The Truth About Thatch & Thatch Maintenance

-Shedding the light on premature thatch maintenance –


As consumers, we are often vulnerable and exposed to gimmicks and bent-truths sold to us on a silver platter by service providers. As a thatching company; it drives us absolutely mad when spotting a thatched roof (often one of our initial clients) that was serviced before it was really needed; knowing that our client was exploited.

There is a misconception that a thatched roof, whether residential or lapa, needs maintenance done every five years. Not only is this untrue, but premature thatching maintenance could cause severe damage and decrease the lifespan of your thatched roof. So, let us set the record straight:

A thatched roof in the Western Cape region should last over 20 years; depending on the weather and environmental factors. There will be various areas of the roof that are bound to deteriorate faster, for instance, the Southern Slopes of a roof, due to the lack of sunshine. Other areas that are inclined to faster deterioration will be the sections of the roof in shaded areas, underneath overhanging branches as well as valleys. The latter deteriorates faster due to the design: the valleys are generally thatched at a lower slope; therefore, the water run-off is slower and the thatch will rot faster.

After the first two summers, we suggest a re-compaction service. Thatch / “dekriet” contains a small percentage of moisture to make it pliable enough to thatch with. Over the 2 summer seasons the thatch / “dekriet” loses this moisture, shrinks and the binding material becomes loose.

The re-compaction service involves a process where the binding material is pulled tight again, thatch is compacted to its initial density and the whole roof is finished off to smooth and even surfaces. At JNA Thatchers, we would at this stage offer the client an added option to repair all cracks in the cement ridge capping and flashings and to repaint.

When a home owner commits to the above maintenance; the next twelve years should be maintenance free! The aforementioned areas (southern slopes, valleys, etc.) would generally require the first upkeep. Our first line of defence is the overhaul service: in principle, it’s the same as a re-compaction service with the added feature that the bottom ± 100mm rotten ends of the thatch is cut away (by this time these ends would have started curling up & the roof will have an untidy appearance). New reed is also added in to re-densify the roof. After this service, the roof should have a uniform “yellow” look similar to a newly thatched roof.

After more than 20 years, the maintenance cycle will start again. The previously re-compacted areas will now need to be rethatched, while previously untouched areas will merely need an overhaul. The longevity of a thatched roof is dependent on the influences of its natural environment. One of our Karoo clients’ thatched roof is more or less 45 years old and never needed a total rethatch due to the environmental context.

To conclude: before agreeing to maintenance on your thatched roof, make sure of the roof’s condition and that you are using a reliable thatcher.

Be informed. Be assured. Be inspired.

For an assessment on the maintenance of your thatched roof, click here to contact us.


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