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Types of Cedar Shingle Roofing & Costs

Cedar is a natural wood that has long-lasting beauty. All varieties of cedar naturally resist the effects of harsh, UV rays and heavy weather conditions. They are also resistant to insect damage from termites. This is particularly helpful for older homes or homes with mature trees on the lot that are prone to termites in the area. Cedar is also fairly resistant to wet rot and has the potential to retain the historical accuracy of a home, as well as increase its overall value. Continue reading to see all the costs and types of this popular roofing option.

The Costs 

  • Minimum Costs: $0.50 per linear foot

  • Maximum Costs: $1.20 per linear foot

Cedar shingles and cedar shakes differ in terms of the labor installation and the course on which they are installed. Cedar shingles are split on one or both sides, and a shingle is usually thinner at the butt end of the wood. Shakes typically follow the grain very closely, and the shingles will be more uniform. A cedar shake roof will typically cost slightly more to install due to additional inspections for waterproofing and measurements. Premium hardwood uses a 100% edge grain. Basic whitewood shingle roofing comes in bundles that start out at approximately $0.50 per linear foot plus labor costs. Hard redwood cedar and high-grade white cedar can cost up to $1.20 per linear foot plus labor costs. This can account for up to $300 per roof square with labor.

Types of Cedar

Red cedar is one of the oldest forms of cedar used in shingle roofing. It is also the go-to choice for historically accurate properties due to its aesthetic appeal. Western red cedar is a thicker and wider variety of shingle that come from old-growth trees. The grain is usually straight, and trimming is fairly easy for roof spans that have a higher pitch. Some premium types of red cedar can have wood grain or sawn styles that create dimension similar to architectural asphalt shingles. The result is a unique pattern applied to the home. Red cedar is also considered more of a hardwood and responds positively to harsher climates.

White cedar has a less-uniform grain and is used for aesthetically unique shingle variations. It is less expensive than western red cedar and may be more environmentally sound by using new-growth tree wood. White cedar comes from an evergreen and is considered a softwood. This softwood variety is also more lightweight and easier to carry for installation purposes. White cedar will have slightly more knots compared to red cedar and will require some additional sorting out of material. Traditionally, white cedar hasn't been used for roofing until recently. The softwood can wick moisture up more easily and result in warping. Newer white cedar material is pressure treated and contains extra chemicals to prevent moisture infiltration.


Cedar roofs require roof flashing like any other roof installation. The difference between cedar and other roof styles is the use of more durable roof flashing. Copper is commonly used as a flashing material between coves and joints in cedar planks. Steel flashing is also used as a lower-cost alternative to copper. Tape flashing is a new form that may be used around dormers around the roof deck. According to the National Roofing Contractors Association, the roof deck will contain step flashing against the wood shake or shingle to prevent moisture infiltration. This is unique to a wood roof because of the expansive nature of wood.

Traditional underlayment can be used for cedar shingles. Many cedar roofs use a ventilating underlayment to increase the life of the shingle. The heat from the sun plus added insulation in the attic can create a hot roof environment that can decrease the lifespan of the roof. Cedar shingles should be as dry as possible before being used on top of the underlying barrier. Steeply pitched roofs such as Cape Cods will make the best candidates for a wood roof. Wood is a moisture-absorbing material by nature, which may require spaced boards over solid sheathing with a ventilating barrier. This provides racking resistance and the reduction of trapped moisture under the shingles.

A cedar roof will need more preparation in addition to the underlayment. If a roof contains oriented strand board, or OSB, the cedar board may require additional bracing because of the moisture-absorbing properties of OSB board. Non-veneer decking usually requires additional barriers and styles of flashing to prevent this moisture migration. The shingles or shakes are placed in between courses of shingles instead of directly on a substrate or roof deck. Older forms of felt roofing may need to be removed to create a more impervious barrier against moisture and additional weather. In colder climates where winters are harsh, skipped sheathing is used to prevent ice dams. An ice dam protection membrane is installed in addition to the spaced wood decking on the roof. Plywood is a common roof decking material that is recommended by the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cedar Shingle Roofing

Cedar shingle roofing is comparable to other siding products on the market. The difference exists on the prep work in treating the product. Most cedar and cedar shake shingles will need to be stained and painted. This can add additional costs as well as future maintenance expenses to keep an aesthetically pleasing look. The cedar wood itself is long lasting, but specific paints and finishes may weather substantially over time. Fire-retarding treatment may also drive up the cost of installation and require additional code requirements for underlayment barriers. Wood can also expand more readily if it is not pressure treated. In some areas, cedar and wooden roof installation is becoming a lost art. Finding the right installer for more premium systems may be difficult, particularly in smaller towns and rural areas.

The Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau has specific rules guarding cedar shingle grade and installation. Homeowners may want to research more into these specific standards before consulting with contractors or supply stores.

Last updated on Jul 16, 2014

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