Thatching

Thatch is a time-honoured and sustainable roofing option, with traditional homes, bush lodges and developments across the country sporting this distinctive look. 

The Thatchers Association of South Africa (TASA) strives to provide leading information on thatched roof construction in South Africa. It believes that through collaborative efforts, the high standards of practice for the industry can be upheld. 

Regulations 

The building of thatch roofs and structures is a specialised trade, regardless how big or small the structure is. The regulations stipulate that a design and plan of what the structure will look like first need to be drawn up by an architect or structural engineer. 

The design must comply with the Municipal and National Building Regulations (SANS 10400 and SANS 10407 (Thatched Roof Construction Specification). 

Architect and thatcher 

Thatching

Only a qualified and registered architect with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) can submit plans to the municipality. However, there are basic principles unique to thatch roofs that need to be adhered to, to obtain the optimum lifespan from the roof.  

TASA recommends that architects, at sketch plan stage, consult with an authority in the thatching industry. This ensures that the design delivers optimum stability of the structure and maximises water run-off due to the correct roof slopes and position of valleys in relation to the overall roof design. 

 Drawings essential to prevent modifications 

 According to TASA, thatch roofs are very often constructed without structural drawings and analysis – and as a result are difficult and expensive, and sometimes impossible, to modify afterwards. 

With a structural design of the proposed roof, the engineer can correctly analyse a thatch structure to calculate the pole sizes, and the number and diameter of bolts required for the varied connections.  

With detailed drawings, the architect can also assess the aesthetics of the structure and in conjunction with the engineer and thatcher, alter the detail to the benefit of the client. 

Thatching

Fire regulations 

Fire and thatched roofs are an area of concern if not addressed properly. Employing the services of a competent person ensures a structure designed with all the fire regulations in mind.  

A competent person is defined as someone registered in terms of the Engineering Profession Act, 2000 (Act No. 46 of 2000) as either a professional engineer or a professional engineering technologist, having the necessary experience in the field of fire engineering.  

They will provide the municipality with a rational design, often requested by the fire department within municipalities, which shows various calculations of how the thatch roof will not hold any risk to neighbouring buildings. 

Beyond safety, this is particularly beneficial when it comes to insurance. Once proper fire protection methods are in place, insurance companies look at lower premiums benefitting the owner financially, but also giving complete peace of mind.  

Managing risk 

Every thatched roof built in South Africa must be built according to the specification requirements of SANS 10407 (Thatched Roof Construction) and SANS 10400 (National Building Regulations with special reference to part L). 

Yet, some are still built in the absence of approved plans or the supervision of a qualified engineer. The resulting bad workmanship, construction problems and use of inferior materials provide enough evidence for a client to sue the contractor.  

TASA states that there are two major determining factors for the success or failure of a thatching company: 

  1. Supervision on site by a specialist.
  2. Quality of material and workmanship.

Thatching contractors 

Thatch roofs are a specialised field, and professional guidance and workmanship is essential to ensure a successful project. Choosing a thatching contractor therefore is a crucial step in the process. It is important to make sure that the contractor is registered with TASA, as those contractors all comply with the requirements and standards of a high-quality thatch roof. 

TASA members sign a Code of Ethics and Conduct upon acceptance of membership in which they undertake to comply with the regulations stated above. It is advisable to confirm TASA membership of contractors online, as more and more municipalities, banks, insurance institutions, and the State (in respect of tenders) require TASA membership. 

 TASA membership applications must be accompanied by SATAS (South African Technical Auditing Services) or Quality Inspection Services’ inspection reports, so that TASA have certainty that the specification requirements and building regulations where applicable, are complied with. 

For more information, contact: 

South African Technical Auditing Services’ contact details:    

Tel: +27 12 345 6646 

Email: admin@satas.co.za  

Quality Inspection Services: Mr. Abe Stears 

Tel: +27 83 632 3416 

Email: stearsa@ccld.co.za 

 4 key elements for a successful thatching project 

  1. Structural drawings or a plan drawn up by an architect/structural engineer and approved by the appropriate authorities must be provided. Municipalities will not issue an occupation certificate without approved building plans and the transfer of the property will not take place in the absence of the above. 
  2. In quoting for the project, the thatching contractor must be aware of what is expected, and all specifications issued to him for calculating all quantities. 
  3. Thatching contractors must ascertain whether the drawings or design is in accordance with the regulations pertaining to a thatch roof. 
  4. The contractor must comply with all requirements/specifications as determined by the structural engineer or architect, so that a final certificate of approval can be obtained from them on completion of the project. 

 Full acknowledgement and thanks go to…

https://www.sa-thatchers.co.za/ for the information in this article.

Read TASA’s “A guide to thatch construction in South Africa”. 

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