What Is a Wood Roof?

wood roof

If you’re aiming for a timeless and elegant look, wood roofing is one of your best choices. But beyond its aesthetic appeal, homeowners choose it for its functionality. Did you know that wood has an inherent insulating property? Yes, it can naturally keep your home’s temperature from going extreme – both during summer and winter.

Still, it’s important to know everything about wood roofing to ensure your investment doesn’t go down the drain. Since replacing your roof is not a simple home improvement project, it’s best to understand your options without overwhelming yourself.

What Is a Wood Roof?

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You can see the value of a wood roof by learning about its history.

In the past, our 17th-century settlers had to use thatch made from sea grasses and marsh for their roof, but the harsh winter weather in the Northeast was too much. It didn’t take them long to discover a solution – using wood roofs. By 1650, wooden shingles were used as material for colonial roofs.

Such an approach is incredibly reasonable since timber is very abundant in the United States. And even today, there is no wood scarcity in our country. It’s actually considered a renewable resource because it can be grown again as soon as a tree has been cut down.

You might think a wood shake roof is too archaic, but it’s not. Most homeowners who choose this roofing type enjoy having a unique and rustic look for their home, while others simply love to maintain tradition. And even though contemporary roofing products like asphalt shingles provide a more affordable solution, wood has been a trusted material for years – especially since the right type of wood can offer ample protection and amazing durability.

Wood Shingles vs. Wood Shakes

Before choosing whether to have a shake or shingle roof, you must first pick the type of wood to use. Cedar and pine are just some of the raw materials used for wood roofing. But if you value aesthetics and durability, the premium choice would be a cedar shake roof.

The difference between the two is fairly simple if you base it on their looks. A wood shingle roof has a smooth and flawless effect, while wooden shakes have a rough texture that provides a rustic effect. So it’s best to go for wood shingles if you’re aiming for a more modern style and a shake roof for a more textured appearance.

Types of Wood Roofs

wooden tiles on a roof
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When it comes to wood roofs, homeowners are usually bombarded with overwhelming choices. The available colors, designs, and properties, such as durability, all boil down to the type of wood roof you pick. Here are seven of the most popular styles to choose from:

1. Teak Shingles

These shingles, made from the same wood used to build wooden ships, are fantastic if you want to prioritize a roof that’s extremely resistant to water. Due to its naturally high Silica content, teak can resist moisture well, making it impervious to moss, fungi, and mold growth.

A teak shingle roof is a great option if you live in areas with high humidity and moisture, like Washington. However, teak only comes in darker brown colors, so your shade options are quite limited.

2. Pine Shakes

If you’re not a fan of dark colors, you can opt for pine shakes instead. Aside from having a lighter color, pine shakes also have a unique texture which is thicker than the usual shingles and more uniform than shakes.

Since pine is a softwood, it’s lightweight and less dense. It has an attractive wood grain and high workability, allowing it to have customized designs if needed.

3. Cedar Shingles

This type of wood shingle is known not only for its strength but for its flexibility and ability to resist the weather as well. Fortunately, it’s also your most budget-friendly option. And whether you use white cedar or western red cedar for your roof installation, you’ll have a roofing system with a beautiful finish and pleasant scent.

4. Cedar Shakes

Shakes made from cedar wood have the same properties as cedar shingles. The main difference is that cedar shakes are thicker and offer a more textured look – which gives off a rougher and more rustic appearance than cedar shingles.

5. Wallaba Shingles

You can go all-natural with this wood roof without compromising its durability. Thanks to its oily resin and gum exudates, wallaba shingles don’t require additional treatment to become resistant to termites, corrosion, or fire. Wallaba shingles have a dark reddish-brown color that turns into a beautiful silvery patina over time. This type of roof material is commonly found in tropical areas of the U.S.

6. Composite Shingles

If you feel hesitant about using actual wood as a roofing material but love its aesthetic, you can always choose composite shingles. It gives the same authentic wooden look without the disadvantages that come with using natural wood.

Another term for composite shingle is synthetic shingle or composite synthetic because it’s made of recycled materials or synthetic polymer. Due to this, it’s extremely resistant to both impact and extreme weather conditions.

7. Redwood Shingles

This type of wood roofing material is naturally resistant to insects and long-lasting. Since redwood shingles have smooth front and back sides, these sawn wood tiles are used not only for roofing but also for walls.

Pros of a Wood Roof

Here are some of the reasons why wood roofing continues to be one of the best choices for new roof installations:

  • Curb appeal: A wood roof gives off an aesthetic unique to this type of material because of the variety of colors available, as well as the different patterns and grains. In fact, its ability to change colors as it ages gives it a more organic appeal.
  • Unconventional: These days, it’s quite common to see asphalt shingles in almost every neighborhood. So if you want to stand out amongst the crowd, a wood roof is a great choice. Its rustic appeal, especially if you go with shakes, will make your home quite unique.
  • Lightweight: Wood roofing doesn’t require additional support structure for the house to bear its weight. Being lightweight also means it’s easier to transport and install. These factors can help significantly cut down the installation cost compared to having slate roofing installed.
  • Energy saver: Due to its natural insulation, a wood roof can help reduce energy bills. It can keep your home warm in the winter and comfortably cool during summer.
  • Durability: The secret as to why wood is a long-lasting material for roofing lies in its ability to resist most external conditions due to changes in weather and temperature. A wood roof can withstand strong winds and impact damages from fallen branches and hail.
  • Environment-friendly: From the time wood shakes and shingles are created up to the time of their disposal, this type of material is very eco-friendly. A replacement wood can be grown after one has been cut down. Plus, shingles that reach the end of their lifespan are entirely biodegradable.

Cons of a Wood Roof

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You should know the drawbacks of wood roofing as well so you can quickly check if it’s something you can live with or if there’s any available solution.

  • Longevity: A wood roof has an average lifespan of 20 to 25 years. However, some types of wood, such as teak, can last up to 80 years.
  • Vulnerability to fire: This is a wood roof’s biggest drawback. In fact, some areas prone to wildfires even go as far as banning its use for safety reasons. Fortunately, one of the best ways to get around this is with the use of composite shingles – one of the newest types of wood roofing.
  • Prone to insects: Since some insects, such as termites, use wood for their natural habitat and as food, it’s not uncommon to find them in moisture-soaked wood roofs. An excellent treatment plan and sealant can help prevent this, but you’ll have to ensure your wood roof gets treated regularly.
  • Susceptible to moisture: Moisture is the archenemy of wood. It can leak into any wood installation, such as wooden fences and roofs, causing the material to swell or warp. This can result in a number of other issues, including mold infestation, leaks, water damage, and mildew growth. Even if you paint or stain your wood shake roof, you still won’t be able to make it 100% moisture-resistant.
  • Maintenance: Wood roofing requires proper and regular care, especially if you’re living in an area with mostly wet and cold weather. Otherwise, you won’t be able to avoid the majority of the problems listed above. So if you don’t want a high-maintenance roofing system, you might want to choose slate instead.

If you want to know more about the pros and cons of wood roofs, you can check this in-depth guide.

Cost of a Wood Roof

Installing a wooden roof can cost between $6 to $14.50 per square foot. And if you’ll be installing a cedar shake roof, you can expect an average cost of $11 per square foot. While this amount already includes the labor and materials, other factors can contribute to the overall cost of your roof replacement, including:

  • Roof pitch
  • Roof design
  • Gutters
  • Chimneys
  • Roof deck material

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

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Still not sure if a wood roof is your best option? These crucial factors can help you determine whether a wood shake or wood shingle roof is suitable for your home before you hire a roofing contractor to install it:

  • Home ownership: You can get the most out of your investment if you’re planning to stay in your home only for the next 20 years. If you’re staying longer than that, a wood roof will have a diminishing return because you will have to replace it after every 20 years or so. Instead, you might want to consider installing a slate or metal roof since they will last longer than a wood shake roof.
  • Style: You have many style options for a wood shake roof, including edge grain, taper-sawn, and flat grain. But unless you really want your roof to have a rustic and unique appeal, it’s best to go with other types of roofing, such as asphalt shingles. The roof should also match the style of your house. So if you have a Tudor or Colonial home, you can use wood shakes or shingles for your roofing. But if your home has a Federal style architecture, it would be best to go for a natural slate roof instead.
  • Location: This is one of the most important factors you should consider. If your area is prone to wildfires even a wood roof with a fire-resistant coating is only protected on the surface level. Deep down, it’s still susceptible to fire.
  • Price: A wood roof is not really a good choice in the long run, especially if you consider that it would need consistent roof maintenance. But it’s still a great option if you have a tight budget and want to have a reliable, energy-efficient roof – at least for the next 20 years.
  • Insulation: If your priority is to save on your monthly gas and electricity bills, a wood roof is a great choice as it already has a natural insulating property. Plus, laying down additional insulating material beneath the natural wood shingles can drastically help cut down your energy consumption further.

FAQ About Wood Roofs

Are wood roofs good?

Yes, wood roofs are great to have as long as you don’t live in a fire-prone area in states like California and Oregon. One of the best characteristics of a wood roof is its inability to conduct heat well. As a result, it helps reduce your monthly electricity bills – whether it’s summer or winter. If you’re living in a windy area, wood shakes are also a great option since they are resistant to wind damage.

What is the biggest disadvantage of wood roofs?

Being vulnerable to fire is the biggest drawback of wood roofs. You can have your roofing contractor apply fire retardant and other preservatives to your wooden roof as a workaround. However, a much easier way to get around this weakness is to use a composite shingle instead. It may not be an authentic wood material, but since it’s synthetic, it doesn’t have the same vulnerability. Plus, you can avoid common wood issues like warping and mildew growth.

Which wood is best for roofing?

Cedar remains to be the default wood material when it comes to roofing. Most manufacturers choose it because of its durability, natural weather resistance, and flexibility. And depending on its subtype, cedar wood also offers a lot of color choices.

Choose the Right Type of Roofing for Your Home

Picking the kind of roof for your home is not a walk in the park. You have plenty of things to consider besides its looks and cost. For more specific information about wood roofing installation, you can get further assistance by connecting with your local roofing companies.

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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.