When it comes to choosing the roofing material for your home, there are plenty of possibilities. Traditional asphalt shingles, metal flat roofs, TPO and slate offer unique aesthetics, durability and different parameters, but in regions like the Midwest, where weather conditions can vary drastically, selecting a material that withstands the elements is crucial. Among these choices, cedar roofing stands out for its natural beauty and resilience. But with its unique characteristics and considerations, you may ask yourself: is cedar a good roofing material?
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Why is Cedar Used in Roofing?
Cedar is a popular in roofing industry for several reasons. First of all, it’s appearance is just attractive – it’s natural, and it ages in a graceful way. Although beauty is a relative thing and everyone has their own taste, a relatively small proportion of homeowners are forgoing cedar roofs for aesthetic reasons. On the other hand, many of our customers choose this material primarily due to the sheer fact that it is natural wood, in addition, available in a variety of colors.
In addition to aesthetic aspects, premium grade cedar also has very good mechanical properties. Thanks to naturally occurring oils and resins, this species of wood shows water resistance, durability against UV radiation and temperature changes for many years. Of course, regular maintenance involving cleaning and waterproofing is essential, especially if you want many years of trouble-free use of your cedar roof.
Third, cedar is lightweight – like all wood, it has a much lower density than slate and metal. This is a good feature, because you can use this material on virtually any roof, without worrying about the structural load-bearing capacity of the entire house. The low density is, of course, due to the presence of air bubbles enclosed inside the wood itself, and this is very good news, because you can count on quite good insulation properties of such a roof. There are certainly much better insulators (for example, foams), but changing the roofing material to cedar usually results in lower temperatures in summer and higher temperatures in winter, especially in the attic.
Fourth, cedar is chosen for its tradition, availability and price. 100 years ago, wood was one of the few materials available – aluminum processing was expensive and complicated, and synthetic technologies such as asphalt shingles were at a very early stage of development and were far from perfect. In many places in Chicagoland, such as in Winnetka, cedar roofs are simply the default solution that homeowners have been opting for for many years. Wood is not the cheapest material, and if you have a severely limited budget, you will most likely opt for asphalt shingles or other plastics, but the costs are not at all as high as you might think.
Is Natural Cedar Better Than Synthetic One?
Even 30 years ago, the answer to this question would have been very simple. In the 1990s, the technologies for manufacturing and processing synthetic roofing materials were much less developed, so necessarily, natural wood seemed to be a far better choice. Today, the issue is a bit more complicated.
A definite advantage of natural cedar roofs is their environmental friendliness.
What not to say about synthetic shakes, their production involves the generation of pollution and the use of non-renewable resources such as oil. Natural wood is produced by harvesting trees, and farmers care about their forests, as they grow slowly. Manufacturing of natural cedar shakes is way more sustainable, so if you care about the condition of natural environment, there is only one right choice. Besides, worn-out cedar roof is completely biodegradable, so its environmental impact is much smaller.
As you can guess, synthetic roofs are more durable and last longer – often, they are certified for up to 50 years, as confirmed by manufacturers’ warranties. By comparison, A.B. Edward provides a 20-year transferable warranty on its roofs made of natural shakes. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re in for immediate replacement after that time, but in most cases, cedar’s lifespan is around 30 years.
Although the technologies for manufacturing synthetic shakes are highly developed, we still see clear differences. Unfortunately, natural cedar shake roofs in Winnetka and the surrounding area are geared to the changing climate which causes fading and curving of the wood, a result of constant soaking and drying in the sun. This may be a drawback for some people, but if you care about natural aesthetics, don’t even think about it – synthetic cedar will never look exactly like a real wood.
Which to choose? In our opinion, natural cedar shakes are a good choice if you realize the need for more frequent maintenance and care about the environment. If you are looking for a roof that you won’t have to think about at all, rather opt for synthetic one. Of course, we handle the installation of both solutions!
Is Natural Cedar Cheaper Than Synthetic Shakes?
As a general rule of thumb, synthetic cedar will always be cheaper than natural. Depending on a number of factors, price ranges will vary, but in the case of the first option, the cost per sqft should be between $13.00 and $20.00, while natural wood will involve spending between $22.00 and $32.00. Both materials are expensive, although significantly cheaper than, for example, natural slate. Let’s point out, however, from an article on A.B. Edward’s home page, synthetic slate price is not significantly different from the cost of installing cedar shakes.
Are Cedar Shakes Better Than Asphalt Shingles?
For obvious reasons, we won’t compare 3-tab and architectural shingles with natural cedar shakes – these are two completely separate materials with vastly different appearances. However, it is worth remembering that manufacturers such as GAF are increasingly offering products that are designed to imitate wood. Among their advantages are:
- Lower price;
- Higher wind resistance;
- Simpler installation process.
Instead, cedar shakes can persuade through:
- Much better design (they look natural);
- Better insulation properties.
Let’s make this very clear – asphalt shingles such as Garnd Sequia from GAF look very good, but they are far from the total realism that synthetic shakes from DaVinci, for example, give. On the other hand, the cost differences are downright colossal. Both natural and composite cedar are several times more expensive than even the highest grade and most expensive shingles. However, this does not mean that the wood is an irrational choice – it is simply a premium product, dedicated to more demanding customers who are able to pay a little more or are forced to do so.
Summary – Is Cedar a Good Roofing Material?
It is difficult for us to give you definite advice. We can certainly admit that many homeowners in the Chicago area are very happy with their cedar roofs. Although natural wood is more sensitive to the elements and you have to remember to maintain it, it repays you with exceptional beauty and years of durability. If you are able to accept some of the disadvantages of cedar shakes, which are strictly due to their nature, we are sure you will be happy with your purchase, especially if you make it at A.B. Edward.