Thatched Roofs

Most often seen in developing countries, thatched roofs can also be found on old or traditional European country homes. They are rarely put onto new construction, but existing thatch must be maintained and sometimes restored. When considering thatched roofs, it is important to weigh both practical and aesthetic factors. Read more on guide to replacing your roof.

“Thatched roofs give a home a true rustic, medieval feel. It can be perfect for a country cottage, but might not work so well in some neighborhoods.”

Basics Of Thatched Roofs

Thatched roofs are made from vegetation. It’s usually chosen from a local material such as a long grass, which is dried and layered. In the past it was one of the most popular roofing materials. In developing countries it is still used often, because the material is abundant and inexpensive.

Cost Of Thatched Roofs

Thatched roofs are one of the most economical choices in rural areas of developing countries. The material is plentiful and cheap. In more urban locations, however, it can be very expensive. It is harder to find appropriate vegetation and it must be shipped in. Straw is the most common choice of plant material, and it is usually the lest expensive part of constructing thatched roofs. Use our roofing cost calculator.

Advantages of Thatched Roofs

Many people think of thatched roofs as shoddy or flimsy. In fact, a skilled craftsman can produce a roof that may last 40 of 50 years. When repairs are made, a new layer is simply placed on top of the old. It is not uncommon to find old buildings in Europe that still have remnants of thatch from Medieval times. When compared with today’s shingles that may last 10 or 15 years, the expense doesn’t seem significant.

Environmentally Friendly
Thatched roofs are considered a green roof. While it is often seen on cabanas, outdoor structures, and landscaping features, it is great for larger buildings as well. Thatch is made of materials that are natural, renewable, and biodegradable. It is one of the greenest roofing materials available for the serious environmentalist.


The primary disadvantage is the very nature of the material. While thatch is no more likely to catch fire than other materials, it can be more difficult to put out and insurance costs may reflect that. There are also some risks of bird damage. They have been known to nest and forage in newly thatched roofs.

How It’s Made

Thatched roofs are deceptively simple, because it truly takes a master to make a good one. A poorly made thatched roof will be a leaky, drafty mess that falls apart and looks awful. A good one will leave you with a dry and comfortable home that will last for decades

Simple Process
A simple framework supports thatch roofs. A “ridge pole” design made of 2x4s leading from each corner to the center is the primary feature. The four corners are connected by cross beams parallel to the pole. Good reeds should be harvested during the winter and completely dry. The reeds must be gathered into bundles and secured to the frame using wire and pliers. Moving from one bottom corner, across the frame, and then up, the pattern should be repeated until covered. Overlap and tight spacing are very important to prevent leaks and drafts.