How to Thatch a Palm Frond Roof

A thatched roof can last ten or more years before needing any type of maintenance or repairs. They are durable, waterproof, and “green”.

This thatching technique uses long fronds in great condition without any signs of decay, fungus, or insects. Most of the reputable roofing contractors recommended using freshly cut palms as they are a lot easier to work with and the longer they sit around the more likely they are to acquire insects.

The fronds need to be split down the spine. Start the split on the large end of the spine with a machete or large knife. A metal pole pounded into the ground can help split long fronds down to the end. Place all right side fronds in one pile and all left-hand palms in another pile.

The thatching will be tied to the roof using smaller rope or twine (a natural color looks best) two half fronds at a time. Start at the bottom of your roofline. Fronds are placed using two same halved fronds with the spines alongside each other. The fronds are placed correct side up and the spines running horizontally. The first set of fronds should be at a bottom corner with the weaker ends hanging off the end of your house.

Tie the fronds every few feet to the supporting poles on your roof. Next, continue using frond halves like the first pair along the entire length of the bottom of the roof overlapping the weaker ends onto the start of the next set.

The next row will be using the other halves of the fronds from the ones you used on the first row. In other words, the leaves will now be traveling diagonal down and left from the spines instead of diagonally down and right.

Continue adding two fronds at a time, alternating halves of the fronds. When you are inside your house looking at the roof you will see only the spines of the fronds running horizontally.

Several types of roof caps can be made, some involve one half of the roof being thatched diagonally up beyond the center line of the roof. Another way is to lay several woven mats down and tie them onto the roof. Many layers should be made at the very top, whereas there is only one spine deep anywhere else on the roof.

After you are finished thatching your entire roof you can go back and trim around the top of the doorway, windows, or at the roof ends. This is not necessary but gives the roof a tidier look. It is good to have several feet of overhang with these roofs. Note that all palm fronds are placed correct side up on the roof (as they are on the trees).

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