To explain the characteristics of thatch it is easiest to make up a list of the advantages and disadvantages of thatch. This allows for a good explanation of exactly what the key characteristics of thatch and thatch products are.
The Advantages of Thatching
The materials used to build a thatch roof or thatch products have a number of advantages that include the fact that thatch materials harmonise or bend in with the natural surrounding landscape. This is especially evident in the more rural areas of a country and helps to preserve a more natural architectural characteristic of the area.
There is also a very strong ecological advantage to using thatch when building or manufacturing. This is due to the fact that it is a natural product with natural characteristics. It therefore does not utilise or consume natural energy resources and is created using a natural growing process. The only additional effort required to thatch is through human exertion, which in itself is also a natural process.
This human exertion is also an advantage in itself, as it makes the thatching process a labour-intensive activity and provides jobs and economic value to many previously lesser educated and low income earning groups.
A thatch roof also has the distinct advantage of being both an insulated roof and a beautiful athletically pleasing ceiling. This ensures that the roof keeps the building cool in summer and warm in winter without any outward change to its appearance. This insulation is also a part of the natural characteristics of thatch and is yet another cost and effective eco-friendly advantage to thatch.
The Disadvantages of Thatching
Other than the fact that thatching is extremely flammable (but this can be minimised with the right precautions), there are a number of other characteristics of thatch that are seen as a disadvantage, the most important being that because of its organic nature it is susceptible to the natural decay and decomposition process. To overcome this there are three precautions that although not expensive, do take some effort on the part of the builder and owner of the thatch product or building.
1. Only mature grass must be used as thatch
Mature grass is grass that has been cut only after the first frost of the season has killed of the leaves. In major thatch raw material growing areas such as those found in parts of South Africa this is between March and August (the end of the growing season). Once harvested the grass needs to also be stored off the ground and with adequate ventilation to prevent rotting and decomposition.
2. Thatch needs to be kept clear of other decomposing natural items
This includes being kept clear of falling leaves from nearby trees. This is because leaves that accumulate on the thatch roof will start to decompose and start the decomposition process off on the natural thatch.
3. A thatch roof must be built to get rid of excess water
To do this a thatch roof needs to be built at no less than a 45° angle. This allows for the rapid runoff of water and helps to prevent areas of damp on the roof that also lead to decay.
It can therefore be seen that thatches best characteristic are also its worst. However, with the right thatching company doing the instillation and an owner who is willing to put in the effort and care needed with thatch, a thatch roof or product can make a great ecologically friendly impression.