Before the introduction of asphalt shingles, wood was the most widely used material. Wood is the oldest and most enduring roofing material. It has been used since the 18th century and was seen in most colonial America homes.
Today, wood shingles are specially treated with chemicals to resist burning. The most common wood types used in the United States for shingles are Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar.
Alaskan Yellow Cedar is a relatively new roofing material introduced into the market about twenty years ago. It has slightly more dense growth rings than Red Cedar, but has not yet proven to be superior. Eastern White Cedar has also been used in roofing, although it is a slightly less popular material.
The longevity of Red Cedar is about 20-30 years, depending on maintenance and installation. Red Cedar starts of with a reddish tint and Alaskan Yellow Cedar is yellow-pink; although both eventually weather out to a gray or silvery color which many homeowners find attractive.
One of main reasons for installing wood shingles is for appearance which elevates the look of home and complements colonial/tudor style homes. It is important to note however, that they require careful maintenance since wood is more likely to rot than other materials; although cedar is more decay resistant as compared to other tree species.
Periodical preservative treatments are recommended to prevent lichen and moss, and insure that your roof will not fail prematurely. Wood shingles are also harder to install than some of the more modern roofing materials and require the work of a licensed professional.