Waterproofing for Wood Shake Roofs

Waterproofing for Wood Shake Roofs

Wood shake roofs add a touch of elegance and natural beauty to any home. However, they also require special care and maintenance to ensure their longevity. One of the essential aspects of preserving wood shake roofs is waterproofing. Waterproofing not only protects the shake from water damage but also extends its lifespan. In this article, we will explore different waterproofing options available for wood shake roofs and discuss their benefits and considerations.

Waterproofing for Wood Shake Roofs
Waterproofing for Wood Shake Roofs 1

Types of Wood Shake Roof Waterproofing

  1. Clear Sealants: Clear sealants are a popular choice for homeowners looking to maintain the natural appearance of their wood shake roofs. These sealants penetrate into the wood fibers, creating a protective barrier that repels water without altering the shake’s color or texture. Clear sealants are often formulated with UV inhibitors to prevent sun damage and discoloration. They are easy to apply and require minimal maintenance.

  2. Wood Preservatives: Wood preservatives are designed to protect wood shake roofs from both water damage and decay caused by insects and fungus. These products contain biocides and fungicides that inhibit rot and decay, ensuring the longevity of the shake. Some wood preservatives also include water-repellent additives to provide an additional layer of protection against moisture infiltration. It is essential to choose a preservative specifically formulated for wood shakes to achieve optimal results.

  3. Semi-Transparent Stains: If you desire a bit of color while maintaining the natural beauty of the wood shake, semi-transparent stains are an excellent option. These stains penetrate into the wood, enhancing its natural grain while providing a layer of water repellency. Semi-transparent stains come in various colors, allowing homeowners to choose a shade that complements their home’s exterior. It is vital to select a stain specifically designed for wood shake roofs to ensure proper adhesion and protection.

  4. Waterproof Membranes: For homeowners seeking maximum protection, waterproof membranes offer a highly effective solution. These membranes consist of synthetic materials such as rubber or PVC and provide a continuous, seamless waterproof barrier. They are usually installed beneath the wood shake to prevent water infiltration. Waterproof membranes offer exceptional durability and can withstand extreme weather conditions. However, they can alter the appearance of the shake and require professional installation.

Benefits of Waterproofing Wood Shake Roofs

  1. Protection Against Moisture: The primary benefit of waterproofing wood shake roofs is the protection it provides against moisture. Wooden shakes are susceptible to swelling, warping, and rotting when exposed to water for prolonged periods. Waterproofing treatments create a barrier that prevents water from seeping into the shake, reducing the risk of damage.

  2. Extended Lifespan: By effectively preventing water damage, waterproofing treatments significantly extend the lifespan of wood shake roofs. A properly waterproofed shake can withstand the elements and resist decay for many years, ultimately saving homeowners from costly Repairs or premature replacement.

  3. Enhanced Aesthetic Appeal: Waterproofing options such as clear sealants and semi-transparent stains not only protect the shake but also enhance its aesthetic appeal. These treatments allow the natural beauty of the wood to shine through while providing the necessary protection against water damage. Homeowners can choose the level of color enhancement they desire, achieving a customized look for their wood shake roof.

  4. Reduced Maintenance: Waterproofing minimizes the maintenance and upkeep required for wood shake roofs. By preventing water infiltration, homeowners can avoid issues such as mold growth, wood rot, and insect infestation. This translates to less time and effort spent on repairs and maintenance, ensuring a stress-free and enjoyable living experience.

Considerations for Wood Shake Roof Waterproofing

  1. Climate: The climate plays a significant role in determining the ideal waterproofing option for wood shake roofs. If you live in an area with frequent rain or high humidity, selecting a highly water-repellent option such as a waterproof membrane might be more suitable. On the other hand, in drier climates, clear sealants or semi-transparent stains can provide sufficient protection without compromising the natural look of the shake.

  2. Application and Maintenance: Consider the ease of application and maintenance when selecting a waterproofing option. Some products require professional installation, while others can be applied by homeowners. Additionally, certain treatments may require periodic reapplication to maintain their effectiveness. Assess your willingness to perform regular maintenance or seek professional assistance accordingly.

  3. Compatibility: Ensure that the chosen waterproofing product is compatible with wood shake roofs. Some treatments may be specifically formulated for cedar shakes, while others are suitable for various wood species. Using the wrong product can lead to improper adhesion, reduced effectiveness, or even damage to the shake.

  4. Long-Term Cost: Consider the long-term cost implications of the chosen waterproofing option. While some treatments may have a higher upfront cost, they could provide more significant cost savings in the long run due to their durability and extended lifespan. Evaluate the overall value offered by each option before making a decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Can I waterproof an existing wood shake roof?

A1: Yes, it is possible to waterproof an existing wood shake roof. However, proper preparation and application techniques are crucial to ensuring the effectiveness of the waterproofing treatment. Consult a professional roofer to evaluate the condition of your roof and provide recommendations on the most suitable waterproofing options.

Q2: How often should I reapply waterproofing treatments?

A2: The frequency of reapplication depends on several factors, such as the specific product used, climate conditions, and the level of exposure to the elements. It is generally recommended to reapply waterproofing treatments every few years to maintain their effectiveness. However, some products claim to offer longer-lasting protection and may require less frequent reapplication.

Q3: Can I apply waterproofing treatments myself, or should I hire a professional?

A3: The choice between DIY application and professional assistance depends on your comfort level, experience, and the specific product being used. Some treatments are designed for easy homeowner application, while others require professional expertise. If you are uncertain, it is advisable to consult a professional roofer who can guide you through the process and ensure proper application.


Wood shake roofs require proper waterproofing to ensure their longevity and protect them from water damage. Clear sealants, wood preservatives, semi-transparent stains, and waterproof membranes are among the various options available. Consider factors such as climate, application, maintenance, compatibility, and long-term cost when selecting the appropriate waterproofing treatment for your wood shake roof. By taking the time to choose the right option and providing regular maintenance, you can enjoy the natural beauty of your wood shake roof for years to come while protecting your investment.

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