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How To Clean Cedar Shake Roofs

Cedar Shake Roofing with ridge line

If your home has a cedar shake roof, consider yourself lucky. It’s one of the most beautiful, durable and long-lasting roofs you can have, and it ages well, too, turning from orange into a regal silvery gray over time. But in order to enjoy all the benefits of a cedar shake roof, you’ve got to keep it in good shape with a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule. 

Wondering how to clean cedar shake roofs? We’ve got you covered (pardon the pun). In this blog post, we’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of cleaning a cedar roof, and we’ll tell you what you need to know about a cedar roof’s biggest enemy: moss. Nothing can shorten the lifespan of a cedar shake roof more than this insidious, fast-growing plant.

How Often Should a Cedar Shake Roof Be Cleaned? 

In the absence of moss growth, you can easily go as long as five to ten years between cleanings of your cedar shake roof. But if you have moss, it’s a good idea to drastically shorten the duration between cleanings so as to avoid having moss grow and spread on your cedar roof. Even a yearly cleaning shouldn’t be considered excessive for roofs with moss growth. 

Here are just a few of the reasons why moss is so damaging to a cedar shake roof: 

  • Moss can block rainwater from running off your roof as it should, which can lead to pooling and leaks.
  • Moss naturally absorbs moisture, which means its presence both indicates and leads to standing moisture on your roof.
  • Moss roots grow quickly and strongly, which can damage the structural integrity of cedar shakes.

Cleaning Cedar Shake Roofs: DIY vs Hiring a Professional

Trying to clean moss off of your cedar shake roof isn’t recommended. It’s an intensive process that includes three crucial steps: brushing the moss off your shakes, scrubbing the shakes with a bleach solution to kill the plant, then applying a treatment to prevent regrowth (a major likelihood when it comes to moss). Instead of attempting this process yourself, we recommend you find a roofer with experience removing moss from cedar shake roofs. 

If your roof just needs a general cleaning, it’s possible to do that on your own, as long as you feel safe getting on your roof. The remainder of this blog post will focus on how to clean cedar shake roofs without moss growth.

How Much Does it Cost to Clean a Cedar Shake Roof? 

If you choose to hire a roofing professional to clean your cedar shake roof, you can expect to pay between $0.15 to $0.25 per square foot. Because of the prevalence of moss growth in warm, humid or overly damp climates, you can choose to have a treatment applied that will prevent or stave off regrowth. The cost to have a cedar roof treatment applied can range from $0.50 to $1.00 per square foot. Use Instant Roofer’s roofing calculator to get a good idea for your roof’s square footage, which can give you a ballpark price for having your cedar shake roof cleaned. 

How to Clean Cedar Shake Roofs

If you’re wondering how to clean cedar shake roofs, know that it isn’t an overly difficult process as long as your roof isn’t overrun with moss. Below, we’ll discuss some methods for cleaning cedar shakes and some things you should never do when it comes to cleaning a cedar shake roof as well. 

What To Do

Choose a cloudy or overcast day to clean your cedar shakes to avoid having the sun bake the cleaning solution into the shakes before you have a chance to finish cleaning your roof. Before getting started, ensure you have a sturdy ladder that allows you to reach your roof easily and without reaching too far. Prepare your solution in advance, and have your garden hose handy as well. Gather your supplies and then follow these steps as a method for how to clean cedar shake roofs. 

Supplies needed: ladder, garden hose with spray nozzle, solution of 1:1 bleach and water, bucket, soft brush with long handle.

Step One – spray your roof with the hose to dampen the shakes.

Step Two – dip the brush into the bucket of solution and gently brush the solution onto your shingles, working in sections. 

Step Three – follow up immediately with the hose to avoid leaving any residue on your cedar shakes. 

What Not To Do

There are some things that you should never do when it comes to cleaning a cedar shake roof. Most importantly – don’t ignore it! Regular cleaning and maintenance is essential to extending the lifespan of your cedar shake roof, and that’s especially the case if you have moss growth. So, never neglect cleaning your roof, since this can make a small problem much larger. 

Next, never use a power washer on your cedar shake roof. The water from a power washer comes out much too forcefully, and can cause splitting, warping and stripping. This can drastically reduce the lifespan of your cedar shake roof. Many homeowners see moss growth on their cedar shakes and logically think of blasting it with a power washer. While it’s true that this can get rid of moss, it’ll lead to more damage in the long run, so it’s important to resist this temptation. 

Finally, never use undiluted bleach on a cedar shake roof. When applied without mixing it with water first, bleach can lead to premature aging of your cedar shakes, along with problematic issues like splintering and splitting.

Fact Checked by Christin Perry 6/21/2024