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Thatch roofing: The pros & cons

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THATCH ROOFING – The pros and the cons
Traditional thatch roofing is arguably the most beautiful and natural looking roofing material available, with its high volumes and rustic & cool atmosphere you might want to overlook the fact that there are various considerations to be taken into account before setting your mind on this particular roofing material for your dream home. Consider the advantages and disadvantages below:
  • As local materials always tend to harmonize with the land­scape surrounding their place of origin, thatch, as a natural material, will always blend well with a rural environment. After one season's exposure thatch will lose its fresh, straw color and take on a dusty grey appearance which is very attractive.
  • There is an ecological advantage to be gained by using thatch in that it is pro­duced by natural processes that do not use scarce and expensive resources of energy.
  • The thatching process is a labor intensive activity and, therefore, of practical economic value where unemployment among the lower income groups is common.
  • A thatched roof will ensure that a building will be cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • High volumes allows for mezzanine floors to be built, to which costs can be offset to the cost of the roof allowing a viable ‘double storey’ solution.
  • It is beautiful and natural.
  • Costs: Initial cost up to about 60% more expensive than most other roofing materials readily available. Also, because of the various perceived risks involved with this roofing choice your insurance premiums will also be higher on your home in comparison to other roofing materials.
  • Thatched houses are more vulnerable to fire risk than those covered with other materials, and it is therefore imperative that precautions be taken to reduce the risk.
  • Being an organic material, thatch is susceptible to decay and decomposition and precautions must be taken to minimize the possibility of this process taking place. Firstly, the grass must be mature when laid, which may be green when delivered but will gradually take on a light brown appearance. Leaves falling from nearby trees must not be allowed to accumulate on the roof surface.
  • The pitch of the roof must not be less than 45° to facilitate rapid run­off of water. Generally speaking, the steeper the pitch of the roof the greater will be the durability of the thatch. However, it is not recommended that any vegetation should be allowed to grow on the thatch as water flow from the roof can thereby be impeded.
  • Thatch can provide a harbor for vermin, but normally such infestation does not reach serious proportions. However, if such problems arise the thatch can be sprayed with one of the commercially available toxicants.
Article by JB, founder & architect of
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