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Wood Roof Treatments-Yes or No?

We often get asked how to extend the life of wood shingle or shake roofs. These questions usually come at the end of the roof’s life when unfortunately, there really isn’t much that can be done. By that time, it is too late for saving and most homeowners are just not prepared. When looking at a large estimate for a roof replacement, many homeowners go into shock and become desperate. And that is precisely when they are likely to fall prey to sales pitches offering treatments to “extend” the life of the roof “for a mere fraction of the cost of new.”

These “miracle” treatments usually include a wood brightener application, a pressure wash cleaning of the roof, some spot replacements of missing shingles, and the topical application of some unknown preservative. These can make the roof look better and come with enticingly whopping 5 year (or more) guarantees.

I don’t recommend these offers because 1) Applications of wood brightener and pressure washing can further damage old roof materials and drive water into the attic space. 2) Cedar needs to breath, so topically applied preservatives that are safe for cedar will last less than a year; and if they do last longer (sealers etc.) can cause further damage to the cedar material. 3) Alternatives excluding 1 and 2 above are better and less costly.

It is good to remember that the primary reason for the roof in the first place, to prevent leaks and protect the rest of the structure from damage. In a sense it is sacrificial in nature. So, if your roof is at the end of its life and you can’t afford a new one, here are five things you should do:

  1. Thoroughly clean the roof. This allows you to see where any damage is that needs repair and removing debris will allow rainwater to more easily flow off the surface.
  2. Replace any missing or badly worn and damaged roof shingles.
  3. Make any other repairs (at flashings, caulking, roof jacks or vents) needed to prevent leakage. An inspection of the roof structure from the attic will tell you where any leaks have been occurring.
  4. Take the money you saved from NOT buying a Miracle Treatment and start paying into a new annuity fund to pay for replacing the roof in five years.
  5. Repeat this every year for the next five years till you can afford to replace the roof.

When the time finally comes, use this guides section on roofing to properly install and take care of it.


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