Thatched Roof How-To

Updated March 23, 2017

A thatched cottage exudes quaint charm. Thatching is one of the oldest surviving building crafts. While thatched roof huts are often associated with tropical islands, many cultures have used this roof construction. From Hawaii to England to Kenya, thatched roofing has been used for centuries. Thatching a roof takes some time and effort, but is not a complex task. Most thatch comes in long bundles. In the past, traditional plants of the region were used to thatch roofs. Today thatching materials and equipment are available from many online retailers.Thatched roofs are also environmentally friendly.

Measure the roof area to determine the amount of thatch needed. Check the roof for any leaks. Clear the roof of debris.

Line the entire roof, starting at the eaves, with bound bundles that keep the house dry. Tie the bundles, known as wads or bottles, horizontally to roof rafters in a line and pack together as tightly as possible. Pin them down with wooden sways. Wooden sways are wooden or steel rods that hold thatch bundles in position on the rafters.

Position long straw thatch, vertically, on the top of the lining bundles. Attach them to the bundles using steel thatching crooks and sways. Crooks are nail-like iron pieces, up to 12 inches long, used to hold the straw in place. They have a hook on one end that fits into the sway.

Repeat step two. Overlap the second layer of the thatch straw by eight inches over the previous thatch ends. Keep the layer surface even.

Apply vertical weather thatch strips. Weathering thatch materials are typically dependent on the local availability and traditions. Cereal straw, marsh grasses, rushes, heather, flax and even wood shavings have been used for this purpose. These vertical strips cover the entire roof, running from the roof top to the eaves, and should be a depth of at least 15 inches.

Lay straw or sedge grass along the ridge, or apex, of the roof to bind and protect the main thatch, using external fixings provided by the manufacturer to hold the material in place over the apex. Typically thatch types such as wrap-over, butt up, flush, straight cut and patterned are used for this purpose.


Thatch reed panels are available through online retailers for use on top of existing roofs to create a natural thatch roof appearance. These panels may be used on wood or steel and are water resistant. Fire retardant panels are available. Thatching materials and tools are available through many online retailers. Follow all thatch and thatch equipment manufacturer's installation instructions carefully. The cost of materials varies depending on the type of thatch desired. Plan to have more than one person participate in the project, for safety and convenience purposes. The density of the thatched roof deters pests.


Natural materials, such as those used in thatching, can be flammable. There are a couple of options to consider when laying the roof thatch. Fire retardant sprays that prevent the spread of flames by developing a chemically self-extinguishing reaction are available for use on the thatch. Another option to consider is the use of fireproof batts, also known as thatch batts. These batts are used for filling in the roof framing spaces between the beams, separating the thatched roof from other parts of the house. Check with the thatch retailer regarding use of these products with the materials you have chosen.

Things You'll Need

  • Ladder
  • Thatch
  • Gloves
  • Heavy duty thatch cutters
  • Thatching sways
  • Thatching crooks
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