It's been a little quiet here on Making Shift this week because I'm in Mexico visiting family. I'm in the state of Veracruz, enjoying the good company, the fresh coconuts, and the shade of this particular structure in my in-law's backyard. These thatched-roof structures are called palapas in Spanish and you see them in all the coastal areas.
|Inside corner of thatched roof|
I haven't yet had a chance to blog about my interest in alternative building techniques, but I'm a big fan of cob cottages, straw bale construction, thatched roofs, and more. Specifically, I'm fascinated by building techniques that rely on local materials and fit local conditions
|Gorgeous interior of thatched palapa|
When my in-laws moved into this house there was already a palapa out back but the thatched roof was very old and falling down. They had it replaced this past year and the result is attractive from the outside and absolutely beautiful from the inside. The thatch itself is done with palm fronds. (You can see palm trees in the background in the first photo.) The support structures are a local wood that is fairly lightweight but very, very hard.
How often do you imagine that a thatched roof like this would last? I probably would have guessed no more than five years. This one is guaranteed for ten years and will probably last much longer. So not only is it made of natural, native materials, it's also long-lasting and surprisingly waterproof. This is an area that receives a lot of rainfall and it stays incredibly dry under a well-made palapa. Sand, which is sometimes blown around in the wind here, does sometimes filter through the palm fronds, but water does not. The fronds overlap in such a way that it sheds water quickly.
|Beams and palm fronds secured with baling wire and plastic twine|
I was surprised to see that the palm fronds are attached to the support beams by plastic twine. I would have thought that the plastic wouldn't last very long but my father-in-law said that since they are underneath the structure and not directly exposed to the sunlight that they don't break down so quickly. The major connections between beams are made with baling wire. (Hooray for baling wire! One of my personal favorites.) My father-in-law said that you can also have the roof done with all wire (no plastic) and the cost is quite a bit more but is guaranteed for several more years.
We are going on a road trip for the next few days so I'm sure I'll have lots of makeshift Mexican solutions to share next week. Backyard agriculture abounds here, as does every makeshift household solution you can imagine, plus lots and lots of community. Viva Mexico!