Signs of Trouble: How to Tell if Your Cedar Shake Roof is Bad


Cedar shake roofs can create a beautiful, rustic look on a home, but if a cedar shake roof is in need of replacement, it can quickly turn into an eyesore. Not all cedar shake roof damage is immediately apparent, which is why it’s important to know how to tell if a cedar shake roof is bad.

Understanding the right time to maintain or replace a cedar shake roof can save time and money in the long run by protecting the roof deck, structural beams, and the house itself.

What Are Cedar Shakes?

Cedar shake roof tiles are made by cutting large cedar trees into smaller sections, splitting or sawing them into thin planks, and then cutting them to size. Cedar shakes are typically between 18 and 24 inches long and the thickness varies. Hand-split cedar shakes have a natural, rustic look while sawn shingles are smoother and more finished.

Cedar is naturally rot and insect-resistant and can be treated to increase its fire retardant properties, but it is still banned in the building codes of some jurisdictions. Cedar shakes can last up to 30 years with proper maintenance that includes treating them with fire retardants, fungicides, and water repellant along with periodic staining.

Common Issues With Cedar Shakes

Despite their natural beauty, cedar shakes come with many issues that can be incredibly important for those who have a cedar shake roof. Common issues include:

  • Frequent maintenance requirements

  • Curling or cupping

  • Rot

  • Mold or mildew

  • Insect infestations

  • Exposed fasteners

  • Cracking or splitting

How To Tell If A Cedar Shake Roof Is Bad

Knowing how to tell if a cedar shake roof is bad is essential to protecting the integrity of the roof and the home. Spotting these signs early can help prevent larger issues like leaks or weakened structural support.

Here are a few ways to tell if a cedar shake roof is bad and in need of repairs or replacement:

Moss Is Growing On The Roof

Moss grows in damp, shaded areas and can break down the material that it grows on. Wood is an organic material that can support organic processes like the growth of moss. Moss growth can not only be unsightly, but it can affect how water drains off the roof and will absorb moisture, which breaks down cedar shakes.

Shakes Are Split Or Cracked

Over time and with exposure to moisture, freeze-thaw cycles, and sunlight, cedar shakes contract and expand, which leads them to split or crack, which exposes the underlayment or roof deck to moisture which can lead to mold, mildew, and leaks.

Shakes Are Missing

If a few shakes are missing, especially after a weather event or impact, they should be replaced as quickly as possible, but that doesn’t mean the cedar shake roof is bad. If lots of shakes are missing either from one area or scattered across the roof, it might be time to look for other signs that the roof is bad and consider a full replacement.

Shakes Are Curled, Warped, Or Cupped

Cedar shakes will likely become distorted as they age after years of exposure to wind, sun, snow, and rain. As cedar shakes become curled, warped, or cupped, the protection they offer diminishes, and eventually, will indicate that the roof is bad.

Roof Is Leaking

If you see signs that the roof is leaking, it’s important to address it as quickly as possible. A leaking roof can lead to mold and mildew, rotted structural supports, health hazards, and more. Sometimes leaks are isolated, and the roof just needs to be repaired, but if leaks are widespread, the cedar shakes may need to be replaced with a more durable material.

Composite Cedar Shakes Are The Best Choice When It’s Time To Replace A Cedar Shake Roof

Natural cedar shakes were the go-to roofing material in the late 1800s and early 1900s due to the abundance of cedar and its naturally durable qualities. Today, there are better options that will capture the authentic look of cedar shakes, but without the downsides.

Composite cedar shakes are made with recycled materials and are incredibly strong and durable. Brava Cedar Shakes are cast from hand-split Red Cedar to capture the depth and dimension of the natural material. The beauty of natural cedar is that no two shakes are exactly alike, and Brava has been inspired by the timeless beauty and individuality of authentic cedar shakes.

We use natural minerals to create variegated colors and subtle shifts in hues to create a rich, warm look with no repeating or discernable pattern. Our Cedar Shakes come with a class A fire rating and don't need to be treated for fire resistance. They also have a Class 4 impact rating and can stand up to hail or other impacts.

Contact the experts at Brava today to capture the authentic look of natural cedar shakes!