Steam Bent Cedar Shingles

Roofs are one of the most critical components in a home- and shingles play a large part.  Preferably, you want a durable natural material that will last a long time.  That is where steam bent cedar shingles come in.

Steam bent shingles are unique and have a hand-crafted feel to them. They often feature curved edges and layered courses.  

While they are odd-looking, as most people are used to seeing traditional asphalt shingles, they have grown in popularity due to their vintage look.  And due to the natural materials with a neutral color tone, these shingles provide a timeless look.  

While they may rise and fall in popularity, they will never be entirely out of style. 

Before going into more detail on these shingles, let’s look at a beautiful example. 

Pictures

close up of a home with cedar bent shingles and brick
side of house with steamed cedar bent shingles with brick siding and dark windows

The steam bent shingles work so well on this house because all the materials work together.

The brick siding is a natural stone material with weeping mortar joints. This brickwork softens the edges of the bricks. 

Also, note the giant oak tree and how the bark complements the roof shingles. 

The brown and charcoal colors also go nicely with the neutral natural colors. 

Benefits of Cedar Shingles

Steam bent cedar shingles are made from native cedar trees culled in the Pacific Northwest.  Due to the strength of the cedarwood and natural oils that resist decay, they offer excellent durability and can stand up to high winds and hail. 

Installing these shingles could also improve the value of your house, although they need to be done correctly and in the right home as they could look out of place in a very modern home. 

Unique Fairytale Style 

Curved cedar shingles provide homes with a unique appearance reminiscent of something out of the pages of a fairytale. 

Because of the curving patterns that alternate between every row of shingles, it evokes the past of European villages. Cedar shingles also make imaginative use of natural resources that gives this kind of roofing an appearance that transcends the frequently-flashy character of the latest trends in housing.

In contrast to conventional roofing designs, steam-bent cedar roofing is among the unique roofing alternatives. 

In traditional shingle roofs, every shingle is the same form, size, and cut. But in steam bent cedar roof shingles, each shingle has a different shape, bend, and size. This creates an off-kilter look that gives an animated appearance to homes of all ages and styles.

Installing and Maintaining

Steam bent shingles are installed similar to regular cedar shakes (PDF). One of the main differences between a cedar roof is how the roofing felt gets installed. 

Asphalt shingled roofs usually cover the entire sheathing with a layer of felt, then install their shingles. Cedar shingled roofs are different in that the felt is laid down in layers as the shingles are installed (always check building codes for your area). 

There are a couple of different methods when it comes to bending the cedar shingles. If you are doing it yourself, Mike Guertin (the king of home improvement ideas that are cheap and effective) came up with the idea to use a microwave. He soaks the shingles in a tub of water overnight. Then, they bring them up onto the roof in a garbage bag (they’re wet, which helps keep them that way) along with the microwave. Mike then will take a shingle and put it in a microwave for about a minute. This allows it to blend easily. No expensive steamer is needed. Thanks, Mike!

Some people will use pipes of different sizes to bend the shingle to a uniform curve. The video below shows how this is done:

Cedar needs to “breathe.” Meaning it needs to have airflow around it to dry if wet. So be sure to keep leaves and debris from building up on the roof. Along with gutters cleaned out, so they don’t overflow. Gutter guards are a good option if trees are nearby. 

A wood preservative with UV inhibitors and water repellants can be used to extend the life of the cedar shingles. Always consult a professional before using any topical treatment. 

Time & Cost

This is a very time-intensive project. So it should be approached with caution if trying to do it yourself.

If you hire a contractor to do this type of roof, be prepared for estimates higher than asphalt. Most steam bent cedar roofs are priced similar to slate, one of the most expensive shingle options. But, both are beautiful and will last a long time. 

It’s very time-consuming to steam all the shingles and get them into the correct shapes. Since this is not a common project, roofing contractors often have to make their shingle steamer and press. Here is an example video:

NOTE: It took the contractor a little over five weeks to complete this job. It is not an easy task and will not usually be completed in a day. Unless you get lucky and have a contractor in your area specializing in bent cedar shingles, they have all the experience, crew, and equipment. 

Repairs

Similar to other roofing shingles, cedar can be replaced if damage occurs. You use a tool to pull off the damaged shingles. Then stain, and nail in the new ones. Finally, use a 2×4 piece of wood to shift the cedar shingles into alignment and hide the nails. Here is a video that goes over the entire process of replacing a cedar shingle:

Conclusion

Steam bent cedar shingle roofs are unique! They provide a natural look that is timeless along with excellent durability. You will need a specialty contractor to install these shingles and allow more time for installation than a standard roof. Also, because each shingle can be labor-intensive, expect quotes to be costly. 

Working with a local contractor with experience with bent cedar shingles will be very beneficial if you need maintenance work done.