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It Doesn't Get More Green Than Wood: Asphalt Vs. Cedar Shingles

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Choosing a roofing material for your home can be a complicated choice. You could simply go with the least expensive choice—asphalt shingles—but is that the most environmentally friendly choice? If you want to reduce the demand on earth's resources, you have to look beyond the hit your wallet will take and consider where your roof comes from, how long your roof will last, and what will happen to it when it reaches the end of its service life. 

Origin Story

The quest for a green roof begins with looking into where your roof comes from. When you look at asphalt shingles, you have have a complex tale. The tar in the roof must be harvested from tar pits. You next have to consider whether your shingles use tar paper or fiberglass. Either way, you have a complex manufacturing process to consider. Finally, you have the protective granules that make the top layer of the shingle. These granules are often made from shale and as such begin life in a quarry. As a general rule, the more complex the origin story is—the more processing involved—the worse environmental impact a product will have. 

Enter cedar shingles. Cedar shingles will typically come from a tree farm, meaning that they are not made by cutting down a forest. Instead, the operator plants trees, waits for them to reach maturity, cuts them down, cuts the trunk into shingle-size sections, then splits these sections into shingles. Notice that cedar has a much simpler back story. Score 1 point for cedar. 


By buying a long-lasting roofing material, you reduce your need to buy new materials and thus help to conserve earth's resources. Asphalt shingles will last between 14-20 years. In contrast, cedar shingles can last between 40-100 years. If you want the most durable shingles, make sure you buy thick-cut shingles, as thin shingles are more prone to cracking and to breaking with impact from hail or falling limbs. Still, chalk up another win for cedar.

When the End Comes

No matter what sort of roofing you use, your roof will eventually wear out, and you must consider where your roof will end up. In some areas, it is possible to recycle asphalt roofing for use in other products, but if you don't have a recycling center that can handle asphalt shingles in your area, they will end up taking up space in a landfill. On the other hand, when cedar shingles reach the end of their service life, you can burn them as firewood, use them in crafts projects, make mulch, or scrap them. Because wood is completely biodegradable, you can have the peace of mind that your roofing will eventually break down and reenter the circle of life. While recyclability is a good thing, mother earth recycles through the process of decomposition. One final win for cedar.

In sum, if you want green roofing for your home, choose cedar. Contact a professional roofing company, like American Building & Roofing Inc, to install your new cedar roof today.