Renovations – A new roof for the Bean

Our cottage roofs are thatch and are very old.  They were not looked after properly by the previous owner so we have a few leaks and they all need to be brushed and repaired.  The Beans cottage was the worst. She had quite a few leaks where rain would drip on her as she lay in bed.  Just small drops but nevertheless it was time to get her roof seen to before it was too late and we would have to replace all the thatching which would be quite an expensive exercise.

Above is the Bean’s cottage with the leaky roof.

On investigation we found that many of the securing strings had snapped as you can see below.

The strings on the outside were exposed to the weather and were stitched too widely when they put the original roof on. You should not be able to see the stitching on the outside of the roof but as you can see – the strings were very evident.

On the inside of the roof the grass had slipped down so much that at the apex the roof cap was showing and the grass was very scruffy (please excuse the  cobwebs – it is really difficult to clean up so high 🙂 )

The team arrived on Wednesday last week with 4000 bundles of thatching grass

and immediately started by brushing the roof to get rid of all the rotten ends

I don’t know why they call it brushing because they use a wooden paddle. After the brushing they begin to sew on the grass bundles. One man underneath to push the needle through and one man on the top to push through the other way.

The masked super hero is one of the labourers – he was dressed like that in 42°C heat (in the shade) to protect himself from the sun. It was baking hot and I am sure after a few days he is rather cooked.

After quite a few bundles are sewn on, they use the wooden paddle to push/slide up the ends of the grass to make a nice finish for the roof.

Below is a closer view of Laurence stitching on the grass bundles – imagine sewing with such a big needle!  He really knows what he is doing and works really fast although he was cursing the old roof pole structure because apparently our cross bars are slightly too far apart. No matter – he just adjusted his style and went to work. Laurence showed me that half way up the roof the old grass was so thin that you could stick your finger right through. No wonder the Bean complained that the wind used to blow through her roof!  I though she was fibbing exaggerating.

Once all the grass has been laid, they will break off the old cement roof cap and make a nice new one without any leaky holes. Hopefully all will be done by Friday and then I can post a picture of the finished roof.

Thanks Dad for the wonderful donation to the Jackal’s Den renovation fund – without you the Bean would still be getting dripped on!


13 thoughts on “Renovations – A new roof for the Bean

  1. Wow, what a fascinating process. We stayed in a place in Vietnam with thatched rooves, but I had no idea how it was done–repaired–etc. Glad the Bean will be staying dry at night now. How wonderful to have a dad pay for these repairs. He sounds like a lovely man. Good for dads!


  2. How fabulous! I’ve seen this work being done on TV programs, and there’s certainly an art to it, heads up to your team! And to your wonderful Dad too 🙂 Your cottages have much soul 🙂


  3. Very cool to see the method, though I, personally, would be a trifle worried to live in a thatch with the risk of fires in the area. But I guess it would be cooler than a conventional roof with IBR or tiles 😉

    How is Bean feeling – all better?


    • Fire is always a risk for any house in the bush regardless of the roof being thatch although thatch would obviously burn quicker and easier. I keep the grass cut back away from the cottages for this reason. I guess it’s a matter of being vigilant and, following the rules. Our cottages have stood here for over 30 years without burning though so I don’t lose any sleep over it 🙂

      The Bean has coped so well with her tick bite fever. He antibiotic course is complete now so we are just watching her carefully. Thanks for asking 🙂


  4. We watched a man thatching a roof in Lesotho. It was facinating to watch him shove that long, curved needle through the bundles of grass. Thanks for sharing this upclose view!


  5. Thanks Jackie! We will most likely need to repair or replace the roof at our new place in Ndlovumzi. Will know more when we get there.
    If you are happy with the team that did the work for you, pass along the name and we can use them.
    What was the difference in repair vs replace?
    Is the pricing by square meter?


    • Hello David. The pricing is done per sq meter although I just got a full quote and don’t know my meterage so I am unable to give you the price. This team is really good and the work is well done although they are a little slower than others. I will pass on their details if you need them. With regards to repair vs replace – it all depends on the condition of the roof. If it has been brushed and repaired on a regular basis it is way cheaper to repair. My roof was so bad that I think we only saved a small amount by repairing instead of replacing. (mostly on the amount of grass used)


  6. Pingback: how do I fix a Leaking roof valley on georgian terraced town residence roof leak? |

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