Real estate


Thatch could be a match for a new roof look

The life span of some thatch can be up to 65 years, but it will need attending every 12 to 15.

Q. I have an 11-year-old house in Tewksbury I built myself. It has a hand-split, rough-sawn, cedar-shingle roof. When it was first installed, and every two to three years since, I have had Penofin penetrating stain applied to it. It looks very good, and I have had no leaks. However, I am tempted to put on a thatch roof, which I think would look amazing. Would the thatch encourage rotting on the shingles below? And, if it is OK to install this thatch, do you think this will lengthen the life of the roof?


A. Wow, Rob, that’s a serious DIY project. A thatched roof needs consistent maintenance to prolong the life of the roof. Thatch degrades over time. Common problems in thatched roofs include damage caused by animals, birds, and overhanging trees.


Seriously, though, I have never installed a thatched roof, so I reached out to someone who has: Stephen Craig, a master thatcher at The Thatchers in Essex, England.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

If your reader decides to thatch his roof, I recommend removing all the shingles first and leaving all the battens on the rafters, Craig said. “The new thatch should be a thickness of 12 inches, so there would be no need for the shingles.”

The life span of Water Reed thatch can be up to 65 years, Craig said, but it will need attending every 12 to 15 years to “dress off” the roof (resecure the thatch).

Wire netting will keep out rodents, he added, noting that overhanging trees can cause moss to develop on the thatch, yes, but you can just remove it when you dress it up.

Q. I’m trying to take off a wallpaper border and have tried several products from a home improvement store with no luck. Any suggestions? It’s on a plastered blueboard wall.



A. A lot of these borders are vinyl. Sometimes you can get a sharp putty knife or razor and peel back the vinyl face to expose the paper. Once you’ve removed the vinyl and the paper is exposed, you can use liquid remover to get the rest off.

Consider using one of those PaperTiger tools to score the border. Wet the border and keep it wet. The goal is to rough up the wallpaper enough so that the remover can seep underneath and loosen it from the wall. Many people don’t let the water soak in and soften the adhesive. Keep it wet. Gel remover products work well and tend to stick and soften the glue.

Note: If the vinyl was installed with a border adhesive, then it will be almost impossible to get off. In that case, you can follow the above steps, but you will have to repair the dinged up wall afterward.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to or tweet them to @globeaddress or @robertrobillard.