Thatched roofs have been a popular architectural feature on residential properties and garden structures like summer houses and porches for many years.  However, in recent years synthetic alternatives to traditional straw thatch have become available.  If you're unsure whether to replace your straw thatch with a synthetic alternative, here's a comparison to help you choose:

Straw thatch advantages and disadvantages

Traditionalists may prefer the appearance of straw thatch, especially when it's new.  However, straw thatch does tend to rapidly lose its new straw colour, very quickly becoming a much less attractive dull brown. 

Although traditional straw thatch can easily be adapted to many different building styles, for a building to be suitable for traditional straw thatching, its roof must be pitched at 45° or above.

Unfortunately, straw thatch requires continuous repair and replacement to keep it in good condition.  Repairing, restoring and installing straw thatch requires the attentions of a specialist roofer with experience in using this medium.  This can make such work very expensive and you could experience delays in craftsman availability, especially for work like storm damage when demand for roofers can be high.

The activity of insects, rodents, birds and other visiting wildlife can cause straw thatch to breakdown quickly, especially in damp or tropical climates.  There are also concerns that natural straw thatch can be responsible for harbouring allergy-causing bacteria. 

The raw materials for straw thatching must be kept dry prior to installation and can take up large amounts of storage space.  This can present problems with transportation of thatching materials which can push up the price of installation and repairs.  The availability of straw is subject to environmental influences.  Some years there may be a shortage of raw materials for straw thatching and this could have a negative impact on prices.

Traditional straw thatch requires treatment with a fire retardant product in order to comply with building regulations.  Many house fires have started as a result of sparks from bonfires or stray fireworks landing in the thatch and setting it smouldering.

Synthetic thatch advantages and disadvantages

Unlike straw thatch, the synthetic equivalent does not require regular replacement and once installed, can last for up to 50 years.  It retains its straw-like, brand-new thatch colour for life.  The material is also manufactured to be fire-retardant and to meet fire regulations world-wide.  This not only makes it cheaper to buy, but also safer.

Synthetic thatch is not susceptible to damage and erosion through the actions of birds and other wildlife.  Unlike natural materials, synthetic thatch cannot harbour bacteria as there is no suitable medium in which they can proliferate and survive.  Synthetic thatch is much more robust than straw which makes it better-able to withstand high winds and resist potential storm damage.

A major advantage of synthetic thatch over traditional straw thatch is that it does not require specialist installation or repair.  Synthetic thatch comes in tile form that can be easily installed or repaired by an experienced roofer.  This means that you shouldn't have problems and delays in getting your roof repaired, and the cost will be significantly lower.

Synthetic thatch is not vulnerable to water damage whilst in storage and during transport, and takes up much less space than the traditional straw medium.  There's no problem with availability either because it's factory-made.  All these factors combine to make it more readily available and cheaper than the straw equivalent.

Synthetic thatch tiles can be used for pretty much any style of building, and can be installed on roofs with a pitch as low as 33°.  In especially hot weather, synthetic thatch can be dampened to become an effective evaporative cooler that can significantly reduce the air temperature beneath it.

In conclusion

There are pros and cons around both straw and synthetic thatch.  Have a chat with your local residential roofing firm for further advice and to discuss the options. Contact a company such as Lorn Roofing Pty Ltd to learn more.