So you have decided you’re going to transform your backyard into a tropical paradise. You installed yards and yards of bamboo fencing, you’ve built a tiki bar that will make the neighbors jealous and purchased numerous thatch panels to insulate your palapa, line your tiki bar or accent any flat surface. But how do you install that thatch? It won’t just stand up on its own and there is no magical sticky surface to secure it to. Thatch is easy to install if you employ the proper technique.
First of all, thatch requires a stable, solid surface to be attached to. When securing to a tiki bar, a sub-surface of plywood is recommended. Simply lay a piece of plywood larger than the bar, over the bamboo skeleton and secure with nails. The surface needs to be free of debris and suited for stapling or nailing.
When purchasing thatch, first measure the total square footage of the area to be covered in feet and divide by the length of each panel in feet; double this number if you wish to install a double layer of thatch for generous coverage. Add 10-15% on to the total for overlapping and overhang. This number is the total number of panels you will need for your project.
Once you have a secure surface, attach the base of the thatch panel or runner roll using a staple gun with at least ½” staples or a hammer and at least ½” nails. Start at the bottom and overlap each panel horizontally, working your way up, working in a spiraling pattern for circular roofs or palapas. The thatch should lay flat and run down the length of the awning or roof with a few inches hanging over the edge. When laying thatch, be generous in the number of layers to avoid bare spots.
Protect yourself against unnecessary scratches by wearing long sleeves, pants and gloves whenever cutting, installing or otherwise working with thatch. Additionally, you will want to have heavy duty scissors and zip ties on hand in case you need to cut the thatch to fit the roof or hold seams together if you run out in the middle of a layer.
Once your thatch is installed, it requires little to no maintenance. It can withstand surprisingly strong winds and rain. Initially, there may be some runoff after the first rain, but this washes away easily. Additionally, you can use a diluted bleach solution in a spray bottle if the thatch starts to mold. With minimal upkeep a thatch roof will last 3-5 years, depending on weather. The top will need to be replaced first as it is the most exposed to harsh weather conditions. Keep an eye on your roof and replace or clean panels as necessary.