tropical building with thatch roofing surrounded by trees

The Past and Future of Thatch Roofing

Thatch roofing is one of the few timeless inventions that humankind has enjoyed through thousands of years of our shared history. Today, and through innovations such as engineered thatch, this roofing material is an incredibly valuable investment that will ensure longevity and durability for commercial and residential buildings alike. 

Many individuals are unaware of the extensive history of thatch roofing which directly relates to it being one of the most important roofing materials of the future – therefore, in order to fully unpack the benefits and future outlook of engineered thatch roofing for buildings around the world, this article will break down the past, present, and soon-approaching future of thatch. From the experts at Endureed, here’s all you need to know about one of the most time-tested types of roofing in the world. 

What is Thatch Roofing? 

Thatch is a traditional roofing material in many parts of the world. It has rich regional traditions that contribute to the local distinctiveness of architectural techniques, and it stands as one of the most environmentally friendly, durable, and long-lasting roofing materials available. Traditionally, thatch is made from dried vegetation from the local flora, including straw, rushes, palm branches, water reed, heather, and grasses which are thickly layered in order to help drain water from the inner roof. 

Used in both tropical and temperate climates, the inner layers of thatch roofing will, even through rain, remain dry and densely packed which contributes towards natural insulation, allowing for buildings to stay cool when it is hot outside, and keep warm when it is cold. As you will see later in this article, thatch has been used for thousands of years and is still used today because of the low-cost requirement of materials, its beautiful aesthetic, and its impressive performance. 

A History of Thatch Roofing Around the World

Thatching methods have traditionally been passed down from generation to generation, but the techniques and materials used vary by region. There is evidence of thatch roofing being used as far back as the Mesolithic era (8,000 – 2,700 BC) across Europe, such as the Howick House, and it was extensively used throughout Europe during the Dark Ages for people of all walks of life, from peasants to the wealthiest king’s halls. Its use would continue throughout the Viking and early modern periods; and though its frequency in Europe would decline over the last two hundred years, it has since surged back in popularity. 

Thatch was and is also extensively used in Africa. In Southern Africa, the Zulu, the Swazi, and the Nguni construct thatch domed huts. A ring of poles is anchored in the ground and brought together at the peak. The peak is either a smooth dome (early Xhosa) or a conical point (Sotho).

In the Pacific Islands, the nipa hut or bahay kubo is a house built on stilts with a thatched roof.  The roof is tall and steep with broad eaves which allows it to easily shed rain, especially during the monsoon season. The tall roof provides a space for heat to escape, allowing cooler air to be drawn in from the windows in the walls below, and the broad eaves help keep the area around the nipa dry.

In Latin America, thatch homes were extremely common among the Maya, Inca, and Aztecs hundreds of years ago. The typical Inca construction, for example, consisted of stone foundations and walls, a timber roof structure, and a thatch roof – the timber roof structure was anchored to the stone walls with lashing. The tradition continues to this day, with many communities in the Yucatan Peninsula using thatched homes in the exact same style. 

Finally, in Asia, thatch roofing is especially popular in Japan for use in temples and shrines. In the Edo period (1600 – 1800 AD), Minka traditional homes were built using steep, thatch roofs to combat the rainy climate, and a similar style exists today in their modern architecture. 

Present-Day Thatch Roofing

Thatch has seen a long and widespread legacy, but it is still in extensive use today. Hundreds of thousands of thatch roofs populate the globe, including over 60,000 in the United Kingdom, 150,000 in the Netherlands, and 100,000 in Japan, and their numbers are rising at a quick pace, especially in recent years. Commercial organizations in the United States such as hotels, resorts, zoos, and pools are also investing into this material at scale. 

The popularity of thatch is rising due to its affordability, aesthetic beauty, and long-lasting durability, but a new product, namely engineered thatch, is taking this roofing material from its humble beginnings into a staple construction material of the future. 

Engineered Thatch: The Innovative Future of Thatch Roofing

Engineered thatch, developed by the experts at Endureed, is an advanced roofing material that maintains all the aesthetic charm and beauty of natural thatch but with durability, safety, and longevity far surpassing the traditional version. Instead of natural vegetation, engineered thatch is made from a proprietary blend of polyvinyl chloride (PVC)  – the same resilient material used in bulletproof vests. It looks practically identical to the natural version and even comes in a variety of different themes to provide different aesthetic options to choose from including Cape Town, Kilimanjaro, Somerset, Kona, and Bali

While thatch has been used for thousands of years, there are some downsides such as its susceptibility to pests, fire and rot due to being made of natural vegetation. Engineered thatch, however, is guaranteed to last for at least 20 years with no maintenance required. It is fully fire-resistant (made of Class-A fire-resistant materials), hurricane-resistant (can withstand category 5 hurricanes), and pest and rot-resistant. 

The future demands roofing solutions that are safe, durable, environmentally friendly, and made with aesthetics in mind. Engineered thatch is the perfect solution – the natural evolution of a roofing material that has kept humanity safe for thousands of years, improved through innovation to be able to outmatch all other materials in the industry. The legacy of thatch continues with engineered thatch, and if you want the peace of mind that comes with security and contentment for your property, invest in the material that is certain to be a part of humanity for generations to come. Contact Endureed today to learn more about engineered thatch or to learn why our clients love working with us!