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In a nutshell: They’re a fire hazard and they require constant maintenance.   Wood shakes differ from smooth, thin wood shingles.

Wood shakes are thick, rough-sawn wood boards with loads of texture. Although wood shakes make a pretty roof, Rosie doesn’t believe they’re worth the cost and the careful maintenance they demand in our desert climate. In the mountains, they increase your risk of fire.

The strong ultraviolet sunrays and sandy desert winds reduce the amount of tannic acid in a wood shake roof, and that, in turn, reduces the life span of the material—by up to half.

Because shakes are so textured, they collect a lot of debris. Built up-debris can hold in moisture, which deteriorates the wood and promotes fungal growth. So you have to sweep or power-wash the roof frequently to clear away debris.

While you shouldn’t seal wood shakes–they must be allowed to breathe—you can apply linseed oil after a good cleaning to help the shingles last longer.

The trick to shake maintenance is consistency. If you don’t oil them every three to five years, they’ll get too brittle to walk on. When you finally decide—say, after 10 years—to climb up there and oil them, you’ll crack the dried-out shakes.

Extra Costs
Many manufacturers do not offer any warranty at all on wood shakes. If you are still determined to install a shake roof, hire an installer with many years of experience who offers a good warranty.

Also, check with your homeowner’s insurance company. Some charge more to insure wood shakes because of the fire hazard.

You can treat shakes with a 10-year fire retardant, but this can double the price of the material. And local roofers say the retardant only lasts for about six years under the punishing Arizona sun.

The life of a shake roof varies depending on how much sun it gets and how well you maintain it. Once it starts to show signs of failure, your best bet is to replace it with a tile or asphalt shingle roof rather than spending a fortune on repairs.


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