[Homestead] Thatch Huts, Vernacular Architecture

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Mon Sep 13 21:28:09 EDT 2004

http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/shelter/indian.htm  (the old Beard Book 
on quick shelters dissected for online publication)

Lean-to's seem to have been a Dan Beard favority for quick shelter---for 
more permanent use and to withstand pretty serious storms, a well 
tied-down conical thatch hut configuration is best---any other is more 
subject to the roof being blown off.

(any wood or thatch structure in a warm climate is going to succumb to 
termite attack, and be so weakened it will fall down---more likely blow 
down in a storm---one came down around my ears during a big blow when I 
lived in India, the wind-driven rain drenched me and everything I 
owned---had a hell of a time with the IRS to categorize it as a storm 
loss.  But treating wood and thatch with euphorbia sap makes it pretty 
impervious to termite damage---other sap treatments would likely do the 
same, but one good one (if locally available) is enough. Some species of 
wood are naturally termite and borer-resistant, don't need further 
treatment.)   And cook outside the damned house as is always done in a 
tropical climate, and should be done in a temperate zone as well.)

Some good links here, FAO is always a fantastically useful store of 
information on any agriculture, maritime occupation (including 
fiberglass fishing catamaran building), and in this instance, 
housebuilding)  http://www.fao.org/docrep/v5360e/v5360e0f.htm

(good tutorial on how to make a bent-sapling structure and thatch it for 
emergency or fairly long-term shelter)

(Year 999 in Europe, wattle and daub walls, annually-thatched roof---use 
herbs on floor to repel bugs there---any really pungent herb should do 
it--around northern waterways the ever-present and strong-smelling mint.)

In a wet tropical climate, palm-fronds make a quicker cover than tryig 
to accumulate and tie down grass thatch---don't deteriorate quite as 
fast either.)

http://www.thatch.org/guest.htm  (read the sidebars for more detailed 
thatch information---reeds near waterways were readily available in 
common use throughout Britain.)

http://www.periodproperty.co.uk/article003.htm  (life of a thatch roof 
basically depends on pitch---if high enough and no slippage, will last 
fifty years.  Vocabulary and tools of thatching.  Sparks from chimneys 
may cause fires, but a more common cause is poor chimney construction 
which causes hot gases to leak out and set fire to surrounding thatch.)

http://www.nrdcindia.com/pages/thatchedroof.htm  (clay is always 
available, and does a fair job of fireproofing thatch rooftops---however 
you have to protect the clay from being washed off by rain---for that 
purpose, if available, use bitumen thinned with kerosene---cow dung on 
top of the bitumen probably helps, you know how fibrous a fresh cow pie 
becomes as it dries.)

http://www.museums.org.za/vassa/style.html  (the magic of the right word 
in search engines---vernaculat architecture in particular when you want 
to find out about primitive shelter all around the world---and early 
means of preventing fires in thatch roofs.)

Thatch is inflammable, and fire, whether by Act of God or deed of 
vengeful slave, was a frequent occurrence:  for protection, there was 
the BRANDZOLDER, a fireproof loft-floor on to which burning thatch can 
fall without danger.  It consists of beams supporting boards - or 
perhaps unshaped poles supporting a layer of rushes: on top of this lies 
a bed of puddled clay in which tiles or bricks are embedded.  The ends 
of the beams themselves are sometimes lodged in slots in the wall and 
covered with sand.  Not every old house had a brandzolder:  the lack of 
one at Groot Constantia contributed to the completeness of the 
destruction of that house by fire in 1925.

http://www.indyweek.com/durham/2001-05-23/triangles.html  (cob houses 
are easy to build, but unmercifully slow.  Sawmill waste is free or 
cheap, since if they use it at all, sawmills usually burn it.  Pretty 
difficult to cobble up a roof structure with short pieces, unless you 
fashion them into a gable or floor truss with lots of metal or glued 

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