When it comes to appearances, it’s hard to beat the rustic beauty of a newly installed cedar shingle or cedar shake roof. And as long as you’re willing to invest your time or money in routine maintenance, your cedar roof should maintain its beauty for many years.
The trouble with a cedar roof begins when you begin to neglect regular maintenance. Cedar shingles and shakes, like asphalt, are susceptible to rotting and moss growth, especially if they’re in a shaded area. If you allow leaves and other debris to collect on your cedar roof, this debris traps moisture and speeds up the decaying process.
While moisture can wreak havoc to your untreated cedar roof, the sun is cedar’s other enemy – its UV rays can cause your cedar shingles and shakes to crack, which will eventually lead to leakage.
Most experts recommend treating your cedar roof with a chemical preservative every three to six years, especially in moist climates like Vancouver Island’s. Depending on the slope and condition of your roof, this can be a slippery and dangerous job. If you plan to hire a professional to perform this maintenance, you should consider this ongoing cost when comparing quotes for various roofing options.
Like their asphalt counterparts, cedar shingles and shakes come with a wide range of warranties that don’t necessarily reflect their actual life spans. Even worse, these “warranties” are often pro-rated, meaning the older your roof is, the less your warranty is worth. (Click here to watch the CBC’s exposé on this unethical practice.)
The durability of cedar depends greatly on the quality of installation, the maintenance performed and the quality of the cedar itself.
Almost all cedar shingles and shakes manufactured today come from second-growth cedar, which is highly inferior to the cedar roofs of yore. In fact, one recent batch of “40-year cedar shingles” installed in the Comox Valley needed to be replaced in less than 10 years, at great expense to homeowners.
When considering an asphalt roof for your home on Vancouver Island, there are several things to keep in mind:
Aesthetically, cedar is a great look for the West Coast. But that look comes with serious drawbacks.
It's quite telling that one manufacturer of cedar shingles and shakes recommends that its pressure-treated cedar only be used in the southeastern United States (see map).
Vancouver Island has a much different climate than Florida!
Cedar roofs tend to attract moss, which speeds up rot and decay, especially in moist climates like Vancouver Island's. As stated above, these processes can be mostly avoided through regular maintenance, but that maintenance can be expensive, dangerous, and – if nothing else – a major hassle.
With Vancouver Island’s hot, dry summers, fire-resistance is another important consideration. Cedar is highly flammable, and left untreated it’s like kindling on your roof. In fact, cedar roofs continue to be banned in several jurisdictions.
Aesthetically, maybe. In every other way – no!
In Vancouver Island’s climate, the natural beauty of your cedar roof is likely to fade without constant upkeep. Compared to other roofing materials, cedar just doesn’t match up.
The best "bang for your buck" is a permanent metal roof, the most popular of which is known as Ironwood shake.