How long does a thatched roof last? Pros & Cons

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It is a traditional technique which incorporates the use of dry fibers like reeds, straw, palm trees and various other fibers to make covering for roof.

The interlocking and grouping among the fibers will form a tension surface which is not only impermeable but also impenetrable for different pests and rodents. It is quite challenging to unveil the history of thatched roofing.

Thatched roof is made up of natural biodegradable material due to which very few traces are available in older construction.

According to researchers, this old fashioned construction technique date back to the time when humans stopped being nomads and their primary source of livelihood becomes agriculture.

The old remains reveal that thatched roof was used in the building of Aztec empires, as well as its use in Mexico, Europe and UK and among many other countries.  

Types of Thatched Roof

Particularly there are two types of thatched roof namely; 1) natural 2) artificial.

A natural thatched roof is made up of organic degradable fibers like straw, dried grass and reeds that are easily available from the local market. The appearance of natural thatch is obtained by the use of synthetic material, results in the formation of artificial thatch.

Factors Affecting the Life Span of Thatched Roof

Roof whether thatched or not have been effected by a number of factors that directly impact on the lifespan of such structures. Prominently, there are some factors that will impact more on thatched roof as compared to roof made up of other materials.  

Type of Material

Thatch is a building material which is environmentally friendly. There are 3 main types of thatching material namely; Long straw, water Reed, Combined Wheat. These materials vary in their application, longevity and style. 

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Long Straw

The materials used in the construction of the long straw are the same as for the combined wheat straw, but the way it is produced is different when brought from the field. The Long straw roof has a more shaggy appearance as the straws are put on with the ears and butts of the fabric facing downwards. The pattern around the barges and eaves are spar in nature. A well experienced thatcher is required for construction of this type of roof. The normal life span of this roof is 15-25 years.

Water Reed

This material is known as Continental Water Reed and Norfolk Reed and is widely use throughout the UK. Among all the thatching materials this material is very much harder and has the longest life span.

These roof are straighter and less round in shape as compared to other roofing styles. The roof comprised of water reed is most economical in nature as compared with other materials.

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A well experienced thatcher is required for construction of this type of roof. The normal life span of this roof is 25- 40+ years.

Wheat Reed

It has been used for many decades as a thatching material and famously know as Combined Wheat Straw, Wheat Straw or Wheat Reed. It is a specialized product, produced by the old fashioned machines and it is the by product from the production of grain.

The construction of wheat roof construction is a lab our intensive as per modern standards. Ridges are mostly made up of Combined Wheat Reed and there are numerous pattern like flush, cut or straight. The life span of this roof is 25-35 years.

Rye Straw, Turf, Sedge, Heather and Veldt Grass

Although these are old fashioned materials but yet they can work better despite of their less neat appearance. Obtaining some of these materials and finding a thatcher having an experience in using them is more difficult.

Quality of Roofing Material

The quality of roofing material is another important factor at the time of installation. The procedure for making thatch suitable for roofing is quite rigorous. The material used for thatch is firstly cut, bond together, ripened and threshed.

After that it is bundled for sale in the market. The additional factors that can impact the quality are the storage and age.

The improper storage of thatch material result in excessive absorption of moisture and promotes the growth of harmful elements.  Thatch material becomes brittle, if store for so long time. The ultimate goal is ensure the thatch used is of highest quality.

Pitch of Roof

The roof pitch is another important factor that plays a significant role in determining the life span. A Thatch roof having an inadequate pitch results in the retention of moisture and ultimately lead to shorter in strength and decrease in life span.

Climatic Conditions

Weather is the biggest enemy for thatched roof. The climatic factors like sunlight and wind have impact on the thatched roof like nothing else. The climatic condition must be taken into consideration especially in case of thatched roof. The most imminent factor is moisture content.

The wind effects the thatched roof having a high pitch and ultimately reduce its life span. Thatch is organic material and severe badly when prone to moisture content. In the humid environment the changes for the thatch roof to last longer be very limited as compared to moisture content. The locals. The persons who want to purchase property should be vigilant of weather conditions. 


It is an astonishing factor that the surrounding landscape plays a significant role in thatched roof.

The life span of thatch is reduced if the thatched roof is surrounded by trees that are very much dense and retards the approach of sun rays on it and prevent the free movement of air, as a result moisture will imbeds in the thatch and ultimately loss in strength and life span. It is recommended that surrounding area should be cleared of trees and other obstacles that cause hindrance that would cause problems.

Environmental Effect

The reduction in the life span of thatched roof is due to environmental pollutants like certain chemicals interaction with moisture results in chemical reaction that results in decaying of thatched roof.

Thatched roof that are located near to or in metropolitan areas are more prone to shorter life span as compared to rural areas

7. Herbivorous Animals

The organic material used in thatched roof are welcoming home for animals like rodents and birds.

The life span is reduced if the infestation of pests is a severe problem. In order to protect the ridge from animals metal netting is pre-requisite. The installation of plastic netting is recommended in the areas prone to birds and rodents.

8. Roof Breathability

Ventilation is not a problem in thatched roof because they are very well to breath. The natural material like weeds or other types breathe quite well and the need for allowing attic ventilation is rarely needed. The poor installation or design results in reduction of life span due to poor breathability. It is matter of grave concern to allow thatched roof to breathe otherwise moisture will be trapped and ultimately decaying will starts.

9. Damage due to Movement

The life span of a thatched roof is effected due to disturbed movement on the roof. It is not a good idea to allow the thatcher or tradesman to walk across the roof. People who are unaware of this fact and move around on roof for repairing of chimneys, trimming of trees and replacing flashing will results in damage to thatched roof and results in reduction of life span.

10. Skill of Thatcher

The quality of craftsman is important factor in installation of thatched roof. A skilled thatcher with years of experience in material installation and quality can be more beneficial as compared to unskilled labor. It is desired that care should be taken in chosen of craftsman in installation of thatch roof.

Maintenance of Thatched Roof

The maintenance of any infrastructure will results in sustainability and longer life span. The thatched roof have longer life span but slight maintenance is required due to natural biodegradable material. Before and after the start of winter season, care must be taken especially on the ridge of roof.

In case of metal netting, thatch may be degraded and have spars due to raised wire mesh. The wearing may also be seen across the lines of roof coating and dips. After the rain it is essential to remove the plants and tress so that air may flow easily into the thatched roof. The growth of lichen and moss will less likely to grow if there is plenty of sunlight at the thatched roof.

David Noah

Howdy, I’m Noah Although I don't like all this internet thing but I love sharing my stories on the roof here. With my years of experience in number of roofing contractors across various boroughs of Florida, I'm here to answer all your roofing questions. I'm really honored to have you on my website browsing through our articles and hope you'll enjoy your visit and find my content helpful in every situation. You can contact me right away to discuss any of your roofing problem.

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