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How long should a cedar shake roof last?

close up of cedar shake shingles

So, you might be wondering how long should a cedar shake roof last, in order to get the most out of your investment. A cedar shake roof gives your home a lovely, traditional look. Often seen in New England, this type of roof hearkens back to simpler times. Cedar shakes overlap and age beautifully, turning from orange into a stunning silvery gray over time. But it’s no secret that a cedar shake roof is pricey! Check out What is a cedar roof? to learn more about general information relating to cedar roofs!

Here, we’ll answer your questions and much more, giving you everything you need to know if you’re considering topping your home with lovely cedar shakes. Go ahead and head over to our Cedar Shake Roofing Cost Calculator to get your free roof estimate and connect with local pros. 

Why are Cedar Shake Roofs So Expensive?

With an average cost between $18,000 and $34,000, a cedar shake roof is no small cost. And the high cost isn’t strictly about the materials either. While cedar is certainly more expensive than asphalt shingles, the labor involved with installing or replacing a cedar shake roof is much more intensive as well. 

Cedar shakes require a particular type of underlayment, so if you’re looking to replace a worn cedar shake roof for another type of material, your contractors might have to replace the entire underlayment of your roof as well as the shakes themselves. Similarly, a new cedar shake roof may require the existing underlayment to be replaced for batten boards (which are used to adhere cedar shakes).

What’s more, each cedar shake is installed by hand, and must be placed in a proper pattern that repeats and overlaps just so. Failure to do this properly can lead to issues like curling and moisture seepage, both of which can shorten the lifespan of your roof. This hand-installation process is very time consuming and will lead to higher labor costs for a cedar shake roof vs other roof types. 

handsawn cedar shingles angled around a roof edge

How Long Does a Cedar Shake Roof Last? 

There are several factors that can affect the lifespan of a cedar shake roof. But in general, a properly installed cedar shake roof can last between 30 and 50 years. Aside from the beautiful aesthetic a cedar roof provides, this healthy lifespan is one of the biggest advantages of this type of roof. Durable and strong, a cedar shake roof can handle storm damage like high winds and hail. 

A cedar shake roof can last longer than asphalt shingles, but not quite as long as more enduring roof types like concrete or slate tile. There are a few things that can affect how long your cedar shake roof will last. 

Factors That Affect The Lifespan of a Cedar Shake Roof

As with any roof, there are some factors that can influence how long your cedar shake roof will last. With the high price tag associated with this type of roof, it’s a good idea to understand how to maximize the lifespan of a cedar shake roof.


While cedar shake roofs can handle just about any climate, there are certain conditions that are likely to shorten the healthy lifespan of a roof of this type. If you live in a climate that sees heavy rain or stays moist all year, eventually this will cause curling in your cedar shakes. Constant snow can have the same effect, since your shakes won’t have time to dry out between weather events. 


When it comes to cedar shake shingles, you’ll often hear the quality of the material referred to as “grade.” There are three grades of cedar shakes, and they vary quite a bit in price and quality. We’ll take a look at each of the three below: 

  • Straight grain. The highest quality cedar shake you can buy, this type is straight-grained when cut, and hand selected to ensure they lay flat on your roof. This resists curling, splitting and warping longer than any other grade of cedar shake. 
  • Common. Considered the lowest grade of cedar shake, common shakes are the leftovers once all the straight grain shakes have been used. While these are by far the most affordable type of cedar shakes, you’ll certainly notice a shorter lifespan than a roof that’s made with straight-grain shakes. 
  • Select. A combination of quality and affordability, this middle-of-the-road shake is made of 80% straight grain and 20% common shakes. It’s the obvious choice for homeowners who want the beauty and durability of a cedar shake roof without the exceptionally high price tag. 


As mentioned above, the installation process for a cedar shake roof is complicated and highly labor intensive. That means you’ll want to find a roofer who has specific experience in installing cedar shake roofs. Poorly installed shakes will certainly reduce the lifespan of your cedar shake roof, and introduce issues like moisture leakage.  


Putting in the time and effort to keep your cedar shake roof clean and well maintained will certainly reward you with fewer repairs and a longer lifespan. It’s recommended you clean your cedar shake roof every 5 to 7 years to keep it in top condition. You can hire a roofing professional to do a deep clean, or you can do this yourself with a gentle soap solution and a soft brush. This keeps the shakes clean and free from buildup of moss, algae and other unsightly things like bird droppings. 

In addition, you can apply a protective treatment more often (about every 1 to 3 years) that can shield your shakes from water and fire damage. Applying a fungicide and algaecide can help reduce the natural buildup of moss and algae. 

old cedar roof with buckling shingles

How to Know When It’s Time to Replace a Cedar Shake Roof

Oftentimes, a simple visual inspection can clue you in to the fact that your cedar shake roof needs to be replaced (either entirely or partially). Key signs of a damaged cedar shake roof are warping, curling and splitting of the shakes, signs of water damage (especially when you see this on the interior of your home), signs of rot, excessive algae growth or places on your roof where shakes are missing entirely. 

If the issues with your cedar shake roof are minor, or isolated to one or a few places, it’s often possible to replace just a few of the shakes rather than replacing your roof entirely. This is one of the reasons why regular inspection and maintenance are so effective at extending the life of your roof. You, or your roofing professional, can identify issues before they become extensive, thus reducing your overall expenses. 

However, if you’re facing a complete replacement of your cedar shake roof, you’ll probably want to get a ballpark idea of how much you’ll spend before hiring a roofing professional. Head over to the Instant Roofer website, where our roof replacement cost calculator can give you an estimate of the replacement cost using the dimensions of your exact roof. 

Fact Checked by Christin Perry 5/24/2024