Cedar shakes and shingles provide a long lasting and attractive option for a roof. Cedar is naturally rot resistant, so if it is cared for properly you face minimal chance for rot or leaks. Consider three main strategies that will ensure a leak-free and long-lasting cedar roof.
Cedar shakes need to breathe so that moisture doesn't cause premature rotting or damage on the roof.
The best way to ensure your shakes dry out and remain in good condition is to keep debris off the roof. Piles of dead leaves, moss, and twigs all trap moisture on the roof, which can lead to damage and leaks. A professional roof cleaning every few years will remove moss and algae. Leaves and other debris needs to be swept or rinsed off as it collects. Plan to clean on a dry, sunny day so that the shakes can dry out quickly afterward.
Moisture can also collect beneath the roof as warm, moist air in your home rises into the attic. Any properly constructed roof should have a ridge vent at the top and soffit vents around the eaves so that air flow through the roof forces this moist air out. Larger roofs may also require additional vents between the ridge and eaves.
One place to spot poor ventilation is in the attic. If you notice mold or it smells musty, a roofer needs to come out and assess your ventilation.
There are certain maintenance tasks that are necessary to ensure the longest life possible for your cedar roof.
A missing or damaged cedar shake leaves the entire roof open to the possibility of damage and leaks. Inspect your roof monthly, as well as after any major storms. Look for shakes or broken shingle pieces in the lawn and in the gutters. Don't climb onto the roof; instead, inspect it from the ground or the top of the ladder for any signs of damage. If you spot a missing shake, contact a roofer promptly to replace it.
As a general rule, there is no need to seal cedar shakes against the elements, because a seal could actually trap moisture in the wood. There are treatments that can be beneficial, though, such as fungicides applications.
Most shakes come pretreated, but there are also treatments that you can apply to existing roofs. For example, a chromated copper arsenate treatment decreases weathering damage so the roof lasts longer.
The saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is especially true when it comes to cedar shake roofing, since it takes very little effort to prevent most problems.
Trees that overhang the roof can cause major damage to cedar shakes. Blowing branches can scrape at the shakes, breaking them or knocking them loose. Further, heavy tree cover increases the likelihood of moss growth and damage from piles of fallen leaves. Plan to keep trees trimmed back so that they don't interact with the roof.
Dirty gutters cause moisture to back up onto the roof during rainfall or snowmelt, which then prevents the shakes from drying out promptly. Further, water backups at the gutter can also backflow beneath the shakes and result in a leak. Clean your gutters at least twice a year in spring and fall. When cleaning, perform a gutter inspection so you can spot and fix any potential damage.
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