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ROOFING INSPECTION & REPAIR
AMERICAN CEMWOOD ROOFING
BEST ROOFING PRACTICES
BUILT UP ROOFS
CATHEDRAL CEILING VENTILATION
CERTIFICATIONS for ROOFING CONTRACTORS
CHIMNEY FLASHING Mistakes & Leaks
COLD WEATHER ROOF TROUBLE
DECKS, ROOFTOP CONSTRUCTION
EPDM, RUBBER, PVC ROOFING
EXTRACTIVE BLEEDING on SHINGLES
FIRE RETARDANT PLYWOOD
FLASHING on BUILDINGS
FLAT ROOF MOISTURE & CONDENSATION
Green House or Solarium Roof Leaks
HEAT TAPES & CABLES on Roofs for Ice Dams
ICE DAM PREVENTION
MASONITE WOODRUF FIBERBOARD ROOFING
NOISE CONTROL for ROOFS
PLASTIC ROOFING TYPES
PVC, EPDM, RUBBER ROOFING
ROOF ARCHITECTURAL STYLES - PHOTO GUIDE
ROOF CLEANING RECOMMENDATIONS
ROOF COLOR RECOMMENDATIONS
ROOF INSPECTION SAFETY & LIMITS
ROOF LEAK DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
ROOF NOISE TRANSMISSION
ROOF REPLACEMENT SNAFUs
ROOFING FELT UNDERLAYMENT REQUIREMENTS
ROOFING MATERIALS, Age, Types
SADDLE CONSTRUCTION at CHIMNEYS
SNOW GUARDS & SNOW BRAKES
STANDARDS for ROOFING
STRESS SKIN INSULATED PANELS
TEST LABS - ROOF SHINGLE
TREES & SHRUBS, TRIM OFF BUILDING
TRUSSES, Floor & Roof
UNDERLAYMENT REQUIREMENTS on ROOFS
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
WALK-ON ROOF SURFACES
WARRANTIES for ROOF SHINGLES
WORKMANSHIP & ROOF DAMAGE
Thatched roofing guide: this article describes types of thatch roofing used on buildings, with a brief history of thatch and a focus on contemporary use of this roofing method. Thatch roofing is not only a very old and well established (though high labor) roof covering method used in many parts of the world, it is also used on a wider variety of types of buildings than you mght expect. Our page top photo illustrates a palapa roof beneath which the author slept in Mexico in 1976. This website provides un-biased articles about many common roofing materials, installations, inspection, defects, roofing repairs, and products.
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Traditional thatch roofing was constructed of straw, combed wheat, longstraw, broom, sod, and water reed (Phragmites australis). But other plant materials have been used depending on what was readily available in various parts of the world, including palm leaves and plant fragments.
Thatched roofs were typically installed on steep sloped roof structures in order to shed water rapidly (rather than absorbing it).
Our photo (left) shows a palm leaf thatched roof used on the shelter mounted on Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 Kon Tiki Raft. (The Kon Tiki and its shelter are preserved at the Kon Tiki museum in Oslo, Norway.)
Our page top photo shows another palm thatch roof in Veracruz, Mexico in 1972.
Life Expectancy of Thatch Roofs
Our photos (below) show the exterior and also the interior structure a traditional Mexican thatch roof used at the visitors' center of el Charco, an environmental park in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico (2004). The interior photo (below right) shows how the thatch roof skylight window was constructed. A closeup of this window seen from outside is provided below in this article.
Water reed thatched roofing can last up to 50 years. Combed wheat reed typically has a life expectancy of 25 - 35 years, and long straw 15 - 25 years. For all of these traditional thatch roof types, re-ridging is needed about every 10 - 15 years.
The life of a thatch roof varies considerably depending on the roof slope (shallower or lower pitch thatched roofs are more likely to leak, absorb water, and have a short life), and on the geographic area where the roofed building is located. The typical slope of a thatched roof structure is 50 degrees. But as we explain next, the slope of the roof structure is not the same as the slope of the thatch itself.
The life of a thatch roof is also significantly affected by the thickness of the thatch, since a thicker thatch results in a less-steep angle of the individual reeds or straws. A less steep reed or straw angle results in a shorter roof life. A 9-15" thickness is recommended for a water reed thatch roof and a 9-12" thatch is recommended for wheat reed and longstraw thatches.
Insulating Value of Thatched Roofs is about R-11 for a typical 9-12" thick thatch.
The books listed below can be found by using the "Roofing" link at the InspectAPedia Bookstore.
Quick Comparison of Typical Roof Costs, Life Expectancy, Characteristics
Here is a quick comparison of common roofing materials. Our roofing inspection, diagnosis, repair and installation articles listed at left and below provide roof inspection, roof leak or problem diagnosis, roof installation, and roof repair information as well as details about the factors that affect the life of any roof. We include roof warranty and claim information and links to roofing product sources.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about thatched roofing: properties, installation, life, tools, methods, history of use.
Questions & answers or comments about thatch roofing on buildings.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.