UGA GreenWay News

A Greener Way of Living, at Home and Abroad

Thatch Cottages in Ireland

In Ireland I saw several buildings with thatched roofs and they made me smile. I always thought it would be fun to spend the night in a cottage with a thatched roof until someone in Ireland said the reason there are 4 poster beds with canopies in thatched cottages was to keep the mice,  insects, and debris from falling on you when you are sleeping. Not a charming thought!

A little research indicates that many of the stories about canopy beds and thatched roofs are not true. Canopy beds were more common among the upper class not the people who lived in thatch cottages. The canopy and side curtains provided some privacy when people shared rooms with servants or family members.

I was curious about the insulating properties of a thatched roof, so I did some research. I learned that thatch does indeed have good insulating properties. A well-maintained thatch roof keeps the building warm in winter and cool in summer. Insulating properties vary depending on the type of thatch and how it is made. Just like with any type of roof, regular maintenance and care are key to maintaining the its thermal performance.

Thatch is a sustainable choice if a locally grown materials are used, like long straw, wheat reed, or water reed. It can be harvested by hand and only requires hand tools to assemble the roof. Plus at the end of its life the thatch can be composted. It’s unlikely that you will see a lot, or any, thatch cottages in the U.S.; however, you may see a house made of straw bales, which offers similar insulating properties. You can learn more about thatched roofs from these sources:

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings

Historic Thatch in Ireland

Heritage Thatching Services in Ireland



About Pamela Turner

I am an Associate Professor and Extension Housing & Environment Specialist at the University of Georgia. I have a passion for helping people improve their home environment and live greener and healthier lives. An important part of that is helping people weed through all of the information to find trustworthy sources.

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