Thatching roofs has long since faded from our collective memory in North America, now reserved for few historic sites and tourist attractions. But some builders are using thatching as a way of reinfusing traditional values into their properties while simultaneously increasing sustainability.
Brendan Madden and Aiden Downey wanted a taste of Ireland in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, so they hired three Irishmen from the Thatching Academy of America to install a thatched roof – creating an authentic Irish pub complete with Guinness Stout and shepherd’s pie! And it is only one of two in America with such an architectural feature!
Thatched roofs date back centuries, and have spread widely across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Thatched materials typically consist of dried grass or reeds attached to wooden rafters for easy installation and provide natural insulation, keeping structures cool in summer and warm in winter while offering water resistance and standing strong against high winds.
Thatching has fallen out of fashion in the United States since the 1800s, largely because thatched homes are expensive to construct and require regular maintenance to remain waterproof. Furthermore, thatching poses a fire hazard, with insurance companies charging higher premiums on homes featuring thatched roofs.
architects and homeowners seeking thatched roofs today still can find them, though their designs will likely need to be modified slightly in order to achieve them. Rafters must be designed to support the extra load a thatched roof requires and ventilation gaps must be created between rafters and thatch for safety purposes. Architects and homeowners should also regularly maintain and inspect them for potential issues like leaks.
Though thatched roofs remain popular in some parts of the world, they’re unlikely to become mainstream here in America anytime soon due to their cost and labor intensive nature, making compliance with building codes and insurance standards challenging with such roofs.
Thatching companies often work with private clients seeking something unique in their neighborhood; others specialize in public clientele like resorts and zoos. Beyond its romantic aesthetic, thatched roofs add value to properties as well. McGhee’s company has installed thatched roofs on English-style homes and golf course communities throughout Virginia. Thatched roof installations cost several million dollars but can add as much as $350,000 in resale value according to the Thatching Association of America. Thatch roofing has yet to overtake asphalt shingles or metal roofs as the preferred choice in America, but demand may increase quickly as more consumers turn towards this more eco-friendly choice. Thatched roofs also tend to produce less pollution than synthetic alternatives – they need to be re-thatched every seven to 10 years and new installations can cost as much as $8,000. Those choosing thatching for personal statement purposes are choosing more sustainable roofing than conventional metal or fiberglass options.