Water Reed Thatching
When it comes to roof thatching there are many different thatching materials that can be used, from long straw, combed wheat reed to water reed. Water Reed is classed as the most durable thatching material and can last up to 50 years with the appropriate maintenance. However this can also depend on the geographical location your thatched roof, it might not last as long if you experience poor weather conditions.
Water Reed is the primary thatching material in Europe and one of the most popular used in the UK. It can be known as Continental Water Reed or Norfolk Reed (produced in Norfolk), different names but one same product. Years ago if you were in the UK and needed Water Reed you could get it all over the UK, however, this is not the case anymore and because of the high demand, most types of reed are imported from abroad.
Growth and Production of Water Reed
Water reed grows near fresh water and salt water in the shallow areas and on marsh ground. It should be harvested yearly and can grow between 3ft and 8ft long depending on conditions during the year. Water Reed is harvest during the winter as normally there are no animals nesting. The reed is stored and kept dry until use.
There is a lot of labour intensive work involved in harvesting water reed. It can be cut by hand, and was the only method around back in the day, however, machinery can be used for this process, it is less environmentally friendly but quicker way of harvesting. There are three different types of machines:
Rice Cutting Machines – Small machines that simply cut the read, you can walk behind to collect the read. Some rice cutting machines do the collecting for you.
Flotation Machines – No they don’t actually float! They use large tyres to spread weight evenly on the ground, which means less damage to the land. They cut the reed and some types of machines can organise the reed too!
Once the reed has been cut, they are grouped into bundles and stood upright to allow thorough drying. Believe it or not, the reed has to be ‘cleaned out’ before use; this process is done through machinery. The bundle sizes can vary but are normally have a diameter of 60cm. The reed is then sorted into various how long they are and how thin and fine they are.
After being stored in a dry room and very little handling to avoid damage, they are transported to various craftsmen – like us!
Different Water Reed Qualities
Every home is different, and the same goes for reed. Water reed can have many different qualities, and each type of water reed variant is used for different situations.
As we know reed can vary in length naturally but it can also cut down to a suitable size depending on the house type. The shortest water reed length we can work with is around the 3-4ft mark, medium lengths vary from 4-5ft long and then larger water reed is 5-6ft long.
Each water reed strand can be a different width. Fine water reed is 3.2mm diameter, the medium is 4.8mm diameter and a more coarse reed would be 6mm diameter.