Cedar shakes are a distinctive roofing material that can provide a beautiful look to many homes. However, as with any roofing material, cedar shakes have a limited lifespan, and must be replaced after a certain point. This lifespan can also be significantly shortened due to extreme weather conditions, poor quality shakes or improper installation.
 
If you look up at your roof and see your cedar shakes curling or splitting excessively, it may be time to replace them. It can be useful to know what to look for to tell if your cedar shakes need replacing. Here are several things to look for when examining your roof.
Excellent images for these types of damages are available over at the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI).
 
Distortion - Cupping and Curling
 
The blanket term for when your shakes either cup or curl is distortion. Cupping is generally considered to involve distortion along the width of your shake, as opposed to curling, which happens along the length of the shake.
Uneven drying is often the cause of cupping, where the top part of your shingle dries out much faster than the underside of it, resulting in a cupped shape. Curling is the result of how the shake is made, when the cut of the wood is affected by moisture. Shakes cut with a flat grain are more prone to this than other types.
 
Split shakes
 
It is normal for cedar shakes to eventually split with time and weathering. However, they can also be made to split by a variety of pressures.
Pressure from a person’s foot can cause a split, and can usually be detected by the lack of indentation in the shake. Hail damage, in contrast, will usually result in an indentation on the split.
 
Cedar Shake Replacement
 
Damaged shakes should be promptly replaced to prevent further damage to your roof. Some of the above damages can occur as a result of shoddy workmanship, however, so it is worthwhile to hire a reputable contractor when considering cedar shake replacement.

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