Not All Shakes Are Equal
I went to a call recently that was very alarming. I took a look at a potential client’s roofing in Vienna, Northern Virginia; 11 years ago, this homeowner had a nice new cedar shake roof installed that was supposed to last 20 years or more. As I walked in the back, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The cedar shakes were so rotted that they were falling off of her roof! What would cause this to happen, you ask? The first problem was that the roofing company that installed the roof did not use a treated shake. Many people do not know the difference between types of shakes, and many contractors will take advantage by using cheaper materials while advertising the product as “the best”. A prominent roofing company in the Northern Virginia area installed this particular roof, making matters worse—in two weeks, it was the second call I had been on about roofing gone bad by this same company.
A note of caution: do your homework before selecting any materials for your roof, but particularly in the case of specialized roofing such as cedar shakes or slate roofing. I urge you to check back to this blog and other articles for information before the estimator arrives so that you have a sense of what to look for and potential problems.
What To Look For in Cedar Shakes
Most pressure-treated shakes will be more durable and withstand weather better than non-treated shakes. While practically all cedar shakes come from the Canadian upper northwest region, all mills that make these shakes are not the same. We use Blue Label CCA shakes. With these, you will see very consistent cut markings and symmetry in the cuts. While thicknesses will indeed vary, you will see more consistency here as well. Now buying the best shakes is one thing, and having a competent installer is critical. However, if you have a house situated in an area not optimal for natural materials, you should avoid cedar shakes altogether. The number one enemy of cedar roofing is moisture. Twigs, leaves, and debris can act like sponges, trapping water and holding it against the shake. The Vienna house I mentioned above is in a heavily wooded area that keeps the shakes moist and shaded from the sun. Therefore, cedar shake is not a good fit for this house, and the previous roofer should not have recommended it. Fortunately, we at Dominion Roofing had an opportunity to help this homeowner and finally give them the roof they deserve.