Thatching was the traditional method of roofing a house in the Hebrides due to the fact that the material was readily available. Tigh na Boireach is thatched using Marram – a type of hard wearing grass that is collected from the machair.
Other thatching materials include reed, heather and straw.
For a new roof the roof frame must be constructed first which the thatch will be laid on to. This is made from wooden timbers. Next is an underlay of turf which will add protection and insulation. Then the thatch can be laid. This is done with bundles of the marram grass being laid onto the roof then secured. This process is completed in sections until the whole roof is done. If the roof is not new but just being re-thatched, then the new grasses are laid on top of the old. This adds more protection and insulation to the house. Once the whole roof is finished, the new thatch is covered with chicken wire to stop any bits blowing away. Finally the chicken wire is secured and held down with stones to keep it in place. Once laid, thatch will last for many years. However, marram roofs need re-thatching every 5-7 years which is more regularly than some materials.
If you would like to learn more regarding thatching on North Uist, please see the following website for Neil Nicholson,
a professional working thatcher on North Uist.