The Natural Look - A Guide to Incorporating Tree Trunks into Thatch Structures

Shapely tree trunks can add a really authentic, natural look to thatch structures. They are often used in game lodges and large thatch lapa's to achieve a rustic look and give the structure a bit of shape and interest, especially around entrance areas.

The Cintsa Thatching team spent the last two weeks camping out in the bush outside of Somerset East, at a new game reserve and taxidermists, at which we thatched a new roof on a house and used two stunning trees to mark the entrance to the house. It seemed fitting to make our next blog relevant to the work we were doing!

Here's our guide to using tree trunks in thatch structures to achieve a natural aesthetic:

A Guide to Choosing the Right Tree!
- Seeing as thatch is a "green" and eco-friendly roofing product only use non-indigenous trees. Generally gum trees, of which there are many cultivars, are a good choice
- Search out trees with a naturally shapely formation with multiple large branches - don't pick the straight trunks
- Choose a large, solid tree to give the structure strength

Cutting & Treatment
There are two methods of cutting and treating the tree trunks. The first is "Moon Phase" felling which involves cutting the trees at a specific time of year, when the sap levels are low. This creates a natural prevention of insects and other nasties as well a strengthening the wood against warping and cracking. I found a very informative website one Moon Phase Harvesting which includes the best dates to fell. If trees are cut using this method, no further treatment is necessary.
The other method of cutting requires treatment of the wood; the removal of the bark, treatment of the timber to prevent rotting and insect and fungal infestations, as well as preservation of the wood with oil based timber life products to prevent splitting and repel bora. In this case the trees can be felled at any time of year but treatment must be very thorough.

The Fitting of the Trees
It is important to take your time when fitting the trunks into the structure. They need to be tweaked into the perfect spot! The branches should connect strongly to the poles that they are supporting and they should look as natural as possible in their situation. It is worth taking time over this aspect of the job to ensure the aesthetics of the structure are right.

Incorporating trees into the structure of thatch buildings needs a lot of care and attention to detail but if done properly it can achieve a really natural look and something which makes your home or entrance stand out from the rest. Below is a picture of the project we just finished in Somerset East.

Other things to consider when using trees as a part of a thatch structure...
- Ensure that you have permission to cut and use any trees.
- A good sized gum tree weighs approximately 500kg's! Transportation to site can be costly.
- If the second method of felling is used the treatment of the trees must be done properly or a bora infestation is pretty much guaranteed! Check the trees every two years or so especially if they are in a wet or humid climate and re-treat if necessary.