Shake roofs are renowned for their aesthetics, pleasing fragrance and durability. They have been around for centuries and are one of the original roofing materials in North America. This section is dedicated to the basics of cedar and pine shake roofs, which you should consider if you are planning on installing a new shake roof, or purchasing a home with one.
A 15lb x 18” asphalt-saturated roofing felt is installed over the roof decking and interwoven with the shakes. That felt is not designed to be exposed to the elements, and UV light causes felt deterioration.
Over time shakes will lose their integrity, some will crack and even fall out. When they do, felt will be exposed and will eventually deteriorate to the point where the roof decking can be seen. Bare roof decking is problematic, it can lead to interior water damage and premature roof replacement.
Periodic roof maintenance, removal of tree debris, and trimming of excessive overhanging trees will extend the lifespan of the roof and stave off premature replacement of the roof. If roofs are not cleaned of debris, it can build up and promote areas of moss or mold which will slow down the roof’s ability to shed water. This keeps the shakes wetter longer, which can lead to premature rotting of the butts of the shakes.
Many homeowners believe that a new roof is needed when moss is visible, when in reality, maintenance to remove and replace the deficient shakes, clearing and checking the valleys, and a good cleaning will keep damage from occurring and will allow the shakes to breathe and stay dry.
In regards to staining and sealing a shake roof, staining is fine for curb appeal but adds no real value to preserving the roof itself. Sealing a shake roof should never be done as this will keep the shakes from getting the air they need to stay dry.
Many shake roof homeowners were never told they needed to maintain their roof in order for it to reach its potential lifespan of 40 to 50 years. The best way to prevent leak damage is to maintain the roof on a regular basis, and if you have a leak, call a professional roofer.