Roofing 101 Parts Of A Roof Explained

Thatched Roof: A Lasting Solution?

by

James
March 5, 2022
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Is there anything more charming than a home that has a thatched roof?

Thatching is a traditional style of roofing that involves the use of dry vegetation, such as rushes, sedge, and straw to produce a beautiful and natural-looking roof covering.

It’s still found in countries such as Kenya, Fiji, and South Africa, but it’s also becoming popular in other countries because of its visual appeal and eco-friendly nature.

What country has the most thatched roofs?

While the UK has the most thatched roofs than any other country in Europe, thatch is less commonly found in the U.S.

Let’s explore how thatched roofs came about and whether or not you should consider installing one in your home. While thatched roofs look charming and beautiful, they do have some important pros and cons that you need to consider. 

Brief History Of Thatch Roofs 

Roofing 101 Parts Of A Roof Explained

Thatched roofs have commonly been used by indigenous people such as the Inca, Aztecs, and Maya. In Europe, wild vegetation was used as primitive dwellings and straw was believed to be used as a roofing material during the Neolithic period, which is the final period of the Stone Age, dated between 10,000 to 4,500 BC. 

As the years passed, thatched roofs started to symbolize aristocracy. This was evident in France in 1774, when Hameau de Chantilly cottage was built by Louis Joseph, prince of Condé on the Chateau de Chantilly grounds. Then, in 1783 Marie Antoinette had her Hameau de la Reine (Queen’s Hamlet) designed, which consisted of buildings that had thatched roofs.

As Europe moved towards a less rural way of living, thatched roofs became more popular and also appeared in artists’ works in the late 1700s.

When European settlers arrived in North America, they brought the idea of thatched roofs with them. Many forts and posts of the Hudson Bay started using thatch as a roofing method, and this was popular during the American civil war. 

Thatched Roofs Pros And Cons

If you’re curious about thatched roofs and are considering one for your home, you should consider its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • Thatched roofs are easy to maintain. As long as the thatched roof has been installed properly, it won’t require a lot of maintenance. If you’re worried about birds stripping the thatch, you can have it installed with plastic or wire mesh to provide greater protection.
  • Thatched roofs are naturally insulated. Unlike other roofing materials that have to be insulated after installation, this is not the case with thatch. It insulates your home well so that it stays cool during the summer and provides warmth indoors during the winter.
  • Thatched roofs can last for a very long time. The amount of time you can expect to enjoy your roof depends on the type of vegetation that was used to make it. Water reed, for example, can last for between 55 and 65 years, while combed wheat reed has a lifespan of between 20 and 40 years.
  • Thatched roofs are flexible. This means that thatch can be shaped and molded into different forms. You can also combine thatch with other roofing materials if you want more contrast in how your roof looks or an interesting and unique design for your home. 
  • Thatch doesn’t require extra support. When installing thatched roofs, they don’t require heavy supportive structures that you’ll require with other types of roofs. This reduces the cost of installing thatch in your home. 

Cons

  • It takes time to install. While thatch is easy to install, it does take time to do it correctly – you’re looking at an installation period that lasts for between two to four weeks.
  • It has to be inspected regularly. Once a year you should get your thatched roof inspected by a professional to make sure that the roof is still in good condition.
  • It can be a fire hazard. A thatched roof is a fire hazard and has to undergo fire-retardant processes to ensure that it isn’t potentially dangerous. 
  • It can bump up your insurance premiums. Your home insurance might be higher when you have a thatched roof instead of another roofing material. This is because of its fire risk. 

Types Of Thatched Roofs 

The main types of materials used to make thatched roofs include water reed, longstraw, and combed wheat reed. Usually, sedge, which is a grassy plant that grows in wetland regions, is used for ridging. 

There are different styles and types of thatched roofs to know about, so let’s explore them along with their pros and cons. 

Traditional Open-Roof Construction

Roofing 101 Parts Of A Roof Explained

This thatched roof has reeds applied from bottom to top, and its installation requires specialized tools. It gets its name from the open space between the reeds and substructure. This enables good air circulation through the thatch because its interior isn’t separated from the exterior completely. 

Pros

  • This type of thatched roof has a lightweight construction. 
  • Its reeds can be seen from inside the home, which increases its visual appeal.

Cons 

  • It can cause a lot of draughts to enter the home which can increase your energy loss and costs.
  • If you want to add insulation to this thatched roof, it can be complicated and expensive. 

Closed-Structure Thatch Roofing

Roofing 101 Parts Of A Roof Explained

This type of thatched roofing includes reeds that are secured to a closed surface, such as underlayment or insulation boards. This is a less traditional and more modern type of thatching.

Pros

  • This thatched roof gets better insulated than an open-structure roof.
  • It prevents draughts from being caused.

Cons 

  • It can cost more money than an open-structure roof. However, it can lead to less energy loss, which can help you to save money on your energy bills. 

How To Maintain A Thatched Roof

Roofing 101 Parts Of A Roof Explained

While you have to have your thatched roof inspected annually to prevent problems, you should also do your own inspections. Here are some important thatched roof maintenance rules to follow. 

  • Remove leaves and debris from your thatched roof whenever you see it. You can do this yourself with a rake that’s safe for use on thatched roofs.
  • Trim bushes and trees. If these are growing around your thatched roof, you should trim them regularly to prevent them from falling onto the roof and providing the perfect dark and damp conditions for fungi and rot to occur. 
  • Brush the thatch every few years. You should brush the roof every five or so years to ensure that it’s not rotting or becoming damaged. Brushing also helps to make the roof look as good as new.
  • Grass-thatched roofs are susceptible to moss and algae, which is why you have to use fungicides to keep these at bay.
  • Avoid foot traffic on your thatched roof. You should avoid unnecessarily propping ladders against your thatched roof or walking on it too much. This is because it can produce divots in the roof, which will decrease the thatch’s lifespan.
  • Cover your thatched roof with wire netting so that you prevent birds and pests from damaging it.
  • Look for signs that your thatched roof requires maintenance or repair, such as that there are hollow areas in the thatch, the wire netting has become raised on the ridge of the thatched roof, or you can see some moss starting to form. 

What About Synthetic Thatch? 

An alternative to traditional thatch is synthetic thatch. It’s more durable than natural thatch as a result of how it’s resistant to fire, harsh weather, and pest infestations.

It doesn’t require lots of maintenance. Synthetic thatch is made out of HDPE, a high-density polyethylene, or PVC. 

How Much Does A Thatched Roof Cost? 

A thatched roof cost will vary according to certain factors, such as the following: 

  • The roof shape. 
  • The roof design. It will cost more to install thatched roof if it’s got a complex design. 
  • The roof thickness. 

Generally, though, you can expect to pay approximately $35 per square foot plus some extra money for material delivery. This price is similar to authentic slate roofing. 

What Do Building Codes Say About Thatched Roofs?

Roofing 101 Parts Of A Roof Explained

Homes that have thatched roofs are less likely to burn in a fire than other homes, which makes them fire-resistant. While people worry about thatch being more prone to catching fires, it’s no more likely than other roofing materials.

That said, if the thatch does get caught on fire, it’s more likely that the fire will spread. Regular roof maintenance and inspections can help to prevent this.  

Thatch is brought up to the fire safety codes and standards by having a fire retardant product sprayed onto it. 

What about wind resistance? 

While a thatched roof is resistant to wind, an issue with thatched roofs in areas that are prone to hurricanes is that the best roof slope to tolerate wind-driven rain and hurricanes is about 30 degrees.

The issue with thatched roofs is that natural thatch should have a slope of 50 degrees, which is considered ideal, but this slope isn’t resistant to hurricane damage. 

Is Thatched Roof Insurance Expensive? 

Thatched roofs are built in a special way and they require thatchers to have specific skills as well as the right materials, both of which can make the installation process costly.

When it comes to insuring your thatched home, there are some things to consider.

  • Damage coverage. If your thatched roof becomes damaged, you’ll have to find a professional with the expertise required to repair it, which will increase your insurance premium.
  • Fire coverage. The issue of fire damage is a big concern for insurance companies. This is because fire can quickly spread through a thatched home, causing lots of damage. This boosts your insurance premium.

You can try to reduce your insurance premiums, such as by installing fire alarms in your home, having a fire-retardant spray coating applied to the thatched roof (which is sometimes a requirement of insurance companies), and getting your electrics inspected for any issues or faults.

Can You Get Financing For Your Thatched Roof? 

If you require financing for your thatched roof, you might battle because banks or mortgage lenders could deny you.

This is because they might not take thatched roofs into consideration or they won’t finance a roof that requires maintenance. However, there are companies that work with lenders to help people arrange mortgages for thatched homes.

Related Questions 

Do thatched roofs need gutters?

Thatched roofs don’t usually have gutters installed. This is because installing gutters would be difficult because of the thatching material. The thickness of the thatched roof at the eaves produces a natural overhang that removes moisture from the roof and prevents gutters from being necessary.  

Can any building be thatched?

As long as the home or building has the correct slope, a variety of structures can be thatched, such as hotels, cottages, houses, holiday villages, and more. 

Conclusion 

If you want a roofing material that’s not as common as what you see in homes around you, you might consider investing in a thatched roof.

While these are popular in different parts of the world, they’re not as commonly seen in the U.S., so you can stand out in the crowd.

After reading this article, you now know important info about thatched roofs so you can decide if a thatched roof is best for your home.

Sources: 

James

James Weldon is a professional roofing contractor with many years of experience on the job. He does not only handle large projects and provide excellent services for his company’s many clients; James Weldon also dedicates his spare time to teaching others useful tricks of the trade. Using BuildCampus as an avenue to reach many roofers and aspiring roofing contractors, James Weldon continues to provide high-quality educational posts and buying recommendations for anyone who visits the website.