Thatched Roof Maintenance Explained - Brushing a Thatch Roof

It is an inescapable fact that all thatch roofs have a lifespan but there are ways to prolong the natural life of any thatch roof. Caring for a thatched roof can be high maintenance - especially if small contributors to degradation of the roof have not been managed properly over time. Many more serious problems can be prevented through consistent maintenance and assessment of the state of the roof.

"Brushing" is a term often used in the thatching industry to describe one of these maintenance tasks. If you are unfamiliar with the term then read on - this blog explains what the term brushing means, why all thatch roofs should be brushed and various methods that are used by contractors to brush thatched roofs.


What is Brushing?
Brushing (or combing) when used in the context of thatching, is the process of removing the top-most layer of thatch from the entire area of a roof. The ends of the thatch, the outer layer of the roof, slowly rot as they are exposed to the elements. This thin layer of rotten thatch is removed during brushing.
Rotten layer of thatch roof desperately in need of brushing
Thatch roof after brushing (top) and before brushing (bottom)
 Why does a Thatch Roof need to be Brushed?
It is highly important to brush a thatch roof several times during it's lifespan, to prolong the life of the roof. The thin, rotten, outer layer of thatch holds moisture.This moisture, if left to age will gradually penetrate deeper and deeper into the roof and increase the amount of moisture in the thatch. As a result of this moisture held in the roof, the thatch will eventually turn to compost. Brushing removes this outer layer allowing the deeper thatch to dry out, once this outer thatch has reached an age, it will be removed. This cycle continues throughout the life of a thatched roof. Because if this cycle it is important not to remove too much thatch when brushing as this will make the thatch thinner more quickly and shorten the lifespan of the roof. Generally a roof should have 3-4 brushings "in it" i.e., it should be thick enough to allow 3-4 separate occasions of brushing over the years before it needs to be re-thatched.

When should a thatch roof be brushed?
As a general guide most thatched roofs need brushing ever 8 or so years. However, it depends highly on the choice of thatch, the pitch of the roof, the local climate and the quality of the thatch. Some roofs can go for 15 years+ without being brushed, others will need brushing after only 4 years. It is important to speak to an thatching specialist who can give you an accurate assessment of the state of the thatch and the roof as a whole, before work is undertaken.

How do contractors brush thatch roofs?
There are several methods of brushing thatch roofs, the choice of method often depends on the type of thatch and the contractor themselves.
It is possible to brush a roof by hand or with pruning sheers. The method in this case is to pull out sections of the thatch, cutting or breaking off the rotten ends and then pushing or brushing the thatch back into place on the roof and compacting it. This method is obviously slow and is an out-dated method generally used by very small-scale contractors.
We have found that the most effective and efficient way to brush a roof is to use a hedge cutting machine which can cut off the outer layer of thatch without sections having to be pulled out of the roof - this means much less disturbance of the roof itself. The thatch is still then brushed and pushed into place to compact the thatch.
Thatchers brushing roof with machine
Thatch roof in the process of being brushed
Roof Compaction & Finishing the Job
The compaction of a thatch roof is one of the most important contributing factors to prolonging the roofs lifespan. If the thatch is loose and not tightly packed it encourages moisture to be retained more deeply in the roof as well as increasing the probability of weather damage, and making animal and bird damage much more easy. The thatch must form a solid roof to be effective.
It is important that whichever method is used to brush the roof, the roof is compacted afterwards. This is done by pulling and tensioning the twines from the inside of the roof. In some cases this is not possible - unfortunately many contractors use twines with a shorter lifespan than the thatch itself and when they are pulled to re-tension, they break. It is important to check what type of fasteners/ twines a contractor is using.
If the roof has poor compaction and has been brushed, it is possible to add bundles of thatch as the roof is being brushed to achieve a higher density of thatch on the roof.
Thatch roof before brushing and repairs
Thatch roof after brushing & fitting valley section
For more information on other types of maintenance required on thatch roofs visit our website.

Cintsa Thatching offers a long-term maintenance package which covers an assessment of the roof and long term maintenance plan performed by our highly experienced thatchers.

Comments

  1. The smooth appearance of thatched roofs must always be sustained to maintain their ideal condition. Giving your roofs proper care will not just simply smarten up their form, as their durability will also be retained and enhanced. The ways of how to clean and maintained thatched roofs have been clearly mentioned above. We just have to follow them to preserve the presentable exterior of our home.

    Kristopher Diss

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kristopher,

      Thank you for taking the time to read our blog and comment, it's great to see that we are getting readership and getting our information out to those in the industry.

      Kind regards,

      April

      Delete
  2. If you want to go economical with your roof, then a thatched roof is the best choice. It is widely used for beach cottages and poolside cabanas in tropical areas. It requires routine maintenance to keep it durability against wet and rain. Judging from the last two photos, we can clearly see the difference of repairing it the right way.

    Ronald Miller

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ronald,

      Thanks for commenting on this blog and supporting our points. It's true that thatch can be very economical but it needs to be cared for consistently.

      Have a great day!

      Delete
  3. I have never seen roof maintenance like this before. If I ever go to a place that has homes like this, I will have to check the roof out. This looks pretty complicated. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mikey!

      Thanks for your comment and taking the time to read our blog.

      Delete
  4. Thatch roofing is a roofing design that has been employed for many, many of years. This roofing material is usually constructed from palm leaves. The leaves on palm trees have evolved in nature to withstand the sun, rain and winds, which makes thatch roofs even more durable.

    -Eugene Head

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Eugene!

      Great to hear from you. They do use palm leaves in other parts of Africa (and the world!). These roofs tend to be much cheaper to produce and last for only a few years before being replaced. Perfect for a beach holiday home somewhere warm by the sea!

      Delete
  5. Hey there! Keep it up! This is a good read. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about roofer in your area. I am glad to stop by your site and know more about roofer.
    The state of California has a particular licensing process for roofers. To get a state license and become a licensed roofing contractor in California, one needs to obtain a C-39 license before contracting any roofing jobs over the amount of $500.00. If the work is performed without a license, the homeowner may be stuck with unsatisfactory results and have no way to get assistance to correct the problems. If a licensed roofing contractor has problems that relate to unfinished work or the work is faulty in any way, the homeowner or property owner can at least file a claim against the roofing contractor's performance bond for the cost of repairs, damages or unfinished work that must be still be completed. Obtaining a bond is a prerequisite before any license will be issued and it must be in good standing and renewed every two years or the contractor's license could be revoked.
    Rubber is in place since the 1960s, common for a low-slope roof, east installation, will last between 12-25 years.

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    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi Jackie,

      Thanks for your support and taking the time to read our posts.

      It's great that California has such strict rules about contractors practicing - much more supportive of clients who will know that they are getting a registered roofing contractor who can complete the work well.

      Hope you enjoy our latest posts!

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    Please have a look or inspect the ladders as they can prove fatal. Ladder inspection should be carried every time you need to work on your roof.
    Fibreglass Ladders should be preferred in case you are using an aluminum ladders

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  13. Really interesting! Here in NY we don't have thatched roofs, but I understand that they stand up to the elements beautifully. Thank for the read!

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  23. Hi there,

    I've removed my thatch roof and replaced it with tiles. I am not sure what to do with the thatch. Seems a waste - I'd like to repurpose it in some way or give it to someone that'll use it. Any ideas?

    D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi D,

      Thanks for posting your question and taking the time to read our blog.

      If the thatch is in good condition it can be re-bundled and sold on or used to thatch an alternative structure. I would suggest getting in touch with a local thatch supplier or thatching professional to assess the condition of the thatch.

      Alternatively old thatch is a really effective mulch in vegetable gardens - it helps to keep the moisture in the ground when placed over the compost around the veggies! It also composts really well and creates very nutritious compost.

      Hope that helps and thanks again for getting in touch.

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