A premium product that costs more to purchase and install than asphalt shingles, wood shakes are a traditional steep slope roofing application used around the world for steep slope roofs. Though there are many natural alternatives, wood shakes often are selected by architects and consumers for steep slope roofs because of their natural appearance and to help a structure blend into a particular landscape.
Wood shakes used for steep slope roofing in the United States are sawn or split primarily from western red cedar because of its straight grain, stability, low weight, impenetrability to fluids and natural decay resistance. Cypress and redwood have similar properties but are used less frequently as wood shakes because of decreasing supplies.
Wood shakes used on steep slope roofs have several limitations, such as susceptibility to rot, splitting, warping, insects and fire.
Wood shakes used on steep slope roofs also attract water to their surfaces, leading to swelling of the wood. Wet-dry cycles cause compression and tension stresses that can lead to cracks in wood shakes.
However, wood shakes do have some advantages over other steep slope roofing materials, including ability to withstand high winds and hail damage.
Good, thick wood shakes can last up to 30 years, depending on the climate and maintenance.
Because they are a natural product, wood shakes require more maintenance than other steep slope roofing products in order to extend their lives and make them more cost-effective.
It’s vital to keep steep slope roofs covered in wood shakes clear of leaves and other debris to allow water to drain away and to inhibit wet-dry cycles.