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Installing a Cedar Roof? Avoid These 5 Mistakes

Cedar roofing is a beautiful material, but it can be tricky to work with. The rustic all-natural wood expands and contracts depending on the season and is susceptible to water damage if proper precautions aren’t taken. Protect your new cedar roof by avoiding these mistakes as you plan your install.


Cedar roofing is so visually appealing, it’s no wonder other materials are designed to replicate it.

1. Not Letting the Wood Acclimate

You might be tempted to install your new cedar roofing as soon as you receive it, but you need to make sure the wood has enough time to be exposed to your home’s climate before you start. The wood might expand or contract depending on temperature and moisture levels. Place the shakes or shingles under cover and off the ground outdoors. The amount of acclimation time will depend on the wood you choose and your region.

2. Wrong Nails

Use stainless steel, galvanized, or aluminum two-inch nails when working with cedar. If you use stainless steel, choose your alloy based on your distance from the ocean. Use a 316 alloy if you live less than 15 miles from saltwater; otherwise, use a 304 alloy. Using a nail with ring shanks prevents the nail from popping out as your cedar roofing expands naturally.

3. Using a Nail Gun

Nail guns tend to fire the nail too far into the shingle, causing it to crack and eventually fall off. Also, firing the nails quickly can cause you to miss the skip sheathing beneath the shingle. Any missed nails will be more likely to cause shingles to crack and curl. To avoid this, hand-nail two nails into each shingle. Place the nails four inches from the top and one inch from each side.

4. Improper Shingle Placement

Starting at the bottom row, overlap each shingle at least an inch and a half over the edge of the roof, with the thick end at the top for the bottom row only. Then, add shingles above that with the thick part at the bottom. Leave about a quarter-inch space between each shingle so they can expand naturally.

5. Shingles Not Ventilated Properly

If a cedar roof lacks ventilation or doesn’t have any at all, it can lead to serious damage like shingle warping or curling. Also, ventilation allows the shingles to dry properly so they don’t rot. To achieve proper ventilation, you can use a cold roof system to ventilate your roof and keep it temperature balanced. The three essential parts of a cold roof system are eave venting, ridge venting, and skip sheathing.

Now that you know what to watch for, your roofing installation should go according to plan. While installing cedar roofing is definitely not for beginner DIYers, it’s a project some knowledgeable homeowners feel confident taking on. Whether you hire a professional contractor or not, just make sure to do your research and equip yourself with the proper knowledge before you get started.

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(6) Comments

  1. Great informative article! Couldn’t agree more with the first point on letting the wood acclimate. The amount of ‘professional’ roofers who seem to be oblivious to this (or ignore this in order to get the job done quickly) is shocking. Our firm have often been left to pick up the pieces – excuse the pun 😉 Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is a very informative article, and a good read for those who choose to go with cedar. As a roofer myself, I too allow time for the shingles to acclimate prior to installation.

  3. Great article, I think Cedar roofs are the most beautiful roofing systems and very energy efficient. The only downside I see is the high cost. This article is great for anyone thinking of going the Cedar route.

  4. Letting the wood acclimate to your home’s climate is something I never would have known about without this article. If I do decide to go with cedar roofing, I’ll make sure to refer back to this article. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Dont forget Cedar shingles need to have three needs to have proper ventilation such as Skip sheathing, Eave venting,and Ridge venting this will prevent rotting and other problems

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