What is the difference between Reed and Straw Thatch?

A  roof thatched in long straw thatch looks more rounded and less crisp than a roof thatched in the tougher reed thatch but the difference between the two materials would be more apparent in the case of a complex roof with dormers or outshoots which would require the different slopes to be gently merged or swept in together to preserve the character of the building and also to ensure a watertight construction.

The visual difference between long straw thatch and reed thatch would be hardly noticeable in itself, especially if the Thatcher were to take pains, as suggested, to round off the crisp edges which are more typical of reed thatch. In these circumstances, the visual differences between reed thatch and the long straw thatch would not be noticeable once an initial period of weathering had taken place.

Thatching straw is often in short supply in Ireland due to weather conditions and it is not economically viable for farmers to grow it.

Thatching Straw

Water Reed is a popular choice for thatching. While it is impossible to predict exactly the life expectancy of any individual roof, there is a body of sound evidence that indicates that water reed thatch will outlast straw thatch under similar conditions. If properly maintained as water reed is a tougher material then straw.

When roofs are re-thatched, this should normally be done in a form of thatch traditional to the region.

Do I use Irish Materials or import Turkish, Polish or Chinese Reed?

Many thatchers have a particular preference of reed, but generally, it is up to the client and their choice may be made according to availability and pricing of the reed.

Within the west of Ireland, reed is still cut at the banks of the river Shannon and sold locally to Thatchers.

Bundles of Thatching Reed

Some of the tools used for the craft of thatching:

(from left to right)

  • Hazel Spars
  • Side Pin
  • Hand Shears
  • Leggett
  • Shears
  • Mallet