitting. Natural cedar is also not ideal for places prone to fires, like California.

Wood Cedar Shakes and Shingles

Because cedar roofing pays homage to earlier times and adds a natural touch to any home, it is a popular option for those who like the rustic touch and offers a certain level of durability. Still, it is important to consider the pros and cons before installing a cedar roof.

Pros of Cedar Shakes and Shingles

  • Cedar is relatively resistant to weather damage; it won't break work cracks from exposure if properly maintained.

  • Cedar is less likely to suffer damage from impacts if it is well-maintained.

  • Cedar shingles offer a more traditional look and feel.

  • Cedar can have a lower upfront cost compared to alternative materials.

  • It is an eco-friendly, sustainable material that is recyclable at the end of the product's lifespan.

Cons of Cedar Shakes and Shingles

  • Cedar shingles pose a fire risk and, as a result, are prohibited in many places.

  • The lifetime cost of having a cedar roof is significant due to the cost of maintenance and installation. Roofs need treatment and cleaning every five to seven years.

  • Untreated cedar can absorb moisture, leading to algae growth.

  • Moisture can also lead to warping and rotting, especially without the proper maintenance and treatment. If water gets into any cracks and freezes during the winter, it can also cause cracks.

  • A certified cedar roof professional must install natural cedar shakes.

Cedar Shake Costs

The upfront cost to install a cedar roof is between $18,000 and $20,000, which translates to around $600 to $670 per square foot. Then, there is the maintenance cost, which can add up to $1,000 every year.

Cedar Shake Maintenance

As mentioned above, maintaining a cedar shake roof costs up to $1,000 annually. This maintenance involves many things:

  • Regular cleaning and inspections

  • The removal of overhanging branches to eliminate shaded areas where mold can take hold

  • Gutter maintenance to ensure water can quickly move away from the roof

  • Careful power washing can remove moss, lichens, and weaker pieces of wood. This should be done every few years.

  • Replacing any broken, rotten, or cracked shingles

  • Applying specialized preservative treatments every three to five years ensures the roof's longevity. Protective treatments like fire repellents, fungicides, and algaecides must be applied at least once a year to maintain their effectiveness.

Characteristics to Look for In Cedar Shakes and Shingles

When you’re looking to purchase cedar shakes or cedar shingles, here are a few of the characteristics you want to make sure they have:

  • A rustic appearance, with each piece looking slightly different

  • A thick, durable material made from a premium wood or other material

  • A flexibility in terms of design (exterior color options)

Cedar Shakes and Shingles Alternatives

Vinyl Cedar Shakes

Vinyl offers an affordable alternative to natural cedar shakes and other alternative materials.

Pros of Vinyl Shakes

  • It mimics the look of natural cedar.

  • If properly maintained, vinyl shakes can last anywhere from 40 to 60 or more years.

  • Vinyl shakes are relatively low maintenance, mostly requiring the occasional cleaning.

  • Vinyl shakes come in many different colors.

Cons of Vinyl Shakes

  • While they mimic the look of cedar, it isn't authentic.

  • The color of the shakes will fade over time, especially when exposed to sunlight.

  • It can be difficult to replace damaged shakes due to the interlocking nature of the product.

  • They offer a low fire rating, which means their usage is restricted. Some building codes will not allow for their use.

  • Vinyl shakes are not impact resistant; damage will make your roof vulnerable to moisture damage.

Vinyl Cedar Shake Cost

Vinyl cedar roofing can cost anywhere from $450 to $600 per square foot. This makes them a good option for homeowners on a budget, but you also want to factor in maintenance and the lifespan.

Vinyl Cedar Shake Maintenance

As said before, vinyl shakes are low maintenance. You will want to spray them down with a hose to remove debris gently. You also want to immediately replace any broken or damaged pieces to minimize the risk of damage.

Synthetic Cedar Shakes

Brava synthetic cedar shakes are another option worth considering. These shakes are composed of a blend of recycled plastics, minerals, and binders, creating an extremely durable roofing product you can recycle at the end of its life. There are numerous benefits to Brava's products that are worth considering.

Brava synthetic cedar shakes are another option worth considering. These shakes are composed of a blend of recycled plastics, minerals, and binders, creating an extremely durable roofing product you can recycle at the end of its life. There are numerous benefits to Brava's products that are worth considering.

Pros of Brava Shakes

  • Realistic Appearance: Brava shakes have an authentic look and feel, courtesy of molds cast from hand-split Western Red Cedar shakes. This method ensures there is variance in the patterns, adding to the authentic look.

  • Durability: Brava uses state-of-the-art technology to compress the materials in the shakes to ensure the strongest product possible. These shakes offer the highest fire and impact resistance and withstand strong winds, snow, and ice.

  • Fire Resistant: Brava offers Class C and Class A fire ratings, with Class A being the highest rating possible.

  • Easy Install: Brava's synthetic cedar shakes do not have any specific or specialized installation requirements. Any reputable roofing company can install the products with ease.

  • Impact Resistant: These shakes have a Class 4 impact rating, the highest impact rating possible.

  • No Brittleness or Rotting: Synthetic shakes do not dry out, so they won't become brittle. They also don't hold moisture, so there are no concerns about rotting, mold, or algae growth.

  • Sustainable: Brava aims to keep trash out of landfills, and manufacturing processes are geared towards this. Brava products use 100% recycled products and are 100% recyclable.

  • Color Options: Unlike other products, Brava uses advanced, patented coloring technology to ensure each shake is colored all the way through. They come in many colors and hues that never chip or fade. Customization is another option if the available colors aren't to your liking.

  • Long Lasting: Synthetic roofing materials like Brava can last up to 50 years, only requiring seasonal cleanings.

Cons of Synthetic Shakes

  • They Can Look Fake: Cheaper brands can use low-quality production methods that result in products that seem fake.

  • High Upfront Cost: Synthetic cedar shingles and shakes can cost more upfront than traditional cedar roofing, though the cost is offset by the fact that a synthetic roof is low maintenance.


Brava's synthetic shakes can cost between $1,100 and $1,800 per square foot. It is more expensive than non-fire-treated natural shakes, but almost all maintenance requirements are eliminated. Aside from cleaning them, you won't have to do anything to ensure a 50-year or more lifespan.


Once installed, synthetic shakes do not require any maintenance, which is required for natural shakes. Leaves and other debris will not cause harm; they will just look unattractive, so you'll want to clean them off and rinse the shakes every so often.

Best Colors for Cedar Shakes and Shingles

With natural cedar shakes, there is no shortage of color options. You can choose between natural finishes, opaque coatings, semi-transparent stains, and oils. Synthetic shakes can be painted with various colors, from natural hues to more unique options. This wide array of options makes pinpointing the "best" color options difficult. The choice largely depends on your preferences and where you live.

Natural wood tones are extremely popular, with darker tones popular in cooler climates and lighter tones popular in moderate to warmer climates.

Synthetic Shakes Are the Way to Go

Despite the beauty of natural cedar shakes and shingles, many disadvantages exist. The cost, the maintenance requirements, and their proneness to warping, cracking, and rotting are just a few. You also have to consider that natural shakes are banned in many areas because of the fire hazard they pose.

Brava Cedar Shake Tiles give you the beauty of cedar shake shingles without any disadvantages. They replicate the real thing down to each shake's color variation while eliminating maintenance costs. With Brava, you can rest assured that your family is well protected, and your roof will be beautiful for years to come.

Contact Brava today to learn more about our synthetic cedar shakes.