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Frontier Museum, VA Irish Farm 1700's


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The thing that throws me, is that from the inside of the home, you can see the underside of sections of sod, which is the start of the system. I can only imagine the topside greenery becoming a slimy dead slick under the thatch. Help us out Bill. How's it all come together?

The sod isn't part of the roof system - it's insulation.

It's a very simple concept. Imagine building a dollhouse. Now, tie very thick bundles of hollow straws together and pin the bundles to the very steep roof structure, starting at the bottom. Now use a textured paddle to beat the bottom of the straws in each bundle upward, so only the bottom open ends of each straw are visible. This is called "dressing with a leggett". Now attach the next course and continue the same steps until the tricky part - the ridgework. Thatched roofs, with maintenance, can last 70 years. The ridge needs replacement about every 15 years.

I've helped with some thatch repairs and helped with a new thatch installation on a reproduction building. It took us 5 weeks for about 10 squares.

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The thing that throws me, is that from the inside of the home, you can see the underside of sections of sod, which is the start of the system. I can only imagine the topside greenery becoming a slimy dead slick under the thatch. Help us out Bill. How's it all come together?

The sod isn't part of the roof system - it's insulation.

It's a very simple concept. Imagine building a dollhouse. Now, tie very thick bundles of hollow straws together and pin the bundles to the very steep roof structure, starting at the bottom. Now use a textured paddle to beat the bottom of the straws in each bundle upward, so only the bottom open ends of each straw are visible. This is called "dressing with a leggett". Now attach the next course and continue the same steps until the tricky part - the ridgework. Thatched roofs, with maintenance, can last 70 years. The ridge needs replacement about every 15 years.

I've helped with some thatch repairs and helped with a new thatch installation on a reproduction building. It took us 5 weeks for about 10 squares.

Now that would be something to see....how do you get to the ridge to repair it?

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Well, does the grassy top of the sod die and rot under the thatch or is it completely clipped away and the sod roots are merely a structure to hold the dirt together?

Yeah, I didn't see this question, Mike.

If the Frontier Culture Museum recreated this Irish Farmhouse correctly, they would have used what's called "peat sod" for the "underthatch". It might look a bit like the dirt clumped from under grass sod, but it's quite different. It's vegetation that already decayed in a marsh.

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Now that would be something to see....how do you get to the ridge to repair it?

In a box somewhere, there's a photo of me up on a thatched roof almost looking as if I know what I'm doing. I'm even wearing an authentic cap.

Thatchers traditionally used pole ladders. It's a long pole, split in half for rails and drilled for rungs. They can be as tall as 50'. In the UK, they also use "push-up" ladders. They're similar to our extension ladder, except they're often 3 section! There are also "hanger ladders", that hang from the ridge.

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Well, does the grassy top of the sod die and rot under the thatch or is it completely clipped away and the sod roots are merely a structure to hold the dirt together?

Yeah, I didn't see this question, Mike.

If the Frontier Culture Museum recreated this Irish Farmhouse correctly, they would have used what's called "peat sod" for the "underthatch". It might look a bit like the dirt clumped from under grass sod, but it's quite different. It's vegetation that already decayed in a marsh.

Between this and septic systems, Irish Peat is unique stuff - brown gold.

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  • 3 years later...

The thing that throws me, is that from the inside of the home, you can see the underside of sections of sod, which is the start of the system.

I had an opportunity to learn a whole lot more about thatched roofs today, from a traditional Irish thatcher. Remembering Mike's question here, I specifically asked about the sod layer under the straw thatch.

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It's a technique that was used in Northern Ireland since the 17th century. The sod layer, called "scraws" is taken from the top of peat soil. This turf is laid on wattles secured to purlins. Bundles of straw thatch are secured to the turf with hazel rods, bent into a U shape, like a staple. These are called scollops.

Some folks believe this method originated from applying thatch to older buildings that originally had sod roofs.

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The scollop is what pulls the thatch so the ends bristle outward, no? If not, how is the thatch "tensioned" so the ends are so bristly?

There's a few methods of attaching the thatch but yes, the ends of the reeds curl up. The butts of each bundle of thatch is dressed with a leggett paddle.

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tn_2013829113511_leggett.jpg

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