Back in the 1970s and 80s, the roofing material of choice for executive-style homes in Vancouver was cedar. Cedar can be a wonderful roofing material - it looks beautiful, it is natural and, if installed correctly and maintained, long-lasting. Cedar from that period could last from 35 to 50 years. A cedar roof certainly fit with the West Coast architectural style of the region at that time, expressing a connection with the beauty and nature of our area. While cedar was an expensive choice for a roof back then it was not so expensive as to be prohibitive. In fact, some 10,000 cedar roofs were installed around the Vancouver area in that era.
Replaced before their time due to appearance
Unfortunately, history has not been kind to cedar roofs in Vancouver. Due to weathering of the shakes and their dismal appearance after about 15 years, many homeowners have paid to replace these roofs long before their time. This has placed the average life of a cedar roof between on average 17 and 20 years which is less than what ordinary asphalt singles would last. Now that is a truly expensive roofing choice even for the most affluent.
Cost is a barrier to replacement today
Today, there are huge barriers to using cedar as a roofing material for both new roofs and for replacing old cedar roofs. The cost of cedar shakes has gone through the roof for one. This is because of the dwindling availability of cedar due to environmental restrictions on logging old-growth forests. While protecting such environmental resources is vitally important, the result has been a tenfold increase in cedar shake costs. Forty to fifty years ago, a square (roofing term for 100 square feet) of cedar cost roughly $100 each. Today that cost is $1,200 per square.
We had a West Vancouver homeowner recently ask for the cost of replacing the cedar roof of their home. They had an average-sized home but with a very steep Tudor-style roof. We quoted them, for various types of shingles, a replacement cost of between $55,000 to $80,000. But they loved the look of cedar and wanted to know the cost of cedar. It was $154,000. Then they wanted to know the cost of a simulated cedar shake made out of polymer or rubber. It was $197,000.
Availability of quality material today is less
Another thing is that the longevity over the last 40 years for cedar roofs has reduced to around 23 to 28 years on average due to general raw material reduction in the oldest growth material being used for one. The younger wood does not last as long as the old days.
Because of this lessening availability of quality cedar, homeowners have to ensure they get hand-split cedar shakes not machine-cut cedar shingles which are taken from a lower quality of cedar. This helps to ensure they get the longest roof life possible.
We also suggest that cedar shakes get pressure-treated for longevity on the roof.
Competent installation is a problem
Consequently, a homeowner also has to ensure that the roofer they hire knows how to properly install cedar. The number of roofers that can do this has dwindled through the years. In fact, there have been some catastrophes because of this.
As an example, we were called out to a west side home that was only 10-years old and had a pressure-treated cedar roof. The home had just been purchased and the new homeowner was doing some major renovations. We were called because new stove vent pipes needed to be installed through the roof. To our horror and that of the homeowner, while doing our job on the vents, we discovered that a majority of the roofing nails on that roof had dissolved because the original roofer had used ordinary roofing nails rather than stainless steel nails. The shakes were loose and starting to fall off at the drop of a feather. The whole roof was ruined and needed to be replaced though only 10 years old.
This happened because the ordinary nails disintegrated from the acidic nature of the pressure-treated cedar. The original roofer was either ignorant of this fact or had tried to save about $350 by using the cheaper nails. Either way, the roof was ruined.
Caveat emptor - Let the buyer beware!
Best replacement solution
So what is the cost-effective solution to replacing a cedar roof today?
The preferred choice for replacing cedar roofs is architectural asphalt fibreglass shingles in heavy-weight or triple layer for more texture, or, mid-weight medium thickness shingles, and usually not the typical thinner and lighter "entry-level" shingles.
As 40% to 60% of the curb appeal of a home is based on the look of the roof, the choice of roofing material is definitely important to the value of a home.
If you are looking to replace your cedar roof, we can certainly provide you with a number of different options of architectural laminated fibreglass shingles to suit your needs and budget.