A traditional and eco-friendly roofing technique, thatched roofs have become desirable for homes, resorts, and lodges.
They bring that retro feel that is cool and visually pleasing. Despite thatched roof popularity today, there was a time when its usage declined because of widespread concerns like fire and hygiene.
To understand its resurgence as one of the mainstream roofing options, you need to know thatch roof pros and cons and its maintenance.
What Is Thatching?
Thatching is a roofing method that involves using dry vegetation to create a roof covering. Vegetation used includes water reed, straw, heather, rushes, and sedge.
Thatching is a durable and relatively inexpensive roofing option. It has a simple design that involves weaving vegetation to a wooden frame tightly. Thatched roofs protect homes from searing heat and rain.
Types Of Thatching Material Used For Roofs
The materials used for thatching are usually sourced locally from the natural vegetation in an area. South Africa predominantly uses grass and reed.
The different types of thatching materials used for roofs include;
Heather– the entire plant is used for thatching. Heather is tied up into bundles before fixing to a roof while pointing downwards.
Grass– this is the most used thatching roof material because of its availability and ease of use. Grass grows almost everywhere. However, the type of grass varies depending on the region and climate.
Straw– straw is cultivated so that it can grow taller for thatching. Long straw thatch can last up to 25 years.
Reed– similar to heather, reeds are bundled together, stacked, and combed to remove ears. They are then laid on to a roof in thick bundles.
Gorse– is a thorny shrub that grows in sunny and sandy areas. It is fairly used today as thatching material.
Bracken– is a type of fern that was abundantly used for thatching because of its simplicity and strength. Like gorse, it is sparingly used today, and it requires a bit of skill to install.
Thatch Roof Pros And Cons
- Natural and Eco-friendly material
Thatch roof materials are a natural resource making them one of the most environmentally friendly roofing options available. Grass or other materials are grown and can be harvested without the use of machines. Where machinery is required, its usage is very minimal. Thatching materials help protect and conserve the environment.
- Visually Appealing
A thatched roof is one of the most beautiful features of a home because of the natural, free-flowing shapes crafted by the material used. The roof has an inviting appearance that adds character, charm, and personality to a home. Thatching also has a versatility that accommodates irregular roof structures.
- Provides Good Insulation
Thatched roofs act as a natural insulator for your home ensuring that you stay warm when it’s cold and cool when hot outside. This is an added bonus by reducing the need for other materials and equipment to provide insulation. It also allows you to reduce your heating and cooling bills.
- Great Durability
These roofs are very durable and last for many years. When installed and maintained properly, a thatched roof can last up to 25 years or more. The roof’s durability is dependent on the material used, how well you maintain it and the job done by the thatcher.
- Blends well with the Environment and Surroundings
As the thatch roofing material ages, it shapes into natural forms, becoming darker and blending with the surrounding. This also adds to its character and charm. This is why thatch roofs are suitable for lodges and game resorts.
- Affordable Roofing Option
In comparison to tiles and shingles, thatch roof materials are a low-cost option. The materials are sustainable because they are easy to grow and harvest. However, they are labor-intensive. Thatch roofs allow you to be creative with your ceiling as it is higher and delivers more space.
- Labour Intensive
Harvesting thatch materials requires intensive labor, which can increase the initial costs of a thatch roof.
- Requires More Routine Maintenance
Because of thatch materials’ vulnerability to fire and other damaging factors, a thatch roof requires regular inspection and maintenance. The frequency of maintenance is influence by the type of material used, exposure to pollutants, and extreme weather.
- Attracts Insects and Rodents
A thatched roof provides a haven for insects such as wasps and rodents that damage the roof. These small animals and insects are naturally attracted to thatched roofs for shelter. Frequent attention and inspection to the ridge and roof must be conducted to ensure the thatch roof's structural integrity is maintained.
- Fire hazard
Fire is a significant risk to a thatched roof and is one of the main reasons why its usage was reduced a few decades ago before it made a comeback. Since the materials are dry vegetation, they can easily catch fire if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
- Insurance may be higher
Insurance premiums for a thatch roof will be higher than other roofing options because of the higher risk of fire damage.
Fire Safety Considerations When Installing A Thatch Roof
1) A thatch roof can be fireproofed with fire-resistant materials such as aluminum barrier foil, thatch batts, and fire retardant spray.
Thatch batts are installed on the underside of the roof. They help slow down the progress of a fire. When used together with aluminum barrier foil, they offer total fireproof protection. Thatch batts also provide thermal insulation.
Aluminum barrier foil is applied to a thatched roof to insulate against excessive heat. Finally, fire retardant spray is applied to the exterior and also the interior of a thatch roof. Apart from aiding in fire protection, it also adds a layer of water resistance.
2) Thatchers recommended installing a fireboard as an added security measure.
3) Avoid installing recessed lighting under the thatch or external floodlights close to it.
4) Install smoke alarms for smoke detection, heat monitoring systems, and fire extinguishers.
5) Electrical problems are one of the primary causes of fire in thatched roofs. All electrical wiring should be covered with fire-resistant duct or insulated with ceramic insulators
6) Television satellite dishes and aerials should be mounted on poles and not installed directly on the thatched roof.
Maintenance & Treatments Required For Thatch Roofs
To keep your thatch roof in good condition, consider the following;
Remove debris, leaves, and moss or algae from your thatched roof. Cleaning can be done manually or using the equipment.
Get a professional thatcher to conduct a brushing down procedure that removes moss on your roof’s surface. Moss enables the growth and spread of fungi that cause decomposition and rot of thatch materials.
The pollutants mentioned above prevent your roof from getting exposed to sunlight and wind, consequently damaging it when left unattended. An algaecide can also be applied to a thatch roof to kill algae and moss.
Re-attaching the Thatch
Replacing thatch that has fallen off or blown off by strong winds and re-attaching loose thatch is also good maintenance practice. These two processes contribute to the lifespan of a thatched roof.
The wire that holds the thatch together can also be tightened if it appears loose.
Prune trees and Bushes
Trees and bushes growing around a thatched roof should be controlled.
The trees should not cash shadows on the roof since this will create a conducive environment for dampness. Increased moisture levels on a thatched roof cause fungi growth and rotting of the material.
Ensure your roof receives sunlight and can dry quickly.
This procedure may not be a regular maintenance process like cleaning; however, it is crucial for the durability of a thatched roof.
Your thatched roof ridge is the structure that is affected the most by weather elements and animals.
Ridges should be regularly inspected and replaced. Re-ridging only requires the removal of the top layer.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Is A Thatched Roof Waterproof?
A thatched roof is impermeable and protects your possessions. Materials used for thatching are naturally waterproof. Other layers such as aluminum barrier foil are added for extra waterproofing.
2) How Long Do Thatch Roofs Last?
Thatch roof can last 15 to 25 years or even longer. Their lifespan depends on the type of material used, the care and maintenance applied to the roof, and the installation. A thatch roof made of cape reed that has been properly installed and maintained can last up to 50 years.
3) Are Thatched Roofs Warm?
Thatched roofs are warm because of the natural insulation properties of materials used. They keep your home warm during cold months.
4) How Often Should A Thatched Roof Be Replaced?
A thatched roof should be replaced when it gets damaged. Thatched roofs are durable and last for many years. However, any damaged component like the ridge should be replaced immediately to avoid further damage and shortened lifespan.
Thatched roofs have been around for thousands of years. They continue to be popular, offering durability, versatility, charm, character, and visual appeal to contemporary and modern homes.