Thatching is a very old and traditional way to build roofs, used in both temperate and tropical climates. It includes dried vegetation, for example, reed, straw, heather or rushes, which are placed in a specifically ordered layer to remove falling water away from the inner roof construction. Thatching is still being used as a method to cover roofs in many, especially the developing countries, where material such as the reed above or straw is abundant and cheap. On the other hand, thatching in the developed countries is desirable of the upper class and the wealthy, by the people who wish a rustic feel in their homes or seek a more eco-friendly roof.
100_0268The art of thatching has, throughout history, been learned from the older generations. There are many accounts which describe the different methods employed and materials used, all over Europe. In countries around the equator, thatch is the material of choice, not just for roofing, but for building walls, as well. Tropical island builders have been using many endemic species of plants for thatching: for example, in the Hawaiian islands, natives will use its leaves, pili grass or lauhala, while the inhabitants of Fiji will use palm leaves and the inhabitants of Kenya sugar cane leaves.
bigtrevEuropean dwellers have probably been using vegetation as roofing material since the Paleolithic period. Straw came into use later, probably in the Neolithic, with the first cultivation of cereals, although no direct archeological evidence exists. Indigenous peoples of the Latin America, such as Inca, Maya or the Aztecs, have been living in thatched abodes for many centuries. Europeans who came to the South America encountered the locals living in homes roofed with skin or bark, arranged in panels, which could easily be removed so as to allow for heating, cooling or ventilation. In the North America, French and British settlers build their temporary homes using the thatching technique but applied shingles on the roofs of their more permanent houses.
$_32The countryside of England has long been the area where thatched roofs have remained the single choice of roofing method, all the way to the late 1800s. It was readily available and affordable to many people in towns and villages alike. During the 1820s, started mass production of Welsh slate and the construction of canals, and eventually, railways. This made many other materials, which could be used in the roofing industry. Despite all this, the number of thatched roofs in England rose in the mid 19th century, mostly because of the recession that hit the agricultural sector while a population decreased in the rural areas.
Soon enough, thatched roofs became a symbol of poverty. Usage of thatching quickly degraded and the number of thatching masters and artisans rapidly faded. In the past three decades, thatch has gained popularity and became a symbol of wealth. Thatching is now being used as a status symbol almost, gaining in popularity because of the interest to preserve landmark building and use sustainable construction materials.