Wood shakes offer a natural look with a lot of character. Because of variations like color, width, thickness, or cut of the wood, no two shake roofs will ever be the same.
Wood offers some energy benefits, too: it helps to insulate the attic, and it allows the house to breathe, circulating air through the small openings under the felt rows on which wooden shingles are laid.
A wood shake roof, however, demands proper maintenance and repair, or it will not last as long as other products. Mold, rot, and insects can be a problem. The life cycle cost of a shake roof may be high, and old shakes can't be recycled. Most wood shakes are unrated by fire safety codes. Many use wipe or spray-on fire retardants, which offer less protection and are only effective for a few years. Some pressure-treated shakes are impregnated with fire retardant and meet national fire safety standards.
Installing wood shakes is more complicated than roofing with composite shingles, and the quality of the finished roof depends on the experience of the contractor as well as the caliber of the shakes you use. The best shakes come from the heartwood of large old cedar trees, which are difficult to find. Some contractors maintain that shakes made from the outer wood of smaller cedars - the usual source today - are less uniform, more subject to twisting and warping, and don't last as long.
A recycled content roofing material, the eco-shake® looks like wood and contains reinforced vinyl and cellulose fiber.