Pros and Cons of Wood Roofs

A wood roof

Roof replacement is a relatively huge home project and is not something you can quickly backtrack if you make a mistake. If you’re planning to go with a wood roof, it’s crucial to do extensive research before committing. And the best way to check if this is the right roofing material for your home is by learning the pros and cons of wood roofing.

Regardless of the type of roof you choose, it’s important to know whether you can live with the drawbacks or if the benefits are enough for you to turn a blind eye to the disadvantages.

What is a Wood Roof?

What is a wood roof? Well, it is a roof made of wood, and this article details the pros and cons of wood roofs.

Keeping up with tradition is what makes some homeowners choose to go with wood roofing. Some people prefer wood for its unique look and the rustic appeal it gives a home. For hundreds of years since the colonial settlers came to America, wood roofing has proven to be one of the most durable and preferred roofing options. That is, until the development of recent roofing materials like synthetic slate.

There are two methods for installing wood roofs. The first involves the traditional wood shingle, and the other uses the more contemporary wood shake roof.

You should opt for wood shakes if you want a more rugged appearance with uneven texture and thickness. On the other hand, wood shingles are more uniform and less expensive. In a nutshell, the traditional shingles have a more consistent look, while a contemporary wood shake has a more textured and rustic appeal.

Pros of Wood Roofs

close up of cedar shakes on roof
Photo Credit: Boatbuilder / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The advantages of wood roofs are very much dependent on what they’re made of — whether shingles or shakes. Below is the list of benefits you’ll get from choosing either of the two types.


Whether you use shingles or shakes, they both offer a unique and rustic look to any home, increasing its curb appeal. This type of roof has a noticeable organic feel as it slowly changes color with age. It usually begins with a light brown color and ages into a dark brown shade, sometimes even becoming silver-gray.


Most homes today either have metal or asphalt roofing or even slate tiles. Installing a wood roof is not a common choice, so you’ll stand out amongst the crowd or the neighborhood. Additionally, the wood themselves have different patterns and grains, which gives each wood roofing a unique look.

Energy Efficiency

Insulation comes naturally with this type of material. A wood roof can help lower your energy bills by helping keep your home cool during summer or warm during winter. And if you want to take it further, you can install additional insulation underneath the wood shingles.

Easy Installation

Unlike other roofing types, such as slate roofs, installing a wood roof is pretty easy. It follows the same method as installing any type of shingle or tile roofing. However, it can end up being quite tedious if your wood shingles are quite small and you have to cover hundreds of square feet of roofing.

Wind Resistance

A wood roof offers good resistance to wind, able to withstand wind speeds of up to 245 mph. If you’re living in an area usually battered by strong winds, we recommend going for wood shakes rather than wood shingles. Because shakes are split along the grain, the sides can better resist these elements.

Impact Resistance

Compared to the more expensive slate tiles, wood is more durable when it comes to impact damage. In fact, you can walk on a wood roof without fear of breaking the shingles. Wood shingles have a Class 4 impact resistance rating, able to sustain an impact from a 2-inch ball dropped from a height of 20 feet.


A wood roof doesn’t require additional structural support for a home because it’s relatively lightweight compared to slate and asphalt shingles. Being that they are lightweight, they have lower installation costs since transporting wood shingles is easier.

Cons of Wood Roofs

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Similar to the pros, the drawbacks of wood roofs also rely on the specific material you’re using. Here are the disadvantages you should know – whether you’re going for wood shakes or wood shingles.


Wood has a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years. Centuries ago, this was considered a lengthy lifespan for a roof. But with the availability of other roofing materials with better longevity today, it has become a wood roof’s disadvantage.


While the price of wood roofing is comparable to other types, what makes it a drawback is that it doesn’t have the same longevity as other roofing materials. Even if you can somehow lower the overall cost because it’s lightweight and easy to install, wood shingles can sometimes end up being double the cost of asphalt shingles.

Vulnerability to Fire

Even with the use of a fire-resistant coating, wood shingles and shakes are still not entirely fire-resistant. Some areas prone to wildfires even ban wood roofing for safety purposes. Some homeowners are able to meet certain fire codes, though, by using spray-on fire retardants and pressure treatments.

Susceptibility to Moisture

Staining or painting a wooden roof doesn’t automatically make it impervious to moisture. As with any wood installation like wooden fences, moisture can still eventually seep into it, causing the wood to warp or swell. This can lead to a variety of other problems, such as leaks, water damage, mildew growth, and mold infestation.

Prone to Insects

Wood attracts certain insects because it’s their natural habitat and a good source of food as well. So if you’re living in an area commonly infested by termites and other wood-boring insects, it’s best to avoid wood roofing altogether.

High Maintenance

Regular and proper maintenance is crucial for any wood roofing. Without the right treatment, moisture and cold weather can easily make this natural material weak, causing the occurrence of most of the drawbacks mentioned above.

Types of Wood Roofs

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The different types of wood roofs available today vary greatly, and they can be quite overwhelming. But to make things easier, it would be best to stick with the six most popular types of wood roofs.

  1. Cedar singles: Since it comes from cedar wood, expect to have a variety of colors to choose from. They are also very stable and don’t shrink as much.
  2. Cedar shakes: It’s pretty much the same as cedar shingles since it also comes from cedar wood. However, it has a more rustic look – thanks to its variety in texture.
  3. Teak shingles: Teak wood was once used to build ships, so it’s easy to imagine how durable it is. It’s very stable and naturally resistant to water. There are limited color options, though.
  4. Pine shakes: If you want a lighter color for your wood roofing, pine shake is one of your better options. However, it requires additional chemical treatments to prevent bug infestation.
  5. Wallaba shingles: For your roof to stand out, you can use wallaba shingles. It’s a bit rarer than cedar or teak. But compared to cedar, wallaba requires less maintenance and is great for those in the tropical region.
  6. Composite shingles: Also known as synthetic wood, a composite shingle helps your home achieve the same aesthetic without the usual drawbacks of real wood material, such as vulnerability to fire.

Cost of a Wood Roof

The overall cost of your roofing project is largely affected by the type of shingle roof you choose. For instance, the amount you have to pay for the labor is influenced by the weight of the material, making the heavier ones more costly. Fortunately, since wood is lighter than other types like slate, clay, or metal roofs, you can significantly reduce installation and labor costs.

The average cost of a wood roof per square can go between $700 to $935. If you’ll be installing a cedar shake roof, you can expect the average cost to be $1,100 per square or $11 per square foot. Determining the overall amount you have to shell out will depend on other factors as well, such as the size of the roof, the pitch and angle, and the complexity of the design.

How Do You Know if a Wood Roof is Right for You?

Whether you’re already decided to have a wood roof installed or are still on the fence about it, think about these things before making your decision:

  • Location: A wood roof is more suitable for areas not prone to fire. You can reap even more of its benefits if you’re also living in a place that is less humid. While treatments can help make it tougher against fire and moisture, remember that these are still part of its natural weakness.
  • Price: If you don’t have a sizable budget to allocate for this home improvement project, a wood roof is one of your best options since it’s not as costly as other types.
  • Style: Going for a rugged and more rustic look? A wood roof can help you achieve this, especially if you’re planning to have your home rented out as a bed and breakfast cabin.
  • Insulation: If one of your priorities for your new roof is to cut down on energy bills, a wood roof is a good choice because it has natural insulation. Combined with other insulating materials, it can make your home’s temperature cozy and comfy – even during winter and summer.
  • Home ownership: Are you going to live at the house for more than 30 years? If so, then there may be better choices than a wood roof, as you will have to replace it every 20 years or so.

FAQ About the Pros and Cons of Wood Roofs

Is wood a good material for roofing?

It all depends on your priority. If you’re going for a rough and hewn aesthetic, then wood is one of your best options. It’s also very energy efficient and durable. However, it wouldn’t be a good material for you if you’re not ready for the added cost of maintenance or if you’re living in a fire-prone area in Western states like California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Wood roofing would be better for homes in the Northeast U.S. like New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Pennsylvania.

Can you pressure wash a wood roof?

It’s not recommended to pressure wash a wood roof. While wooden shingles are tested to resist severe impact damage, it doesn’t mean they can entirely withstand a pressure washer – especially when set to a high setting. If you still decide on pressure washing your wood roof, it can end up with long-term damage that can snowball into other home issues.

Do wood shingles need to be sealed?

Yes, the roofing shingles must be sealed if you want your roofing system to last for a long time. While wood shingles have natural insulation and resistance to elements, you can strengthen them further by applying stain or clear waterproofing treatment. In fact, staining it even allows you to customize it and enhance its natural beauty.

Take the Next Step Toward Installing a Wood Roof

With this list of pros and cons of wood roofing, you should now be able to decide better if this is the right type of roofing material for you. Not only will you be able to get your money’s worth, but you’ll feel more at home knowing that you’re living under a roof that you confidently chose. Ready to go rustic with your roof? Connect with local roofing contractors to get the project started.

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Melanie Joseph

After discovering her passion for writing through her beauty blog, Melanie left her engineering job in California, became a writer, and never once looked back. When she isn't writing, she loves dipping in the pool, tending to the garden, or doing simple home improvement projects.