Why Charming Houses in Northern Germany Are Disappearing


One of my favourite type of traditional house found in Northern Germany is in danger of disappearing – the thatched roof house.   I love seeing farmhouses with thatched roofs when spending time in Northern Germany and find them utterly charming.  They remind me of a simpler time.

A thatched roof being constructed in Germany, a less common sight than in the past. Photo courtesy of Jom at de.wikipedia

Unfortunately, thatched roofs are in danger of disappearing and I can’t say I blame the Germans.  Thatched roofs can be a fire hazard.

They catch fire more easily than other roof materials do, the fire spreads more quickly and when the reeds burn, they slip and fall into the house which can make it difficult for people in the house to escape from the fire.

As a result, houses in Germany with thatched roofs also carry substantially higher insurance costs than houses with roofs made of other materials do.  Furthermore,  thatched roofs are not any cheaper than building a roof with other materials, so building a thatched roof results in increased costs, not to mention safety concerns.

With this in mind, I can’t really blame Germans for choosing other materials over the thatched roof, but I would hate to see all the thatched roof houses in northern Germany disappear.
Thatched roofs may not look very durable, but they can last 30 years or longer.  They are built with a high pitch to keep the water running off the roof and normally it’s only the top layer of reeds that gets wet.  The thick densely packed bundles of reeds serve as an insulator.

I love seeing how the thatched roofs evolve as they age.  It reminds me of how people’s faces change, a few more wrinkles here and there, which gives them character.  The inside of this house which I’ve been inside looks the same as the inside of any other house – white ceiling with no visible thatched roof.

All the thatched roof houses I’ve seen in Germany are made of brick.   I really like the contrast of the thatched roof when it starts to grow some green moss with the red brick.
What types of houses have you come across in your travels that you enjoyed?


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About Author

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their hiking, cycling and wildlife vacations in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Munich, Germany. You can find her hiking in the mountains on most weekends.


February 24, 2011
Interesting post, Laurel. Good points about why they are disappearing, but it does seem a shame, doesn't it? Love the photo of the reeds up close -- different way of looking at it.I really liked the thatched roof homes I saw in Ireland. They really do take you back in time.
February 24, 2011
It seems to me there is a market for fire-retardand, Faux-thatched roofs.
February 25, 2011
They still have a lot of thatched roof houses in Belgium and Holland. Wonder if they have the same problems?
February 25, 2011
Aww, those remind me of traditional English houses. The thatched roof is also in danger of disappearance there too but some villages are now protected areas and homeowners have no choice but to have a thatched roof if they want to live there. Thatching was a dying art but more young people are being trained now. Julia
February 25, 2011
@Cathy - I agree it is a shame, but I really like the NVR Guys solution below :)@ The NVR guys - You guys are brilliant, and you could travel all over Europe doing this@Sonja - Good question, from Turkey's for Life response it seems that it's a similar problem in England so it wouldn't surprise me if it's also a similar problem in Holland and Belgium.@Turkey's for Life - Love that thatched roofs are protected in some areas, what a brilliant idea and I could only imagine that must create a real sense of community for the people that live there. Interesting to hear that more young people are being trained on thatching and very glad to hear this.
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February 25, 2011
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February 25, 2011
Love! So charming. I'd never even think that such a thing would still exist.
February 26, 2011
Those roofs do look charming! However, I am kind of with convenience when it comes to living. In Argentina fixtures tend to be old. The old fashioned elevators with accordion gates look charming but they are slow, unreliable and annoying when they are in your building!
February 27, 2011
Is that mostly moss on the roof? I do agree it looks charming.
February 27, 2011
You're giving such interesting coverage to so many of Germany's nooks and crannies Laurel. You probably know more about it than a lot of germans at this stage!
February 28, 2011
wow- interesting! can't believe i didn't think about the danger before, but they are so beautiful! i'm such a green-minded person and really into the idea of living roofs. i wonder if those with living roofs will encounter the same insurance challenges?
March 2, 2011
Great post, Laurel. Quaint and timeless dwellings. Please check my progress and email me. Can u pls do an Alexis review for me? have a great day. Luv your blog.
March 3, 2011
@Cheryl - I agree, they make me feel like I am stepping back in time.@Rease - LOL, yes sometimes the historical stuff is better in someone else's house :)@Grace - The moss grows on the roofs as they age.@Robin - Thanks so much. I love discovering the nooks and crannies of a place.@Lorna - Good question. I also love the idea of living roofs. I hope that people won't be deterred by the cost, but of course it would be a factor in people's decisions of what type of roof to install.@Barry - Thanks Barry. Will check your blog next week. This week is all about studying for German tests.
March 5, 2011
May not be practical but I love the look, your fiance's uncle's home is beautiful!
March 6, 2011
@Tracy - Me too, I really like the NVRGuys solution of fire retardant so that you get the best of both worlds.

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