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The Pros and Cons of a Wood Shake Roof

Close-up of wood shake roof
When their European counterparts were using thatch, tile, and slate for their roofs, the colonists building new homes in what would become America were using wood. With so many trees on hand, wood was a natural choice for most construction. As the National Park Service points out, wood shakes in various sizes, shapes, and patterns came to top roofs in distinctive styles as English, German, Dutch, and Scandinavian populations settled in various areas. Thanks to preservation efforts, wood shake roofs continue to top historic buildings. However, you don’t have to have a historic home to appreciate the appeal of this type of roof. It can look equally attractive atop a modern home. Understanding the pros and cons of a wood shake roof can help you decide if it’s the right choice for your home.

The Pros and Cons of a Wood Shake Roof

Have you been daydreaming about what your home would look like with a wooden roof? As Bob Vila explains, there are two types of wooden roofing. Both types are crafted from cedar, spruce, redwood, cypress, or treated pine. It’s the way that they’re produced that sets them apart. Wood shingles are machine cut to a specific size and tapered for a neater, more regulated appearance. Wood shakes are split for a unique texture and distinctively rustic look. Exploring the pros and cons of a wood shake roof can help you decide whether you should make your vision of a wood roof a reality.

Pro: Curb Appeal

In a place where asphalt shingles are everywhere, installing a wood shake roof is an attractive way to stand out. These roofs begin as light brown, but they shift to silver-gray or dark brown as they age. Whatever their hue, their timeless natural beauty has real curb appeal.

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Con: Fire Resistance

Anyone who has gathered around a campfire or fireplace can guess that a wood shake roof’s natural resistance to fire will be rather limited. However, there are spray-on fire retardants and pressure treatments that can be applied to the shakes to improve a wood roof’s ability to withstand fire.

Pro: Energy Savings

Wood is a poor conductor of heat, so it’s a fantastic insulator. While you can choose to add more insulation, a wood shake roof will keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter with less effort. It’s an easy way to save money on your energy bills.

Con: Vulnerability to Water

Wood is notoriously vulnerable to water. When it gets wet, it can swell, rot, warp, crack, and harbor mold. Some believe that the tendency of wood shakes to swell when wet is a benefit because this tightens your roof in wet weather, reducing the risk of a leak. Others point out that this doesn’t prevent the shakes from harboring moisture, especially on their underside. That hidden moisture can trigger warping and rot.

Pro: Resistance to Wind and Impacts

While it depends on the quality and size of the shakes, most wood roofs offer solid durability. As Roof Hippie reports, they’re generally rated to withstand winds ranging from 173 mph to 245 mph. Plus, wood’s durability means that wood shakes can shake off a lot of impacts without damage. Some shakes even come with a class 4 impact resistance rating, which promises that they’re able to withstand a knock from a 2-inch chunk of ice.

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Con: Susceptibility to Pests

Many insects love organic materials, and wood is certainly organic. Termites, wasps, carpenter bees, and other pests may be attracted to wood shakes, so owners will need to be vigilant.

Pro: Versatility

Wood shakes are available in an almost endless array of options, and they can be installed in countless ways. That makes creating a unique look for your roof easy with wood shakes. It’s also worth noting that wood shakes can be used on virtually any type of roof that rules and regulations will allow. Whether it’s historic or modern, large or small, residential or commercial, shallow or steep, wood shakes are often a possibility.

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Do you have questions about the pros and cons of a wood shake roof? If you’re looking for a company with roof flashing maintenance experience, contact Taylor-Made Roofing. With over 20 years of experience in residential and commercial roofing, Taylor-Made Roofing is a company that you can trust. Our family-owned business offers quality services, a reassuring warranty, and free estimates. For more information regarding roofing options, ice dam prevention, and more, please give us a call at 417-326-8778 or contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!
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