CMS roof with composite shingles.
Composite Shingles: A Cedar Shake Alternative

Cedar Shingles Vs. Composite Shingles

As the risk of wildfire grows in Montana’s alpine regions, builders and homeowners are evaluating fire resistant materials such as composite shingles: a cedar shake alternative. Traditional cedar shake roofs, while attractive, are more prone to ignition than other less combustible roofing materials. This puts your home at a higher risk of being damaged or destroyed by a wildfire. The good news, companies like Brava and DaVinci have developed composite shingles that mimic the look of cedar shake while offering improved fire resistance. By choosing these composite shingles, you can greatly reduce the risk of wildfire affecting your home and ensure the safety and security of your family and property.

What’s Wrong with Cedar

With the roof of a house having a large surface area and low angles compared to walls, flying embers are more likely to collect and burn on this surface. Risk increases from roof’s which have more complexities such as edges and intersections of roof planes that can trap debris and/or embers. With wood shingles being a more fire prone surface, it will be easier to ignite the roof surface and spread to other parts of the home. 

Treated cedar shingles alone can only achieve a class B fire rating. With proper underlayment and installation, a class A assembly can be achieved, but the cedar decking material will still be more prone to combust. The risk of structure loss with using cedar shake in alpine environments is so great that communities notably in California have banned the use of them all together.

Wood Roofs in Counties with Wildfire Risk


Shown in the figure above, Montana in general has some of the highest and most widespread cedar roofs in medium to high wildfire risk zones. Notably, the regions around Big Sky, Montana have the highest threat with 1000+ assessed cedar roofs. Headwaters Economics estimated that to replace all wooden roofs in high danger regions would cost upwards of $6 billion, also stating, “This is likely a significant underestimate as roofing data was available for fewer than a quarter of homes and roof replacement costs were estimated conservatively.” 

Along with the fire danger associated with cedar shingles, they can be costly and time consuming to maintain. A cedar roof’s lifespan greatly relies on the amount of moisture the roof is exposed to. Professional maintenance on a cedar roof to prevent them from deteriorating too quickly and keep it free of moss, algae, and other fungi. Generally, cedar roofs last about 30 years depending on the environment and maintenance schedule. For a long-lasting cedar roof, maintenance needs to be performed every 2 to 6 years.

Composite Shingles

Composite shingles, also known as synthetic shingles, are constructed of a mix of materials specifically chosen for their resistance to damage, durability, and reduction in weight. Composite shingles offer an almost identical ascetic as cedar shakes while also providing unique color variations to ensure your individual ascetic needs are met with minimal fading over time. Below further details a few of the numerous benefits provided with composite shingles. 


Composite shingles can withstand hailstorms, winds up to 110 miles per hour, absorb less moisture, resist mold/algae, and is fire retardant.  

Fire Resistance:

Most composite shingle brands offer either a stand-alone Class A fire rating or achieve a class A fire rating with approved interlayment. 

Impact Resistance:

A class 4 impact rating is met with numerous composite shingle brands on the market. 

Wind Resistance:

In many cases a composite roof can withstand winds up to 110 mph. 


Though warranty depends on brand, composite shingles due to their fire and impact resistance, usually carry a much stronger warranty lifespan than their all-natural counterparts. 


Composite roofing material is more affordable than traditional options such as slate, wood, shake, or tile, and the lighter weight of the shingles means roof reinforcement often isn’t necessary when it would be with heavier options like stone or wood. The density of the shingles also helps insulate your home, reducing utility bills over time.  


Synthetic roofs, whether beginning as recycled materials or not, are usually recyclable when their useful life is over. This helps to reduce waste and is seen in positive light as the world trends more and more toward green living.

Brava and DaVinci Composite Shingles

Detailed below are two popular composite shingle brands within the Big Sky area, Brava and DaVinci Roofscapes

Comparing Brava and DaVinci composite shingles

For further information regarding composite shingle options as well as determining if a composite roof is right for you, please contact Cornerstone Management Services today. 



Written by:

Ward Cereck – CMS Engineering Intern 

Edited by:

Paul Williamson – CMS Director of Business Development



Have questions about this post?  Contact CMS today to get more info.


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