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How to Replace a Cedar Shake or Shingle

Your roof is the most important part of your home. It protects everything inside from the elements and allows you to control the temperature of your own little environment. The best way to protect your home from a devastating repair is by performing regular roof maintenance and inspections for damage before it gets worse.

If you like to do your own home repairs, you might want to take your regular roof care regimen a step farther by replacing a lost or damaged cedar shake or shingle. Here are a few things you should know before you start.

The Difference Between a Shake and a Shingle

Cedar shakes are typically sawn on one side and split on the other for a rougher texture. Shingles are smooth on both sides and usually fit more precisely into place. If you live in a wet weather area, make sure you insulate your shakes with roofing felt to prevent windblown snow and rain from entering the cracks between shakes.

Safety is Your No. 1 Concern


Whether you are an amateur or experienced roofer, your safety always comes first. Never repair cedar roofing in inclement weather, especially wet weather, because cedar is very slippery when wet. Always use a harness, especially on steep roofs, and wear rubber-soled work boots to avoid slipping.

Consider Professional Installation

Installing cedar roofing is an artisan craft and requires years of experience. You might be able to install a single shingle on your own, but if the task seems too daunting, hire a professional to come out and do it for you. When installed by an experienced professional, this roofing type can last a long time — up to 60 years in some cases.

Step 1: Remove the Old Shingle

If you’re replacing a cracked, lifted, or curled shingle, you’ll have to remove the old shingle first. Drive out any nails with a nail set or, if the shingle is lifted, use a hacksaw to cut the nails underneath. Do not pry the shingle out, as this can damage nearby shingles and the underlying roofing structure.

Step 2: Size the New Shingle

Make sure the new shingle is the correct size by planing the edges. Put about a quarter-inch of space between each shingle to allow the wood a space buffer to naturally expand. Don’t worry about the shingle’s mismatched color. New shingles will be reddish but fade to match existing shingles within about a year.

Step 3: Carefully Nail in the New Shingle

You’ll want to use stainless steel roofing nails, preferably two inches long and ringed to prevent popping. Measure four inches down from the top of the shingle and one inch from each side to find where to nail. Make sure the bottom edge of the shingle lines up with others on either side. When hammering the nail, don’t drive it in too far. This can cause the shingle to split.

Replacing shingles or shakes might seem like a simple enough job, but a lot can go wrong if you’re not careful. When you replace one, look for an underlying cause to the damage. If a rogue rock or ball of hail isn’t to blame for your broken shingle, you might have a bigger problem on your hands. Call a professional for an inspection.

What steps do you take to maintain your roof?

Browse our selection of Cedar Roofing here. Invest in quality for your home.

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