Thatching is a method of making a roof with many overlapping layers of dry plant stalks or leaves. Its thick dry texture and the slopes of roofs made from it help keep moisture from penetrating the roof. Here are three things you should know about thatching.

1. Buildings You Can Thatch

Any building can be thatched, if the right materials and a skilled thatcher are available. However, thatching is most useful in wet or humid climates, such as northern Europe and the tropics, where it can be a useful waterproofing and thermoregulation material. Depending on where you are, you may see at least one thatched garden cottage, public building, church or house.

2. Risks of Using Thatch

Because of the material it’s made from, thatch is believed to be incredibly flammable, but this is an oversimplification. While dry thatch can catch fire near a poorly maintained chimney, this is easily remedied by ensuring thatch isn’t installed too close to the chimney and the chimney undergoes regular maintenance. Modern smoke detectors, fireproof insulation and other fire safety equipment can help mitigate the risk too. You should also avoid using thatch as a roofing material if the area in which you live has an exceptionally dry climate for most of the year, such as the southwestern United States.

3. Maintaining a Thatched Roof

For the most part, thatched roofs don’t need frequent repairs or maintenance. A professional thatcher should expect to rethatch a roof roughly once every ten years and re-ridge it more frequently. Ideally, your thatched roof will be constructed so that water can evaporate easily. If this isn’t done, moss can grow too thickly and the integrity of the layers may be compromised.

With the development of more modern roofing materials and techniques, thatching fell out of favor over the centuries, but you can still find it in many buildings in areas where the historicity of thatch is important or its capabilities are still useful.

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