So You Need to Choose a Roof for Your Log Home?

Log Cabin Homes invoke nostalgic images of a place of safe and cozy refuge nestled in the woods or by the lake or river. It sounds like a warm and comfy inviting retreat.

Whether you are building a new log home or re-roofing an existing home you need to know your options.

The roof is the first line of defense against the weather. It is the primary source of protection against the elements. The decision as to what goes on the roof should be carefully and thoughtfully made and evaluated. What are your best options for your log home long- or short-term?

First, and Most Frequently Chosen, Option

The asphalt shingle. It is definitely the most frequent choice but NOT because it is the best option. It is chosen because it is the least expensive way to go. Asphalt or composition shingles are a petroleum-based product. They are not great choice if you are attempting to be environmentally friendly.

Log Home with Asphalt Shingles
Log Home with Asphalt Shingles

The product is made by producing a large roll of paper, felt, or fiberglass mat which is then saturated in limestone and petroleum followed by a final top-coating of ceramic granules in various colors.

These products begin to break down due to the elements as soon as they are installed on the roof. They are exposed to the summer sun and winter conditions. It is just a matter of time before the roof needs to be replaced again. Here in New England life expectancy is about 15-17 years.

The pros of an asphalt roof: Cheap, easy, and quick to install.

The cons: Poor environmental choice; they will end up in landfill; problematic in the winter months due to ice dams; not a very attractive roof. Maintenance required. Typically has a 25-50 year limited factory material warranty, with exclusions that end up in reality boiling down to a 10 year warranty. Workmanship / labor warranty terms depend on the contractor doing the installation.

Second Option: Cedar Shakes (Wood)

Log Home with Cedar Wood Shingles
Log Home with Cedar Wood Shingles

This is a classic option for your log home in this writer’s opinion. What a great look. The installation of wood shakes takes more time to install than just about any other roofing material, so expect to pay a premium.

Then there is the choice of which cedar to pick. The most common cedar woods for roofing are Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar. Both are good choices; however, the Alaskan Yellow is a very tough tree and is among the hardest and most durable, known for its longevity. Both are relatively comparable in cost. Most of the cedar today is from new-growth trees rather than old-growth trees. This is the big reason that cedar does not last as long as you would expect. Most of the old-growth forest was depleted in the 1940s. These trees were several hundred years old and provided a much more stable, rot resistant, and stronger wood product than the new younger tree stock that grows more quickly and is less dense. In our experience, we expect the average life of these wood roofs to be around 15 years.

If you live in a forest fire prone area you may want to consider not putting wood on your roof. Some states have actually banned wood roofs where risk of wild fires exist.

Do you currently have a wood roof on your log home? When you have it removed to install your new roof, pile it up in the back yard; it makes great kindling.

The pros of cedar shake roofing: They are beautiful. (But that is subjective.)

The cons: Expensive, not a very sustainable product, short life, and a fire hazard. Maintenance required. The factory warranty is virtually non-existent, when you read the exclusions. Workmanship/labor warranty would depend on the contractor doing the installation.

The Third Option: Metal Roofing

Log Home with Standing Seam Aluminum Metal Roof
Log Home with Standing Seam Aluminum Metal Roof

Have you noticed that most of the Log Home Builders’ and manufacturers’ brochures and pictures on the web display their homes with beautiful metal roofs? There is a good reason for that. Metal roofing is the proven choice for log cabin style and timber frame homes. Not only does it look terrific, but some of them have a life expectancy of close to 100 years.

When we refer to metal roofing for residential installations, we are referring primarily of aluminum metal roofs. Zinc and copper are great options as well, but only for those with no budgetary restrictions. Aluminum is by far the best choice for longevity, energy efficiency, the environment, sustainability, and beauty. Most of the aluminum roofing today is made from recycled aluminum. If you have ever returned aluminum beverage cans to be recycled, there is a high probability those cans went into manufacturing our roofs. All of the aluminum roofs we install are Energy Star rated. These roofs are also ideal in wooded areas where fire threats exist. They have a Class A fire rating. These roofs also have the highest hail impact rating.

Aluminum metal roofing is available in many colors and styles. The two most popular are standing seam and the Rustic shake. Both are ideal choices for your log home.

The pros of aluminum metal roofing: Longevity, beauty, Energy Star rated, many color choices, a lifetime warranty – 50-year non-prorated transferable. Workmanship / labor warranty depends on the contractor; Classic Metal Roofs’ is for as long as you own the house. This maintenance-free roof offers one of the best returns on investment available.

The cons: It costs more money initially.


The aluminum metal roofing option for your log cabin home gives you durability, beauty, color options, environmental friendliness, and a good return on your investment. What’s not to like?

log home with Rustic Shingle
Log Home Entrance with Rustic Aluminum “Shake” Roof

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