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Cedar in the City – How 8 Million People Use Cedar Daily

We write so much about how durable cedar roofing is, how rot-resistant cedar roofing is, how sustainable cedar roofing is, what a high R-Value cedar roofing has, that maybe you are tired of hearing it from us. Well, don’t just take our word for it; cedar is also the material of choice for another rooftop use but it isn’t roofs.

Cedar on roof top

Because of its rot-resistance, high insulation value and tolerance of extreme environmental conditions, cedar has many uses other than roofing.

There are over 15,000 wood watertanks in use on the roofs of buildings in New York City, there to maintain water pressure in buildings over five stories; a practice begun in the 1800s. Cedar is an ideal material for this purpose because it is lightweight, rot-resistant, plentiful, sustainable and just three inches of wood insulates the tank as well as 24 inches of concrete would.

The tanks use no chemicals or sealants, so as not to taint the water supply, and endure some of the fiercest rooftop conditions: searing heat and sun, wind, rain and freezing temperatures. So, though they may look antiquated, these tanks have a lifespan of 35 years without ANY preservation. After they have served their purpose they can be safely reclaimed for use as paneling, furniture and other creative applications furthering the life cycle of the cedar tree.

These watertanks, and the companies who still install them, have received a lot of interest lately. They have been the subject of a Dirty Jobs segment, a point of interest on historical tours, the subject of an art installation and an awareness campaign.

The gravity feed principles used in this system may be old but it sure is reliable – just like cedar roofing. Next time you are in NYC look up to the rooftops to marvel at this simple, yet green, part of the city’s past and present with more appreciation.

See How the Colors Compare

Colors depicted for comparison purposes only. Actual preservation color may vary based on the condition of wood roof. Please refer to the Gallery for more representations of colors.